Lollipops, Balloons, Bayswater & Brackla Station


Here’s a round up of the highlights from the monthly Bridgend Council cabinet meeting held earlier this week, and an update on the Brackla Station “project”.

School crossing patrols set for review

A review of school crossing patrols was included as part of the budget for 2015-16. BCBC aim to save around £60,000.

According to the cabinet report (pdf), there are currently 24 school crossing patrol guards (SCPs aka. lollipop ladies/men) employed by BCBC to cover 39 crossing sites – though not all of those sites are used anymore. As the job tends to be part-time and only offers a few hours of work a day, there’s a high staff turnover and makes it hard to recruit temporary cover.

Guidelines introduced in 2012 by Road Safety GB outline the process by which local authorities can judge whether a crossing site is suitable to retain full SCP cover.

Removing a SCP is, as BCBC admit, going to be a “very emotive issue to the local community”, so BCBC say they would consider alternatives – such as enabling community and town councils to fund the posts.

As for the assessment itself, in shorthand they use a formula where they times the average number of pedestrians (P) by the square of the average number of cars (V²)in a half hour at peak time (PV²). If the site’s PV² value exceeds a certain number (4000000), then a crossing patrol is justified.

For example, a school crossing is used by 300 pedestrians and stops 100 cars.

PV² = 300x(100×100)

This crossing would have a PV² of 3000000 and would likely have its crossing patrol withdrawn by BCBC.

So my advice to parents who are concerned about whether they’ll lose their crossing patrol is make sure you and your kids use the lollipop lady/man. If you drive your kids to school, park a few streets away and, again, use the crossing patrol….especially if there’s a BCBC official standing there making notes.

Sky Lanterns and Balloon releases to be banned?

Sky lanterns (aka. Chinese lanterns) are seen as a nuisance. The fire service don’t like them. Farmers and animal welfare organisations don’t like them. Several AMs don’t like them – to the point that a few have proposed their own Members Bills which would ban them. Local authorities don’t like them either.

As far as I can tell, at least seven local authorities in Wales have banned sky lanterns being released from council land. This follows the Welsh Government writing to councils in 2013 asking them to introduce a voluntary ban. Bridgend looks set to follow suit.

In the report to cabinet (pdf), it’s said that while releasing sky lanterns and balloons isn’t an illegal activity, “in view of the risks” BCBC should “promote awareness of the issue and discourage release”.

Banning the release of sky lanterns you can understand – sending naked flames overhead is always going to cause concern. But banning balloons too?

I understand the concern over the damage the plastic in balloons has on wildlife and livestock. However, many charity and public events held on council land release balloons or use balloons as decorations. Birthday parties held at council pavilions may include balloons too. Some might be released accidentally. Is this a bit of party pooping by BCBC?

Pencoed Bayswater site set for housing development

It’s a site with a controversial planning history, but a new planning application has been submitted by Waterstone Homes and Hafod Housing Association for the former Bayswater Tubes plant at Heol-y-Geifr (next to Pencoed level crossing).

The site had previously been eyed up for a Tesco supermarket. Those plans were rejected by Bridgend Council due to the impact it would have on the level crossing, which is a notorious pinch point for traffic. Tesco have since opted to open a smaller Express store on Coychurch Road.

A separate application for housing was approved but never happened due to the recession, with the developers pulling out.

This means the land has been fallow for the best part of a decade, and the developers would like to build 47 homes on the site, of which 15 would be apartments. Based on who’s developing it, you’ve got to assume most, if not all, of the houses will be social housing.

The Local Development Plan complicates matters because it explicitly forbids approval of any development north/west of the railway line which would increase traffic. This is not only due to the complications caused by the level crossing itself, but by the other notorious pinch point – the Penprysg Road bridge.

The developers say the amount of traffic generated wouldn’t impact on the council’s agreed policy. Also, the Penprysg Road bridge is likely to require rebuilding by Network Rail as a result of electrification of the south Wales mainline – which would be very convenient for BCBC.

Brackla Station: Moving towards Coychurch?

Most of this story is covered in the link above, but the legendary unbuilt Brackla park and ride railway station appeared again at last week’s First Minister’s Questions (watch here).

Eluned Parrott AM (Lib Dem, South Wales Central) : First Minister, in March 2001, Sue Essex….attended a turf-cutting ceremony at the station in Brackla. Well, the turf’s had plenty time to grow unfettered since then….It reappeared in last December’s draft transport plan and, a fortnight ago, it was referenced in the city region report as a potential new station. But, given that people are making decisions on where they are going to base their families, where they’re going to base their businesses….on the basis of the transport links….how confident can people be that projects such as Brackla station….go ahead once they make it into those transport plans?

Carwyn Jones AM (Lab, Bridgend) : The issue with Brackla is twofold. First of all, there are capacity issues on the main line….given the fact that it’s very, very close to the existing Bridgend mainline station—it’s literally a few hundred yards away. There is a real issue in terms of where exactly Brackla station would be placed, given the fact that Brackla is mainly on a hill….and where would it be placed between the boundary of Bridgend town proper and….Coychurch. So, Brackla railway station, although in principle welcome, is….problematic in terms of the capacity problems that would need to be resolved and in terms of where the station would actually be placed.

They’re both right. I think everyone accepts that the capacity issue is the main stumbling block, while at the same time this project has been delayed for a ridiculous period – fourteen years and counting.I would take issue with some of the things Carwyn Jones said.

As far as I know, the only site put forward for a Brackla station is a plot of vacant land at Erw Hir off Coychurch Road (the old Tremains Halt). It’s also the site officially allocated in Bridgend’s Local Development Plan.

There’s more than enough room for a car park, and Bridgend Industrial Estate would be linked via a footbridge. While it’s right to say Brackla itself is “on a hill”, the station wouldn’t be and would serve the industrial estate as much as Brackla itself. So even if the station doesn’t get built, I’d argue a foot/cycle bridge should be built at Erw Hir to link the industrial estate with local foot/cycle routes.

Plus, Wildmill station is closer to Bridgend than the proposed Brackla station would be so distance shouldn’t be an issue.

If Carwyn would prefer Brackla residents to use Bridgend station in the medium-term, then he’ll need to do more to ensure the transport interchange (a bus/taxi/foot/cycle link between Brackla Street and the station forecourt) is brought forward – more here. That’s another project that’s been inexplicably delayed due to Network Rail dragging their feet.

Because the Tremains Road entrance to Bridgend station was closed to the non-disabled (to clamp down on fare dodging), it now means anyone approaching Bridgend station from the east, including Brackla, has to make a tortuous detour through the town centre. The transport interchange would provide a much-needed short cut.

Returning to Brackla station, what the First Minister hinted during FMQs is that the station’s exact location is yet to be decided and could be moved, possibly towards Coychurch. Potential sites would presumably include the former garden centre on Heol Simonston, which would be a good spot for a park and ride.

In some respects that wouldn’t be a bad idea.It’s still close enough to serve the industrial estate and the eastern half of Brackla, but if Heol Simonston were improved too (which it’s supposed to be as part of future Brackla Industrial Estate developments), a station could not only serve Coychurch, but would be only 20 minutes walk from Coity and Parc Derwen as well. Plus it would provide a public transport link to the crematorium and its grounds.

The big stumbling block is that the Erw Hir station site would be able to make use of a passing loop, meaning express trains will be able to pass on their way to Swansea and west Wales. A station nearer Coychurch would only have double track to work with, making it even more difficult to schedule in stopping services.