Five Month Sharnbrook Road Closure!

Sharnbrook Road, Souldrop will be closed to all traffic from Thursday 20th March 2014 until Monday 11th August 2014 inclusive.

Closed for five months! Looking towards the traffic lights on the railway bridge at Sharnbrook Road Souldrop.

Closed for five months! Looking towards the traffic lights on the railway bridge at Sharnbrook Road Souldrop.

Due to the demolition and reconstruction of the railway bridge on Sharnbrook Road Souldrop, there will be a 24 hour restriction to traffic on Sharnbrook Road from the junction with High Street, Souldrop to the High Street/Colworth Road, Sharnbrook.

Planning Decision Document

The reason given is that modification of the bridge is necessary for the electrification of the Midlands Mainline railway.

The bridge will be re-aligned, raised a metre above it’s current height, and strengthened. Full planning documents

Five months without easy access to Sharnbrook is something the Souldrop villagers will have to look forward to this year, as this road is closed for ‘necessary work’. Access to Sharnbrook will take the form of a two and a half mile detour via the A6 and turning at Templars Way, Sharnbrook. The bus numbers 25 and 26 will also detour the same way, perhaps making the bus journey to Bedford a few minutes longer.

Sharnbrook have raised issues that If both traffic lights and weight restrictions are removed once the work is completed then large lorries will start to use this road making passing difficult and potentially causing damage/accidents. The Bedford Borough Council have not made any promises, but have suggested making recommendations to the highway department. A local landowner has made a query about the need ‘for parapets.

This information and information about other Bedford road closures can be found on the Bedford Council Service Disruption website  here

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Wind Turbine gets go ahead

Artist impression of the Blackmere Wind Turbine

Artist’s impression of the Blackmere Wind Turbine – looking west along the Three Shires Way – picture taken from the access gate and concrete block

The construction of a 77 metre high wind turbine has been granted permission by Bedford Borough Council Planning Department, subject to conditions, to Clinton Dunmore of Middle Farm, Souldrop.

The decision was issued on the 31st January 2014 and was for the installation of a 500 kW EWT wind turbine with associated infrastructure and temporary access track measuring 50 metres to hub and 77 metres to blade tip.

The BBC decision document

Location of the Wind Turbine

Location of the Wind Turbine

Before construction gets the go ahead there will conditions that will need to be met including a survey for Greater Crested Newts. The Turbine has been given permission to stand for thirty years at which point it will have to be removed unless further planning application is granted. It is unclear at the time of writing whether or not any other local authorities might put in an objection, it is understood Rushden Council were also assessing the planning application.

The subject of wind turbines is a contentious issue almost everywhere at the moment not least in the Souldrop village community. After a heated community meeting or two back in 2012, Mr Dunmore withdrew his original planning application in order to submit a new plan to relocate the turbine further from the village on the Blackmere side of the Three Shires Way close to the Sharnbrook Summit Nature Reserve. The temporary construction access route will enter the site via Goosey Lodge near Wymington to the north. There should be no inconvenience in the construction work to Souldrop residents.

Full planning documentation

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There is NO bus stop at Souldrop Turn

There is no bus stop at Souldrop Turn

There is no bus stop at Souldrop Turn. The picture above is wishful thinking for some!

Although most Souldroppers use their own transport for accessing the nearby towns such as Bedford, Rushden, Wellingborough etc, the village is not served very well by public transport which is vital for those who for one reason or another don’t drive.

Taxi’s can prove expensive for instance traveling to and from Bedford from Souldrop especially out of normal hours.

Stocking Lane bus stop

Stocking Lane bus stop

So what of the bus service’s to Souldrop?

From the Stocking lane bus stop’s adjacent to the Beacon village green, Grant Palmer offer three buses running towards Bedford via Harold Monday to Friday and two on a Saturday. There is just one return to Souldrop from Bedford (via ~Harold) (further info here)

To Rushden via Yeildon and Wymington there are two outward and two return. ( further info here)

I had a distressed phone call from a ‘stranded’ friend visiting me in Souldrop recently, asking if I would be kind enough to pick them up from Avenue road in Higham Park, Rushden. It turned out they had planned the journey based on information from the popular Routeplanner – Transportdirect website.
The bus service number 50 from Kettering to Bedford has Souldrop Turn on the busy A6 highway marked as a bus stop. Apparently the bus went sailing past Souldrop Turn without stopping, the eventual reason given to my friend by the driver was that “There is no bus stop at Souldrop Turn, it is much too dangerous for the bus driver’s to stop given the nature of the speeding traffic”

We looked on the Routeplanner website and sure enough Souldrop Turn is indeed marked as a bus stop. This left me puzzled so I took a closer look and sure enough there is no physical bus stop in the vicinity of the Souldrop Turn garage and in the area of the Stocking Lane junction. I went into the garage and asked the proprietor and he had no knowledge of there ever being a bus stop in that area of the main road. His response was that to his knowledge there was no bus stop.

Stagecoach the bus company run route 50 so I found their timetable online and checked the route, once again it clearly identified Souldrop Turn as a legitimate bus stop. Next I phoned their Bedford office up and asked the female Stagecoach assistant (Sandra) if the Souldrop Turn bus stop was still in use. After checking she initially confirmed that the bus stop was legitimate, after a little pressing for further information on to the actual whereabouts she put me on hold whilst she called through to the depot. When she came back her story had changed, the bus stop is marked as a bus stop but as the road is so busy, the drivers feel it is much too unsafe to actually stop there – in fact no bus driver can remember actually stopping there for over seven years!

Example timetable for Stagecoach route 50

Example timetable for Stagecoach route 50 showing the entry for ‘Souldrop Turn’

We have no issue with the bus drivers, in the absence of a physical safe harbour for buses to pull into, it is a decision clearly based on common sense given the busy and fast nature of this location, which is well known locally as an accident blackspot.

There are a few good reason’s why the Bus company in this case Stagecoach should officially remove their ‘tag’ for the Souldrop Turn bus stop. A bus stop at that location is not a viable solution for the service of passengers to and from the village of Souldrop, it is a kilometer away along an increasingly busy Stocking Lane with no pavement. It’s tagging on the Bus company and national timetables is misleading to travelers. The tagging as a legitimate bus stop can effect decisions based on the proximity to the village Souldrop by local and national government departments for instance Social Services, Schools etc and finally it can be used by bus companies to argue that they service our village which in this case is clearly untrue.

So I have written to the Bedford office of Stagecoach and I suggested they either kindly, Erect a safe harboured bus stop on either side of the road at the Souldrop Turn or, Take out the bus stop entry for the “SOULDROP TURN” bus stop as soon as possible from all the timetables.

And furthermore I asked for an official comment from Stagecoach as to the response for the above points.

As yet this hasn’t been forthcoming, my letter has been passed on from the Bedford office to the manager of the Kettering office who manage route 50. I am at this time still awaiting a reply. I will print their response when it arrives.

Mr S. Andrews

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