NEW PODCAST - will the infrastructure of the town be improved sufficiently to cope with the new development? Or will the residents (in the words of the former Mayor) be "thrown under the bus"?

This is a whistle-stop tour of how we got to where we are today - and where we go from here. It's a podcast (sound recording) so it brings a somewhat dry (but supremely important) subject to life far better than any amount of text.

Have a listen while you are driving or ironing (but hopefully not doing both at once) ... or jogging or cleaning the car or fixing the tap that keeps dripping or travelling on the bus or train. DON'T listen to it just before you go to bed, however, as you'll be so excited that you won't get a wink of sleep!

There are important decisions ahead for the town - but that doesn't mean the podcast has to be all doom and gloom - and nor does it mean that it can't present more than one side.
When you've had a listen - pass the link on.

LINK: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/woodham-infrastructure-group/episodes/2021-10-11T13_53_22-07_00


Are we about to be 'thrown under a bus'?

The new development North of the Burnham Road will take place. It would be pointless to pretend otherwise. However, the Woodham Infrastructure Group and many others believe the proposal to urbanise the Burnham Road, adding a cross roads, more traffic lights and pedestrian crossings will create significant congestion, encouraging through traffic, cars/HGV’s, to use Ferrers Road as a rat run.  The scheme has the potential to ‘lock in’ the 8000 residents south of Ferrers road at peak time.  As Cllr B Massey put it, we will be "thrown under the bus.' 

This map shows the nine crossings proposed in Countryside masterplan

As the 'Woodham Infrastructure Group' our prime objective is to ensure that highway decisions associated with this development are not detrimental to our town and those who live on the Dengie by providing ‘improvements to the local and strategic road network as required by the Local Highways Authority’ and that the development will meet the Chelmsford Planning Policy DM30.  (Chelmsford Local Plan 27th  May 2020 pages 168 and 237  development will not have an unacceptable impact on air quality and the health and wellbeing of people   

The link is: https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy-and-local-plan/adopted-local-plan/  

Downgrading the Burnham Road (B1012) and the Bicknacre road (B1418) to urban streets. The Local Plan & 'Master Plan' and the recent newsletter from Countryside Properties show at least 9 pedestrian crossings, a new roundabout - and cross roads with traffic lights to replace the existing Old Wickford Road roundabout (B1012/ B1418 intersection www.countryside-swf.co.uk  (slide 8).  

Essex Highways and Countryside maintain these changes will improve traffic flow on the Burnham Road.  SWF Town Council supports the scheme stating "Your Town Council supported the downgrading of the Burnham Road to a 40mph one” as seen p 55-57 in the June/ July 2020 pre submission version of the Neighbourhood Plan (see below). It adds: ‘Creation of a new northern by-pass, redirecting east west traffic. Such an approach would be very expensive and, given the topography and wider landscape constraints, would result in a significant diversion and added cost implications. Although this remains the Town Council’s preferred option, it was ruled out through the Local Plan’.  The text and plan were removed from the July 21 version prior to the vote.


This map shows our suggested route for a northern by pass  

The Rat Run Our former Mayor Bob Massey stated, "We need to consider the danger of the rat-run”. As Councillor Roberts suggested, “if the quickest route is to take the Ferrers Rd round the centre of the town, that will cause a lot of danger to a lot of people." 

On 23 March 2021 CCC and Essex Highways declared: "There is no plan to re-route traffic along Ferrers Road by a change to signage, …… However, Ferrers Road is classified as PR2, a local distributor road, which is a multipurpose through route with no frontages. Therefore, if traffic chooses to route this way instead of along B1012 it cannot be legally restricted." If Ferrers Road becomes the major route though the town, by default, the 8,000 people who live to the south of this road would be locked in at peak times.  There are only official 2 crossings for them to access the same facilities needed by the 4,000 new residents to the north who, we are told, need at least 7. 

