Today’s announcement of a northern bypass for Winterbourne Stoke is something of a curates egg – it’s only good in parts. As a village, we were offered two poorly thought-through bypass route options by Highways England, with no information that supported either as a rational choice and were then asked to state a preference. Both route options seemed likely to result in adverse effects on the lives and health of at least some villagers, on local businesses, the local ecology and the archaeology. This has proved un-necessarily divisive and I feel Highways England have treated local residents in a very shabby fashion. The northern route that seemed likely to have the least adverse impact on the greatest number of villagers on the basis of the information that we ourselves uncovered, has now emerged as the preferred choice.

So, at a very superficial level, there will be sense of relief by many in the village, that the blight of traffic jams on the A303 may finally be solved. But we’ve been in similar situations before and we won’t be convinced that it will happen until the work actually begins. We are not celebrating just yet.

Whilst being unimpressive at the parochial scale, the plan also fails at every other level. We are lucky enough to live in a globally unique landscape. The government had the opportunity to protect it for posterity by removing the A303 from this part of south Wiltshire entirely. Taking the route south of Amesbury and meeting up with the A36, or by going north onto the southern edge of the Salisbury Plain Training Area might have achieved this at a lower cost than the current proposal and to greater ecological and archeological benefit. They have chosen not to do this. Shame on them.

Sadly, the archaeological emphasis has focused on the rather narrow interests of English Heritage and Stonehenge. Even the World Heritage Site is an artificial construct – the archaeology doesn’t stop west of the A360, or south-west of the Longbarrow roundabout. If the government wanted to do anything other than pay lip-service to history, this would have been taken into account; it hasn’t been.

Motor vehicles have been around for a little over a century and it seems unlikely that transportation needs are going to remain the same for the next century. So it is incredibly short-sighted to damage this unique landscape further with tunnel portals, signage and a bypass.

Locally, even if the work does go ahead on an already delayed schedule, we are still faced with years of traffic jams and pollution until the bypass is completed. Until that is done, Highways England need to implement two simple measure that would prevent most of the traffic chaos in the area – erect temporary sight-screens along the northern side of the A303 to prevent motorists and their passengers from seeing Stonehenge and slowing to take selfies, and closing Byways 11 and 12 to motorised traffic and maybe installing a temporary footbridge over the A303 at Byway 12. English Heritage and others would surely complain about the first idea, but it would only be temporary, it would improve Health and Safety for motorists and it would prevent much of the rat-running that blights all our lives on a daily basis.

So, the news today will not be to the liking of all villagers. That was always going to be the case from the moment two options were put on the table. As a Parish Council, we now intend to do our best to ensure the impact of the bypass is minimised for those most exposed to it, and to find ways of benefitting the village as a whole as a result of its construction.

Comments (4)

  • Tony P

    With a 4 lane dual carriageway now due to pass within 300-400m of my bedroom window (a distance agreed by HE reps at the consultation on Saturday), not necessarily following the best of the natural topography the landscape has to offer I’m now inclined to think the status quo that we have all become accustomed to may actually have the least impact on the village! At least when there is nose to tail traffic, it is relatively quiet.
    (Before I’m accused of NIMBYism, the glossy information ‘propaganda’ leaflet handed around the village was read by some as just that. I’m fairly certain the proposed Southern route wasn’t planned to pass as close as that to any property!)
    Despite assurances of noise screening from the bypass (apart from on the viaduct) a number of people in the village will have experienced or been involved in Government projects in the past and will naturally be sceptical that the funds set aside for the plan will actually cover the cost – and when funds get tight, what will suffer? Almost certainly something to do with the village bypass.

    The one really interesting thing that came out was the plan for the land once the dead end had been created West of Scotland Lodge, where the HE rep said they would convert the space into something of use for the village; a village Hall, Sports Pitch, Park etc. If he was being true to his word, this could be quite an exciting prospect – a new village hall would be a nice touch!

