Items of general interest to the village.

A303: Latest Comments from UNESCO/ICOMOS On The Highways England Proposals

A second UNESCO/ICOMOS Advisory mission to consider the emerging proposals on the Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme occurred in February 2017. The mission report acknowledges the responses to the first advisory mission recommendations, particularly on processes, archaeological investigations and assessments, but notes that some matters are yet to be implemented. This second mission recommends that a non-tunnel by-pass to the south of the property be re-considered and that further work should also occur on longer tunnel options, particularly in relation to portal location and potential impact on the overall Stonehenge cultural landscape and the setting of the property.

The full report is not yet available, but is sure to raise further concerns and questions locally.  If a southern, above-ground route is going to be pushed-for, nationally and internationally, by the bodies responsible for the World Heritage Site, we all need to consider where the best route for this might actually lie; if the idea starts to be taken seriously by government.  The F10 route, referred to below, follows the same course between Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James as does the southern bypass route offered in conjunction with the tunnel; with all the same issues for us as the by-passed village and for Berwick St James.  However, there are many other alternative routes that have been proposed, historically, that would take the A303 to the south of Berwick St James, with some of them offering possible partial solutions to the A36 congestion problems as well as those on the A303 – and they are also likely to prove cheaper than the existing tunnel solution, let alone a longer one.

Onboard and Online: The Events Committee

Apologies for the somewhat short notice, but we have just been advised that there will be a meeting of the Events Committee at 7:30pm on Monday 12th June in the Solstice Rest.  We understand that all villagers are welcome to attend.

For those of you who are new to the village and are unaware of what the Events Committee is , or does, or perhaps have lived in the village for a while and still aren’t too sure about things, we have attached the groups constitution here: WS Events Committee Constitution.

 

Broken Stile

Please be aware that the stile into the meadow at the southern end of Church Street (Footpath WST010) collapsed on Tuesday evening (6th June).  One of the steps and two of the vertical posts, which had rotted through at the base have been removed as they were a danger to the public, dogs and livestock. The remaining parts of the stile are also rather unsound.

The deteriorating state of the stile has been reported to Druid’s Lodge Estate on several occasions over the last year and has been reported to them again following yesterday’s failure.  It has also been raised with Wiltshire Council, as the duty to maintain the Public Rights of Way network is shared between Wiltshire Council, as the Highway Authority, and the landowners/occupiers of the land over which the path exists.  We have also raised the general issue of the lack of maintenance on footpaths from the village.

Hopefully, the stile will be replaced in short order.  Meanwhile, please take great care if you decide to climb over the remaining part of the stile before this is done, as we do not think it is safe and cannot recommend doing so.

Onboard and Online: Volunteers Needed For The Old Rectory Garden Opening on 25th June

STOP PRESS – The Dutton’s have just advised that they will waive any entry charge for residents of Winterbourne Stoke for the NGS garden event on 25th June

Just a reminder to all that Jonathan and Olivia Dutton are opening their garden at the Old Rectory under the National Garden Scheme (NGS) for the first time this year on 25th of June.  It will be open from 2pm to 5pm.  Admission is £5 (which goes to the NGS – children free).  They will be selling plants (hopefully!) and cream teas, with all the money raised from this going to St Peter’s Church funds.  Parking space has been kindly offered by Druid’s Lodge Estate.

As you can imagine (quite apart from all the work that goes into getting the garden looking pristine on the day!), catering for the possibility of 300-400 visitors is quite a challenging logistical exercise involving erecting tables, chairs, doing the catering, organising and directing the parking, selling the plants etc etc.

Consequently, Jonathan and Olivia would be very grateful for volunteers to help with teas and parking.  If you can help out please contact Olivia or Jonathan directly on 621247

Hopefully, if this years garden opening is a success, it will be repeated in future years; not only offering an attractive afternoon out, but also providing some much needed funding for the church.

A Pangyric On Ian West As Our Outgoing Wiltshire Councillor for the Till and Wylye Valley

The following is an extract from the opening statement at the Winterbourne Stoke Parish Council Meeting on Monday 8th May 2017, in appreciation of Ian West.  The complete version will be published in the Minutes of that meeting.

