Dear friends, neighbours and residents,
I would like to share with you that myself and Cllr. McAnaney, visited Woodham Academy, after being kindly invited by Deputy Head Teacher, Danny Morgans and expertly tour guided by Site Manager Paul Purvis. I was very impressed with the eco-friendly buildings with grass on the roof and solar panels, as well as only gas being used in the science labs and swimming pool. Great views from the top and the lorries coming through St Mary’s and Shafto Ward have avoided school runs and kept low speeds through housing.
It was also great to hear that Galliford-Try, the construction company and their subcontractors, did a generous fund-raiser and delivered 800 Easter eggs to needy children in our town! Wonderful work.
On a more serious note, both myself, the Head and deputy head teachers are still concerned about coach access to the new site due to cars parking on pavements (even when there are parking bays free most of the day near the shop) and Durham County Council’s reluctance to address the issue. A one way system has been rejected in the past (as well as speed bumps) due to so many side roads off Washington Crescent. A more practical solution would be parking restrictions at school run times, to keep the route clear.
We can understand parents wanting to drop infant and primary children off at school gates, but students aged 11-16 are surely capable of walking from St Oswalds Park, the car park behind Whitehead Walk, Tesco, The Youth and Community Centre, Moore Lane car parks, the one behind Kemble Green and the one behind Ross Walk flats. A small minority of residents also prefer to park cars on the pavement, to save walking 20 yards, causing obstructions and delays (as well as restricting wheelchair and pushchair access) but most use the shop and resident parking bays. I also suggested a mirror for traffic safety on the sharp, blind bend (just after Neile Road side road) on Washington Crescent.
After further pressure from myself, Cllr. Nev Jones and local residents, an apology was received from Michelle McIntosh (Team Leader of Traffic Assets at Durham County Council) for not replying to residents emails and phone calls. Unfortunately, the response was almost identical to the one in October 2023 and still refused to give dates of the mini survey, i.e. was it during covid when schools were closed and people were working from home?
No data about numbers of cars per hour, pedestrians crossing Central Avenue per day and definitely no public survey or consultation, about whether school pupils, elderly, disabled, preschool parents and special needs residents found difficulty crossing the road. The excuse of duplication of assets is also a false one because there are no safety measures like patrol crossings or 20mph flashing lights outside of school term time. How can assets be duplicated when there is no safety process in place, evenings and weekends?
I thought it was cruel and unnecessary to say that the Patrol person would lose their role if a crossing was installed. It would actually make it safer for that operative. Both head teachers agreed on this.
Whatever survey did take place is historical and did not take into account the 1500 phase one new housing and 3000 new cars that will come from this every time the new residents come to shop at Tesco or ALDI or bring students to Woodham, Vane Road and St Mary’s RC Primaries.
I would like to see direct comparison traffic figures for the new Gestamp traffic lights crossing (daily pedestrian numbers) and to see how low the number is for the Aycliffe Fire Station crossing, which has very low usage, since the big stores in town closed down and multi-storey car parks closed.
Residents in the new housing are not going to walk half a mile down to the planned crossing from the Gretna to Moore Lane. It will only benefit those going for a meal or drink.
Sedgefield High Street zebra crossing and Shildon High Street traffic lights are in places with much less traffic and pedestrians, so the DCC explanation of govt. formulas for crossing location and priority and need for public safety, does not add up and no logical reason is given. I would like to see, if necessary (under the Freedom of Information Act) data for these two, comparable, nearby local towns, data in direct comparison to Central Avenue (including forecasted data for the 1500+ new Copelaw houses).
Well done to all those who voted in the NE Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. It may seem irrelevant to some, but these two people will have a lot of power in decision making and budgets and can help rebuild our under-funded public services and reverse over 10 years of reduction in police officers and extortionate costs of care homes for the elderly.
In March, myself, the Corporate Policy officer and Works and Environment manager attended a Durham Youth Council event and encouraged 11-19 year olds to join the Youth Council and have a voice in decision making on youth facilities and services in our town. Please visit County Durham Youth Council Facebook page and look out for an informative display in the town Leisure Centre in the summer holidays.
I am pleased to say that off road vehicles and illegal motorbikes have reduced recently and that dog owners are keeping their dogs on the lead in public places, with a new county by-law being monitored by neighbourhood wardens. See PSPO £100 fine.
Enjoy quality family time over the May Bank Holidays and thank you to all my ward residents for keeping our neighbourhood clean, safe and tidy.
Kind Regards, Cllr Tony Armstrong.