Items of general interest to the village.

A303 Presentation – Lots of Pretty Pictures But Was There Much Substance?

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.

The UK’s Worst-Kept Secret: A Stonehenge Tunnel and Bypass For Winterbourne Stoke

As late as last night we were still being told by Highways England that the Press conference releasing the news on what was going to be put forward for the A303 Stonehenge Scheme Public Consultation was not until 10:30 this morning and that any story was embargoed until then.  Despite this, but not too much of a surprise given events over the last few days, in the early hours of this morning, the story that Stonehenge is to get a tunnel and Winterbourne Stoke to get a bypass broke in the national and international Press.

So, we have the big picture which we suspect will come as a surprise to no-one in the village.  The devil, however, is in the detail and none is available as yet.  The websites below are now live and you can see details of both the Stonehenge Scheme and a northern and southern option for bypassing Winterbourne Stoke

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/a303-stonehenge/

or:

http://www.highways.gov.uk/a303stonehenge/consultation

When we do get the detail, it is probably going to take some time to understand exactly what is being proposed and the possible impacts the alternative proposals might have on the village and we will want to hear your views as quickly as possible; there is now a Forum Topic on A303 Public consultation that you can engage with here – once you have registered on the website.  If you want to participate manually, then please send your hardcopy response to the Parish Clerk – details at the foot of the Home page.   Please do NOT try to comment directly on this post – comments have been blocked.  If you wish to engage in the debat on this topic, please use the Forum instead and Register if you haven’t done so already – the Forums are only open to residents of Winterbourne Stoke.

Highways England are hosting a public event at the Manor Barn, Winterbourne Stoke, on Saturday 14th January between 11 and 5pm and we very much hope you will attend. There are also plenty of other events locally (see details below) if you are unable to attend this Saturday, including another event in Winterbourne Stoke on Jan 27th.

Don’t forget we also have a Parish Council Meeting on Monday 16th  January at 7:00pm in the Solstice Rest where you can raise questions and we will be looking at ways in which we can ensure your voice is heard.

 

 

A303 Stonehenge Scheme Public Consultation: Twiddling Our Thumbs

Well, the one thing we can say for certain about the planned A303 Stonehenge Scheme Public Consultation is that the silence from Highways England is pretty deafening.   Parishioners are left twiddling their thumbs and local, national and international reporters are left sharpening and re-sharpening their pencil stubs.

One thing has emerged that we can deal with whilst we wait and that is the process that is being followed.  There is still an awful lot of misunderstanding of what is happening, and what is going to happen, as evidenced by comments such as: “…come the Public Inquiry…”  Highways England have produced a very useful document that shows how it all works.  You might want to take the opportunity to read it.  For a government document, its a remarkably easy read.

A303 Stonehenge Scheme Public Consultation – Does Confusion Reign?

We promised to keep parishioners abreast of developments in relation to the public consultation on the A303 Stonehenge scheme – being so close, as it is, to village interests.  That was on Thursday 5th January. We also were led to believe then that briefings on the consultation were going to start between the 13th of January and the 8th of February.

We now understand that late in the evening on Friday 6th January, a rather terse communique was issued on behalf of Highways England that said:

“that public consultation will not start on Monday 9 January”.

Although brief, in bureaucrat-speak it says an awful lot.  Reading between the lines we can assume what this really means is:

We’ve had a bit of a last minute glitch to the long standing plan to start the public consultation on the A303 Stonehenge scheme on Monday 9th January, a date you’ve all been geared up for, but its not now going to happen”.

We will try and find out what is going on and the nature of the glitch.  The first indication may be content appearing on the two web landing pages given in our last posting and repeated for your convenience below:

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/a303-stonehenge/

or:

http://www.highways.gov.uk/a303stonehenge/consultation

We will alert you to any further developments we are made aware of.

A303 Consultation Begins

At a meeting of the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group  (STAG) this evening (5th Jan),  Ian West advised the meeting that he had been told earlier in the day by John Glen MP that the Highways England A303 improvement consultation exercise was imminent.   We are led to understand that “events” will be held at the Manor Barn, Winterbourne Stoke on the 13th and 14th January and at Shrewton Rec the following week.  There is little detail at present, but Highways England advised the Parish Council that this will follow imminently and the first public indications are likely to found at:

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/a303-stonehenge/

or:

http://www.highways.gov.uk/a303stonehenge/consultation

We will provide updates here, as and when they are available.  However, as of 07:15am on Friday 6th January, neither of these landing pages is yet active.  This may suggest the formal starting gun has not yet been fired.

Out With The Old, In With The New!

A happy, prosperous and peaceful New Year to you all; 2017 has arrived.

It is likely to turn out to be a very important year for Winterbourne Stoke.  Possibly this will be one of the most important years in the long history of the village as it should herald changes that will impact on the fabric of our day to day lives.  They are likely to introduce a range of social changes that we need to grasp and embrace to fully benefit from, or, we can try and fight against them through fear of change and risk losing many of the advances and advantages that such change can bring.

