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.

A303 Stonehenge Statutory Consultation Documents

We have provided the two key documents for the A303 Stonehenge Scheme Statutory Consultation in the “Documents” section of this website.

The first of these is the e-version of the Public Consultation Booklet – February 2018 – Click the link to go straight to it.

 

The second is the Consultation Response Form.

Both of these will be available in hardcopy from the various briefing meetings, in local shops and doctor’s surgeries and, we hope, Stonehenge Filling Station.  Please can you ALL make individual responses to Highways England in addition to the one that we, the Parish Council, will submit collectively, based on the feedback we receive from villagers here online, in hardcopy and verbally.

We wouldn’t presume to tell you how you should respond to this consultation.  In any event, your personal and unique views and perspectives on the issue are likely to carry more weight than are multiple versions of a single statement.  That said, we will be happy to point you in the direction of any factual information we may be aware of and, if necessary, try and help you make sense of it.   The information being released by Highways England will be found here.

Onboard and Online: A303 Stonehenge Scheme Community Forum

Last week, Highways England launched the A303 Stonehenge Scheme Community Forum at a meeting in Amesbury.  This is one of a number of fora that have been set up, others we understand are for local landowners, farmers, businesses , etc.  The Community Forum covers not only Parish Councils, but established groups like the British Horse Society, the Bustard Trust,  the Campaign for the Preservation of the Lower Till Valley and the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group that operate in the area of the new road scheme.  Darren Henry as the Wiltshire Council representative for the Till and Wylye Valley is also a key part of the group.

The forum is designed to act as an information conduit from Highways England to the local community and vice-versa.  It looks as though it will address virtually anything and everything that is raised by the community, including issues that arise after the formal consultation period has ended.  It will deal with legacy issues, that will be very important to Winterbourne Stoke,  and which don’t form part of the formal DOC process.

Time will tell if this is a realistic goal, whether it’s overly ambitious. That said, it was quite clear from the tone of the meeting that community representatives want to use the forum to hold Highways England to account.

The forum will not generate minutes, but there will be action points arising from the bi-monthly meetings.  The first meeting was largely taken up with representatives identifying their areas of interest and concern and establishing how the forum would move forward.

The forum is likely to be long-lived – it was suggested that it might be needed until 2026 or later and its current terms of reference can be found here.

If you wish to help us to contribute to the Community Forum, please either join the website forum and add your thoughts to that, send an email or letter to the clerk, or speak to a Parish Councillor.

We are particularly interested in the following things, over and above the actual design and mitigation features of the new road:

What could Highways England do in advance of, and during, road construction to minimise the impact to us and other local communities?

What are our key legacy issues (eg. village infrastructure, non-vehicular connectivity with other local communities and areas such as the World Heritage Site).

There may be other topics that are of general, or specific interest that we have overlooked, so please get your thinking caps on!

 

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.

Onboard and Online: Highways England Community Forum (A303-Bypass)

Those of you who keep an eye on the Salisbury Journal may have picked up on Highways England’s plans to set up a Community Forum to engage with those bodies and, possibly, some specific individuals who might be able to contribute too it.   Understandably, it isn’t open to everyone, as that would have been too unwieldy and would have been a nightmare to organise.

The Parish Council will be represented on the Forum, which meets for the first time, in Amesbury, on Thursday 1st February 2018; although we have not yet received a formal confirmation of this from Highways England.  Back in September, you will recall their arrangements were equally chaotic and last minute.   More importantly, we haven’t yet see Terms of Reference for the group, or an Agenda for the forthcoming meeting.  As soon as we do, we will make you aware of as much as we can through the medium of this website, with key bits of information (such as this notice) posted on the village noticeboard.  Please be aware that there may be too much information to make it all available on the noticeboard, so please ask a Parish Councillor to help you get access to it if you don’t have your own internet connection.

