Some Christmas Entertainment – Studies Associated with the Highways England’s A303 Plans

Although many of the developments associated with Highways England’s plans for the A303 reach the Press, there is an awful lot of work going on in the background that never gets reported, yet has short, medium and long term impacts and potential benefits for Winterbourne Stoke. In some cases, the impact of these activities will exist whether or not the A303 scheme even goes ahead. They all require input from the Parish Council, over and above the “normal” round of activities in which we routinely engage, which for a small group of volunteers can be quite difficult.

As Christmas is nearly here, we thought we should give you an opportunity to get away from presents, yet more food and drink, the pretty much inevitable family argument and see what some of this stuff is all about and give you the opportunity to stretch your grey matter by considering how some of these activities might have a direct impact on you as individuals.

To set the scene a little more. Highways England has provided funding for a number of studies to be conducted on things associated with the A303 and the proposed roadworks, but peripheral to it. Some of these studies will be commissioned directly by Highways England, others in a way that is one step removed. Here, you have the opportunity to see the progress on two of them”

Exploring the World Heritage Site and Beyond

 

Arup has been commissioned to develop a Sustainable Landscape Access, Transport and Tourism strategy for the World Heritage Site (WHS) and beyond, described through a vision, principles and action plan. This project is reliant on the engagement of the people and organisations that will continue to live, care and shape the WHS for generations to come, so community input is essential. The following file gives a snapshot of a workshop conducted at Devizes Town Hall in November 2019 and it s output. This can be found here:

https://winterbournestokepc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Visioning-Principles-Write-Up.pdf

It was a fairly complicated process that began by looking at best-practice world-wide in managing similar high profile sites. It then went on by taking the WHS vision and developing a series of principles on which delegates could vote. Attendees were split into several group representing different interests (The Parish Council elected to take part in the “Local” group) and each delegate ultimately had 12 votes to cast for any of the principles created by their own or any of the other groups.

A number of principles emerged from this and these can be summarised as follows. Please bear in mind that the WHS comprises both the Stonehenge area and the Avebury area and some of these principles apply more to one than the other. :

Landscape Access

• Spread access North and South
• Spread visitors e.g. directing to all spiritual attractions in Avebury
• WHS visitor gateways – to engage visitors in and raise awareness
• Better promotion of the monuments and museum resources
• Promotion of Pagan principles and history
• Promoting local businesses
• Landowners and managers buy-in
• Better communication and public relations between all (farmers, locals
• Consult locals first
• Free access for all (locals)
• Peak spreading to preserve the WHS within environmental capacity
• Seasonal no public access for naturally sensitive/delicate
• Joining up those who will own the legacy
• No public (tourist) access)
• Well maintained and signed rights of way
• Better promotion of walking and cycling in the landscape
• Only sustainable visitor transport within WHS
• Better connectivity between sustainable modes
• Better access to the WHS (and over it) for cyclists and horse from local communities
• Connectivity to the national trails connected by the rights of way over the WHS.

Transport

• Services linking the two WHS
• Horse transport from parking to and around the WHS
• Bicycle hire linkage (Boris Bike Scheme)
• Consult other tourist destinations, cathedrals, Stonehenge bus, etc.
• Stop parking on bridleways and byways
• Vehicles appropriate for the nature of the road
• Zero emissions integrated local/tourist transport
• Route planning for coaches to avoid negative impact on local / wider community
• Consult locals first
• Consult wider about the effects of activities occurring in WHS
• Drive less, see more
• Educate on the benefit of the shift for all, not just heritage
• Walk, cycle, hike to reach the site
• Linkage to national bridleways and footpaths
• Improve public transport options
• Greater convenience with public transport over private
• Promote alternative modes of transport or access
• Better public transport options
• Reduce appeal of car parking in WHS
• Creating more parking outside of the WHS

