Community Update

Footpaths
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 🙂

51 Bus Service Update

Last month, Melanie Williamson (Channels Resident & Parish Councillor for Little Waltham) attended a transport planning meeting arranged by Essex County Council. First Bus advised that the frequency of the 51 Bus Service would decrease at certain times and whilst the overall average and mean times for the service over the six days that it runs would remain at 30 minutes, some buses would only run up to every 40 minutes.

Unfortunately the amended frequency and timing impacted the busy period between 5pm & 7pm which would not have been helpful for either those that work in Chelmsford or those that commute as buses did not align with the arrival of trains.

As previously reported this issue was raised by Melanie Williamson at the Little Waltham Parish Council meeting on Tuesday 4th June with the result that both County Councillor John Aldridge and the Parish Council agreed to support residents in lobbying for the timetable to be re-considered.

We also wrote directly to Channels Omnibus Ltd, which is the organisation originally commissioned by developers to procure the 51 Bus Service, on behalf of residents noting concerns raised as a result of the the proposed timetable being shared.

A response has been received from Channels Omnibus Ltd as follows:

“…I am very pleased to report that they (First Bus) have both revisited and revised the timetable for the Channels Bus Service (Number 51) to address the concerns that you raise. They will be adding two additional buses from the Bus Station to Channels (at 18:00 and at 18:40) which means that a 20 minute service will be provided between 17:40 and 19:00. I attach a copy of the revised timetable for your reference and distribution. These changes to the timetable will take effect from Monday, 2 September 2019.”

On the assumption that reliability continues to improve, and is maintained, this should provide a robust and regular bus service to Channels residents which addresses the general concerns in relation to frequency and timing at key periods during the day.

To conclude, the originally amended timetable will still take effect on Monday 1st July and the new timetable with increased frequency at the peak evening time will take effect from Monday 2nd September.

Timetable wef Monday 1st July
Timetable wef Monday 2nd September

If you do encounter problems with the bus service (i.e. if it does not turn up or is more than 10 minutes late), don’t forget to log them so that we can provide feedback to the appropriate stakeholders.

All in all this is excellent news. There has been a significant improvement in the reliability of the bus service over recent months due to the persistence of the Community Group and the revised timetable shows that we do have a voice as residents as well support of key stakeholders. 🙂

Andrew Wright
Channels Residents Community Group

Brassie Wood Road Surfacing

Please be advised that Bellway have programmed in remedial works along Brassie Wood in anticipation of the Bus Route change at the end of June. The programme is as follows:-

Current Work
Raising iron works to both areas highlighted on diagram below.

Thursday 13th June
The shaded area in yellow/orange to have 40-60mm of the current surface (binder) planed off and replaced in accordance with Highways Essex instruction. There will be disruption on Brassie Wood from Plots 159 to Plot 169 on this day. Chris (Site Manager) will contact clients individually that live along this part of the road.

Friday 14th June & Monday 17th June
Remedial works to kerbs and preparation for surface/topping layer.

Thursday 20th June
The whole area highlighted will receive the finishing surface coat inclusive of a patch near the temporary bus stop. Again there will be disruption on this day whilst surface works are carried out. Chris will contact the clients individually who are directly affected by this.

Update 19/06/19:
Due to a problem with the facility that manufactures the tarmac, the works will now be completed on Friday 21st June. All affected clients have been contacted by Chris however please be aware that there will be disruption along the entire stretch of road for a further day.

Community & Parish Updates

There was a further Little Waltham Parish Council meeting on Tuesday 4th June and a number of issues were discussed that impact on the Channels Development. You will note from the updates below that the Parish Council, together with City & County Councillors, are all very supportive of residents on the Channels Development and the Community Group has forged good relationships with each of them to ensure continued engagement.

Planning Applications
The Parish Council will formally submit an objection to application 19/00581/REM which proposes the construction of 300 new dwellings in the area on the other side of the bridle path (Zones K and L). This is on the grounds that the design of the dwellings are not in keeping with the surrounding area and more importantly that there is insufficient infrastructure in place to support them, including the lack of a crossing at the bottom of the bridle path on Essex Regiment Way.

Bus Service (51)
The Parish Clerk and Parish Councillor Melanie Williamson attended a transport stakeholder meeting on 4th June and it transpired that First Bus have amended timetables (by increasing the gap between buses) to ensure buses run on time. First Bus indicated that once the new route begins to include the parts of the wider development on the other side of the Radial Distributor Road, the time between the 51 services will increase with the service only running every 40/45 minutes (assuming it’s on time!) rather than the 30 minutes as originally planned, even at peak times.