…there were two elections last week, the second of which was for the Till and Wylye Valley Unitary Division Division of Wiltshire Council. Ian West who stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate was beaten into second place by Darren Henry representing the Conservative Party.


I think we should reflect on the fact that Ian West has represented this area for so many years. He first became a parish councillor at the tender age of 21. He joined the Liberal Democrats (or at least what was then the Liberal Party) over forty years ago; in 1974. Over the last 22 years as a counsellor he was both leader and Chairman of Salisbury District Council and he served four years as a member of the Wiltshire Police Authority. He has served the community as the Wiltshire Councillor for the Till and Wylye Valley and has sat on the Southern Area Planning Committee and the Amesbury Area Board.

Over the years he has invested an awful lot of time and effort in the wider local community and not just our own small village. This part of south Wiltshire owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ian for all he has accomplished over the years – and those accomplishments have been many.

Ian will be a very hard act to follow and no doubt Darren Henry, his successor, will be measured against the yardstick of Ian. We wish Ian the best for the future, knowing we still have his services for the next Parish Council term. We also wish Darren Henry the best of luck and we hope that Ian has left him, somewhere in the recesses of County Hall, a halfway decent pair of shoes in which he can walk his first mile.

Onboard and Online: Wiltshire Council and Parish Council Election Results

The results of the Wiltshire Council and Parish Council Elections were as follows:

Wiltshire Council Election:

Darren Henry (Conservative) was elected to represent the Till and Wylye Valley Unitary Division.

Winterbourne Stoke Parish Council:

Tom de Jonge;
Andy Shuttleworth;
Richard Watts;
Ian West;
Tony Zacks-McGoldrick;

were elected to the Parish Council.

Congratulations to all those who were successful.

A detailed breakdown of these and other results can be found on the Wiltshire Council Website at: http://elections.wiltshire.gov.uk/Home/Results

An encomium to Ian West’s outstanding contribution to the Till and Wylye Valley Unitary Division, over a whole generation, will be published following the first meeting of the new Parish Council.

Veterans’ Gateway

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a village located on the edge of Salisbury Plain, we have a fairly high proportion of households with either current, or more especially, historic links to the Armed Forces.  It’s worth noting that in the last couple of weeks, the government have launched a new website called Veterans’ Gateway, designed to be the first point of contact for Veterans and their families on issues ranging from healthcare and housing, to employability, finances, personal relationships and more.

Veterans’ Gateway is made up of a consortium of organisations and Armed Forces charities, including The Royal British Legion, SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity, Poppyscotland, Combat Stress and Connect Assist. They have connection with additional key referral organisations – both within and outside the Armed Forces sector – meaning that they can get you to the right organisation who can help. Veterans’ Gateway is funded by The Armed Forces Covenant, this is the first time a group of this kind has come together formally to deliver a service to help the Armed Forces community.

We will add the appropriate links to The Village Directory, so it is easily findable in the future.

Should anyone want to contact them immediately, you can call them on:

0808 802 1212

or email them by clicking here:

A Lot of Furious Paddling

It has been almost a week since we held the Meeting for the Parish to discuss concerns about the proposed A303 bypass routes around Winterbourne Stoke. If everything seems to have gone quiet, rest assured that that is simply an illusion – like the old saw that describes a swan gliding silently along the river, whilst underwater its legs are paddling away furiously, we have been asking further questions and keeping the pressure on both John Glen MP and the Highways Agency. That has been a constant, daily effort.

Many questions were asked last week by villagers, some who supported one or other of the options and others who were desperate for some hard evidence to help them decide; feeling that what Highways England had offered so far was woefully insufficient. John Glen offered to seek answers to many of these questions and to ask Highways England to release some of the information that underpinned the high level assessments of each route in their Technical Appraisal Report (TAR). So far, whilst we have yet to receive an answer to any of the questions posed, or receive any further information, we know that John has been in touch with Highways England on our behalf and asked them for it. Furthermore, he’s been told that Highways England are working on responses to to both our questions and those asked by other interested parties.