Tourism

• ‘One destination’ visitor experience
• Give visitors an understanding of the range/variety of experiences available
• Provide different experiences for different types of visitors
• A more spiritual experience
• Spiritual tour rather than archaeological
• Visitors gain an understanding of the place
• A deeper experience, stay longer, make return visits
• Engagement with national tourism providers
• Consult locals first
• Young people, schools, hands-on interactions
• Deliver benefit to local community
• Integrated attractions benefitting communities e.g. tourist brochure
• Reimbursement of parking charges for visitors to local amenities
• Lower the impact of visitors, e.g. seasonal closure
• Conserve by educating and training
• Discourage fleeting visits
• Encourage self-directed tourism

The ideas generated by the workshop were subsequently used at the Highways England Community Forum and further nuanced responses gleaned.

Arup will now take these and other inputs to develop an Action Plan for the World Heritage Site. This will include a monitoring scheme, which is one of the biggest shortfalls in the current WHS Management Plan that Winterbourne Stoke Parish Council has been fighting for several years.

Connected Communities

The second study is the Connected Communities project, being undertaken by consultants WSP on behalf of Highways England. It is examining existing sustainable transport links between communities on the edge of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This includes facilities for walking, cycling, horse riding, and bus provision and identifying where gaps exist in current provision to enable residents to commute, shop or access essential services.

This was tabled at the Community Forum meeting and gave local Parish Councils and other local groups to sanity check the work that had been done to date.

See here for an outline of the work that was presented:

https://winterbournestokepc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Community-Forum_4-December-2019_Connected-Communities-slides.pdf

The meeting was asked to consider:

Do your experiences agree with our findings?

Are we considering the correct corridors? Are there any specific improvements to the facilities you would suggest?

• pedestrians
• cyclists
• equestrians
• bus users

The study team was given a lot of food for thought and there was considerable concern about some fairly obvious omissions from the study. For instance:

• the western edge of the study area did not include Yarnbury Castle, a key north-south crossing of the A303 that links to local byways
• lack of consideration of east-west transport needs across the WHS (eg by those who live in Shrewton and work at Dstl or Qinteiq)
• the impact of the new doctor’s surgery in Larkhill and its impact on east-west local transport needs
• the recreational needs of locals.

We will report these studies again when complete, or if there is an opportunity for involvement by the broader community.

We would be happy to give further insights into either of these two studies if there is sufficient community interest.

Onboard and Online: A303 Stonehenge – The DCO Inspection Begins

The preliminary meeting of the Planning Inspectorate inspection team took place at Salisbury Racecourse on 2nd April 2019. It was attended by two members of the Parish Council and a number of villagers representing organisations and/or themselves. As a preliminary meeting, its purpose was to introduce the inspection team, but mainly to outline the process that was to be followed and the timelines involved. As meetings go, the best thing that can be said about it was that it was a turgid affair, most people don’t get too excited by process…

The most depressing thing was that by lunchtime, the word that had barely been mentioned, if at all, was ROAD. What we had heard about in excruciating detail was the archaeology. It’s quite clear, if ever there was any doubt, that more time is going to be devoted to the (claimed) interests of the long-dead than the interests of the living and generations yet to be born.

Anyone wishing to read or listen to an account of that first meeting can do so on the Planning Inspectorate website, here. A certain cure for insomnia.

All the submissions to the Planning Inspectorate on the Development Consent Order can be found on their A303 Scheme web pages. The best starting point is here. This will give you links to the DCO Examination Timetable, documents that have been submitted to the Inspectors and what they call Relevant Representations. There are already over 400 documents logged, some of which run into hundreds, if not thousands of pages. There are also over 200 Relevant Representations. We, like you, are going to have to be selective in what we read, or respond to. We know, already, that we may miss things, so please let us know if there are issues you think the Parish Council need to respond to.

Please understand that there is so much information being generated that we are simply not able to capture it all for you and reproduce it here. The only things we intend to put on the website are those documents generated by the Parish Council. Of course, circumstances may dictate otherwise. We will however, publish “sound bites” from time to time to give you an idea of progress or otherwise.