We understand that one of the key things that Highways England want to use the Forum for is to understand what they term “legacy issues”.   This means the sorts of things they can do mitigate the effects of road-building and the road on the local community.   These are likely to impact on issues at all levels.  Some will affect the whole community from Amesbury to Berwick Down and a mile or two north or south,  some will affect Winterbourne Stoke and Amesbury lying on the direct path of the A303, others will affect villages further north and south of the road and others will affect those with businesses (farms, pubs, petrol stations, etc) lying on the path of the road.   The Parish Council is likely to wish to have input on most, if not all, of these (the exception might be those issues that ONLY effect those communities outside the Parish) and we wish to put forward the consensus view of the village.

When it comes to the village, based on what has happened during other roadbuilding schemes, it might be possible to get Highways England to assist with schemes that a small village like ours might otherwise be unable to afford; for instance by making use of unused or unwanted construction materials that might otherwise cost money to remove from site. The trpes of schemes we have had suggested by villagers already include:

  • A small, multi-purpose “village hall” or room (s) that could be used for meetings, small events, changing room, etc.
  • A playing field/football pitch/events area
  • Village allotments
  • A village orchard
  • A new wood
  • Narrow the A303 east of the village up to the new connection with the A360, construct a protected (ie physically separated) bridle path/cycle trail that links directly to Stonehenge without the need to cross the A303, or the A360, at grade.
  • Create green bridges (rather than conventional bridges) across the new A303 wherever Byways cross the road within the Parish and eastward to Stonehenge.  These encourage the movement of wildlife and people in the landscape.
  • Help in promoting new businesses and diversification of existing ones; if needed.

The idea being to make use of land freed up by the removal of the A303 to the west of Scotland Lodge Farm and the route to the east of the village.  We suspect that there are many other ideas out there and we want to hear them.

Please don’t add your ideas as comments to this post – they will be deleted!  Instead, pop across to the Forum (register if needed) and add your comments here:  How Can the Village Benefit From the Bypass

If you want to have a say, but don’t want to do it online, please just pass your point to the Parish Clerk, or a Parish Councillor, in writing.

Statutory Consultation for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge) Scheme

Please be advised that the statutory consultation for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge) scheme is anticipated to run between Thursday 8th February and Friday 6th April 2018.

Whilst the exact dates and timings have not yet been confirmed, it is expected that consultation events will be held in the following areas:

Amesbury
Durrington
Larkhill
London
Marlborough
Mere
Salisbury
Shrewton
Warminster
Westbury
Winterbourne Stoke

Highways England are producing a Statement of Community Consultation, which will be published by the end of the month, and this sets out how they intend to conduct the consultation.

A303: Highways England Drop-In Sessions

Highways England are hosting a number of what they are calling Drop-In Sessions at a number of venues in the coming days and weeks.   The aim of these is to allow the public to see the latest proposals on the Amesbury to Berwick Down Scheme, including the Winterbourne Stoke bypass.

The sessions we have been made aware of are as follows:

Location                                                                   Date                                                             Time

The Manor Barn
High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ               Saturday 16 September 2017                   11am to 5pm

Antrobus House
39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH                 Friday 22 September 2017                       2pm to 8pm

Antrobus House
39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH                 Saturday 23 September 2017                  11am to 5pm

The Manor Barn
High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ               Friday 29 September 2017                       2pm to 8pm

A303: Northern Bypass for Winterbourne Stoke and Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme

Today’s announcement of a northern bypass for Winterbourne Stoke is something of a curates egg – it’s only good in parts. As a village, we were offered two poorly thought-through bypass route options by Highways England, with no information that supported either as a rational choice and were then asked to state a preference. Both route options seemed likely to result in adverse effects on the lives and health of at least some villagers, on local businesses, the local ecology and the archaeology. This has proved un-necessarily divisive and I feel Highways England have treated local residents in a very shabby fashion. The northern route that seemed likely to have the least adverse impact on the greatest number of villagers on the basis of the information that we ourselves uncovered, has now emerged as the preferred choice.

So, at a very superficial level, there will be sense of relief by many in the village, that the blight of traffic jams on the A303 may finally be solved. But we’ve been in similar situations before and we won’t be convinced that it will happen until the work actually begins. We are not celebrating just yet.