Last Saturday at the Manor Barn, and contrary to things that had been said to villagers and Parish Councillors at previous meetings, Highways England finally admitted that they hold information on the predicted noise levels for each property within the 1.2 Km corridor (i.e. 600 metre either side of the centre line) for each of the alternative route Options 1N and 1S. This has been asked for informally through the consultation process and also formally as a Freedom of Information Act request. This is the critical bit of assessment that will give some idea of likely unmitigated sound levels at the properties close to each route and can be used to give at least a little idea of likely sound levels in Winterbourne Stoke in the case of the northern route and both Winterbourne Stoke and Berwick St James in the case of the southern route. It will be interesting to see when and if this information will be provided, either to John Glen or individuals.

One of the other key questions we asked of John was in relation to the relative weights Highways England would put on consultation responses from, say, the occupant of Rivendell, Winterbourne Stoke compared to the occupant of Rivendell in the Upper Hutt Valley in New Zealand. Both are at liberty to respond to the consultation exercise and both can express a preference as to the route. We would like to think that the views of those living locally would count for more than those living further away for instance. In a private response, which we hope John is happy to have repeated here, he said: “It is clear that there will be a very strong emphasis on qualitative responses – not a tally of votes for either option”.

We tackled Andrew Alcorn, Highways England’s Project manager for the scheme on the same issue last Saturday. He also gave reassurance that the route wouldn’t be decided on the basis of a simple vote count, but didn’t give much away when it came to the relative weights of locals (despite their being a box for a postcode on every hardcopy and softcopy response), versus antipodeans and everyone else with a view between here and there, versus pressure groups of every conceivable flavour. We had assumed that, having done this sort of thing in the past, Highways England would have a process in place to handle the qualitative (and sometimes quantitative) feedback it was receiving in a way that could weight responses in relation to the respondent and capture critical information in a logical and formal way. It’s the sort of thing we Brits do very well, we even “invented” the science of Operational Research back in WWII to deal with these sorts of issues. It’s now called Operational Analysis(OA) and has spread into every walk of life from how to arrange goods on supermarket shelves to working out the best GCSE courses to take to maximise your chances of becoming a doctor. OA is frequently used in the field of transport; it’s what the Highways Agency are doing when they model traffic flows like those shown in the displays at the Manor Barn. So Highways England should be well versed in it and there is a whole branch called “soft operational analysis” that deals with the sort of “fluffy”, qualitative information they are going to receive back from the consultation process. Consequently, we were very surprised to hear from Mr Alcorn that Highways England have no specific process in place to tackle these responses. Let’s just hope he is wrong and those charged with doing the work are familiar with the sort of methods that could, and should, be employed.

Highways England have insisted, from the outset, that there is some latitude in the proposals they have put forward. The big question of the week is just how much latitude? Why ask about this sort of thing now? Well, if the degree of latitude meant that the southern route might be sunk in an earth-walled cutting rather than stuck up on a high embankment, or the northern route could be pushed further north and with a similar profile to the route that was found acceptable back in 2005, then folks might look slightly differently about the viability of each of the two routes. The same would be true of the location and design of the interchange with the A360 – how much latitude would there be here? Can this latitude, even at this early stage, be bounded; what would be seen as reasonable and what wouldn’t. If we knew the broad limitations within which Highways England are working, we wouldn’t waste time pushing for the unachievable, how ever sensible such a form of mitigation might appear to us, and decision making would be much easier.

An Evening at St Peter’s

Thank you to the Churchwardens of St Peter’s Church for allowing the Parish Council to host a meeting for parishioners to discuss their concerns about the Highways England route proposals last night (26th January 2017) and for turning on the heating so early  – it probably saved a few parishioners from hypothermia.  Thanks to Neil MacDougall, Chairman of Berwick St James’ Parish Meeting, who came along as an observer and who resisted overwhelming temptation to join in at every turn.   Thanks also to our MP,  John Glen, who gave up his evening to attend and made many of us wonder why anyone would voluntarily choose to become a politician.

Particular thanks though, to all those who turned out on a bitterly cold evening, who sat, listened, thought, and contributed questions and ideas.   We seemed to have a fair cross-section of the village: from north to south, east to west and the middle.   It was never going to be an easy meeting to try and organise, run or even attend, as across the village opinions on route are split in a non-binary way; as our door-stepping exercise over the weekend showed.