Of course, not all change is necessarily good and we are all going to have to look very carefully at what is going on and weigh things up carefully.  Even that isn’t going to be straightforward, as we need to think not only about how these changes are going to impact us, but also how they will affect our children, our grandchildren and generations not yet imagined.

So, what are these events that are going to be so important?

First, we have the coming of Superfast broadband.  It’s long overdue and many villagers are going to embrace even a modest improvement in speed with open arms, provided the service is reliable.  Hopefully, the whole of the core of the village should get speeds of 24 Mbps or above.   Those of you who have had access to reasonable broadband speeds at work and outside the village generally will know of at least some of the benefits this type of service can bring and there are many more to come: from education and health, to social inclusivity and recreation.  Even those who fight against the tide will notice the benefits as faster broadband speeds impact on house prices and attract businesses which would not be viable without such improvements in speed.  More business may lead to more jobs and a diversification of employment.

Second, is the A303.  The Highways England plan to create a world-class Expressway to link the south west and south east of England is well underway.  They are planning to go out to public consultation on the possible routes early this year where we will all be able to have our say.  After the consultation, Highways England plan to combine the feedback received with further technical analysis (a lot has been going on in the background over the last year!) and they will use this to decide their “preferred route” and this will be formally put to the Secretary of State for Transport this summer.  With luck, the Development Consent Order process will be completed and work will begin in 2020.

Just like the Superfast broadband, it will bring benefits in communication, and accessibility.  It has the potential to improve lives, health and quality of life for villagers.  Moving the A303 from the heart of the village may impact positively on house prices, but may have a negative effect on some of the businesses like the garage and the pub which may need to evolve to survive.  That said, the same change will introduce possibilities for new businesses that would not be possible with the existing infrastructure.

The key to Winterbourne Stoke making the most of these changes is engagement and timeliness.  We need to engage early, with each other, with all the bodies and organisations who are going to be involved and we need to make our voices heard – collectively and individually.  Your Parish Council will do its part, but we need everyone to do their bit.

In the past, change has been slow in rural communities, sometimes even glacial.  That isn’t going to be the case for us over the next few years.  We aren’t going to have the luxury of pontificating on things for weeks, or months on end.  Information and decisions are going to be needed in days at most, if not hours.  If you think this is a bit of hyperbole, think again.  The Highways Agency now has a Twitter feed for improvements to the A303 Stonehenge section.  The traditional ways of engagement are simply too slow and cumbersome in today’s world, so we will have to play the game with the rules in the new rule book, not the rules we might wish to have.

If we do this well and responsibly, we can leave a legacy to be proud of.

Onboard and Online

Now although the majority of villagers have access to the internet, it hasn’t escaped our attention that there may be those who don’t, or who do have access, but don’t yet feel confident enough to get involved with the Parish Council and other villagers on the Parish Council Website.  There may be a host of other reasons keeping people from engaging and it may simply be that they prefer the old ways of doing things.  To make sure everyone is included, we are introducing Onboard and Online; a new section of the village noticeboard in Church Street.  Highlights of information that has appeared on the website will be posted on the noticeboard, at intervals, as will an outline of topics that have been raised by the Parish Council, or Parishioners, in the Forum.  If people want to engage with the Parish Council on these topics, then they can do so by contacting Jim Carr, the Parish Clerk at:

1 Cleeve View
Winterbourne Stoke
Salisbury
SP3 4SY

Phone: 07973 366762

Email: clerk@winterbournestokepc.org.uk

or buttonhole any of the Parish Councillors!

Similarly, if you haven’t seen the website https://winterbournestokepc.org.uk/ and would like to do so, then again, feel free to ask one of the Parish Councillors who would be delighted to show you.

Digital Inclusion

One of our aims going forward is to encourage as many villagers as we can to get online.  Love it or loathe it, the digital world is here to stay and it will impact on every area of our lives – from the cradle to the grave.  We are in the early stages of considering whether to offer a bit of FREE training on PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones.  We already have a “Digital Champion”, a member of the UK Digital Champion Network in the village, who is prepared to give some time to this.  In addition to showing you how to get the most out of the Parish Council website, this can help you with any or all of the following:

 

  •   Using a computer for the first time and understanding the mouse and keyboard
  •   Using email, Skype or Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family
  •   Ordering your groceries and having them delivered to your door
  •   Searching and applying for jobs online
  •   Researching your hobbies and interests
  •   Using price comparison websites to find the best deals on everything from car insurance, to utilities
  •   Booking appointments with your doctor or hospital online
  •   Looking up bus and train times and finding the cheapest fares, flights and hotel rooms
  •   Organising and storing your digital photos and other documents
  •   Writing letters and printing and scanning documents
  •   Getting the latest news, sport and weather forecasts, or catching up on your favourite TV or radio programmes
  •   Accessing government services, such as taxing your car, renewing your library books, checking your rubbish collection days and paying your Council Tax.

