A303 DCO: The Accompanied Site Inspection

If you had been keeping half an eye on the Planning Inspectorate website, you would have realised that today was the first (and possibly only) Accompanied Site Inspection that the A303 Stonehenge to Berwick Down scheme inspectors are going to make to our section of the A303.

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.

Inspectors and entourage at Foredown House

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.

Onboard and Online: A303 Stonehenge – The DCO Inspection Begins

The preliminary meeting of the Planning Inspectorate inspection team took place at Salisbury Racecourse on 2nd April 2019. It was attended by two members of the Parish Council and a number of villagers representing organisations and/or themselves. As a preliminary meeting, its purpose was to introduce the inspection team, but mainly to outline the process that was to be followed and the timelines involved. As meetings go, the best thing that can be said about it was that it was a turgid affair, most people don’t get too excited by process…

The most depressing thing was that by lunchtime, the word that had barely been mentioned, if at all, was ROAD. What we had heard about in excruciating detail was the archaeology. It’s quite clear, if ever there was any doubt, that more time is going to be devoted to the (claimed) interests of the long-dead than the interests of the living and generations yet to be born.

Anyone wishing to read or listen to an account of that first meeting can do so on the Planning Inspectorate website, here. A certain cure for insomnia.

All the submissions to the Planning Inspectorate on the Development Consent Order can be found on their A303 Scheme web pages. The best starting point is here. This will give you links to the DCO Examination Timetable, documents that have been submitted to the Inspectors and what they call Relevant Representations. There are already over 400 documents logged, some of which run into hundreds, if not thousands of pages. There are also over 200 Relevant Representations. We, like you, are going to have to be selective in what we read, or respond to. We know, already, that we may miss things, so please let us know if there are issues you think the Parish Council need to respond to.

Please understand that there is so much information being generated that we are simply not able to capture it all for you and reproduce it here. The only things we intend to put on the website are those documents generated by the Parish Council. Of course, circumstances may dictate otherwise. We will however, publish “sound bites” from time to time to give you an idea of progress or otherwise.

The next deadline we have to meet is the 3rd May. By then we will have delivered a Written Representation to the Inspectors and a reply to a question that the Inspectors have addressed to the Parish Council. These were based on the points raised in our previous responses, both non-statutory and statutory, to the Highways England Consultation. Councillors agreed to combine their response with that of the Chairman, as both were going to be very similar, the extremely scientific nature of some of the issues and to prevent duplication and unnecessary effort. Where their were differences, the agreed view of the Parish Council had primacy

We will be represented at the Open Floor Hearings during the first session on 22nd May from 10:00am – a brief 5 minute slot at most. It’s an opportunity to highlight some of the bigger issues that will affect the village in perpetuity.

We will continue to represent the Parish at a series of meetings and workshops over the next few months. We also anticipate that the Inspectors may address further questions in our direction. In other words, there is an awful lot of activity going on in which we are all involved. It’s going to be a long summer.

If you are aware of neighbours who don’t have access to the Internet at home, or read the village noticeboard, please can you let them know that access to the Internet is available at Amesbury and Salisbury libraries, where they can access this website at: https://winterbournestokepc.org.uk and the Planning Inspectorate pages at: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/south-west/a303-stonehenge

A303: Legacies and Benefits

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

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

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

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

Highways England have produced a short form shown below:

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

All you need to do is either:

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

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

Scoop It, Bag It, Bin It!

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.

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

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

The online registration form can be found here

Registration closes on Friday 11 January 2019 at 23:59

Website News

As we have now had the experience of running the website for a couple of years, it’s time to make a few changes to reflect the way it is being used, or not being used. Some of the changes will reflect ways in which we can worker ‘smarter’ – why publish information ourselves, with all the work that entails, when we can link directly to those with the responsibility for producing that information in the first place?

One of the first changes we are making is to stop publishing the Salisbury Plain Training Area Newsletter on this website on a monthly basis and, instead, link directly to the Ministry of Defence webpage that carries it.

If you want to find it in the future, simply go to the Village Directory section of this website and look, or search, under “S”. You will find all sorts of other useful information there as well. If you look at the entry for the SPTA Newsletter, it will look something like this:

If you click on the website link, you will be taken directly to the HMG webpage that carries the two latest versions of the newsletter. If you click on the Notes link, you get more information and if you click on the bold page title, you will see the Notes section together with more clickable links to useful MoD pages. Have a play, there’s a lot of useful information hidden away in the Village Directory.

