A CENTRAL part of controversial changes to Leek’s roads system is set to be axed after it emerged thousands fewer cars are using a key junction than predicted.
When Sainsbury’s was given planning permission to redevelop the Churnet Works off Macclesfield Road in 2010, it was on condition that major works took place at the St Edward Street and Church Street junction, which involved the right turn from Mill Street being blocked. This would have driven all traffic through the town centre.
But now the supermarket giant has lodged a new plan to delete the requirement to complete the work at St Edward Street.
It comes after a survey showed that just under 3,000 less cars are using the junction than predicted each day.
In addition, the figures show that 400 fewer vehicles are passing through it during the weekday afternoon peak period, and 100 less during the Saturday peak period.
The report, compiled for Sainsbury’s by traffic management firm Royal Haskoning, said: “An Automatic Traffic Counter was commissioned for a threeweek period in June.
“The data collected an average 24-hour flow in both directions along Church Street.
“It is clear that the level of background traffic has fallen since the surveys were originally taken in 2009.” Figures show that vehicles using the junction on a daily basis in 2013 amounted to 15,942 – against the estimated total of 18,692 .
A supporting letter from Duncan Mason, of Turley Associates of London, said: “Ahead of the Christmas period 2012, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council requested that these works be delayed until the New Year, so to avoid adversely impacting on retail trade in the town centre.
“Subsequently, the works to this junction have not yet been implemented. This context has provided the opportunity to review the situation, and consequently Sainsbury’s has taken the opportunity to monitor traffic flows in and around Leek since the opening of the store in January 2013.
“This monitoring exercise indicates that the works to the Church Street and St Edward Street junction are no longer necessary.”
Charlotte Atkins, who was elected to the county council for Leek South in May, said the figures proved none of the work which caused widespread disruption in the town last year was needed.
This involved the removal of a roundabout next to the Nicholson War Memorial and the creation of a ‘public realm’ area, as well as a new staggered crossing in Haywood Street, plus improvements to the Buxton Road and Stockwell Street junction.
Ms Atkins said: “This is a combination of the county council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Sainsbury’s getting it so wrong.
“There has been a terrible over estimation and it looks like the roundabout and all the other works which caused major disruption to the town were not necessary.
“If these authorities had listened to local people we would not have had all this controversy and huge disruption, which has done Leek no favours.
“I have never been in favour of all the traffic being forced through the town centre.” Pam Wood, who was town mayor at the time of the road changes, said the latest application would have to go before the district council's full planning committee – where the whole Sainsbury’s planning application could come under renewed scrutiny.
She said: “This is just another sign of incompetence of the whole affair.
“If the traffic is not what was expected then the person who made this mistake should give us back our market town and put it back as it was.
“These road works were part of the planning conditions and should have all been done before the store was opened, as stated.
“The councils have just made things up as they have gone along.”
It is expected the plan will go before the planning committee within the next two months.