This is considered unacceptable and County Councillor John Aldridge confirmed to the Parish Council that he would take up this issue on behalf of residents. The Community Group will also write to Councillor John Aldridge on behalf of residents and will again make contact with the organisation (Transport Planning Associates) that was initially secured to arrange the contract with First Bus as we believe that developers have provided funding to deliver a bus service every 30 minutes.

Crossing for Essex Regiment Way
The Parish Council confirmed that it would formally support Councillor John Aldridge in continuing to lobby for a crossing at the bottom of the bridle path to enable safe passage across Essex Regiment Way. Councillor Aldridge believes that residents are essentially ‘land locked’ and does not accept that there are any valid reasons as to why a crossing cannot be installed immediately, even if it is not in line with the planned trajectory for the work taking place. The Community Group will additionally write to Councillor Aldridge on behalf of residents noting the same concerns.

Highways Adoption for Phase 1/2
Residents will no doubt be aware of the poor state of the roads on the Bellway phase of the development. Many of the roads are only a few months old and yet look more like they have been in place for many years. There are sunken drains, sunken paving, damaged and poorly laid paving, pooling of water, weed growth and general poor workmanship. The Community Group has been pushing Bellway in recent months about this and yet we have only received high level generic updates and no evidence of any tangible corrective action.

As a result contact has been made with City Councillor Barry Knight who has raised the issue on our behalf and he formally advised the Parish Council that he will be supporting residents in ensuring the problems are resolved. Key stakeholders within the City Council (Planning) and County Council (Highways) are aware and are currently investigating.

Road Works Update

Further to the information posted in late January in relation to the raising of ironworks in preparation for the tarmac topping of Fairway Drive & Mashie Link, the Bellway site team have advised that the work could not be completed at first visit due to the bus route being affected, even though at initial planning this was not thought to be an issue.

Barconn will be raising ironworks as part of their 2nd phase of operations to the area along Fairway Drive and Mashie Link in readiness for tarmac which is pencilled in for the latter part of week commencing 11th March 2019. The areas affected are highlighted in the diagram below:

After discussion with First Bus, Bellway have agreed a temporary change to the normal route for the bus to allow completion of the required works. This will commence on Monday 4th March and end on Friday 15th March:

Please note:
Bellway will supply a traffic marshal to assist in the reversing of the bus during working hours (7.30am to 5.00pm) however the bus will revert back to its normal route during non-working hours (5.00pm to 7.30am) and at weekends.

Access for vehicles to Fairway Drive & Mashie Link will continue to be available albeit there may be some barriers to negotiate in various places during the 2 week works period.

If you know someone that doesn’t have access to the Facebook Group or this website, please advise them of the above plans 🙂

Residents Update

As residents may be aware, the Community Group has raised concerns over recent months about the lack of accountability and governance in relation to the site-wide management company. Neither residents nor our own management company sit on the board of the site-wide organisation and as such decisions can potentially be taken unilaterally (including changes to site-wide service charges) which may impact on residents.

Due to continued lobbying by the Community Group, monthly meetings have been set up to facilitate better communication in relation to site-wide matters. The meetings include as attendees each of the developers, the land owners (and their agent), a Community Group representative, a Croudace residents representative and DJC Property Management.

Whilst this does not give us any formal voting rights, it does mean we have a voice at the table and can receive information that may impact us. The first formal meeting was held on Friday 1st February and the key points of discussion are summarised below.

House Builders Update
Marden Homes will begin works for Phase 4 (around the main lake) in April and expect to be onsite for circa 18-20 months. There are ongoing discussions about access and due to concerns flagged by residents, Marden will forward a plan (awaiting sign off by Council Planning) which explains how they will manage the site. This will include where works traffic will be routed, where contractors will park and how the site will be cordoned off. This will also confirm whether the bridle path that runs past the lake will be closed. Once the plan is received, it will be made available via the website.

Home Group are accelerating their build and the first residents are due to move in towards the end of February. Marden Homes will be beginning Phase 6 (around the smaller lakes) in June. Bellway are due to have their last completion in March and will be off-site soon after this.

