When NOT to survey traffic
Heavy traffic at Top Lodge - but so far uncounted
Recording the troughs of traffic flows at the start of winter
Traffic flows - peaks and troughs
It is really quite obvious that the road to Fineshade is busier in summer than in winter. Most local people and regular visitors have experienced just how busy the lane can be at peak times in mid summer (see pictures here).
Even the Forestry Commission cannot fail to realise that Top Lodge can get very congested with traffic. After all, this is what they say on their own website:
It follows that if you wished to make a case for the suitability of the access road to carry further substantial traffic, you would need to measure how the peak traffic flows in the summer, rather than the troughs of flows in the winter.
Forest Holidays' timing
The previous application for a large holiday development was heavily criticised for failure to provide reliable evidence of the maximum number of vehicles using the lane at peak times (school holidays, the summer months, etc.) Instead Forest Holidays and the Forestry Commission relied on a traffic survey carried out in early spring betwen 10-23 March 2014.
Since then the partners have had two summers to rectify their mistake and measure peak use of the lane.
Instead, by a masterstroke of timing, they seemed to commission a new traffic survey to start at the end of October 2015. The pictures left show the traffic counter placed across the single-track lane to Top Lodge which stayed there for a few weeks into mid November. For a single week a similar counter was placed across the A43 itself, together with a camera counter counter at the dangerous junction.
Why was this timing so wrong?
The survey started the day after the end of British Summer Time.
Dark evenings and bad weather mean far fewer visitors.
The Caravan Site was closing for the winter. The camera would have failed to record a single problem for a caravan turning in and out at the junction.
The Cycle Shop had moved to winter hours, closing on weekdays - even fewer visitors.
The Forestry Commission had closed large parts of the wood becasue of harvesting operations. Almost all the waymarked trails were diverted - still fewer visitors.
The survey stopped before Fineshade's big winter event, the rally of the Siberian Husky club.
Deliberate or incompetent timing?
Could Forest Holidays be deliberately trying to underestimate traffic flows? Surely not! Or perhaps this choice of timing was just incompetence on their part?
We asked the Forestry Commission what they thought.
What effect does this have on the Forestry Commission's reputation?
Since the FC claims to work "closely in partnership with Forest Holidays on planning" they must really want to share the blame for this mis-timed survey. What effect does this have on the Forest Commission's reputation?
Do they really think that the good councillors of East Northants are likely to be influenced by this ill-timed attempt to prove it is safe to allow a huge amount of extra traffic on this single track lane? Perhaps even Northants Highways will not be fooled this time?