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This is the unique story of two roads owned by Staffordshire County Council and how their identities were secretly swapped to protect the town of Stafford and boost the county’s finances.
One road, the A518 from Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, to Telford, Shropshire, is designated as part of the county council’s Primary Route system. It cuts a swathe through two counties.
The other road is the A519, a non-Primary Route road which travels from Newcastle-u-Lyne, Staffordshire, to the outskirts of Newport, Shropshire. More than 20 years ago there were Government plans to relieve this road of its heavy traffic burden.
Today the A518 is still shown on the county council’s maps as the primary route. It has green and white signs to prove it.
On the other hand the A519 has white and black non-primary route signs. It is almost always left off county maps because of it’s unimportance in the scale and breadth of Staffordshire’s £6bn roads.
Because of its designation the A518 has had millions lavished on it. In August 2011 for instance, it had new road surfaces and new safety kerbs. This road has always been heavily signed, policed, monitored and protected; so much so the two villages along it, Haughton and Gnosall have both recently won Staffordshire’s Best Kept Village awards.
The A519, by comparison, has had very little spent on it in the last decade and is under-policed, neglected and dangerous.
The county council has known about the problems on the A519 for almost a decade and we have proof that council representatives – and a leading police spokesman – have misled residents, convincing them for years that any hope that the sanctity, value and quiet enjoyment of their homes was gone forever.
The problem reached crisis point with the opening of the Donnington Freight Terminal in Telford in 2007. It was built on the A518’s Shropshire stretch. Its strategic siting obviously meant there would be a major increase in the amount of heavy goods vehicle using the Primary Route through Stafford.
But the county council had seen this problem looming many years earlier and began making plans to combat it and perpetuate their aspirations for the future of the county town.
A report by a major transport logistic company, commissioned by the county council in 2007, revealed plans for the further pedestrianisation of Stafford, more investment and major building projects.
The report confirmed that come-what-may the county council needed to get rid of the heavy goods vehicles from the A518 and ultimately the town centre.
The answer was obvious – send it down the A519. To ensure traffic did this they embarked on a programme of putting in an extraordinary number of traffic lights in and around Stafford town centre.
This covert decision has resulted in millions of cars and HGVs using the A519 each year while the A518 has been turned into a relatively quiet ‘country lane’.
Staffordshire County Council own figures confirm this showing that 100,000 more vehicles used the A519 in 2010 than used the A518.
A county council traffic survey, carried out in the autumn of 2011 after months of campaigning by residents, then revealed that at times there was up to 90 per cent more traffic on the A519 than there was on the A518.
Now the A519 is the preferred route on all SatNav except for the AA which was the only one to recognise the A518 as the Primary Route. Staffordshire County Council say that they have had no connection with SatNav mappers, but leading mapping companies confirm that county councils are indirectly a major source of information for them. We also have a press release where the county’s highways department brag about their work with SatNav companies.
People along the A519 live in constant fear of accidents, there have been dozens in the last year – one crash has left an ancient canal bridge holed and dangerous. Nothing was done to repair it for months, yet the county council are aware that hundreds of thousands of HGVs are thundering across it while walkers, horse riders, canal boaters and holidaymakers go about their business 40ft below.
Because of fear, because of noise, because of vibration and because of pollution homeowners along the A519 have abandoned their gardens and the front rooms of their homes. One family has had to board-up the front windows and door of their house for comfort and safety.
This fight is continuing – if you can help or are involved in your own road battle contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org