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By Frank Phillipson
Much has been said about the proposed new larger building, additional parking, new coach parking and the family play trail at Newlands Corner. However, no one seems to have raised the point that the existing road access from the A25 is already inadequate, substandard and dangerous.
The A25 is classified by Surrey County Council as a Principal ‘A’ road forming part of the county’s Primary and Strategic Route Network. At this location, because of the bend, gradient and the lack of forward visibility, there are central double white lines prohibiting overtaking.
The A25 here is subject to a 60mph speed limit. At that speed a Minimum Stopping Sight Distance (SSD) or “Y” distance of 215 metres is required. Because of the gradient and sharp bend the 85th percentile speed (average speed) is probably about 50 mph which requires a SSD of 160 metres. Using various parameters, at present, the existing access has an average SSD of 110 metres.
Drivers of vehicles exiting the access to Newlands Corner have poor visibility of vehicles approaching them uphill from the south east and vice versa. This also applies to drivers of vehicles travelling toward Shere but wishing to turn right into the Newlands Corner car park. The right turning vehicles also have to wait in the one lane in this direction thus blocking following traffic.
There is also what I would term as the “view effect”. Southbound drivers on the A25 who are unfamiliar with the area, come to the crest of the hill and upon seeing the view and that there is a car park access, stop suddenly to turn in.
Of particular concern is the fact that the North Downs Way long-distance path and public bridleway official route crosses the A25 at the worst possible point for visibility of traffic.
In any planning application to intensify the use of an already deficient access, an applicant would be expected to carry out significant improvements and relocation. There seems to be no mention in any proposals for highway improvements to the Newlands Corner access.
As a former Surrey County Council Highway Engineer scrutinising the highway aspects of planning applications, I would recommend that and application should be refused unless appropriate improvements are put forward. These would be based on a traffic study carried out to establish existing traffic levels and projected future increased vehicle movements to and from Newlands Corner.
Currently Newlands Corner attracts an estimated 550,000 visitors per year with 122,000 vehicles using the site. I would suggest that this requires an access equivalent to a major/minor road junction as set out in the Highways Agency Design Note TD 42/95.
Parts of the improvements would be to include:
Moving the access point northwards away from the existing access.
Provision of appropriate sight lines.
Junction geometry to suit larger vehicles (coaches and possible delivery HGVs).
Provision of a right-hand turning lane.
Crossing provision for pedestrians and horse riders.
Diversion of the official route of the North Downs Way public footpath/bridleway from its present position to the crossing point.
And provision of appropriate fencing (rustic as at the railway bridge in Salt Box Road?) to help prevent pedestrians and horse riders crossing at the dangerous location.
Improvement of the junction would mean moving the access point northwards away from the crest of the hill to where visibility from and of the junction would be better. It would also be necessary to provide a right turning lane as a minimum requirement.
My preference would be for a small roundabout in the A25 midway between the Trodds Lane junction and the existing Newlands Corner access point. This would serve both Trodds Lane and a new point of access to Newlands Corner and would significantly slow down the traffic on the A25 and make access considerably easier and safer.
This layout would provide extra safety for vulnerable motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders. It would still be necessary to provide a pedestrian crossing point with a central island similar to that shown in the sketch proposal above for a right-hand turning lane.
Even if this proposed development does not go ahead, the access to Newlands Corner does need significant improvement.