County council urged to review public transport in rural areas in Stafford

The new road entrance to Hixon. Photo: Google Street View Limited bus services calling at Hixon were highlighted during a recent Stafford Borough Council planning committee, where two major industrial developments were approved for a site on the outskirts of the village. An extension to Hixon Airfield Industrial Estate is […]

The new road entrance to Hixon. Photo: Google Street View

Limited bus services calling at Hixon were highlighted during a recent Stafford Borough Council planning committee, where two major industrial developments were approved for a site on the outskirts of the village.

An extension to Hixon Airfield Industrial Estate is set to create more than 450 new jobs. But there is just one hourly bus service to the village, linking it with Stafford and Uttoxeter, and no direct connections with other nearby towns Stone and Rugeley.

Borough and parish councillor Brendan McKeown said that although his ward covered the Haywoods and Hixon there was no public transport linking the two areas. And the meeting also heard that a Neighbourhood Plan consultation found 90 per cent of people who worked at Hixon’s industrial estates came in from outside the area – and 85 per cent of Hixon residents travelled out of the parish to their own workplaces.

The issue returned to the agenda on Tuesday, when Councillor Ray Sutherland put forward a proposal to the economic development and planning scrutiny committee just weeks after Councillor McKeown called for opportunities to improve public transport links for Hixon to be considered.

Councillor Sutherland said on Tuesday: “As chairman of the planning committee, I wish to convey the committee’s concerns over the lack of public transportation in certain areas of the borough where there are major developments.

“The impact of additional traffic on the highway network could be reduced with greater public transportation and this was highlighted in recent proposals in Hixon.

“I would ask that the scrutiny committee request Staffordshire County Council to review the provision of public transportation, particularly in rural areas of Stafford Borough, in order to reduce the impact of additional traffic on the highway network and assist major developments to become carbon neutral.”

Scrutiny committee members agreed to Councillor Sutherland’s request.

But Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, said: “Public transport is a commercial function and has been since deregulation and the cost of putting in infrastructure is significant.

“Even a Euro 6 bus is probably £250,000 and if you don’t get people on then it’s very difficult to justify.

“Having said that, we need to commit to looking at alternative means of transport. Building industrial units in key service villages does create jobs in the area for those local people – if we could persuade more local people not to commute and take these jobs then that’s a point we have got to try and get to as a country, as well as a borough.

“I would welcome what the county council comes back with.”

Development manager John Holmes said: “The county council still has a function in terms of public transport co-ordination, even though they have reduced subsidies.

“They still subsidise some services, including in Stafford.”

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