Welcome to the obscure and dangerous world of
I live on the Burley Road in Brockenhurst. I first knew about the pinch points when one was put in front of my house.
To find out what process decided on these, authorised how they were constructed and placed, and what alternatives were considered, I wrote to all involved, and searched many web sites.
But trying to find out if any proper process had been followed, has unearthed everything from deceit to farce.
More than fifty other people have written letters about their concerns - see letters. To leave comments for this site click, comments.
To date, nine cars have been written off, a cyclist seriously injured, and two horses, a donkey, a donkey foal, and a deer, killed.
(These are the ones I know about.)
It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured - or worse.
The pinch points were constructed after an animal death near South Weirs. Their cost was £35,000.
The decision was made at County Council level. It was eventually admitted that no aspect of whatever process was followed, had been recorded.
This lack of process and transparency has continued since.
The 11th January incident.
The driver of the car was dazzled by difficult patches of low sun though gaps in the trees.
This warning has been on the web site for over two years - in a list of eight main dangers;
"Dazzle from low sun: The east/west direction of the road means that at many times of the year it gives drivers problems with low sun at sunrise or sunset. With trees around, sometimes the pinch points will be in shadow as sun is in the driver's eyes. They may temporarily just not see a pinch point."
I gave pictures of this accident to the Parish Council meeting on 15th Jan 2013, and a bizarre series of communications followed.
Full copies here.
Included is a letter from Cllr Thornber stating, "The Parish Council agreed and added three more pinch points close the the village including one near your home." This was repeated in his letter to the Lymington Times on 16th Feb. In fact, the Parish Council have no powers to do such a thing, and none of their records even mentions such "additions".
Cllr Thornber revised this in the Council meeting of 19th Feb, stating that it had not been the Parish Council who had added three more pinch points, but a group in South Weirs who had named themselves SWAGS.
He is saying that a small, un-elected, un-constituted, self-appointed group in South Weirs "added" pinch points, at the councils expense, half a mile away from South Weirs, although, yet again, there is no record of this.
When I presented the pictures to the Parish Council meeting, I made the point that had this incident happened to a motorcyclist, the result could well have been fatal. These responses would seem to trivalise the issue.
There was also an incident at the next pinch point on 30th Nov 2012, attended by the police. I have twice asked Cllr Thornber for outline details. He has not even acknowledged my requests.
This complete lack of transparent process was revealed to me only because a pinch point happened to be placed outside my house. So how many other examples are there? Without any investigation I have become aware of two more, including one where information is being deliberately withheld.
http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/looking-after/campaigns/animal-accidents shows where animal accidents have occurred. This part of the Burley Road is not unusual for a forest road. I note ten stretches of road in the forest with animal accident densities much worse. But look for yourself.
A horse and a donkey, killed at night close to pinch points, were wearing reflective collars. Several letters to me from horse owners have said that the confusion of the many reflectors on the pinch points now makes these collars less noticeable at night.
http://www.verderers.org.uk/roadaccs.pdf shows long term trends. The survival ratio of ponies turned out to ponies killed has been improving for years despite increased traffic. But this is not acknowledged. (Unlike Dartmoor - "Thanks for driving The Moor carefully").
As chartered civil engineer, the late Ian Smail, asked, "Why has this stretch of road been given this brutal approach?" Why did it have to be this expensive and potentially hazardous scheme?
(Above left) The New Forest is a special place, protected by laws. Cycling on the grass at the side of a highway contravenes bye law 6.(1). So above - which way would you go?
What happened at County Council level?
A letter was sent to Cllr Thornber on 16th Sept 2010.
He did not acknowledge it, or reply. Questioned eleven months later in Aug 2011 by a Barrister
appointed by the NFDC, he claimed "that he had no record of a letter having been received from Allan Hendry."
An astonishing statement. Consider:
The same letter went to Dr Julian Lewis MP, who on 21 Sept replied, “I have written to Ken Thornber to ask him to respond to the concerns you raise.”
It also went to Stuart Jarvis, at HCC, who responded on 27th Sept, with a copy to Cllr Mr K Thornber
And to Cllr Holding, who told the Barrister that she "forwards letters to Cllr Thornber if they appeared to fall within his remit." This would.
On 26 Nov 2010 my letter in the Lymington Times said, “I have sent letters. Those to our County elected representative are unacknowledged and unanswered.” This is Cllr Thornber's local paper.
Responding in the paper, County Cllr Mel Kendal, wrote, “Councillor Thornber, as local county councillor, was involved throughout this process. ... I can reassure Mr Hendry that his comments have been noted.”
My letter was a legitimate enquiry by someone Cllr Thornber was elected to represent. It may have been inconvenient, but not to reply, then say he had "no record", seems like dismissive arrogance.
