Four Elms Hill safety plea as new white lines on busy Sidmouth – Newton Poppleford road are blasted as ‘half-baked’ and ‘a cock-up’

Councillors have urged highways chiefs to take urgent to improve road safety on Four Elms Hill between Sidmouth and Newton Poppleford – blasting recent work ‘a cock-up’.

A scheme on the busy stretch of the A3052 was panned as ‘half-baked’ when discussed at meeting of the East Devon Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC).

Talks heard accusations Devon County Council (DCC) had failed to paint effective double white lines in the area.

The move should have aimed to prevent vehicles from overtaking, writes Local Democracy Reporter Philip Churm.

Repainting took place earlier this month, but this included stretches of broken white lines which indicate overtaking with caution is allowed.

Chris Burhop, chair of Newton Poppleford and Harpford Parish Council, told the meeting: “The road was duly closed for four nights and the public were told it was going to be repainted with double white lines.

“The expectation was double white lines and what do we get?

“We actually get a scheme that doesn’t – believe it or not – even reflect this because they’ve made short dashed lines with overtaking advisable instead of the long dashed lines that were there previously.”

Councillor Burhop added: “So they’ve actually made the situation worse not better. And the people of Newton Poppleford are, at best, confused and, at worst, furious.”

Cllr Val Ranger, who is vice-chair of East Devon District Council, said: “So there’s great frustration on the part of residents, parish councillors, district councillors, Devon county councillors and me about the poor job done on Four Elms Hill.

“There are accidents along the entire length of the hill, not just certain hotspots.”

Cllr Ranger suggested that Devon County Council may not know the extent of the dangers because only serious injuries or ‘at fault’ incidents are recorded.

However, she said local police were more likely to understand the true number of accidents.

“Whatever happened to doing what matters? Why would you shut a major road and only do a half-baked job?,” asked Cllr Ranger.

She added: “What is required is a proper survey of all road markings from the base of the hill, including the red warning lines and the ‘slow’ signs which are in dire need of refreshing.

“It needs double white lines up the entire hill because all drivers understand what they mean.”

During the 25-minute discussion, officers suggested a further report would be needed to consider the issues involved.

But Cllr Christine Channon said: “We can’t wait for any reports of this, that, and the other. This was wrong.

“They’ve not followed up what we recommended. And so consequently somebody needs to get down and sort it out PDQ [pretty damn quick].”

Other councillors reminded the committee of a meeting in July 2019 in which, they said, specific demands were made.

Cllr Phillip Twiss said:  “I am under no confusion whatsoever that I voted to support a 40mph speed limit on that stretch of hill.

“I don’t have any illusion whatsoever about what I voted for and what that meeting was voting for – as far as I recall unanimously – which was 40 mph speed limit and double white lines.

“To my mind – put simply – this is a cock-up; it’s a mistake and it needs to be rectified now.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highway management and chair of the East Devon HATOC, said: “The 40 mph speed limit was implemented as agreed by the HATOC committee in 2019/20, and, although the new lining has been installed in accordance with the minutes of the July 2019 HATOC, unfortunately it doesn’t reflect the committee’s understanding of what had been agreed.

“The committee would prefer double white lines where both lines are solid, to remove overtaking manoeuvres from this section of road.

“A safety audit still has to be carried out on the new lining scheme and we will have to consult again with police before a ‘double solid’ white line system can be introduced.”

Work to slash speed limit and install double white lines on busy Sidmouth – Newton Poppleford road at Four Elms Hill to take place in January