Footpaths Update

Further to information posted a month ago, and following further discussion with the City Council, we have some updates in relation to footpath infrastructure around the Channels development.

Bridleway (ERW to Eagle Rise)
The section of the bridleway from the point of connection with Eagle Rise to Essex Regiment Way is owned by a third party and not Countryside Zest.

The poor state of the bridleway has been noted and Essex County Council Highways are in discussion with the Public Rights of Way team with a view to laying limestone chipping on the 80m section of the bridleway route between Channels and the link to Beaulieu as a priority. This will provide a temporary hard surface and whilst the route will remain unlit, it should be possible to negotiate safely without getting covered in mud.

A Pegasus crossing is intended to be provided across Essex Regiment Way to connect the bridleway each side of the road. The crossing will see additional improvements to the bridleway route however this is unlikely to be delivered by Essex County Council until late 2020 at the earliest.

Footpath/Cyclepath to ERW Retail Units
Marden Homes are set to start work in January and envisage that the laying out of the Local Park (to the north of the Bellway development) will be a year long programme.

All stakeholders do however understand the urgency of opening an access path to the retail units on Essex Regiment Way for residents and progress will be monitored and reviewed each month to ensure it remains the priority for delivery. The new path is likely to be ready Spring 2020.

Channels/Beaulieu Links
Countryside Zest have made available a marked-up plan which shows the strategic footpaths/cyclepaths (primary and secondary) to be delivered through Beaulieu, including the connections to Channels.

This still does not provide a definitive timeline for all links and as such this is an area for which we will continue to push for further clarity.

Andrew Wright
Chair, Channels Residents Community Group

Footpaths Update

Following on from protracted correspondence with Countryside, Planning Officers and City Councillors, a meeting with representatives from Countryside and the City Council finally took place on Tuesday 19th November to discuss the footpath links between Channels & Beaulieu.

We walked around the Beaulieu site and were shown where new key links from Channels would be provided including whether these would be primary (hard surfaced and lit) or secondary (gravel and unlit).

Unfortunately it transpired that residents of Channels will have to endure the majority of the winter months with the only access to and from Beaulieu being via a dark and muddy bridleway or dark gravel paths.

Whilst there is recognition that the over-arching planning for joining up the developments could/should have been dealt with better, there is very little that can be done to resolve the current situation.

The pathway that leads from Niblick Green (parallel to the existing bridleway and past the new play park) should have been hard surfaced and lit around the time the play park opened in June 2019. However there have been significant technical issues experienced with the buff tarmac in other areas of Beaulieu (and Channels) and as such this part of the project has had to be re-specified, re-approved and re-scheduled. Had the path been hard surfaced and lit in line with the original timescale, there would have only been a relatively short section of gravel path to negotiate between hard, lit footpath & cycle ways.

Countryside will prepare a detailed mark-up plan, including all key links between Channels and Beaulieu, which will show the status of each route (primary/secondary) and the timescales for delivery.

The City Council Planning representative will also be assisting us in liaising with Essex Highways with a view to bark being laid along the most muddy section of the bridleway to ease access from the footpath connection at the western end of Eagle Rise across to the deer structure at Beaulieu.

We have spent considerable time, engaged a number of key stakeholders and explored every possible avenue in an attempt to improve the current situation. However it would appear that due to the complex phasing of the Beaulieu build, some technical problems that have been encountered and a number of additional ecological considerations, residents will have to continue navigating dark and muddy paths for the next few months when heading to and from Beaulieu.

The good news is that by the Spring/early Summer of 2020, there will be a much improved network of both primary and secondary routes for walking/cycling which will facilitate safe & easy movement to, from and around Beaulieu without the need to jump in a car.

Lastly a key meeting between Ptarmigan Land, landscape architects and Marden Homes is due to take place later this week. Marden Homes is responsible for delivering and laying out the open spaces north of Channels Drive including the local park through which a footpath will be provided to the roadside services on Essex Regiment Way. Once this meeting has taken place, there will be greater clarity on timescales for delivery of this key path.

Community Update

There has been continued discussion with local stakeholders (Chelmsford City Council, Countryside & Ptarmigan Land) about the fact that residents of Channels have no hard, lit, access to and from the development by foot either down to Essex Regiment Way or across to Beaulieu.

As a result of information received from the above stakeholders over recent weeks, which sadly confirmed that we would indeed be stuck for another winter with the same situation, a meeting was held with City Councillor Barry Knight so that he could see first hand (in the dark) the issues that we face. He agreed that it was far from ideal and that he would not be happy with the situation if he lived on the development.

Cllr Knight has lobbied on our behalf and a further meeting will now take place with planners and Countryside to explore whether a re-phasing of works can be agreed which could potentially see a hard, lit path extend from Niblick Green much earlier than the planned implementation date of May 2020. In addition Ptarmigan Land are working with Marden Homes (who are responsible for building the open spaces on the other side of Channels Drive) with a view to accelerating the installation of a hard lit path to and from the retail units on Essex Regiment Way.

It has taken a great deal of persistence to get this far and there is still no guarantee that matters will improve however the Estates & Amenities Sub Committee will take this action forward and do its best to secure better access for all off of the development.

Bus Issues
It has become apparent that there are issues with the 51 Bus Service again with many reports of buses breaking down or not turning up. It is important that if there is an issue that you continue to log it via the website so that evidence can be collated and presented to the organisation that is responsible for managing the contract with First Bus. There is now an option added to cover the scenario of the bus breaking down!

For those that have been waiting for it, the ‘real time’ bus display board is due for installation at the bus stop on Friday 1st November.

Community Fundraising
Other than securing grants when available, the Community Group is reliant on the goodwill of residents to continue with its activities. This could include helping out with the running of community events or fundraising for specific projects such as benches on our land.

The CRCG now has a Paypal account and as such if residents wish to assist with fundraising via donations, it’s easy to do so!

Channels Fountain
Our fountain is back and running again! Unfortunately despite much investigation, it is still unclear why the water level dropped so much and then did not refill, despite the extensive amount of rainfall that has led to other ponds and swales retain plenty of water. Bellway do believe that there is a link with the draining of the main lake however we will need to to monitor the situation over the coming months.

For now enjoy the fountain 🙂

Street Name Change

Further to comments raised in relation to confusing street names at the entrance to the development following the road layout change, Bellway has approached Chelmsford City Council (as street naming authority) with a proposal to amend them.

Currently anyone driving into the development has to turn right off of Fairway Drive to continue on Fairway Drive into Eagle Rise. The proposed change is to rename the section of road from the roundabout to the entrance of the development as Brassie Wood. The area in question is shown hatched in red on the image below:

As part of the legal process, a notice advertising the proposed change is due to appear on-site Thursday 26th September.

Subject to consideration of comments received, the process should be complete in November and Bellway will arrange for the street nameplates to be updated and moved to accommodate the change.

Highways: RDR Timeline

Further to a number of questions from residents and based on information received from Countryside, the timescale for completion of the Radial Distributor Road (“RDR”), which is planned to run from Essex Regiment Way to the Boreham Interchange, is as follows:

RDR Phase 1 (through Channels)

RDR Phase 2a and 2b
Construction from May 2019, due for completion June 2020

Boreham Interchange Works
Completed by September 2020 (subject to approval by Highways England)

Generals Lane Bridge Demolition
Completed by January 2021

RDR Phase 3
Construction from May 2021, due for completion September 2021

A pdf version of the above image and key dates can be found here.