In Dec 2011, I sent an accident photo to him. His reply said this was an "example of driver behaviour." He adds "one accident is too many and it is this that has prompted the Road Safety Team here at Hampshire County Council to take the action it did" (install the pinch points).
What about five animals killed, a cyclist seriosly injured, and nine cars written off? You work that out.
Every response from Cllrs Thornber and Kendal to letters from myself and others have shown this sort of fudge and obfuscation. Two of us have resorted to the Freedom of Information Act.
The person on the left is is an adult.
Responding to an item in the Lymington Times on 26th November 2010 Cllr Mel Kendal finally admitted that the decision process had "not been formally recorded". For the full texts click elected
Whatever the word "formally" means, this incredible admission from Cllr Kendal then also drew e-mails from Brockenhurst residents Mr Graveling and Mr Sweatman. These are also shown.
The exchanges between Mr Graveling and Cllr Kendal include some amazing statements from Cllr Kendal:
"Where motorists ignore a speed of limit of 40 miles per hour, logic suggests that in the absence of anything else they are unlikely to obey a speed limit of 30 miles per hour."
The police data now obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the speed limit is generally obeyed, and the speeds of most cars were tightly bunched around the 40mph limit.
"relatively straight country roads, such as this".
At one end, three of the pinch points, and questionably a fourth, are on bends. At the other end, two are not just on bends, but over the brow of a hill as well.
Mr Graham Swetman invoked the Freedom of Information Act to request "a copy of the minutes of the Council meeting at which the decision was made, and the supporting risk assessment".
does not mention a risk assessment. It only refers to the minutes of the Hampshire Action Team meeting of 9 April 2010.
They state: "Councillors were advised that the list of Traffic Management Schemes is very ambitious and is dependent on funding and resources being available."
So the Freedom of Information Act only works if there is any information. Perhaps Cllr Kendal was being more honest in just saying the decision process had "not been formally recorded"?
Above - what does the driver concentrate on?
- or on which way the cyclists would go?
For correspondance with council members click elected and with the Highways Authority click HCC.
Would a speed limit have been possible?
Our County Councillors and the HCC Highways have repeatedly insisted, including to the Parish Council and the Friends of Brockenhurst, that a reduced speed limit could not be justified on the Burley Road. This is well summarised by Cllr Kendal's letter to Mr Malcolm Graveling on Feb 7th, which states:
"30 miles per hour speed limits should only be introduced where drivers can see a reason for the limit, which is the rationale behind the importance placed on the presence of sufficient frontage development. The absence of these is likely to mean there would be a high level of non-compliance with a lower limit."
The three top pictures to the left, show existing 30mph limits on approaches to Brockenhurst. On the A377, from both the north and south, no frontages are visible, and on the B3055 approach from the Lyminton Road, (centre) just one house is visible.
But on the left here, the Burley Road approach, where such a limit is said not to be possible, many frontages are visible, with three of them, and a red telephone box, close to the road. It looks like the start of the village, very much the "reason for the limit".
Was the real reason not putting in a speed limit that more formal approval would have been needed. Calling the posts a trial allowed this expensive ill-considered knee-jerk reaction. A speed limit would have clearly have been possible.
And a trial? The posts are built to last about fifty years, and there is no budget for their removal.
At County level, there has been a total unwillingness to give proper answers, or even respond to, questions. Wharever the merits or otherwise of the pinch points, is this what we expect of transparent and honest local government?
The Highways Authority.
A "safety assessment" has taken place. Are we to trust this?
Look at the spelling on the photo to the left. These were only changed when members of the public pointed out the mistake.
And the reflectors marking the kerbs at each pinch point were initially omitted, so had to be added later at extra cost. But then the offside ones were put in the wrong way round. This was corrected at yet more cost.
With mistakes as basic as these, are we supposed to have confidence in an "independent" safety assessment of the scheme - carried out by the same organisation?
But did our more local bodies voice objections?
The New Forest National Park Authority.
To the left - one of their Designated Areas of Special Character!
The NFNPA rigorously enforce their planning policies, but were almost mute on the pinch point issue.
At face value these posts contravene five key policies always enforced in this area of the forest, being:
Core Strategy, item 2.20, on Infrastructure in the Countryside.
Views in the Weirs Character & Conservation Area, item 4.3.13.
General Development Criteria, policy DW-E1.
Areas of Special Character, policies DW-E1 & DW-E11.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest, policy DW-E37.
But, all these can be circumvented if the construction is 'within the highway boundary', even in these so well protected areas. But even so, progress with the scheme would have been more difficult if the NFPA had stated how ridiculous this situation was.
So, we have one expensive local organisation creating and imposing detailed planning regulations, and another spending a large amount paying no regard to them, whatever designated conservation, special character or scientific area is violated.
For all the correspondence click NFNPA.
The New Forest District Council.
