Although we are not reporting weekly water levels in the aquifer, we are keeping an eye on them and the rainfall. Some of you will have noticed that some of the springs have broken and that the river is flowing again.
The reason for the latest update is that Autumn has arrived with a vengeance and whilst the colours of the trees are glorious, they are no longer taking up as much water as they were only a week ago. That has had a huge impact on the water levels in the aquifer which have risen 3 metres in the course of just a few days. To put that into context, as of this morning, the water level in the Tilshead borehole stands at 84.17 metres. That’s some way short of the flood level of 99 metres, but as we’ve said in previous years, once we get close to the 85 metre mark, the aquifer becomes very sensitive to small changes in rainfall.
So, how do we stand in comparison with previous years:
Season Date levels passed 84 metres
2013-14 04/01/14 (The last flood year)
That means we’ve hit the 84 metre mark some 6 to 8 weeks before we would have in an “average” year. Given we have what is “normally” the rainiest part of the year (December and January) yet to come, that doesn’t mean we are going to have a flood this year. The rains may have come early, or we may have a particularly dry end to this year and start of the next. We will be keeping a close eye on the situation and produce another bulletin if things change markedly before the start of December. If there is any other information we can let you have in relation to floods and flooding in the village, please contact us.
Highways England would like to speak with residents of Winterbourne Stoke willing to talk about their experience of living in the village. More specifically they’d like to hear from those impacted by the current location of the A303 (whether it’s you regularly getting stuck in traffic trying to do the school run, or you can’t invite family round as you’re worried about loved ones getting stuck in traffic).
Water has been very much a theme in the village over the last few weeks. First we have had the problem with the water supply and secondly we have had a little rain. Actually, we’ve had something of a deluge; but is it important?
Well, let’s start with the water supply. As promised, Wessex Water put sensors on the water pipes on Wednesday 2nd October and left them there for just under a week before retrieving them and sending the data off for analysis.
Now how many of you noticed that on the first Wednesday evening, there was an awful lot of air coming through the cold water pipe? Our kitchen tap coughed and spluttered for well over two minutes before we got uninterrupted running water. What we noticed almost immediately was that the pulsing and water hammer was much reduced. We then had a phone call from Wessex Water to say that the data analysis was back and our fault and all the other ones you had reported on the Facebook page had been tracked back to the pressure relief valve on the Shrewton Road. They had replaced one component before starting to collect data and hence the rush of air, but there is clearly still an issue that they intend to resolve. I’ve heard that some of you who live closer to the A303 are still getting problems, so please could you let Wessex Water know if that is the case.
Now the rain! I’ve already been asked, with all the rain, if we are in danger of flooding and was I going to start the weekly flood reports early this year. In both cases, the short answer is no. Despite what feels like weeks and weeks of non-stop rain, its only in the last few days that the water has started to rise in the Tilshead aquifer. As of 5:00am this morning, the water level was 80.46 metres which is a little above the 6 year average of 79.73 metres for 1st December when my recording year starts. However, we are still a good way below the 1st of December 2014, when the first reading was 81.17 metres. So, no chance of a flood at the moment and much too early to say how the rest of Autumn and Winter will shape up. We still have leaves on the trees and autumn-planted crops growing in fields so it is quite possible that the water levels in the aquifer will start to drop again before we get to the flood season proper. That’s why we aren’t planning to collect the data any earlier than usual, but we will keep an eye on how things shape up and if needed, issue a further bulleting before December.
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
You might have noticed while out and about that there’s some work happening along the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down. Highways England is carrying out some more ground investigations surveys – you can find out more information on what these works involve here: https://t.co/HHKcIEcXmJ As a member of the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Community Forum, Winterbourne Stoke Parish Council get regular updates from the Highways England project team, and have an opportunity to put forward ideas or concerns our community may have. If you have any questions, or suggestions, please get in touch with Jim Carr the Parish Clerk (see contact details at the foot of the page), any of our Councillors, or you can email Highways England directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the other hand, the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) say plans for the A303 scheme are at risk unless money for the project can be secured and have urged the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England to plan for what alternative financial arrangements could be used if the Treasury does not confirm long-term funding by the end of the year.
PF2 public-private funding was due to be used to finance the road –
estimated by the National Audit Office to cost up to £2.4 billion – but
in October last year Chancellor Philip Hammond cancelled future deals
using that model.
The Treasury released funding of £21.5 million during 2019/20 to allow development of the project to continue.
This meant the inspection team was crammed on a coach with a collection of folks representing different groupings – mainly Stonehenge Alliance and others of their ilk who oppose the tunnel and any other solution that goes near the World Heritage Site. Cycling out to meet them seemed a much better use of the morning than sitting on a coach being blethered at by Highways England.
Somewhat perversely, you might think, they didn’t begin their tour at the western end of the scheme by Yarnbury Castle as you might expect. We can only hope that this was because it was deemed dangerous to let the inspectors and their entourage loose on a byway next to the A303, rather than a premptive decision by the Inspectorate to avoid any discussion of the dangers of the Yarnbury crossing point. Time will tell.
