Changes to be agreed to road scheme due to public demand

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ALMOST 500 people have given their views on plans to reduce congestion on one of Sheffield’s busiest roads.

First introduced two years ago, the Ecclesall Road Smart Route project aims to reduce journey times, make buses more reliable and improve road safety along the stretch of Ecclesall Road between Sheffield city centre and Bents Green.

The proposals are based around the concept that buses are the “most effective means of transporting high numbers of passengers” and therefore involve changes to existing bus lanes and bus stops.

A consultation was launched when the Smart Route scheme was first mooted two years ago and, using the feedback from members of the public, Sheffield Council then drew up plans for 14 locations along Ecclesall Road.

The findings of a second public consultation have now been revealed, which asked for people’s views on the proposals at these specific 14 locations.

Next week, members of Sheffield Council’s cabinet highways committee are set to agree to progress the Smart Route project with some revisions, which have been drawn up due to the public feedback.

However, due to a “significant reduction in public sector funding”, Sheffield Council admits that cash will not be found for all nelements of the scheme, “particularly in the short term.”

Around 500 people took part in this second public consultation, which ran from March 16 to April 16 this year.

A report set to go before next week’s cabinet highways committee meeting says that proposals for Hunters Bar and the Greystones Road junction appear to be the “most controversial” due to the “high volume of feedback received for these areas.”

The report says: “There are conflicting views about which road users should receive priority along the Smart Route.

“Many respondents welcome the proposals and feel they will reduce congestion, but others feel they will be detrimental to bus users, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Of the 500 or so people who took part in the consultation, 306 left additional comments on the scheme.

Fifty-one of those comments were in support of the Smart Route, while 26 people said more consideration needed to be given to parking and 25 people said there should be more attention given to cycle lanes.

However, 422 people signed a separate petition in opposition to the Smart Route, saying that the scheme “will not solve the problems of congestion” and “will worsen, rather than improve, the pedestrian and cycling environment.”

Some of the most major changes proposed are for Hunters Bar, where the “inbound” bus lane between Rustlings Road and the roundabout would remain, but the “outbound” bus lane would be removed.

Plans to widen the lanes and make the roundabout smaller are being axed due to “very strong levels of concern” cited by members of the public, who praised the “historic and aesthetic value of the roundabout.”

Signal timings are also set to be altered at the pedestrian crossings close to Hunters Bar.

Other proposals involve putting in yellow lines opposite Greystones Road; trialling a dedicated right turn lane into Ringinglow Road from Ecclesall Road South and painting double yellow lines on Gisborne Road.

Up to 26,000 vehicles currently use Ecclesall Road every day and around 4,250 trips are made during the morning rush hour, of which approximately 3,100 are by car and 1,150 are by bus.

The section of Ecclesall Road between Summerfield Street and Hunters Bar is also among the ten highest areas for accidents in South Yorkshire.

The cabinet highways committee meeting, at which the latest proposals are set to be agreed , takes place on Thursday, December 8 at 2pm.