The next deadline we have to meet is the 3rd May. By then we will have delivered a Written Representation to the Inspectors and a reply to a question that the Inspectors have addressed to the Parish Council. These were based on the points raised in our previous responses, both non-statutory and statutory, to the Highways England Consultation. Councillors agreed to combine their response with that of the Chairman, as both were going to be very similar, the extremely scientific nature of some of the issues and to prevent duplication and unnecessary effort. Where their were differences, the agreed view of the Parish Council had primacy

We will be represented at the Open Floor Hearings during the first session on 22nd May from 10:00am – a brief 5 minute slot at most. It’s an opportunity to highlight some of the bigger issues that will affect the village in perpetuity.

We will continue to represent the Parish at a series of meetings and workshops over the next few months. We also anticipate that the Inspectors may address further questions in our direction. In other words, there is an awful lot of activity going on in which we are all involved. It’s going to be a long summer.

If you are aware of neighbours who don’t have access to the Internet at home, or read the village noticeboard, please can you let them know that access to the Internet is available at Amesbury and Salisbury libraries, where they can access this website at: https://winterbournestokepc.org.uk and the Planning Inspectorate pages at: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-west/a303-stonehenge

The Planning Inspectorate: A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Notification of Decision to Accept an Application for Examination for an Order Granting Development Consent

The Planning Inspectorate have notified its decision to accept the application for examination of the A303 Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme for an Oder Granting Development Consent”

TR010025-000475-TR010025 Notification of Decision to Accept Application FINAL

Please keep an eye on the Planning Inspectorate website, especially if you wish to register as an “Interested Party” for the purposes of the examination process.  The invitation to register should appear in the next few weeks.

Onboard and Online: A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge) Scheme Update

It has just been confirmed that Highways England  has applied to the Planning Inspectorate seeking to gain development consent for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme. This is a requirement as the scheme is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.

The application now appears on the Planning Inspectorate’s website

The Planning Inspectorate has 28 days to decide whether to accept the application for examination. If accepted, it will schedule a timeline of detailed examination of the application, in which stakeholders and the public can participate. We expect examination to begin in early 2019.

Onboard and Online: A303 Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme – Response to Supplementary Consultation

Please be aware that at the Parish Council Meeting scheduled for Thursday 2nd August 2018 at the Stonehenge Visitor’s Centre  there is an agenda item to discuss responses to the three questions posed by Highway England in their Supplementary Consultation on the A303 Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme.  The three questions are as follows:

  • to remove the previously proposed link between Byways 11 and 12 in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site
  • to widen the green bridge proposed near the existing Longbarrow roundabout
  • to move the proposed modification of Rollestone crossroads.

If you wish to offer your views to the Parish Council, please come along to the meeting, or send an email/letter to the Parish Clerk (contact details at the foot of this page); ideally to arrive before 2nd August if you wish to have an opportunity to influence the Parish Council response.  We would also be most interested in hearing your views on the clarification on the byways between Yarnbury Castle and Longbarrow Roundabout that Highways England have provided.

Don’t forget that the second and final opportunity to talk with Highways England about these three questions is on Tuesday 31st July in Amesbury.

Cut-Off From Shrewton – No Rat-Running Tonight!

Those of you who heeded the warnings and stayed tucked up in doors over the last 24 hours may not be aware that we have been pretty much cut-off from Shrewton.  Here are a few photographs taken by a lovely chap, Matt Bennett, early this morning showing the snowdrifts on the B3083 beteeen here and Shrewton.

Heading up the A303 and then onto the A360 hasn’t been a much bettter prospect for most of the day – it’s been closed both north and south of Longbarrow roundabout.

This also shows that the B390 eastbound, from Chitterne to Shrewton, is also closed.  With problems further west on the A303 and A36 at Deptford and further east on the A345, it’s been an interesting day.   One thing is very clear.  It’s very unlikely that there will be any rat-running through Shrewton tonight.