I met with them close to the old Sheep Hospital, up the hill at Over Street, where they were looking back at the view of the A303 to the north east; for the first stop of the day, they were over 30 minutes late. At this point, its worth pointing out the protocol of these Planning Inspectorate visits. Whilst you can exchange civilities with them and point out “things of interest,” you aren’t supposed to try and discuss the details of your case with them. Of course, rules are designed to curb the timid and offer a somewhat elastic framework to the bold. So, if you are prepared to talk loudly to yourself, or to he fieldfares and hares in an adjacent field, there’s not a lot the Inspectors can do about it. It’s a bit like one of those legal scenes where the council for the defence introduces something that is so left field, that the judge will throw it out immediately. The judge also instructs the jury to forget it was ever said. However, the truth of the matter is that once something is said, you can never un-hear it. So I used the opportunity to build on the case to get the visual barriers raised from the 1.5m size that Highways England are proposing to something that will obscure the lights at night from HGVs on the proposed Till Viaduct.
Thanks are also due to the RAF and Army Air Corps. who timed their recce of the grass strip behind Yarnbury to perfection. That allowed me to raise the issue of the crossing and its dangers. The Inspectorate weren’t biting, but a Guardian journalist did; so hopefully that aspect might get some attention in the Press.
After an exhilarating downhill ride back to Over Street and home, via Berwick St James, a swift shower and a change of clothes whilst the inspectors visited Parsonage Down, then off to Foredown House, where 3 generations of Turner’s were waiting for them – to point out the impact the road and the construction process will have on their business; the severance of the farm and the impact of that on their calving operation and the long term damage to the soil structure that dumping hundreds of thousands of tons of chalk will have; for decades, maybe centuries and possibly millenia. It was apparent that several members of the team had no real appreciation of what something 10 metres tall looked like in a rural setting (like the proposed viaduct) and were rather taken aback when the comparison of a barn was used by Robert Turner. A few questions were asked by the inspectors and the entourage.
Thanks to Fiona Turner for shouting a response across the throng of visitors, to a bellowed question about sight-lines from the top of the hill, along the line of the proposed road. You can see the Visitor’s Centre and into the World Heritage Site. That means vehicle headlight from eastbound traffic will light up the western end of the World Heritage Site.
The Turner’s were keen to get the inspectors to walk up to the point where the proposed route crosses the byway, to get a real feel for just how close it is to Foredown House. They weren’t prepared to do that today, but the Chief Inspector did say she would do so on one of the unaccompanied site inspections.
The Chief Inspector is clearly not yet adept at herding cats and was having difficulty getting her team, let alone the entourage, back on the coach; many who would have stayed longer. They eventually got on board and left, to visit points of the scheme further east. I’d love to report Fiona Turner’s closing comment to her grand-daughter, just before the coach doors closed, but I fear I shouldn’t. If you ask her nicely, she might tell you; she might not. It came from so far out of left field that I doubt anyone who was on the coach and heard it, will ever forget!
Tomorrow sees the start of the Open Floor Hearings in City Hall. Everyone who has asked gets 5 minutes to make their points. It is going to be truly awful, as any masochists amongst you will discover, if you turn up for a session.
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.
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:
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: email@example.com
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.
Over the last couple of years, we have tried all sorts of things in an effort to reduce the amount of dog mess around the village, in particular, on the public footpaths; nothing, yet, has worked.
Over the Christmas period, we received yet more complaints from villagers and it was quite clear that the situation was getting worse and not better. What was also clear was that some dog-owners, who are normally rarely seen around the village, were walking their dogs more than usual. It’s very tempting to think this may be cause and effect. Worse still, we now have at least one objectionable individual who see fit to bag-up their dog’s waste, then leave it and the bag in a hedgerow. Really!
It’s also been suggested that the Parish Council should provide a dog-poo bin down by the entrance to the meadow. There are several reasons why this is not a viable option, not least because we already know the idea is flawed and will fail. First, compare the ends of the two tracks that lead to Berwick St James. Most of the dog mess is found at our end. Now the nearest bin for disposal of waste in Berwick St James is that at the end of Duck Street, about 0.5 km from the start of the footpath. At the Winterbourne Stoke end, there are 3 waste bins suitable for disposal of bagged dog-poo within a very similar distance; two on Church Street and one on the A303. That strongly suggests that bins aren’t the answer – people are too idle to carry their dog-poo bags a short distance to a bin, or home.
An even more outrageous example is that one of the bins in Winterbourne Stoke lies at the end of the worst-fouled footpath, leading eastwards from the village, past Old Glebe Farmhouse. So, no point wasting money to erect a dog-poo bin close to a footpath, as some can’t seem to use a bin already provided right on the footpath.
So, what can we do? Well, in desperation, the Parish Council is looking at ways by which we can offer a reward for information and evidence that lead to a criminal conviction of an irresponsible dog owner. We will be pushing for the maximum fine of £1,000, in the hope the message will finally get through.
UPDATE: See comments below. Here is just one example of one of Wiltshire Council’s “serviced” dog poo bins. Actually, whilst not pleasant, this is quite a “good” example as there is no mound of bags on the ground underneath it. Until recently, there was one in Tidworth, near the entrance to Tedworth House, which had a foot-high mound of bags on top of it and a two-foot high pile underneath. I think the bin has now been removed – in disgust – and folks told to take their dog poo home. I personally favour cutting-out having such an experience in the first place and am happy to clear up after my own dog and take the bag home for disposal; it’s part and parcel of responsible dog ownership.
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.