17 December 2009
‘Westbury White Horse Kicking’. Animation by Alexander Tobias. Funded by Artists Project Earth.
Earlier than expected and with the satirical flair that only a deeply reactionary shire county can command, Wiltshire County Council (WC) is sniffing round for a way to revive ‘the project’ writes Pat Kinnersly, Secretary of the White Horse Alliance.
The council appears not to have taken the slightest notice of the criticisms in the inspector’s report, or the decision letter from the Government's Department for Communities and Local Government (only sent on 1 July), or the deletion from the draft Regional Spatial Strategy of the A350 as a strategically significant route for the South West region.
It is clear from the council's draft Core Strategy (see extract of the report for cabinet meeting on 24 November 2009), now out for consultation, that it hopes to upgrade the A350 by stitching together a series of developer-funded roads serving massive new housing and employment areas. A vast one to the East and North East of Chippenham would be on a green field site currently occupied by ancient woodland and a County wildlife site. The distributor road would connect to the A350, of course.
There are others planned for this corridor. The one at Yarnbrook-West Ashton, mentioned in the Report to Cabinet, we knew about from the ‘Expression of Interest’ that the council submitted to the SW region last year. At that time they envisaged £5m of developer funding subsidising the cost of 7 miles of new A350 on a completely new alignment, the rest funded by government.
Their other funding bid to the SW, for dualling the A350 Chippenham bypass for £20M, is also to be reviewed, according to the report for cabinet. We take this to mean that they do not expect to get govenment funding for big road projects on the A350 following the Westbury decision and will therefore go for private developer funding.
It is clear from the Core Strategy documentation that WC did consider packing the Wellhead Valley with housing but the planners have not gone for this option, presumably because the bypass was rejected. But we should not trust them not to return to this option, and the antipathy among influential councillors to any road development on the west of town means that the obvious solution of small roads to the west, linking trading estates, station, rail freight terminal and new housing areas to the A36, is not what they mean by ‘the project’!
Neither the Core Strategy consultation papers, nor those for the Council's third Local Transport Plan have anything useful to say about funding of improved rail infrastructure and services. There is no encouragement there for those hoping to upgrade the Salisbury-Swindon 'TransWilts' Line services which runs parallel to the A350 through West Wiltshire so that commuters could get to work and back without clogging the A36 and the A350 at peak times. The budget for consultancy on rail improvements appears to have been cut.
Welcome to Planet WC, a land where time stands still, petrol will be forever abundant and worrying about climate change is for wimps!
REPORT FOR CABINET
Report to Cabinet for the meeting on 24/11, Agenda Item 14, 'Performance Update - First Year plan and local agreement for Wiltshire'.
'Improve journey time reliability on the A350 corridor and condition of Wiltshire’s principal road network. To help inform the work to improve average vehicle journey time per mile during the morning peak on the A350, Community Area congestion 'hot spots' maps are currently being produced. This will also enable accurate reporting on this measure in the future. The Secretary of State's decision on the Westbury by-pass has put back the implementation of this project. However, there is an opportunity for the authority to bring the project back to the attention of Government through the Homes & Communities Agency's Single Conversation which is due to start in December. The emphasis will be on how improved transport infrastructure in the Westbury area could help to bring forward new housing development. The decision by the Secretary of has also affected the initial development of major scheme business cases for the A350 Yarnbrook/West Ashton and Chippenham Bypass improvement schemes, and a review of both will be required.'