Wiltshire Council tried to rush it through, but failed

Conservative Wiltshire County Council pre-emptively told the local media in January 2008 that the Inquiry into the Westbury Bypass plan was expected to start in April 2008.  This was to keep up a false impression that its dud project was progressing and also with the hope of rushing through the inquiry on its own terms.

Conservative Wiltshire County Council was silent on the Call-In of its Westbury Bypass scheme in July 2007 and never explained to its Wilts residents that there was a full Planning Inquiry (nor has it frankly explained the subsequent costly failure of its arrogant eastern Westbury Bypass gamble to its council tax payers).

Six months notice is usually given before the start of any major planning inquiry, in order to give all parties the time to commission expert advisors etc.   Obviously, all parties had been aware of an intended planning inquiry since July '07, but only Wiltshire County Council had the resources (funded by us Wiltshire tax payers) to have all of its experts, plus an early-involvement management contractor, plus WCC's many consultants, on retainers and engaged and available at all times.

The Planning Inspectorate had made no announcement.  The Planning Inspectorate in Bristol originally said that the date for the inquiry was yet to be confirmed, but subsequently was in effect ready to whitewash over Wiltshire County Council's attempt at a pre-emptive fait-accompli by backing starting the inquiry in April '08.

However, there were in fact two main players with the Rule 6/7 Inquiry Status, ie: Wiltshire County Council, the eastern bypass promoter, and the White Horse Alliance which represented a big collection of objectors.

Plainly, there should be equal fair treatment for everyone.   Our own observation was of relative deference towards Wiltshire County Council..., with seemingly all actual discussion being only with the County Council, leading to arrangements being made to suit WCC's requirements - with the objectors being told afterwards.

We were even told that the venue for the independent inquiry was to be Wiltshire County Council's offices.

After the White Horse Alliance had challenged the one-sided choice of arrangements, there was a change.

Wiltshire Council's unfair try-on for an April start to the inquiry was put aside.  June was agreed to instead. The inquiry venue was changed to the relatively independent Laverton Hall in Westbury.

Why had Wiltshire Council suddenly become so keen to push through the Westbury Bypass inquiry process?

The Draft South West Regional Spatial Strategy Examination in Public Panel Report, published in January '08, recommended various transport schemes for our region, inclusive of railway improvements and other roads, but did not include any Westbury Bypass.

Wiltshire County Council was delaying the Westbury Bypass Planning Inquiry, with its late circulation of its proposed CP & SR Orders and in fact by also asking the Planning Inspectorate for a delayed start for itself.

But, after reading the new SW RSS EiP Panel Report, WCC suddenly became very anxious, to the extent of issuing its pre-emptive misleading briefing, which first appeared in the Warminster Journal of 25 January '08 in a letter from Westbury Bypass NOW! (the now-defunct pressure group with interests in the eastern route), to rush the Inquiry through before the EiP Panel recommendations were endorsed by the Government.

Conservative Wiltshire County Council's tricky tactics failed.

Subsequent events at the Inquiry have shown that Wiltshire County Council did not have its act together.

And thanks to the adjournments brought on by Wiltshire County Council's mess-ups, the Government review of the SW RSS EiP Panel Report was considered at the Planning Inquiry.   It was a further nail in the coffin of any justification for Wiltshire County Council's Eastern Westbury Bypass project, because, just as anticipated, the silly scheme was completely out of the regional transport strategy.   And it is now scrapped altogether.

Local people objecting to the eastern bypass scheme at the pre-inquiry meeting at County Hall.

And hardly looking like anti road-building protestors bussed in from afar.

return to Front Page >>