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.

A303 Stonehenge Scheme: Survey Work For A303 Stonehenge Scheme Enters Next Phase

The next stage of survey work in preparation for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down improvement scheme (near Stonehenge) will focus on Countess roundabout.
For three weeks a night time lane closure will be in place during the week nights only (between 8pm and 6am) for teams to investigate drainage and sewage.
Derek Parody, Highways England Project Director, said: “Our ongoing survey work in no way pre-empts the outcome of the Development Consent Order examination. The surveys are taking place to help bidders with their tenders, ensure there is no delay to the programme and put us in a position to be able to start construction on schedule in 2021, providing consent is given.
“And while the work continues around Countess Roundabout, we’d like to thank local communities and road users in advance for their patience.”
Following these surveys there will be a further six weeks of ground investigations work taking place at Countess Roundabout from the start of November. This work will involve the drilling of boreholes and shallow trial pits with lane closures in place for safety reasons. Highways England is advising drivers to allow extra time for their journeys.
Following the launch of an 18-month procurement process in July, the project reached another milestone at the beginning of October with the conclusion of the six-month DCO examination.


Next steps are for the planning inspectors to review the DCO application, they have three months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport, who is expected to make a decision in spring 2020.
To find out more information on the examination process please visit the Planning Inspectorate’s website.
Highways England’s proposed upgrade of the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down aims to unlock congestion along this vital route, conserve and enhance the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site, benefit the local and regional economy and tackle the rat-running issue for local communities. Key features of the scheme include:
– A bypass to the north of Winterbourne Stoke with a viaduct over the River Till valley
– A new junction at Longbarrow connecting to the A360
– A 2-mile tunnel through the World Heritage Site past Stonehenge
– A new junction between the A303 and A345 at the existing Countess Roundabout

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

A303: Legacies and Benefits

We’ve mentioned a number of times in the past that whilst the A303 Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme is primarily about the road itself, there are opportunities associated with the scheme that could provide a wide variety of legacies and benefits; not just for Winterbourne Stoke, but also in the wider corridor affectd by the road. Winterbourne Stoke takes part in a regular Community Forum, along with other Parish Councils and single interest groups, that are trying to identify those things that are the most attractive in terms of legacies and benefits. There are other fora (eg a a Landowners Forum), that run in parallel; also identifying legacies and benefits.

The following two diagrams show the types of things that are being thought about. Some ideas are very general and others highly specific.

The first diagram was started in June last year and has been refined subsequently. You will see there are 5 broad themes that the benefits and legacies ideas seek to support: Community, economy, transport, environment and heritage. A sixth, overarching theme – safety – sits across them all. Highways England are seeking ideas that impact on each of these areas. The second chart shows some of the ideas in greater detail and sometimes, but not always, which group put the idea forward. If no originating group is shown, the idea was usually seen to be of interest to more than one group.

Now whilst the parish council has and will continue to feed ideas into the Community Forum for inclusion into the scheme, including such things as improving north-south and east-west public transport links, environmental planting of new chalk downland, provision of brown signs for local businesses, business development opportunites, etc., we realise we are not the only ones with ideas that might benefit the whole community. So here is your opportunity to get involved.

Highways England have produced a short form shown below:

You can get a PDF version of the form from here.

All you need to do is either:

Download the PDF and give your idea a title and a short description. If you have any idea of likely cost, then please add that. Finally, send the form to the Clerk by email at: clerk@winterbournestokepc.org.uk

Alternatively, print out the PDF form and fill in the title and your idea in a legible script! Finally, pass it on to the Clerk or any Parish Councillor and we will consider whether we can support it and do the rest.


A303 Stonehenge Scheme: Only A Few Days Left To Register As An Interested Party

Don’t forget that you only have a few days left to register as an “Interested Party” for the next stage of the A303 Stonehenge Scheme. As, under the new Development Consent Order process there will be no Public Inquiry, this is the last significant chance you have as an individual, or group, to have your voice heard.

The online registration form can be found here

Registration closes on Friday 11 January 2019 at 23:59

A303 Stonehenge Scheme: Registering As An Interested Party

Please note that the Planning Inspectorate website now carries an online form to allow you to register as an “Interested Party” in the forthcoming Examination of Highways England’s proposal for the A303 Stonehenge Scheme.  The form can be found here.

Although the Parish Council will be registering  on its own account, we would strongly urge any residents of Winterbourne Stoke with particular interests which may not be covered by the Parish Council’s response (details of which will be published on this website asap), to register an interest on their own behalf.

A guide to filling out the registration form can be found here.

Registration closes on Friday 11 January 2019 at 23:59

 

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.