Take care if you plan to go out shopping first thing on Saturday morning, just in case there have been low temperatures overnight making things icy.

Onboard and Online: The Annual Parish Meeting

The agenda for the Annual Parish Meeting, which will be held on Monday 26th March 2018 in the Education Suite of the Stonehenge Visitor’s Centre can be found here.

The Annual Parish Meeting, which has to be held between March and June,  is normally the one opportunity during the year when we can all discuss issues of interest to the electors of the parish.  At Parish Council meetings, the legal format is such that parishioners can raise questions, but debate and discussion isn’t entered into.

Clearly, with the A303 Stonehenge Scheme Public Consultation coming to an end in early April, we felt it essential to hold the Annual Parish Meeting in the same time period, to allow you all to discuss your views in public and give the Parish Council a better idea of the collective views and concerns of the village.   These will be reflected in the formal response the Parish Council makes to the consultation process.  We hope you have either already taken the opportunity to go and see one of the Highways England presentations on their plans, or plan to do so over the next few weeks, and will come to the meeting armed with points and ideas that will minimise the impact of the scheme on the village and villagers:

  • between now and the start of construction;
  • during the construction process;
  • following completion of the scheme.

The meeting will start with a 20 minute presentation by Highways England to set the scene, followed by the Chairman highlighting any issues relating to the scheme (and there are several) that have already been brought to our attention and that will be referred to in the Parish Council response.

From that point onwards, the meeting will be opened up to Electors of the parish.   We hope you will come along and participate.  We hope it may help you identify issues that you want to raise with Highways England yourselves in your own responses to the statutory consultation.

The March meeting of the Parish Council will follow the Annual Meeting of the Parish.

A list of the remaining Highways England drop-in events is shown below:

Tuesday 27 February 2018 14:00 to 20:00 The Laverton Hall Bratton Road, Westbury, BA13 3EN
Thursday 1 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Mere Lecture Hall Salisbury Street, Mere, BA12 6HA
Saturday 3 March 2018 11.00 to 17.00 The Guildhall, Salisbury The Market Place, Salisbury, SP1 1JH
Thursday 8 March 2018 12.00 to 20.00 Society of Antiquaries Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BE
Friday 9 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 The Manor Barn High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ
Saturday 10 March 2018 11.00 to 17.00 The Manor Barn High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ
Tuesday 13 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Avon Valley College Recreation Road, Durrington, SP4 8HH
Wednesday 14 March 2018 16.00 to 20.30 Larkhill Primary School Wilson Road, Larkhill, SP4 8QB
Friday 23 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Antrobus House 39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH

Having Problems With Highways England’s e-Response Form?

Having received a few adverse comments about the A303 Stonehenge Response Form,  which Highways England had provided in PDF form, we did a bit of digging and had a play ourselves.   We don’t think it’s a particularly friendly format and some of you may find it difficult to near-impossible to edit with your available computer system and software; especially if you are an Apple user.  Most of you will be unable to attach photographs, diagrams, charts or tables should you wish to do so, without buying specialist software.   We didn’t think that was either fair or sensible.

Consequently, we produced a version of the document as an MS Word file which you can get here.  Apple users can get a Pages version here.

We have checked with Highways England and have been assured by Heather Price, the A303 Stonehenge Correspondence Officer, that you can use these templates to produce your reponses, provided you save it as a PDF file when you have finished editing it.  This is simple to do both in MS Word and Apple Pages.

Please let us know if you have any issues with either the original PDF format, or the two templates we have provided.

Pedestrians, Yes! Cyclists, Yes! – But What About The Horses?

When the Chairman of the PC attended the inaugural meeting of the A303 Stonehenge Community Forum, he met Myra Bennett, the British Horse Society’s County Access Officer for Wiltshire, and they agreed to meet up earlier this week for further discussions, as it seemed likely that their interests might align with those of the village and many of the villagers.

Since that meeting, Myra has provided us with an open letter, which can be found here in the “Notices” section of the website.  If you walk out of the village, ride a bike, or ride a horse, we would strongly suggest you have a look at what the British Horse Society has to say.

