Why have SCN5 and widen Lovers Walk?
While a cycle route on The Avenue segregated from traffic provides an attractive facility for many cyclists there will remain a high demand for pedestrians and cyclists on Lovers Walk. A cycle facility on The Avenue between Bassett Avenue and Northlands Road will for the first time provide a continuous cycle link between the City Centre and northern city boundary unlocking demand for cyclists routing through the common. Despite the anticipated shift in cyclists to The Avenue corridor, once completed, user feedback tells us that there will continue to be a demand for cycling on key footpaths in the Common.
As well as avoiding high trafficked roads users choose to route via the common as they want to travel via this unique green space in the city and for people travelling between Hill Lane or The Avenue and University routes along the common remain a popular direct route.
The Avenue will present those faster cyclists with a faster more direct facility on The Avenue leaving footpaths on the common for slower cyclists. Conflict at existing levels of pedestrian use alone also demonstrates a need for widening which, will not change with the introduction of SCN5.
What is the Impact on Vehicle Journey Times?
The Avenue corridor remains an important route for traffic including buses and so our proposed design reflects the need to minimise capacity loss while still providing a consistent and safe pedestrian and cycle link. With this in mind we have proposed two key changes;
Cycle only crossing – Providing a ‘cycle only crossing’ giving green time for cyclists only to cross the junction without conflict with vehicles. This is particularly important for busy high-speed roads where drivers are turning left across a cycle route. This will slightly extend the time for a complete cycle of the traffic light phases. Pedestrians will continue to use the refuge island to cross between phases. A toucan crossing was considered; however, this would require much longer times for pedestrians to crossing this wide junction and would have had a far greater impact on journey times.
Formalising single traffic lanes – As can be seen on design drawings traffic lanes widths are narrower between The Cowherd PH and subway underpass northbound and between Highfield Avenue and Winn Road southbound. Traffic lane widths allowing two-lane queuing capacity are retained both northbound and southbound to the extent required not to impact on journey times.
What is the impact on loss of Common Land?
The widening of Lovers Walk results in a net increase of tarmac on the common. While some additional grass areas can be gained, this does not fully offset the loss. Loss of grassed area is 1,422m2 while the gain is 157m2 leaving a net loss of 1,265m2. This represents 0.086% of the Common.
An ecological compensation plan has been produced, which looks at two areas of Common land running alongside Lovers Walk, which would be managed to increase biodiversity. The woodland and scrub have been split into a number of compartments which will be felled/cleared on a rotational basis over a period of 10 years. The objective for the management is to allow more light to reach the ground flora and create additional ecological niches. This work will provide a suitable habitat for reptiles and a variety of invertebrates.
The proposed management works will result in 3,602 metres squared of land subject to positive ecological management over the ten years period outlined within this document. Approximately three times the amount of habitat lost as a result of Lovers Walk widening will enter into positive ecological management. The compensation proposed was entered into the Biodiversity Impact Assessment Calculator and shown to provide a net gain in biodiversity value on Southampton Common. Therefore, the level of compensation is considered to be suitable to offset the loss of habitat associated with the widening of Lovers Walk.
Should the planning application for Lovers Walk pass, then the council would need to submit the planning application to the Secretary of State due to the increase in tarmac on common land.
In addition to the management outlined, Southampton City Council will also continue working with Southampton Common Forum to resolve other concerns, including:
- Develop and promote a Code of Conduct for all users of The Common not just on Lovers Walk.
- Review hard surfacing on The Common with no existing use or heritage value that could be returned to green space.
Preliminary designs show that there may need to be some localised loss of the verge to deliver SCN5. This is where southbound cyclists change from on road to on footway just north of Winn Road. Delivery of early phases of SCN5 to date have increased green space in several locations which could offset this potential loss of verge. This would need to be confirmed once designs are rationalised following this consultation and discussion with stakeholders about mitigating any impact on Common Land.