18 September 2012
Only three years after the government axed this pointless and destructive road, Wiltshire Council has slipped it back into its development plan.
The scheme was hidden away in an appendix at the back of the ‘Core Strategy’ that the council submitted to the planning inspectorate in July. The map of the route, labelled ‘proposed road’, was not in the draft plan issued for public consultation earlier in the year. The transport proposals for Westbury showed no bypass and the leader of the council told an Area Board meeting in April that there were no plans for one.
The council is trying to justify its U-turn by saying that the Westbury eastern bypass route is a ‘saved policy’ from the old district plan. In fact the bypass was removed from the district plan proposals map in June 2005. So for seven years there has been no ‘safeguarded route’ to carry forward into the council’s development plan to 2026. Any lingering doubts on that score were dispelled by the report into the bypass planning inquiry in 2008. The inspector said the route was not safeguarded when the county council applied for planning permission; he went on to recommend the government to reject the application, which they did in July 2009. This planning history was set out, with maps, in a letter to the council from the local Campaign for Better Transport group on 3 September 2012.
So, we are back where we started when our 12 member organisations joined forces to defeat this foolish project in the summer of 2007 – the landscape of the Wellhead Valley, nestling below the western escarpment of Salisbury Plain is as beautiful as ever [opens in new window]; the famous Westbury White Horse, emblem of the town, still looks down on the northern entrance to the valley; the bats and dormice living in this secluded landscape of fields and hedges, woodland and coppice, chalk downland and clear springs are still strictly protected by European law; the public water supply borehole at Wellhead Springs is still surrounded by a protected catchment zone. And Wiltshire Council, mule-headed successor to the old county council, remains as unable as its predecessor to learn from the lessons of the past, let alone plan for the needs of the future.