UPDATED: 1600 Mon 16th January
The Parish Council got an early sight of the Highways England A303 options for Winterbourne Stoke on Friday 13th January (Not a very auspicious date if you are a Triskaidekaphobic!) and many of you took the first opportunity to take a look at the suggested options on the first public viewing on Saturday 14th of January. We would love to hear what you thought and the best way of letting us know is here on the Forum.
First impressions were that whichever route you might have a preference for, it was all a bit glitzy. Lots of pretty pictures and maps designed to impress, but when you started to ask questions it all seemed to fall apart a bit. Smoke and mirrors and little real substance it seemed.
What concerned us on Friday was the absence of any real, hard data. What would be the impact of either route on the village beyond its physical presence and visual appearance? What about the noise levels, vehicular pollution such as PM10 particles from diesel engines, light pollution, impact on the 200-year flooding risk, undiscovered archaeology, rational for the vertical location (embankments and cuttings) of each scheme. The list went on and on? The answer to most of these questions seemed to be mainly, “We don’t know yet”. Where they did claim to have such data, it wasn’t available and you have to question the wisdom of holding a consultation meeting without providing this type of data.
The big question is, when will they have collected this detailed information and when will it be made available? Of course, we’ve asked Highways England for all the hard numbers behind their many assertions as to likely impacts, but we find it somewhat bizarre that we are being asked to make an irrevocable choice on the basis of little more than a few pretty pictures.
The level of comprehension of the local area was typified on Saturday when a member of the Highways England team was asked about the current speed limit on the A303. “50 mph” insisted the chap to a visitor, with all the conviction of a used-car salesman! That was perhaps the simplest example, but there was a trend in the answers received and the worst calls into question the whole basis of the consultation. During the Saturday session, a villager asked a member of the Highways England team about whether detailed information about the impact of each route on the village would be made available before consultation closed on the 5th of March – a reasonable question one might think. After a bit of tooth-sucking, the chap wandered off to “consult someone more senior” and never came back with the answer. Actually, it was worse than that, the chap didn’t reappear for the 30 minutes the villager hung round waiting for them! Not very encouraging.
Few of those Highway England staff questioned seemed to have the faintest idea of how the physical location of the village, the terrain, the meteorology, the current route of the A303 and the two proposed routes would impact on a whole host of factors that villagers might have been expected to have an interest in. Those sort of things that are going to affect on their day-to-day lives, their enjoyment of their homes, their recreation, their businesses and their health. All this applies whichever route is ultimately chosen and it all is needed to inform a decision as to the best route, even at this stage.
UPDATE: 1600 Mon 16th January
We have seen the following comments from a villager from Berwick St James which accords with comments made above:
“…We spent about an hour with the acoustics consultant discussing the southern route but she was unable to say to what extent noise from traffic would be heard in Berwick St James. The reason, she said, was that full studies had not been done and will not be done until a final decision on the route is made…”
This seems to be true for both routes which, as we wrote above, calls into question how we are supposed to make an objective route selection when no data is yet available.