It isn’t just a question of north or south. Some villagers must opt for one route or another because of the huge impact on their personal circumstances,  others have opted for a route on the basis of their own understanding and knowledge.  Still others have no clear preference, or want to have a preference but can’t get answers to their fairly basic questions from Highways England.  Some because they can’t get answers, would prefer to stick with the status quo and some think the whole idea of a bypass is an enormous waste of money and are happy with the A303 as it is.   We know already that of the many villagers who want to go ahead with the bypass, a proportion are torn between the two routes, with their head saying one thing and their hearts the opposite.  This spread of views appeared to come as a bit of a surprise to some last night and was why the Parish Council did not want to host a discussion of  “which route is best” as it would have been highly emotive, it would have constrained discussion and could have so easily turned to frustration and even anger.  So thank you again, to all who came, for your forbearance, politeness and good humour.  Thanks again to John Glen MP, who was put on the spot for answers, time and time again, and who must have gone away with a shopping list of questions to seek answers to as long as your arm.

It’s going to take a while for us to distil out all the detail from the many questions and comments made last night, but we will do so as soon as we can and make them available both here and on the Parish Noticeboard, or directly to all who wish to see them, before the Parish Council send them off to Highways England.  But the big issues that came out were these:

  • The majority felt that a bypass would benefit the village.
  • There was an urgent need for 3D models and ground level fly-thrus, even at this stage, to give villagers a better idea of the routes and their impacts.
  • There was near unanimity that Highways England had failed to provide sufficient information to answer the most fundamental of questions posed by parishioners:
    • Will either route improve, or at least not make any worse, those environmental factors (noise, pollution, light, etc) that affect me and the village on a daily basis?
    • Which of the two routes offers the greatest environmental benefit to me and to the village?
  • Most of those present felt it was unreasonable for Highways England to ask us to state a preference for one route or another, until these questions were answered, and that they needed answering well before 5 March 2017.
  • There was a feeling that the design of both routes was driven more by the need to get rid of spoil than by good design principles, but that better design and creative use of the spoil to provide noise mitigation could be beneficial.
  • There was a general view that heights of the viaducts was being driven by the desire to get rid of spoil and was being justified by their impact on the River Till SSI.  There was near unanimity that the SSI status should be revoked at the point of the proposed crossings to allow lower viaducts to be built.
  • There was unanimous dissatisfaction with both the route proposals in regards to their connections to the current A303 back into the village and to the A360.  Both designs were believed likely to encourage rat-running north to Shrewton and south through Berwick by traffic keen to avoid the northern part of the A360 and the Airman’s Cross roundabout.  This was felt to apply to vehicles approaching Winterbourne Stoke on both bypass routes from the north and south.
  • There was unanimous concern about the impacts the construction would have on the community and the local area.  Early reassurance about mitigation measures was needed.  Again it was felt that insufficient detail as to the likely scale of impact had been made available

If we’ve missed any issues here, be assured they were all captured last night by our scriveners and will appear in due course.

Thanks, yet again to all who participated.

The Highways England Response To Our Request For More Detailed Information

Following the A303 Consultation Meetings of 13th and 14th January, and comments received, Highways England were asked for more detail.  A lot more detail:

…when you scratched away at the surface, there was very little supporting data and no clear indication or commitment that this would be available before the closure of the consultation period on 5th March.  So, in the absence of evidence how can anyone make an informed decision as to the best route?

the response we received was fairly anodyne:

…Can I recommend that anyone who is interested in more technical more supporting information can look at the Technical Appraisal Report which is all on the consultation site and offers a lot more information for people who wish to access it. All eight volumes are listed if you scroll down the page to the Technical Appraisal Report at www.highways.gov.uk/a303stonehenge/consultation . I hope that helps.

If you have any further questions after you have had a look do get in touch on a303stonehenge@highwaysengland.co.uk…

Sadly, whichever side of the debate you might be drawn to, the Technical Appraisal Report and its many appendices contains little hard information, despite its extreme verbosity.  This morning, and following further comments that have been made by villagers, we’ve sent the following reply to Highways England:

…Thank you for your quick response and we will indeed feed further low level questions in to Highway England at a303stonehenge@highwaysengland.co.uk
…However, there is a fundamental high level issue here that underpins the credibility of the work that has been done so far on the A303 Stonehenge Scheme; specifically in relation to the Winterbourne Stoke route options, but one that possibly applies to all the other corridor schemes.  That issue comes down to availability of data.