Public Open Spaces
As part of S106 planning conditions, Marden Homes have responsibility for the construction of the public open spaces. Work is due to start imminently and this will include a pathway to enable safe passage to the retail units on Essex Regiment Way. The completion of the open spaces to the North of where Homegroup are building will dovetail with the completion of Phase 6 and as such these areas are unlikely to be accessible to us for some time.

All of the open spaces will eventually facilitate easy pedestrian/cycle access across the entire development, up to where the new David Lloyd club will be located (subject to planning approval). We are liaising with the landowners agent to determine whether residents can have any input to the design of the open spaces.

Public Artwork
As part of S106 planning conditions, one of the developers has provided a sum of money to the City Council to fund public artwork. It is unclear what form this will take or where the art will be located however we are liaising with the landowners agent to determine what the council has planned, what the timescales are and whether residents can have any input.

Bus Service
All stakeholders are aware of the issues experienced with the bus service. First Bus have agreed to send a representative to the next meeting to explain their plan for improvement. There is consensus that First Bus need to be robustly held to account by all stakeholders especially as the service is currently funded by developers.

Nursery Site (Bellway)
Bellway have a responsibility to prepare the land identified for the nursery prior to leaving the site however they have no responsibility as part of planning to build it. In fact it would appear that Bellway flagged to the council early on that they had no intention to build the nursery as this was not their area of expertise. At present no developer has taken on the project and the council has been made aware of the position.

David Lloyd Club
It is likely that a formal planning application will not be made until June/July however there appears to be widespread support for the idea. David Lloyd will be represented at the forthcoming Little Waltham Parish Council meeting on Tuesday 5th February where they will explain more about the plan and give the public an opportunity to ask questions.

As always, feel free to send feedback or ask questions via the website 🙂

Bus Service Update

Please find a summary of action taken so far in relation to the Channels Bus Service. Rachel Fennell collated this information for the Chair of Little Waltham Parish Council who has been giving evidence to the Inspector in relation to the proposed Chelmsford Local Plan.

It appears that assertions have been made by the representative from Essex County Council who deals with roads and infrastructure claiming that the buses serving the Channels Development are a great success!

The Chair of the Parish Council was, through the information provided, able to challenge and evidence the poor public transport and access issues at the recent open meeting on the Chelmsford City Plan. We understand the independent Inspector was very interested in the evidence and will use this when considering the content of his report.

Nevertheless, the document provides a concise summary of everything that has been done so far and makes clear the work that is on-going to ensure the bus service is fit for purpose.

We have also recently received confirmation that as part of S106 planning requirements, we will have: “high quality bus stops incorporating shelters, seating, timetables and real-time bus information“.

With thanks to Rachel Fennell who has been leading on the Bus Service issues on behalf of residents 🙂

Bus Service Update

As all residents will be aware we have been experiencing an unreliable and unacceptable service from First for the 51 bus and as a result Rachel has been keeping a log for the last 3 months of cancelled and delayed buses as notified by residents of the Bellway Channels Estate.

She has forwarded the ‘Bus Log’ to First with her complaint on multiple occasions, both personally and in the name of the Community Group. Unfortunately no response has been received and we are aware that other residents have also complained themselves. Bellway, who provided significant funding to ‘pump prime’ the service, has also contacted First and at the time of writing has received no response.

Our local MP, Kemi Badennoch, has been advised and we have tried to involve Bususers.org (Alternative Dispute Resolution Body) and the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, who we are still to hear back from.

The Residents Community Group has however made some significant progress with a contact representing the company which undertook the original procurement of the 51 Bus Service on behalf of developers. An investigation is due to take place and the ‘Bus Log’ will be used as evidence in this process. Once this investigation has taken place and we have more information to share, we will provide a further update.

Going forward it is imperative that we keep recording when a bus is cancelled or delayed by over 10 minutes at any designated stop so that we have evidence of continued failures.

We have tried to simplify this process and as such if the bus is cancelled or delayed please can you contact Rachel using the form on the Channels Residents Community Group website. Due to the number of occurrences currently being flagged, it will be far easier for her to track than via social media where posts quickly become lost in long news feeds.

www.channels.community/51-bus

As a final note, whilst we are aware just how frustrating this issue is, we do not want to jeopardise our chances of reaching a resolution and as such please be mindful that berating the bus drivers is not likely to help our cause. Please be assured that the Community Group is making progress on your behalf and we will provide updates accordingly.

Channels Residents Community Group