We need to know the level of demand for this before moving forward.  It might be that a computer group is best if the demand is high, or one-on-one tuition if not.   Of course, you don’t need to learn in the village and Wiltshire Council, through its Wiltshire Online initiative are providing the same Digital Champion Network training at computer clubs across Wiltshire:

  • Bradford on Avon Library, Mondays, 2pm-4pm
  • Chippenham, Salvation Army Hall, Foghamshire, Tuesdays, 1:15pm-2:45pm
  • Corsham Library, Wednesdays term time only from 2pm-4pm (2pm-3pm supported by 6th form students from Corsham School)
  • Cricklade Leisure Centre on Mondays at 10am-12pm
  • Devizes Library on Mondays term time only 3:30pm – 5pm (supported by 6th form students from Devizes school)
  • Malmesbury Library, Wednesdays term time only from 3.30pm – 5pm
  • Melksham Library on Thursdays 5.30pm – 7pm
  • Mere Library on first Tuesday of the Month 2 – 4, Angel Tea Rooms – 3rd Wednesday of the month 3 – 4
  • Shrewton Maddington Church Rooms monthly – see notice board for more information
  • Tisbury Sacred Heart Parish Rooms 2nd and 4th Wednesday 10 – 12
  • Winterslow Truffles Cafe, Winterslow village Hall, check with venue

Please register before going along to any of these on 0300 456 0100 or email digitalinclusion@wiltshire.gov.uk as places are limited.

If you are interested in the sorts of training shown above, please contact the Clerk (details above), or any Parish Councillor by 15th January 2017.

Specialist Help for the Disabled and Older Persons

Specialist computer assistance and training can be provided FREE, in your own home, for the disabled and the elderly, through Ability Net.   Simply call 0800 269 545 (Freephone) during normal UK Office Hours.

Current Forum Topics

There are two topics initiated by the Parish Council where input is being sought from Parishoners:

  1. The Red Phonebox – what should we do with it?
  2. A Defibrillator for the village – if we get one (and it may be FREE) where should it be sited.

Two topics have been initiated by Villagers:

  1. TDY is concerned there may be a lack of interest in village affairs.  Is that the case?
  2. Joy Horne is concerned that with the change of management and image at the Bell Inn, now the Solstice Rest,  we appear to have lost our village pub as it seems to be closed more often than it is open in the evening.   What are your views.

If you have views on any of the topics above, just jot something down on paper (handwriting is fine, providing its legible) together with your name (so we know you are a real villager!) and a nickname if you want to be anonymous on the Forum.  Pass these on to the Clerk or any Parish Councillor and we will do the rest and scan your views and put them on the website for all to see and comment on.

New Forum Topics

You can initiate a new Forum topic online if you are a registered user, in writing as outlined above, or verbally by coming along to the Villager’s Questions section of a Parish Council Meeting – in this day and age we can’t accept verbal input direct to an individual councillor or the Clerk due to the lack of an audit trail.  The next Parish Council Meeting is scheduled for 19:00 on Monday 16th January and we hope to hold it in the Solstice Rest.

We Need Your Help!

From time to time, we are going to use the Forums area of the site to seek your opinions on issues of direct interest to the village, but you will need to register to have your say.  At the moment (December 2016) We are seeking your help in deciding the fate of the red telephone box on the A303 and where we might be able to site a public access defibrillator.  The best way forward, in both cases, may be linked or may be not.  We need your input, so just click on the links in this text to see what it is all about.

Registering on the Website

If you are going to register on the site to comment on posts or participate on the forums, which is something we want to encourage, we would ask you to enter your first name and last name in the sign-up process, as well as picking a nickname.  The purpose of this is simply so we know that you are really a villager and entitled to have your views considered.  Sadly, in this day and age, it also reduces the chances of abuse.  Applications must now be approved before you can participate.

Initial Website Feedback

Well, the Parish Council leafleted most of the village last Friday and we have already had some positive verbal feedback and we have had a useful contribution which has illustrated the benefit of doing this sort of thing on-line, rather than the traditional way of doing things on paper.  Now we are not saying the traditional way is wrong, but it is very inflexible and much more time consuming than doing things online, so if you have an event that changes after a publication has been sent off for printing, there may be no way of correcting it.  At best, you may have to send out a correction slip to every recipient.  Here, it’s a matter of a few keystrokes and the change of time or venue is corrected.

Better still, if you have an electronic diary (Google Calendar or iCal), you can add a diary event to your electronic device with a single click saving you time and effort.

upcoming_events___village_carol_service___winterbourne_stoke_parish_council

Of course, if you still prefer a printed version, you can always print one out for yourself.

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