We expected, and you seem to believe, that something called the Technical Appraisal Report might actually contain some sort of technical detail, underpinning and justifying the routes and their impact.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The TAR and its appendices contain little or no technical detail, particularly when it comes to environmental impacts such as noise, air quality and light pollution from vehicles; no mention at all is made of the latter and only Appendix D deals with noise and air quality in a very cursory way.

Annex D contains, at best a few bald contentions, with no underpinning data, details of methodologies or references to support these contentions.  For example, para 2.2.65 of Annex D states

“A noise analysis was carried out to identify potential changes as a result of the scheme. This was compared to current census data to assess the impact on nearby vulnerable groups. At this stage, the assessment considered changes to the route location along with changes in traffic flow as a result of the scheme.”

The output of this assessment is given in para 3.7.3:

“All options within Corridor D are classed as Moderate Beneficial, as these alignments would remove through traffic from Winterbourne Stoke and noise impacts on this section of the A303. Concentrations of children who would be particularly impacted by these changes have been identified in impacted areas for all alignments”.

Para 2.2.66 of Annex D says very much the same in terms of Air Quality:

“An air quality analysis was carried out to identify potential changes as a result of the scheme. This was compared to current census data to assess the impact on vulnerable groups. At this stage, the assessment considered changes to the route location along with changes in traffic flow as a result of the scheme.”

With the assessment in para 3.7.4:

All options within Corridor D are classed as Moderate Beneficial, as these alignments would remove through traffic from Winterbourne Stoke and air quality impacts on this section of the A303. Concentrations of children who would be particularly impacted by these changes have been identified in impacted areas for all alignments.

So, all very vague and wooly with no evidence presented to show any work has actually been done – save writing the sentences above.

The level of granularity we are seeking when we ask for data, is such that we could give it to an expert in the field for an independent evaluation.  That clearly isn’t possible from the above.  As a bare minimum we wish to be made available:

1.    The methodologies used for these analyses
2.    Evidence for the verification and validation of the methodology by independent subject matter experts
3.    The underpinning assumptions used in the analyses and their derivation.
4.    All raw data sets and evidence of their date and place of origin.

This is not an unusual level of detail, it is the basic stuff of science.  It is simply that necessary to allow a third party to repeat the work and, if it has been conducted appropriately, arrive at the same answer.  We would expect to see that standard models had been used in this work, for instance, the CONCAWE model for the effects of wind propagation on sound, or particulate and vapour transport models.

We provided them with an example of the sort of information detail we were looking for.   You can find it at: http://hayesmckenzie.co.uk/uploads/McKenzie_Bullmore_-_The_effects_of_wind_speed__-_2002.pdf

We need to see data based on multiple sampling points through the village for the existing route of the A303 and the model data for the alternative routes prior to the end of the consultation period in March and in sufficient time for it to be independently validated.  If this information is not currently available, then the assertions made regarding the environmental impact of either the northern are southern routes are unfounded and indefensible.  Effectively, it would mean we are being asked to make a choice based on faith, not evidence…

In the email, we further asked John Glen MP to raise these issues with Secretary of State, Chris Grayling MP and included in our reply Cllr Fleur de Rhé-Philipe, the Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Skills, Strategic Transport and Strategic Property.   We have also engaged with Professor Phil Blythe of Newcastle University, the Department for Transport’s Chief Scientific Adviser, as he is the key departmental adviser on issues such as the integrity of science conducted in, and on behalf of, DfT.  We have asked him to comment on both the nature of the work undertaken, its validity, robustness and whether or not the contentions made in the Technical Appraisal Report are, in his opinion, sufficiently detailed to reasonably permit anyone to make an informed choice as to a preferred route.

The responses ought to be telling.  Whilst we’ve focused on just a few aspects of the TAR (noise, pollution and light), we fear the same issue may apply to just about any aspect of the routes you care to ask about.

Watch out for an important announcement of a Meeting of the Parish – we hope to be able to hold it towards the end of next week to discuss the concerns of ALL villagers with the route options being proposed and their potential impacts on the village.

Please note that comments are NOT being accepted on this post.  Villagers, who have registered with the site may comment on the Forum.

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