On the Wiltshire Council mapping above, footpaths are in purple, byways are brown, restricted byways in red and bridleways in green.

One of the greatest problems we have, as a village split by the A303, is safe access onto byways.  There are no byways that leave the heart of the village and head south.  The only strictly legal options in that direction, are to head out east or west onto the A303, before cutting back south on byway WSTO6A,  past Hill Farm, or south along the B3083 towards Berwick St James; less than ideal for cyclists – especially children – or equestrians.

Options for going north are not a lot better.  You first have to negotiate the A303 – difficult when there is a lot of traffic and dangerous when it is speeding through.  You have three alternatives – of sorts.  You could try byway WSTO3, from just oppoite the northern end of the B3083 Berwick road to a few hundred yards up the B3083 to Shrewton – good luck!  You could ride north on WSTO4, past Foredown House and onto either byway WSTO6B, or byway/bridleway WSTO5, north westwards Shrewton, but both these routes bring you out on the A360 at Rollestone – hardly a relaxing place.  The truly brave (some might say foolhardy) pedestrian, cyclist or horse rider, might – once they have found a route to WSTO6A, try crossing the A303 east of the village, through the small gate in the hedge on the northern side and onto WSTO6B which joins on to the two previously mentioned routes to the northwest.  Whilst you occasionally see a walker using this route and rarely, a mountain biker,  we’d never spotted a rider in over 30 years,  until this morning.  It was heart stopping to see a clearly spooked horse being led across to the south, with a juggernaut bearing down from the east at high speed…

Given all of the above, plus the fact that all new road schemes are meant to be equestrian friendly, you’d have though that Highways England might have tried a bit harder than they have.  We’ve prepared the map above based on the one provided by Highways England in the consultation document.  We have identified paths and byways using the Wiltshire Council numbering scheme in red and key points at junctions etc, with blue letters.  You can get copies of this map here as a PDF File and here as a PNG file.  We hope you will use this as a common scheme in your own responses to Highways England.  It will also make it easier to discuss things with other villagers.

Here are a few points to ponder when you are responding to the public consultation:

1. Although a pedestrian and cycle route is proposed between points A and T on the map above, along the course of the “old” A303.  Highways England don’t propose it being available for equestrians.  It needs to be a restricted byway;

2. They propose to run this pedestrian and cycle track on the northern side of the “old” A303 from P to S – the southernmost of the two new roundabouts at Longbarrow.This means that you would have to cross the “old” A303 into the village right next to what is going to be a very busy roundabout; not very clever.  This could be avoided completely by moving the footpath to the southern side of the A303, reducing the width of the current road to achieve traffic calming and avoid the need for a land take.

3. Worse still is the proposed crossing of the A360 to join up with Green Bridge No.4 and into the World Heritage Site.  According to Derek Parody of Highways England, it’s going to be at level, no underpass or overpass.  So, we are going to be dodging the traffic travelling at high speed to and from the direction of Salisbury – if that is allowed to happen.

4. We’ve also been made aware of the likelihood that the livery at Scotland Lodge could be cut off from its usual exits to points north during the construction phase – possibly for several years.  As it stands, and with no alternative that we are aware of offered, that seems completely unacceptable.  One option might be to construct the new proposed byway from A to G over the proposed Green Bridge 1, then from G to D ,as an “advance work” to give Scotland Lodge, and others, a hacking route out of the village before their northern exit is closed off.

5.  That said, the long-term use of the proposed Green Bridge 1 is likely to prove highly contentious.  It may act as a magnet to a host  of undesirables from outside the village.  On the other hand, the old section of the road from A-B might be a potential site for some legacy features for the village and wider community.  Lots of opportunities for discussion here and many issues to consider.  For instance, how do farmers get to fields north of the A303 if there is no permanent crossing at A to G?  One option might be an entrance off the B3083 at H and a track between H and G.  Of course, Green Bridge 1 is also meant as a bat crossing…

6. There’s then the issue of BSJA3 which currently opens onto the A303 at E.  That clearly isn’t going to be acceptable. So, what happens to farm traffic wanting to join the A303?   Presumably it will be expected to travel west from E to D at Yarnbury Castle, but what then?