A303 Stonehenge Scheme Community Forum – Legacy and Benefits

Last night (28th June 2018), the Chairman attended the A303 Stonehenge Scheme Community Forum at Antrobus House Amesbury, along with representatives of other Parish Councils and community groups.  Despite there being some sort of football match going on at the same time, the meeting, on the subject of the Legacy and Benefits of the A303 scheme was well attended.  Darren Henry, Wiltshire Councillor for the Till and Wylye Valley was also present.

The session was facilitated by Holly Taylor, the Communications and Engagement Manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme and led by Esther Gordon-Smith, Benefits Lead for the A303 Stonehenge scheme, assisted by Emily Dawson, Legacy Lead for the A303 Stonehenge, A14 and Lower Thames Crossing schemes.  The purpose of the session was to look at the potential benefits and legacies of the scheme, over and above the delivery of the A303 superhighway and how Highways England is approaching them. This is something we have mentioned before and for which we have a forum already set up to capture any ideas you might have on the subject.

We are still awaiting the appointment of an independent chair for these meetings.  Although they have been set up by Highways England (HE), they want to step back and allow the various fora to have independent control; they say they don’t want to lead but to participate.  Clearly though, having an independent chair would be presentationally favourable to HE.  We were also told that the chair of the forum would also represent the forum at higher level meetings – especially those that dealt with funding.  That would be beneficial to the Forum members.

In terms of the recent consultation, we were told that there had been around 5,000 responses (there were around 10,000 for the first consultation).  HE felt the scale of the overall response and the drop in number were in line with similar exercises in the past.

The key thing to come out of the meeting was the fact legacies and benefits, like any other aspects of the programme delivery, need to be formally planned.  The first stages of this process are to be able to identify those legacies and benefits that can achieve the most.  Subsequently, attempts will be made to identify sources of funding and collaboration to take these ideas forward.  It was also important to not that legacies and benefits are unlikely to run in parallel with the road building and are likely to continue after the road opens.  The take home message is that we are all in this for the long haul.

Esther Gordon-Smith unveiled a fairly complicated graphic that captured the sorts of areas where we (All of us!) should be looking for benefits and legacies:

A large part of the meeting was spent identifying ideas that could impact on one or more of these areas.  HE are currently collating these and we will let you have sight of them as soon as we receive them.  However, we don’t have a monopoy on ideas that might contribute to the benefits and legacy Winterbourne Stoke can derive from the construction of the bypass.  Do you have any ideas that you want to share, however off-the-wall, or wacky they might seem?   If you do, pop over to the forum and add them there.  Don’t be shy, you are going to be hard-pressed to dream up anything more off-the-wall than the “writer in residence” for the A14 scheme.

If you look at some of the websites dealing with the legacy and benefits issues raised by the A14 scheme, it rapidly becomes apparent that Cambridgeshire Council has played a significant role in pulling together the local communities.  We don’t yet seem to have that level of participation from Wiltshire Council; notably absent from the meeting last night was Cllr Fleur de Rhé-Philipe, who is the Wiltshire Council Portfolio Holder for Strategic Highways, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, European Structural Investment Fund, Canals and Military-Civilian Integration.  With a portfolio like that, you might expect she would be all over the A303 Legacy and Benefits issue like a rash,  given it involves strategic highways, investment and military-civilian integration.

In the diagram above, one of the key elements is the environment – and Winterbourne Stoke is certainly going to get a huge environmental legacy for good or ill – the road itself, the noise and pollution it brings, the chalk spoil terra-forming the landscape, and who knows what else besides.  Earlier in the month we received an email from Robert and Fiona Turner of Manor Farm showing a photograph of a section of the A14: “to give village an idea of road construction/land take devastation during construction”.

This is, indeed, horrendous to look at, but it does need to be put into context.  The A14 is going to require some 5 million tonnes of construction material to build and 2.5 million tonnes is being taken out of the ground right next to the road.  As the the new road is being built near the Fens, the water level is just below ground level, so to abstract clay, sand and gravel from borrow pits they are having to dewater the ground and then pump the water back into the ground via a series of lagoons.  Whilst doing this, they have to protect the water levels in the River Ouse and the large fishing lake shown at the top right of the photo.  Many of the brown fields are caused by the dewatering and will green up quickly once the dewatering stops.  As far as we are aware, there is going to be no local abstraction of building materials, so HE will be adding to the land surface with the tunnel spoil, rather than removing it. On the other hand, we don’t want to underestimate the scope and the scale of the impacts to Manor Farm.

We wonder if the “white desert” at the eastern end of the Packway might not be a better example of the initial visual impact the scheme here is going to have on the landscape, albeit on a much smaller scale than will be experienced here, but might offer at least an idea of how quickly the adverse effects of construction might disappear into the landscape.

The one thing we can be certain of from this photograph, is that this is the scale of impact – transient or otherwise – that the government is prepared to accept in the case of the A14 and is likely to accept here as well in the case of the A303.