Did you know that the website has its own classified adverts section? It was one of the features asked for by parishioners, but its a bit underused at the moment. If you want to advertise something please go ahead, it’s very easy to use – bear in mind that the advertiser (you) are responsible for the content you generate. The Clerk or Parish Councillors would be glad to give you a hand.

Finally, if you have ideas for inclusion on the website, do let us know, we want to make the website and the ancilliary social media links as useful to villagers as possible. Just drop an email to the Clerk at the address at the foot of this page. Happy New Year to you all!

Christmas, Crime and Criminality

It’s been a really interesting and concerning week in the run up to Christmas. Sunday saw more police activity in the village than we have seen for many a long year. The forecourt of the Stonehenge Filling Station was full with police vehicles, police men and women, PCSO’s and a bunch of somewhat dodgy looking chaps in combat jackets; accompanied by a motley selection of long-dogs in need of a square meal.

Stonehenge Filling Station Forecourt

Local farmers and landowners around Stapleford and Winterbourne Stoke had been reporting their concerns of illegal hare-coursing activities in the area. Following the police swoop, 9 individuals, some from as far away as South Wales, have been reported for offences under the Hunting Act. The police seized two vehicles, mobile phones and 10 dogs. Some of the dogs may have been stolen and enquiries continue. Rural crime is a growing problem and back in October, Wiltshire Police launched Operation Artemis – named after the Greek/Roman goddess of the hunt and of wild places. Op Artemis is part of a broader, national initiative to hit at poaching operations called Project Trepass, which aims to coordinate action across England and Wales through prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance.

If you see any activities of this sort (the lay-by west of the village is a common gathering point), please call 101 and quote ‘Operation Artemis’. If a crime is in progress, call 999.

Late yesterday (Wed 19th December), police were called to an attack outside the Stonehenge Inn, Durrington. This has left a 20 year-old with critical injuries requiring brain surgery. After initially being taken to Salisbury District Hospital, the man was later transferred to Southampton General Hospital. Two other men were injured during the incident.

Three men, aged 25, 27 and 29, from the Port Talbot area of South Wales, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and are currently in custody.

There is no suggestion that the two events are linked and as one local wag observed: “Criminals from South Wales have been causing problems in this area for years – at least since the time they started dumping blue stones here during the construction of Stonehenge.”

It will come as a relief to hear that Neighbourhood Watch have launched a new website:

Reg Halsall (NHWN, Communications Administrator, Wiltshire) says:

Our new website is up and running and you can access it at www.wiltshirenhw.org New features on the site include links so you can contact the committee member representing your region of Neighbourhood Watch in Wiltshire and, if you know people who want to join Neighbourhood Watch, a new quick sign up form which replaces the long form on the old site.

Feel free to share the new join link with anyone not yet on the system.  http://wiltshirenhw.org/join-login-nhw.html
Why not visit the site soon and have a look around.

Well, after all that excitement, we would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Crime-free and Peaceful New Year.

A303 Stonehenge Scheme: Registering As An Interested Party

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

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

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

Registration closes on Friday 11 January 2019 at 23:59


Winter Floodwatch

December 1st 2018 marks the start of our 6th year of flood monitoring within Winterbourne Stoke and it will be the third year this information will appear here on the village website. As we gather more and more data, the harder it is to capture it all in a useful form, so we have made a few minor cosmetic changes to the graph to facilitate this.  The first proper graph of the season will appear on the “Notices” page of this website on, or shortly after, Friday 7th December and will look like this:

The different coloured traces should be faily self-explanatory with the red trace being the current year, purple being the 6-year average.  The black trace represents the last year we had groundwater flooding in the village and the green trace shows a year with little winter rain and a late Spring.  Current borehole levels are around 79 metres, well below average, but rising.

The Planning Inspectorate: A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Notification of Decision to Accept an Application for Examination for an Order Granting Development Consent

The Planning Inspectorate have notified its decision to accept the application for examination of the A303 Stonehenge to Berwick Down Scheme for an Oder Granting Development Consent”

TR010025-000475-TR010025 Notification of Decision to Accept Application FINAL

Please keep an eye on the Planning Inspectorate website, especially if you wish to register as an “Interested Party” for the purposes of the examination process.  The invitation to register should appear in the next few weeks.