The Gulworthy Cut

Many of my readers will remember the hated Grenofen Gateway. How could you forget? As I write, the Highways & Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) is about to consider a proposal that will destroy another useful rural road.

The HATOC meeting 20 Feb 04
agreed to defer the closure, thanks to effective public objections.

If some of the links on this page now take to you to slightly inconsistent texts, it is because the documents have evolved as the story has unfolded.

Travellers to and from Cornwall via Gunnislake will know the short stretch of unclassified road that starts at the toll house on the Devon side of New Bridge, Gunnislake and emerges on the main road opposite Gulworthy Cottages. It is a very useful local short-cut that cuts off about a third of a mile of tedious, winding main road.

Here is the bottom of the cut, seen across New Bridge from the Cornwall side of the Tamar. As you can see, it is one-way up the hill.

A proposal before today's HATOC (Friday, 14 Nov 03) is to prohibit traffic from using this road (except for access). In effect, this will convert it into a private drive maintained at public expense. It will also cause immense frustration to local drivers who have happily used it for 40 years or more.

This picture shows the junction close up. As you can see, there are properties on either side. No doubt these will benefit from closing the road to through traffic, but at everyone else's expense. As you can see, it is a useful road, wide enough for all normal traffic and saves a third of a mile of carbon dioxide-generating fuel usage for everyone that uses it.
As this picture illustrates, this is not a tiny narrow country lane, but a road that once accommodated two-way traffic. It is now unclassified, but well used by local drivers.

Why? Well, the excuse is that there have been 4 accidents at the top junction in the last 3 years. All very well, but closing the road seems to me to be a disproportiate response. It is also undesirable, both on the principle that we have little enough road capacity in Devon as it is and cannot afford to lose useful local short-cuts and on the wider principle that it is inappropriate to establish private drives maintained at public expense.

Here is the allegedly "dangerous" junction at the top. As the following pictures show, visibility is quite adequate for any normally competent driver to negotiate this safely.
This picture shows the visibility from the main road, approaching the junction from the New Bridge side. It gives oncoming traffic ample visibility and adequate, if perhaps less than ideal, visibility to a driver emerging from the side road.
In this close-up you can see that the oncoming vehicle (on the main road, just visible behind the emerging car) has a good view and the emerging driver's view is sufficient for any normally competent driver. The view could be improved by cutting back the grass and foliage on the corner and that ought to be done rather than taking out of service an extremely useful and well used length of local road, though, as the next picture shows, even that ought not to be necessary.
As this final picture shows, the road is well used. You can also see (on the left of the picture) that there is visibility from the junction all the way to the bend in the main road.

You may think that, as I do, that it is utterly disproportionate to take out of service a well-used local short cut that saves 50% of carbon dioxide emissions each time it is used in preference to the main road (the distance around the main road is roughly 0.55 mile, compared with 0.25 mile for the short cut). I'll update this in due course with details of who to make representations to if you agree with me.

First Update

At the meeting, the highways officers explained that the proposal had come forward because an "accident cluster review" had shown that 4 "injury accidents" had happened at the top junction during the last 3 years. This is a "trigger level" and they have to recommend some action because they have targets that require them to do "something" to reduce numbers of road accidents.

They admitted that the proper solution would be to improve the junction, but that would cost too much. Because this is "only a short cut", it is possible to close it, thereby removing the "hazard".

Well, it's an argument, I suppose, but, without some detail about the recorded collisions, difficult to say that the cure is not worse than the disease. The problem with this appraoch is that, once the road is closed, it will never be re-opened and the opportunity to address the junction alignment will never arise again. Local road users will have lost yet another highly valued and well-used local short cut with almost no public debate.

Next Steps

The next step is a consultation exercise. You can be a part of this. What I think is pretty outrageous, however, is that it is unlikely to come back to the committee for public debate before a decision is made: it is regarded as a minor matter to be dealt with by an officer in consultation with the chairman of HATOC and the county councillor for Tavistock division. In other words, the final decision can be made by two councillors acting in private.

Because of the composition of HATOC, I could not have won a vote to force the issue back to a public meeting of HATOC, so I have had to accept this process. The County Concillor, Roy Connelly, has promised to include me in the further consultations. The record, unfortunately, shows that proposals like this are almost always forced through.

If you want to be a part of the consultation, you can write to Mr Brian George
Okehampton Local Service Group
Devon County Council
Brayham's Depot
North Road

or email your view. The mailto (now removed - 14 Feb 04) will copy to me automatically and I'll post your comments on this site unless you ask me not to. If you write, it may help me if you send a copy of your letter to me, Cllr Roger Mathew, care of West Devon Borough Council.

Second and subsequent updates - 25 Jan to 14 Feb 04

The draft order was published on 22 Jan 04. I think it is so important to have a public awareness of this that I made it temporarily my home page. As the period for objections expired on 13 Feb 04, I've moved and updated it.
There is a meeting of the Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) on 20 February in Okehampton. The agenda arrived today (14 Feb). I have given details of the venue and members of the committee on this site, in case you want to be there.

My own letter of objection to the County Solicitor, is published here for completeness. Although it is now too late to object to this proposal, general guidance for objectors is do NOT use duplicated or "form" letters - these will be disregarded as they are thought to be too easy. Even worse are petitions: they are always dismissed out of hand. Try to use your own words. If you used some of my ideas in this case, fine, but I hope you wrote them in your own way.
If you think I have missed a point, you can still email me, so that I can use more ideas or information at the meeting on 20 February.

Although the Notice specifies objections in writing to the County Solicitor, email to him were also valid: he confirmed this to me on 30 January.
I have taken the mailtos off this page now, as it's too late and mailtos on web pages attract spammers. If you want to email me, this page is a throwaway that I can change from time to time.

and pass the word

I'll add further updates when I have more news.

Home Page Site map for this story: Top How to object Notice of Closure Closure deferred - a good result!

14- 16 Nov 2003
Updated 25 Jan - 11 May 04