Councillor Maureen Holding chose not to reply to my letter of 16th Sept 2010 requesting information about District Council involvement. To see this letter click elected
The Brockenhurst Parish Council.
Having put in their Brock News that "this work was not instigated following pressure from the Parish Council. Council's preferred option is for an extension of the 30 mph limit along Burley Road", they were then not prepared to contest the issue with Councillor Thornber.
He assured a Council meeting that, "my officers would never install something which would introduce a road hazard, and I think they are installed shallowly or designed to break off so to be safe".
But this is what has happened to seven vehicles written off against the pinch points. This car has struck the near-side post, bounced off it, and rolled over to come to rest at the other side of the road. It was a write off, and the occupant lucky to need only minor hospital treatment.
The posts remain undamaged.
But then, reporting a later Parish Council meeting, the Lymington Times said, "The leader of Hampshire County Council was forced into an embarrassing admission that its workers have not built controversial Brockenhurst pinch points how he had promised." and that "they were built deep into the road 'substantially' as a rigid mounting." and "they could cause vehicles substantial damage."
But the statement seemed to concern only one councillor, and the minutes read: "It was noted that greater safety has been afforded to cycling families."
This astonishes my cycling acquaintances, many of whom will no longer use that route because they find it so stressful, even during the day, and at night frightening.
The dangers of the pinch points.
The people who have written to me expressing their concerns include: two local doctors, a chartered civil engineer, a chartered marine engineer specialising in safety assessment, an ex chairman of the Parish Council, a local solicitor, a pilot, people who have held senior positions in major businesses, and several local business people. There are also two members of local cycle clubs. To see these click comments.
The list below shows the wide range of concerns people have.
The near miss, shown right, would have left someone frightened.
If you swerve to the side to avoid a vehicle forcing its way through, once your wheels are onto grass, your braking ability is very diminished.
In general: These are large and substantial unlit obstructions placed into an unlit curving and undulating roadway. The risks will be worse with low sun, or at night, in fog, or with ice.
Points before a hill brow: At night, even on dipped beams, a vehicle coming over the brow will dazzle an oncoming vehicle, just as it is approaching two of the pinch points.
The sheer number of points. It is reported to me that some drivers seem increasingly frustrated as they go though so many obstacles. The result is ever more aggression at each pinch point. That people react like this is an unfortunate fact of life, and dangerous if you are coming the other way.
Mist and fog: This area is liable to mist and fog. The road changes elevation, and sometimes the fog hangs in the hollow, at other times at the higher points. This patchy fog is always difficult in darkness.
Post solidity: These posts are massive, about 1 foot square in section, embedded in concrete, and absolutely unyielding. We are encouraged to use small economical vehicles. An impact at well below the speed limit would be extremely dangerous for the occupants of such cars. For a motorcycle, 20 mph could be fatal, hitting the rider chest-high.
Leisure cyclists: Many will have hired a cycle for the day. Will a child following a person in front of them understand that this could take them head-on into the path of an oncoming vehicle, where priority is resolved only by contention? Some of these points are on a slope, and child cyclists may be freewheeling downhill or struggling, head down, uphill.
Serious cyclists: A quote from one: "What we need is other traffic at consistent speed and predictable path". This is exactly what does not happen at the pinch points. Motorists misjudge the speed of these cyclists. See the two letters from serious cyclists in the comments section.
Dazzle from low sun: The east/west direction of the road means that at many times of the year it gives drivers problems with low sun at sunrise or sunset. With trees around, sometimes the pinch points will be in shadow as sun is in the driver's eyes. They may temporarily just not see a pinch point.
In summary: The list looks like a guide to why putting massive unlit objects in a twisty unlit roadway might be dangerous. Then there is the congestion, the extra carbon use and pollution from the stop-start motoring, the visual intrusion - and the £35,000 spent.
Ken's Bends should be removed before someone is killed or seriously injured.
On those lines, I received this e-mail from John Dunlop:
"If a human fatality did occur as a result of the pinch points, I imagine the Council would be sued. It seems to me it's like a time-bomb ticking that the Council would do well to defuse at their earliest opportunity. John."
On Oct 22nd 2011 the Lymington Times advised readers that a review of the pinch points was to be carried out. Mindful of warnings like the above, I wrote to Cllr Thornber and Stuart Jarvis, putting what I considered to be constructive suggestions about changes which could reduce animal accidents, without the potential dangers of these pinch points.
This is the penultimate letter on the 'elected' page. The last one is an immediate response I had from another Burley Road resident. To see them click elected and scroll down.
To leave comments click here.
For the comments received so far click comments
Acknowledgements. In addition the the named persons who have sent letters, I am also indebted to many others, some of whom wished to remain anonymous, for giving me huge amounts of information and help.
(An easy way to get to this site is to Google - Burley Road pinch points)