Why no Northern By Pass Chelmsford City Council (CCC)/Essex County Council (ECC)/ Essex Highways and the Developer have dismissed a northern bypass because of:   

Cost   A letter dated 26/4/2018 from the then leader of CCC; Councillor R Whitehead to our MP mentions a possible "road to the north of the site" but says "this would be very expensive" and, moreover "it would use up a lot of the proposed site, making it unattractive to purchasers. " 

Environmental  3 March 2021 CCC cabinet reply; It was considered that the harm of providing a new road to the north of development on the wildlife site, biodiversity and landscape, would be unlikely to outweigh the benefits to traffic flows on other roads.   We would respectfully point out that, if harm to "the wildlife site, biodiversity and landscape" are their primary concerns, leaving the site as it is now is far the best option - so maybe, in future, 'Countryside' and other developers should look at brown-field sites for the affordable housing that is desperately needed. Given that the decision has already been made to build houses here, it is imperative that the necessary infrastructure is provided - a consideration that should be at the heart of each and every planning decision. Sadly, in this part of the world, the planners work on a 'cross your fingers and hope for the best' basis. 

The physical barrier provided by a northern bypass would restrict current and future development by Countryside Properties.  The by-pass would have to be built on the higher ground below the ‘green necklace’(see above), restricting the number of low density high value homes and preventing urban sprawl 

Woodham Infrastructure Group  

UPDATE   (10th MAY 2021)

UPDATE on POLLUTION: A 2019 Department of Transport traffic survey on the A132 showed it carries TWICE as much traffic as the A414 through Danbury - and the A414 was declared an 'air quality management area' in October 2018. As post Covid lockdown traffic returns, long Wickford bound queues are being seen at Sainsbury’s. Residents close to the Ferrers Rd and King Edwards Rd watch out for ‘Rat Running’

Dates and details of key meetings etc in 2021


Chelmsford Policy Board Meeting Date 14/01/2021 Recording (video): https://www.facebook.com/ChelmsCouncil/videos/386770702623144/

Minutes: https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/_resources/assets/inline/full/0/4815947.pdf

Masterplan submission for Strategic Growth Site 10: North of South Woodham Ferrers Link:  https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/masterplans-for-new-developments-in-chelmsford/masterplan-submission-for-strategic-growth-site-10-north-of-south-woodham-ferrers-approved/

CCC Cabinet meeting on 2nd March 2021 Video: https://www.facebook.com/ChelmsCouncil/videos/252720669773855/%20Draft

 Minutes : https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/_resources/assets/inline/full/0/5291549.pdf

UPDATE   (1st JAN 2021)  

There is a NEW VIDEO which emphasises another aspect of the  highways situation - see  below.

Video dealing with existing 'additional' roundabout - and with environmental (pollution) issues  Title: The Tragic Roundabout https://vimeo.com/495971312

FURTHER VIDEO PROG: There is also a somewhat tedious (but instructive) video showing what happens when a small country road is used as a 'rat run' when the principle route (B1012) is partially or completely obstructed. 

The title is The Edwin's Hall Road Saga and it can be found at: https://vimeo.com/470541365

UPDATE   (9-Dec-20)   

Mike Benning provides a brief update on the 'highways' situation in the lead up to the important 'decision making' meeting on 14th January - Link to video update - https://vimeo.com/488547633 

Incidentally, there are comments relating to the highways situation on the Neighbourhood Plan website. The link is https://consult.chelmsford.gov.uk/portal/neighbourhood_planning/swf_reg_16/swf_reg_16 Click on 'All Comments.' 

There are also comments about another aspect of the town's infrastructure ... healthcare e.g.: 

Mr Danny Claridge: I can find no provision in the plan for extra health care facilities, already the new medical centre is showing it is inadequate to handle the current population, both logistically to reach for many and parking spaces insufficient for those that can get there. A restoration of some health facilities to the town centre should be conditional on any further development. 

Dr John Cormack There are mentions of health - but very little mention of healthcare. Neighbourhood plans produced elsewhere now also encompass healthcare -  see: 'Neighbourhood Plan - Infrastructure Group Response' https://www.dropbox.com/sh/97erekewuxxw0y7/AAA6NnZECgwChHYzt1f2QwlTa?dl=0 

This is of particular importance in South Woodham as the town was built without any plans for provision of primary healthcare and this has remained the 'Cinderella service.' 