7. Already, crossing from SLAN3 at D, north onto BSJA4 is very dangerous – even with a central divide.  The route is used regularly by pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians, farm-vehicles, the Army, off-road motorcycles and 4x4s. The traffic on the A303 is currently either at a standstill or travelling at high speed, but in the future it will (hopefully – given all the grief we are going to have to suffer!) all be travelling at high speed.  Consequently, given the need to cross north to south and the danger of doing so at grade, a proper crossing is needed.  One option might be to close both exits onto the A303 and move Green Bridge 1 further to the west from G to D; thereby solving two problems.

This is only scratching the surface and there are likely to be many more issues associated with paths, byways and bridleways.  Villagers: please use the forum pages to discuss these issues or to add more to the list. You can also come along to a Parish Meeting in March (details to be announced soon) to air your views.

All Roads Lead to Rome

Back in September 2017 we published a post “Nobis Villa in Agro” that predicted that Wiltshire Archeology had found what might be a Romano-British villa, or range-type site, in a field between Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James; lying bang in the middle of the, then, proposed southern route for the A303 bypass for Winterbourne Stoke.  We showed the anomaly we had spotted on low angle satellite imagery from Google Earth and suggested the building was lying roughly in an east-west orientation and was around 60ft long.  There was quite a lot of scepticism about our suggestion, but it seems we have been vindicated by the geophysical surveys.

Highways England have recently published the three volume Geophysical Survey report under the Environmental and Heritage section of this page.  Details of the relevant survey appears in Volume 2.

Highways England carried out the survey on only parts of the proposed bypass routes, so it is possible that much more archeology associated with the current finds in sector SW8 remains to be discovered.  The site we are talking about lies at the eastern end of SW8, on the western bank of the River Till.  No geophysics was carried out immediately to the east of SW8 on the western side of the River Till, despite the obvious ground markings, field systems and building remains in the fields back towards the southern edge of Winterbourne Stoke that appear on satellite imagery.

The geophysics interpretation of the particular site in question has produced the following layout:

So, it seems our interpretation from Google Earth was pretty good after all.  A very brief extract of what has been written about this site is as follows:

“The form of the building is typically Roman in appearance, constructed of three corridors (B, C, D) surrounding an 11.5 m x 6 m courtyard (A). A high amplitude response (E) can be identified within the courtyard could relate to a well, or another pit-like feature extending to significant depth. A possible entrance to the building lies to the east of the courtyard at F, where a gap (2 m) can be seen in the eastern wall of the building, opening into a smaller courtyard or room (4.5 m x 6 m). Within the north-eastern corner of the possible smaller courtyard a 1.5 m square room (G) has been identified. A similar 1.5 m x 1 m (H) area of high amplitude can be also seen externally to the north-west of the building.”

If you are interested in seeing more, search Volume 2 for “Area 16”.   However, this isn’t the only new find, north or south of the current A303.  There is an awful lot of new and interesting archeology in many of the areas in which Highways England commissioned the surveys and these are reproduced in Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3 of the report.  We would draw your attention, in particular to areas SW4 near Scotland Lodge Farm, SW3 between Hill Farm and the A360, on Oatlands Hill, and areas NW6 and NW5, to the north of the A303 and SW3, on Manor Farm.  Of particular interest here is Area 17 (see Volume 3) where a previously unrecorded Bronze Age round barrow has been discovered.  Clearly, we are only scratching the surface here and we would commend all three volumes to you.  It’s worth noting that the geophysics work was continuing earlier this week in the area immediately to the west of NW6.

Copyright of the two images above is claimed by Wessex Archeology and use here is under the 2014 exception for quotation.