Following on from my last blog on how the improvements to Junction 9 of the M3 may be a step towards addressing the challenges of the A34, what further challenges does the A34 face and could they be hindering growth along this major corridor?
Several fatalities a year on the A34 lead people to question the safety of this major corridor. There are many reasons for these accidents, from lack of attention to congestion, pushing safety up on the political agenda for many local councillors. The proposed Oxford to Cambridge expressway is believed by some to offer a long-term solution to the problems of the A34, however more needs to be done to the A34 itself to improve both its safety and regional connectivity.
In addition to the safety challenges that large volumes of traffic pose, the severe congestion and limited road capacity is constraining both housing and economic growth in the surrounding area. While the combination of the Cotswolds and Chilterns AONBs and the South Downs National Park provide a natural constraint to growth along the A34 corridor, it is considered that opportunities for development are being missed due to the safety and limited capacity of the A34. For example, there are many opportunities for growth around existing urban areas such as Oxford, Newbury and Southampton which all lie within the A34 corridor. In addition, there could be potential for a new settlement between Andover and Basingstoke if the infrastructure and the A34 were improved. Such new development could act as a facilitator and driver for infrastructure improvements through the provision of financial contributions. Several new developments would provide a synergy that would enable an integrated approach and a greater positive impact on improving the A34 corridor. Whilst piecemeal development could offer some improvements, historically minor improvements to the A34 have been carried out in isolation and have had a limited impact on improving the capacity or safety of the major route. Therefore, a collaborative, cross-boundary approach is considered to be more effective.
The A34 runs through six Local Planning Authorities including Winchester City Council, Test Valley Borough Council, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse District and Cherwell District Council and provides a vital north-south link. Each of these authorities are planning to accommodate future growth to meet their area’s needs. However, while all these Local Planning Authorities have their own plans for future growth, there is no existing cross boundary collaboration to plan for growth around the A34 or help address the challenges the major link road presents. Could a cross boundary A34 working group like the M3 LEP help address some of the A34’s existing problems?
It is clear there is a need for investigation into interventions to improve the performance of the corridor as an essential link for regional connectivity and economic growth. We need to start working cross-boundary, creating and building plans across all six authorities that the A34 runs through which incorporates this key south – north link road into their plans for future growth.
Barton Willmore are looking to hold a VIP roundtable discussion on the A34 and its challenges. If you would like to be part of this event or have any comments on the above, please do get in touch.
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