    • Andy Shuttleworth

      Hi Tony, Many thanks for the comment. What has become clear over the last couple of days is that although the broad choice of route has been made, the exact line of the bypass to the north is far from clear. HE are insistent that the exact route will be dependent, to a large degree, on the exact placement of the A303/A360 interchange and on the subsequent detailed planning. So the line shown on the map is illustrative and not definite – yet. What the Parish Council and, indeed, the whole community need to do from now, until the final design proposals are brought forward for the statutory public consultation early next year is seek to continue to lobby HE with ideas to mitigate the impact of the bypass on those most likely to be affected. So, in simplistic terms, moving it as far north as possible, using spoil from the tunnel to create earth berms to shield the village from the road (pop over to Steeple Langford to see how well the berm there works). Planting trees to create natural sound-proofing, etc. There are lots of other things they can do such as using low-noise road surfacing an acoustic paneling and we need to push them to employ every trick in the book.

      As far as your final point goes, it sounds like HE are replaying some outline conversations we have had with them. It is fairly common for road-schemes of this kind to do a few things of benefit to the community. So we had already put forward the idea of providing some facilities for the village, particularly the over 12s who currently have nothing. So, among the ideas put to HE’s Derek Parody already for the western edge of the scheme are: a small village hall/community centre, a football pitch/sports field/events field, a village orchard, maybe some allotments (as not all villagers have large gardens). We’ve also suggested planting some large concrete posts across the current route of the A303 to deter such an attractive site being used as an impromptu caravan park. I’m sure many villagers will have other ideas of amenities that would help us all, but that as a small village, we could never afford to provide for ourselves – and we’ll be giving you the opportunity to put those ideas forward, so we can champion them with HE.

      We are also looking at ways in which the A303 to the east of the village and up to Longbarrow could be altered to make it more cycle and horse friendly, less attractive for high-speed motorised vehicles and join in with the new “green” byway that would continue on to Amesbury.

      Your concerns and ideas on any of these issues would be most helpful and welcome. Either send them by email to clerk@winterbournestokepc.org.uk, raise them in person with any of the Parish COuncillors, or drop along to one of the Parish Council Meetings and raise them there.

  • Tony P

    Andy, thanks for the quick response.

    You will have to excuse my natural, in-built scepticism, but I just hope that the 2nd and 3rd order effects of the Northern Bypass have been duly considered (these potential effects I am more than happy to discuss offline rather than here).
    Also my scepticism that the funds for the plan will be necessarily plugged into the tunnel, and the inevitable cost increases and delays, leaving what is left over for the bypass – the only saving grace hopefully being that the cost to use the tunnel spoil to create a sound reducing berm will be less than to dispose of it.

    Incidentally, all the ideas you raise about the Western end get my support, from the village hall/community centre, allotments / community garden etc.

    The road to the East will have to be managed carefully, as it will still be the main motorised route out of the village (and Berwick) to get to the new A303.

    As one of the few village properties now likely to be directly affected by the preferred route, I would hope that there will be frequent communication between us about developments.

    • Andy Shuttleworth

      Hi Tony,

      It’s these 2nd and 3rd order effects we need to get out in the public domain, so other villagers have the chance to think about them, their implications and what can be done to minimise (or possibly maximise) their effects. That said, I quite understand why you might want to discuss them offline, so feel free to email me or call me or any of the other Parish Councillors.

      I share your scepticism about much of what is on offer, but it maybe that the funding model that is being proposed, a PFI variant, might avert the possibility of the money running out for the tunnel and the bypass funding being used to fill the gap. Investors will be asked to take on the risk for the whole project and any profits they make from HMG repayment down the line will be dependent on them delivering the whole project as planned. Planning for the risk will involve in taking cost over-runs into account during the bidding process. The bottom line here is that I expect the taxpayer will pay more under this model than they would if it was government funded from the get-go. However, there is a much greater chance of them building what is planned.

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