Alan Harper - Another worry is medical facilities. 



We were invited to participate in a meeting between the Town Council and the Developers. There was an initial presentation during which we were regaled with the usual twaddle about sustainability, motherhood and apple pie. We were told that there would be one new tree for every resident - and were shown visuals depicting greenery and happy smiling faces. They talked about high-quality pedestrian and cycle ways - “over 10 kilometres" of them seemingly - and said there would be improvements to public transport. 

There was no clear sign of a proposal for a northern ring road.  The crossings and roundabouts planned for the Burnham Road remain. 

We thought the counsellors present acquitted themselves very well in that they said what we (and you) would have said had we been in their place. 

The developers seemed to be rowing back on the number of houses that will be built. At one time it was rumoured there would be as many as 1600. Jacky Birch asked for confirmation that 1200 houses was the TOTAL allocation. This was given. She mentioned that several of the SWF roads are already over capacity, made it clear that  traffic is one of the main problems and emphasised that the council have not yet been shown the traffic survey done in February. She said: “We get gridlock now – we are going to be stationary!" It was pointed out (yet again) that traffic volume surveys done so far had NOT been done during 'rush hour'. 

Alan Sherring told the developers that  they had only played with the problem and hadn’t addressed the fundamentals. He said that the residents have no confidence in the plans for the roads and the counsellors are also concerned. He reminded the developers that “when it goes pear shaped you won’t be around." 

The developers returned to their theme and told us that, as well as more bike and pedestrian movements, there will be more public transport and (cheerfully ignoring the likelihood that most of the families living in the new houses will have more than one car) they confidently predicted there will be less vehicles on the road. They said they plan to “change people's travel behaviour" and to that end they will “incentivise people to travel by other means" ... worthy aims but are they realistic? 

We were told that Countryside has an "excellent relationship" with bus companies.  

A.S. injected a touch of reality by pointing out the major deficiencies in public transport in SWF and said that Council representatives had found it very heavy going whenever they tried to press for improvements. 

Murrough O’Brien, who chaired the meeting pointed out that South Woodham is unique –unlike Chelmsford where there are numerous escape routes. Here the access and egress routes are limited. He mentioned that there is no direct bus service to Southend, Maldon or Broomfield  (all of which have hospitals). He said that, at one time, somebody found it was quicker to get to the Royal Free Hospital, London, for a morning MRI scan then it was to get to Broomfield hospital. 

He mentioned concerns about the 'surface crossings' on the Burnham Rd – at peak times large numbers of schoolchildren (many with bikes) will be travelling to & from the Willy D school – and he feels the Master Plan should include something safer and more practical. 

A gentleman from the Dark Side who had previously given the impression that he thought the entire highways problem could be sorted out by reconfiguring the roundabouts countered by saying that the difficulty with underpasses is "where are you come out on the other side". He seemed to think that the existing crossings can somehow be turned into a satisfactory solution and said that they will submit a transport assessment. Having waffled on for a time he said “I don’t think (traffic) surveys mean terribly much” and claimed that his traffic assessment will “provide context." 

MB delivered a last kick in the goolies. He said we need to see the evidence base NOW as the council has been shown the evidence far too late thus far. He also pointed out that what evidence there is does not include data about Maldon and Bradwell - and traffic from Maldon district developments. 

Our impression is that the developers' hidden agenda is to do everything possible to create smokescreens and avoid addressing the real problems. 

So what next? The Town Council needs to come up with a firm plan for the Burnham Rd predicament and ideally (if time allows) run it past the residents as this will strengthen their case. It is blindingly obvious that the present plan for the Burnham Rd is going to create major problems for drivers from SWF and much of the Dengie but the difficulty is making the point forcefully enough to make the decision makers take notice. 

We are, meanwhile, liaising with all the local Parish Councils (some of which are VERY proactive/supportive) as well as the Maldon Council and CCC on the basis that there's strength in numbers. The survey results (confirming overwhelming opposition to the existing plan for the roads) has been very well received. If everyone pulls together there's a good chance of victory. 

Woodham Infrastructure Group   

For those who want further information, The Town Council will presumably be publishing the minutes in due course on its website.