Residents in a Welsh village have criticised “ludicrous” proposals which could see them forced into taking a daily detour to get to their nearest town – which is just over a mile away.
Carmarthenshire Council is undertaking a public consultation over plans to transform how traffic travels through the village of Abergwili, on the outskirts of Carmarthen, in order to create a three-metre wide path.
The consultation is part of a current study in relation to the council’s active travel improvements in the area, which they hope will make walking or cycling more attractive and accessible.
However, with views from the public only being invited for a period of three weeks, the information or lack of it on what exactly the plans would mean in the short and long term has been questioned by local residents, especially those who aren’t regular internet users.
A brief outline of the plans has been posted online by the county council, but nothing has been posted through letter boxes, something which the council blamed on the “current climate”.
This is despite the fact that one of the options on the table would see Abergwili Road, which connects Carmarthen and the village of Abergwili itself, become a one-way only route. This would mean residents not being able to take the short journey directly into town, but instead being forced to turn in the opposite direction away from Carmarthen, onto a section of a by-pass and round past Glangwili Hospital.
Similarly, people from Carmarthen would be able to travel east towards and into Abergwili, but would not be able to return along the same route – they too would have to go the long way round to get back into Carmarthen.
What exactly are the plans?
There are two options outlined by Carmarthenshire Council which they have asked people to have their say on.
Option 1 would see traffic lights put in place at either side of the bridge above the A40 by-pass. This, according to the plans drawn up by the council, would allow for a ‘dedicated full-width two-way cycle lane’ on the bridge, which would then lead into a three-metre wide shared use path running alongside Abergwili Road. This would connect with the existing path which starts near Carmarthen Museum at the most eastern point of the village.
The traffic lights would be required over the bridge to provide space for the shared use facilities and vehicles would travel through this section only when permitted to according to the traffic lights. But vehicles would continue to travel in a two-way direction as they do now.
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Option 2, meanwhile, would see the majority of the main road being made a one-way route for all vehicles, with a ‘dedicated full-width two-way cycle lane’ from the bridge down to the junction of High Street and Lloyd’s Terrace, near the local chapel, where a roundabout would be constructed. A shared use path would then run from this point towards Carmarthen Museum.
Effectively, one lane of the current two-lane carriageway would remain open for vehicles travelling away from Carmarthen, while the other lane would be repurposed for active travel and would be off limits to vehicles.
How long would the changes take?
The plans are currently in the ‘options development stage’ and public and stakeholder feedback is being garnered.
When the best course of action is decided upon, the scheme will be funding dependent and therefore it is too early to say for certain if and when any changes will begin to be implemented.
Carmarthenshire Council has confirmed, however, that if either of the above options goes ahead then they would represent permanent changes.
Residents have voiced concerns at what they say is the vague nature of the online survey, which has a brief outline of the plans followed by a handful of multiple choice questions asking people for their preferences.
One resident was very critical when the plans were first posted on a local community group, calling them “ridiculous”.
“All that money spent disrupting an entire stretch of road,” they commented.
“It’s a death trap on the bridge by us as it is, with cars parking everywhere from the hospital, without adding cyclists to the mix. I should imagine the pubs in Abergwili would suffer, too.”
Another local resident questioned the need for any change to traffic management in the area, saying: “Can we ask what the reason is for implementing change? Have there been complaints from anyone in particular? The road works perfectly fine for everyone at the moment; plenty of room for walkers, cyclists and motorists to share the road. Where is the problem?”
It seems that the main motivation for the council wanting to create a new path in Abergwili is so it can connect two current paths either side of the village.
While the majority of Abergwili Road and High Street in the village itself is mainly residential, one popular business in the area is Chris Thomas and Sons, a well established fruit and veg shop located just yards from where the potential one-way system would come into force. It would mean customers only being able to turn right when leaving the premises, something that could affect trade, according to business owners Chris and Tanya Rice.
They called both options on the table “ludicrous”, and implored their neighbours to complete the survey and make their feelings known about a matter they feel has progressed on the quiet.
“We had a phone call recently from the council asking us for our e-mail address so that we could be sent a survey,” said Tanya, who owns Chris Thomas and Sons along with her partner Chris. “They didn’t specify what exactly it was about, just something to do with cycling and a cycle path.
“Then a customer of ours messaged me asking if we were aware of the changes planned for the village – that was the first time I’d seen the plans.”
Chris and Tanya relocated to the Abergwili area from the centre of Carmarthen more than a decade ago because the closure of the town’s mart “was like someone switching a light off”. They have since built up their business in an out-of town location but are now concerned that another big change will once again hit trade.
“The road here is already bedlam at times because cars park on the bridge, causing backed-up traffic,” explained Tanya.
“If they put traffic lights at either end it’s just going to be even worse. Then the second option would really affect our business. Coming out of the shop you would only be able to turn right and go all the way around just to pop to the nearby garage, and it will be the same for customers leaving the shop who are heading back to Carmarthen.
“The pub will suffer too because they would normally get passing trade, people stopping for food, but under these proposals people would only be passing one way, because if they’re heading into Carmarthen they wouldn’t be able to go through Abergwili.
“We are not against the idea of extending the cycle paths already in place, but this will be a massive disruption to a whole piece of road for something that not many people would use – we see how many people use the existing paths.
“Another aspect of course is flooding. The flood gates in the village were closed last week and it’s the second time in a couple of months that they’ve been closed. Nobody has explained to us what would happen if there’s a one-way system in place which means we can’t turn left towards Carmarthen, but then the flood gates are closed and we can’t turn right either!
“People see us as a place where you can nip easily to get your fruit and veg, and we have a lot of elderly customers who find it easy to pop over and get what they need. These plans, whichever option is given the go-ahead, will have a massive impact.”
Carmarthenshire Council said it did not wish to comment on the options at present as the consultation period – which closes on February 4 – was ongoing, but it has encouraged people to take part by completing the online survey.
Councillor Rob James, leader of the Labour group at Carmarthenshire Council, has on Tuesday requested more time for people to digest what the potential changes would mean and called for information to be made available to more people.
“Today I have written to the director of environment at Carmarthenshire Council, Ruth Mullen, to request an extension to the consultation period,” said Mr James.
“I have also requested that all businesses and households receive a letter notifying them of the proposals. The changes could have far reaching consequences and it’s important that all voices are heard before a decision is made.”