|A350 Westbury Bypass Independent Public Inquiry|
Ordered by the Government, there was a full Planning Inquiry into the eastern Westbury Bypass scheme.
* After being delayed by Wiltshire Council (which later tried to rush it), the Inquiry commenced in June '08.
* The Inquiry had to be adjourned throughout August 2008 to re-consider WCC's 100% revised HGV figures.
* The adjournment was also to consult on WCC's previously discreet intended weight limit on Station Road.
* The Inquiry was delayed again during September '08 due to more muddled and late WCC information.
* You see, after all its pushy big talk, Conservative Wiltshire Council was never actually ready.
* Wiltshire County Council's traffic modelling seemed to have come unravelled again.
* Wiltshire County Council's station bridge weight-limit story was bending under the strain.
* Wiltshire County Council was repeatedly shrilling to the media: 'it's eastern bypass or nothing!'
* Though WCC also acknowledged that bypasses were out of date and are not being built any more.
* If only Wiltshire County Council had thought to propose a 21st century integrated transport scheme.
* Closing submissions to the Planning Inquiry were set back to 8 October 2008. The Inquiry ended after costs applications by objectors for reimbursement for time wasted by Wiltshire County Council's alterations to its information during (and delaying) the Inquiry. Wiltshire County Council had insisted that it was ready.
* It was frequently apparent at the Inquiry that Wiltshire County Council never really had its act together.
* W(C)Cís late issue of its Purchase and Roads Orders had delayed the start of the Inquiry until mid 2008.
* Wiltshire (County) Council anticipated an inquiry into compulsory purchase and side roads orders. If it had been allowed to approve its own planning application, the subsequent public inquiry would have been comparatively limited. It may not have allowed the peculiar choice of route to be independently examined. We have now had a full planning inquiry, where WCC's eastern route and much else were under scrutiny.
* Wiltshire County Council assembled an array of paid experts to present its view at the planning inquiry.
* WCC also hired an expensive top barrister, also funded by our council tax, to represent it at the inquiry.
* To attempt to match this, to put the case for the landscape, environment, wildlife, transport integration - and the people of West Wiltshire as a whole - we were into a huge c.£90K voluntary fund-raising exercise.
* For otherwise we would have been out-spent; though from our own pockets! But we did well by the end.
* We have gratefully-received donations from environmentally-concerned philanthropists and organisations - but some £70K was raised locally in about two years from events and people in Westbury and West Wilts.
* Wiltshire (County) Council's £4.5M+ expenditure on its Westbury Bypass scheme had become untenable
* The South West EiP Panel Report recommended new policies, which did not include any Westbury Bypass.
* An abiding impression of the South West RSS EiP Panel Report is of a focus on access to public transport - such as our railway system. Some desperately said that the eastern bypass scheme was the last way out for Westbury, that we must press ahead with it regardless of policy, public money, or common sense. But, a fundamental problem is that the eastern route would never connect with Westbury railway station.
* Wiltshire Council tried to pre-empt the process, by pushing for the inquiry to now be quickly commenced. WCC failed in this. You can read elsewhere about some of Wiltshire County Council's other tricky tactics.
* At the 3 March '08 pre-inquiry meeting, all parties agreed that they would be ready to start on 17 June.
* That was on the basis of having all information. There was a second pre-inquiry meeting on 19 May '08, where delayed issue or continuing absence of information from WCC was discussed before the Inspectors.
* The Inquiry began on 17 June 2008. Key information, basic to the scheme, was supplied late by WCC, less than two weeks before the 20 May '08 deadline for others to put in their statements referring to it.
* Placards plugging the Eastern Westbury Bypass scheme, with bland reassurances, mostly neither the complete picture nor very factual in themselves, were placed by Wiltshire County Council, at our expense, around the room of the independent inquiry. It was not feasible for objectors to spend out on equivalent artwork with a more realistic summary of the likely consequences of an eastern bypass. The Inspectors also thought that WCC's advertisement of its scheme was one-sided and the placards were taken down.
* The White Horse Alliance was organised to represent all objectors to W(C)C's eastern Westbury bypass.
* An impression at the start and end of the Inquiry is that the White Horse Alliance's overview statements, that identified many Government guidelines which the Eastern Westbury Bypass scheme was glibly ignoring, were altogether better, scored far more points, than the statements by Wiltshire County Council's barrister.
* Many Wiltshire (County) Council experts were not at all convincing. Biased presentations, comparisons and figures (to make the eastern scheme look better than it was) unravelled more than once at the Inquiry.
* WCC disparaged alternative solutions so as to leave traffic relief for the area with no useful way forward.
* The White Horse Alliance made a strong case against planning permission for the eastern bypass scheme.
* There was an opportunity for local people to read out their own statements on a July '08 evening session. There were twice the number of objectors, who altogether described a widespread range of adverse effects of the eastern bypass scheme, compared with bypass supporters who mostly cited their own circumstances to justify diverting the traffic elsewhere. NB: twice as many Westbury area people objected to the scheme.
* The Inquiry after all took into account the new Government-revised version of the SW Regional Strategy, which Wiltshire Council had previously attempted to avoid, which now leaves out any mention of the A350, to compound the previous omission of any Westbury Bypass, but is focussed on access to public transport (a lamentable failing of WCC's eastern route, which did not include any link to Westbury railway station).
* Wiltshire County Council had a string of bad weeks. It was obvious that WCC's 'solution' had come first
* Despite this, Wiltshire (County) Council's barrister sought to seem superior and dismissive, even contrarily pontificating at the end that the objectors should have promoted an alternative scheme, as if the objectors had WCC's bottomless funding or time to commission or carry out surveys and studies, as if Wiltshire County Council would have evaluated any alternative to its eastern bypass on any like-for-like basis - and ignoring the fact that proofs that the alternative Far Western route was superior had been presented unchallenged.
* After closing submissions in October 2008, the Inquiry Inspectors sent their report and recommendations to the Government in February '09. A through the best local countryside road around one town that would worsen congestion elsewhere and which had no rail transport interface was an obviously worthless concept. Conservative Wiltshire Council's Eastern Westbury Bypass vanity project was quite likely to be turned down.
* It has been! Because it would have been an ineffectual scheme which would have spoiled the landscape.
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