#2180

I think a few corrections to errors of fact are in order in response to JMD’s earlier post.

1. Non-binary – reflects the view of villagers when the Parish Council conducted its door-stepping exercise. Some distrusted the whole consultation process believing it to be a charade, some wanted north, some wanted south, some wanted one of the longer surface routes rejected by HE early in the process, many didn’t care whether it was north or south so long as we got a bypass, some didn’t want a bypass at all and nearly all expressed the view that they wanted much more information before they felt they could make a sensible choice. Their words, not ours.

2. During that same exercise, we told residents we were to hold a meeting where they could express their concerns about the plans. We also told all those we managed to speak to, before the meeting, that whilst we were very interested in their route preferences and would record them if they were offered (but would not make them public), we would not formally ask them as we were already aware that emotions were running high. No member of the Parish questioned this approach at the Parish Council Meeting in January, or the subsequent meeting of the Parish in the Church. No formal approach has been made to the Parish Council.

It is true that some residents may prefer the 2005 northern route to either of those offered in the consultation by HE – I know I would, but that isn’t (currently) on the table. What I’d really prefer is a far southern route that skirts Amesbury to the south and joins up to the A36 before rejoining the A303 – that isn’t on the table either.

That the northern lobby group came up with a very different results is interesting, but not surprising – we’ve all seen in recent months how reliable polls of this sort can be. Here is the difference between the two approaches. The Parish Council wanted to understand how villagers felt, the lobby group wants people to support their cause – both understandable, both logical, and guaranteed to get different answers.

Just for the record, a friend in the village has expressed 4 different views on routes in the last 6 months. Last August, I started to survey opinions on hypothetical bypass routes (north, south and straight through the middle of the village) to get an early feel for how villagers felt. Back then he was firmly pro south, in late January he was firmly for the status quo, in late February he tells me that he told the lobbyists he was pro North (allegedly so he could get them off the doorstep on a cold day) and in early March he didn’t care whether they went south or north or bulldozed the High Street. I wouldn’t claim he was typical, but I don’t believe he is the only one.

3. Now, from the outset, I’ve made no secret of my route preference. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have attended meetings of the pro-northern route lobby as an individual, not as a Parish Councillor. I also made the rest of the Parish Council aware that I was doing so. Cllr West has also attended these same meetings. The lobby group raised the issue of holding secret ballots with me at a meeting of the lobby group back in early February and asked about calling a Parish Meeting to initiate a secret ballot. I pointed out that a Parish Meeting was already scheduled for 20th March – after the 5th March. I subsequently advised them that if they wished to call a further Parish Meeting they would need to formally ask for this to be done, that there was a notice period of 7 days before such a meeting could be held and if the meeting voted for a ballot, there was a statutory 25 day period before it could be held. Most importantly, this wasn’t going to happen before the 5th March. Oh yes, it would also cost the villagers of Winterbourne Stoke around £1,800 to £2,000 to run and this would have to be recovered from the COuncil Tax. No formal request was ever made to the Parish Council to hold such a meeting.

4) JMD’s claim that either I, or the Parish Council, have said, or written, that: “the village couldn’t be trusted to make the right decision”, is both untrue and offensive. Whatever decision Parishioners have represented in their returns to Highways England is the right decision for the village.

5) The one point on which we fully agree is that: “response of local communities”… is …known to be so critical in determining the eventual choice of bypass route”. True, not the response of the Parish Council, the community – the parishioners of Winterbourne Stoke.

As for the rest of JMD’s points, it’s probably better to read what the Parish Council actually wrote rather than rely on a somewhat selective and probably partisan view of what someone thinks was written.

Finally, yes we do live in a democracy and if villagers don’t like the way the Parish Council as a whole, or as individuals, have acted on this or, indeed, on any other issue, then please stand as a candidate in the forthcoming elections.