Whilst being unimpressive at the parochial scale, the plan also fails at every other level. We are lucky enough to live in a globally unique landscape. The government had the opportunity to protect it for posterity by removing the A303 from this part of south Wiltshire entirely. Taking the route south of Amesbury and meeting up with the A36, or by going north onto the southern edge of the Salisbury Plain Training Area might have achieved this at a lower cost than the current proposal and to greater ecological and archeological benefit. They have chosen not to do this. Shame on them.

Sadly, the archaeological emphasis has focused on the rather narrow interests of English Heritage and Stonehenge. Even the World Heritage Site is an artificial construct – the archaeology doesn’t stop west of the A360, or south-west of the Longbarrow roundabout. If the government wanted to do anything other than pay lip-service to history, this would have been taken into account; it hasn’t been.

Motor vehicles have been around for a little over a century and it seems unlikely that transportation needs are going to remain the same for the next century. So it is incredibly short-sighted to damage this unique landscape further with tunnel portals, signage and a bypass.

Locally, even if the work does go ahead on an already delayed schedule, we are still faced with years of traffic jams and pollution until the bypass is completed. Until that is done, Highways England need to implement two simple measure that would prevent most of the traffic chaos in the area – erect temporary sight-screens along the northern side of the A303 to prevent motorists and their passengers from seeing Stonehenge and slowing to take selfies, and closing Byways 11 and 12 to motorised traffic and maybe installing a temporary footbridge over the A303 at Byway 12. English Heritage and others would surely complain about the first idea, but it would only be temporary, it would improve Health and Safety for motorists and it would prevent much of the rat-running that blights all our lives on a daily basis.

So, the news today will not be to the liking of all villagers. That was always going to be the case from the moment two options were put on the table. As a Parish Council, we now intend to do our best to ensure the impact of the bypass is minimised for those most exposed to it, and to find ways of benefitting the village as a whole as a result of its construction.

Government Looking at Private Finance to Improve the A303 – Delays Seem Inevitable

Villagers may be very interested to made aware of the 2017 Annual Report on the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA),  published yesterday (18 July 2017) by the Cabinet Office.

Buried in one of the supporting documents is the following text relating to the Stonehenge to Berwick Down A303 Project:

Construction of twin-bored tunnel of at least 1.8 miles as the road passes Stonehenge coupled with a dual carriageway bypass for Winterbourne Stoke to link the existing dual carriageway section around Amesbury with the dual carriageway at Berwick Down. Project aims are: – To create a high quality route between the South East and the South West that meets future needs of traffic – To enable growth in jobs and housing by providing a free-flowing and reliable connection between the South East and the South West – To help conserve and enhance the World heritage site and to make it easier to reach and explore – To improve biodiversity and provide a positive legacy for nearby communities.

The red delivery confidence rating (This means:Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed. ED) that was awarded at Gateway 1 reflects the complexity of the project. To improve this rating an action plan was put in place. A review of progress made against the recommendations was carried out in October 2016, in which the delivery confidence rating was upgraded to red/amber (This means the project is now viewed as follows:  Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible.)

. The review team acknowledged the progress made by the project team but proposed a review of the delivery schedule, in light of the recent decision from HMT to adopt a Private Finance DBFM approach. The project team will ensure successful, timely delivery of the project by undertaking the recommendations proposed by the review team.

Project is on track with the option selection process prior to a statutory pre-application public consultation planned for January 2018 as part of the Development Consent Order Process. The Road Investment Strategy (RIS) has set a challenging target of starting works within the first RIS period, i.e. prior to April 2020. This target can only be achieved if the project is publicly financed. A revised Private Finance delivery programme is being developed.

The key take home-message seems to be that successful delivery of the project is still in doubt, the Treasury have decided to adopt a privately-financed design, build, finance and maintain (DBFM) approach to funding this scheme – despite the assurances that the funding had been ring-fenced.   So, the time scales we have previously been given (start in 2020 and completion by 2024) are now, seemingly, irrelevant.

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