The surprisingly treacherous Four Elms Hill, which lies between Newton Poppleford and the Bowd pub on the way to Sidmouth, has seen dozens of accidents in recent years, including car pile ups and a death in the last year alone.
It is very steep, narrow and has a sharp bend at the top.
Sidmouth’s Devon County Councillor, Stuart Hughes, and I (as ward member) requested the issue come before the committee, following the most recent accident, which involved a tragedy.
I had invited PC, Stephen Lee along to speak to the committee, as well as Hazel Jeffery, Newton Poppleford Parish Council chairman.
County highways officers accident statistics outlined in the report were challenged. Official data states that between January 2012 and December 2016 there were 23 slight and three serious accidents.
But PC Lee explained that it was very hard to come by evidence for accidents on the police reporting system. He said it was difficult for police operatives to work out exactly where an accident had taken place and often it was simply recorded as having taken place on that particular road without a specific location.
He said his own research had found 51 recorded incidents since December last year.
His advice, based on many years of policing and being familiar with that stretch of road, would be to reduce the speed limit from 60 to 40mph, he said.
Hazel Jeffery, chair of Newton Poppleford Parish Council agreed with PC Lee. She also outlined the dangerous junctions at Higher Way and Lower Way and the road to Northmostown at the bottom of the hill. She said the bus stop was in a very dangerous position and needed to be moved. The damaged drains also needed urgently repairing and rumble strips would help, she said.
I welcomed the officers’ planned survey with a view to reviewing the double white lines and backed up what the speakers had said. I urged the committee to consider the very much higher real accident data, which is a key part of the report and the data the highways officers are hanging their proposal on. I also pointed out the higher than average recorded incidents involving pedestrians on the road.
I formally proposed that there should be rumble strips at the bottom and top of the hill (a suggestion by district councillor Val Ranger), a speed limit of 40mph. I said that these were low cost measures and should be able to be afforded.
The drain ironmongery needed to be repaired as a priority, I added, as vehicles were moving out around them to avoid tyres being damaged, putting drivers at risk of collisions.
My proposal received immediate support from the former county councillor, Christine Channon who said “a common sense” approach to the road was needed. Most councillors spoke in support and chair, Stuart Hughes, asked officers to expand their review to include the measures proposed.
My thanks go to the committee for their support on this very serious issue, especially to Christine Channon and Stuart Hughes.