Wiltshire Council's Last Ever Westbury Bypass Opinion Survey

The 2001 Westbury Bypass questionnaire, by consultants to Wiltshire County Council, asked (paraphrased): do you want an eastern bypass now, or do you want us to develop a western route over a longer period?

It was said in this poll questionnaire that the eastern bypass scheme had an opportunity for funding now.

It was said that the western bypass route needed further design work and could not be ready until later.

Residents were twice asked if they agreed to Wiltshire County Council progressing with an eastern bypass.

A large and consistent majority of Westbury residents who responded rejected an eastern bypass and instead wanted Wiltshire County Council to now develop the design of the western route.

Q1: Do you agree to a bid for an eastern bypass now?     76% disagreed.     Only 24% agreed.

Q2: Would you prefer an eastern bypass now?   Or the design for the far western route later?

21% wanted an eastern bypass.    75% wanted the western route to be designed and bid for.

About 4% expressed another view, not in the questions, probably for no bypass at all (as voiced below).

Dilton Marsh and Westbury Leigh people took part.  Outside areas (5% o/a) did not exert undue influence.

Only in western villages such as Dilton Marsh were a majority of the residents in favour an eastern bypass.

In all other areas, including Westbury town centre, by 1.6 to 1, and the whole of Westbury town all together, by over 3 to 1, a significant majority of the residents taking part wanted a western route to be developed.

Some of the Westbury area residents added comments of their own.  Here is a sample:

Restatement of opposition to eastern and demand for a western alignment.
A western route is better suited as access to the West Wilts Trading Estate.
Most opposing an eastern bypass cited concern for landscape, wildlife and the scarp.
The questionnaire was biased in favour of an eastern bypass, with leading questions.
The public’s views, given in earlier consultations, had been ignored.
It was felt that the public were being railroaded into a decision.
Concern about future housing development up to the bypass line.
Many comments on the cement company's influence, in view of its land holdings.
The impartiality of members (ie councillors) and consultants was questioned.
Traffic to the WWTE would drive through the town and not use an eastern bypass.
There were various comments on the value of the water supply source at Wellhead.
The western route had not been developed in as much detail as the eastern scheme.
The eastern bypass scheme was seen as a short-term solution, to bid for finance.
Trade in the town would be adversely effected by an eastern bypass.
A few requested no new roads.

There was a disturbing proportion of respondents who suspected hidden agendas, housing deals,
and questioned the impartiality of the members, officers and their consultants.

This last paragraph is the exact wording of the original last paragraph of the survey report.

This summary is a précis of the Ringway Parkman report of 8 July 2001, ref: 48500/R/06/A.

The original length has been reduced to about half.   Rounded percentages are shown.

Overall presentation of this consultation exercise has been simplified and made more explanatory.

The opinion survey questionnaire was available at the Laverton Hall in Westbury and at the West Wiltshire District Council offices in Trowbridge.   Up to twelve days were allowed for response.

The make-up of the Westbury etc areas represented by the responding residents was:

Existing A350 route through Westbury Town Centre, West End, Warminster Road - 7%
South-east Westbury, inc Chalford, Butts, Newtown, Bratton Rd & Bitham areas - 49%
North and west Westbury, inc Westbury Leigh, Ham and remainder of the town - 16%
Dilton Marsh and the rural areas of Fairwood and Rudge (the western villages) - 4.5%
Heywood, Hawkeridge, West Ashton, Yarnbrook, North Bradley and Southwick - 3%
Bratton and Edington (outlying eastern villages) - 11%
Trowbridge (county town) area - 3.5%
Somerset and areas outside of Wiltshire - 5%
Sum of overall minor decimal places in above figures - 1%

A preponderant majority of responses (72% of the total) were from within Westbury itself.

Further Comment:

Though with questions which were blatantly loaded in favour of an eastern route, this 2001 bypass survey allowed all residents who wished to take part to do so and also allowed them to enter alternative opinions.

There were 699 responses.  This was roughly about 10% of the local electorate.  It is reasonably consistent with local surveys of this sort and consequently is as representative as it is ever likely to be.  The 2006 West Wiltshire health-care changes survey had about 2% overall response.   The results of the 2001 WCC survey which rejected an eastern Westbury bypass but wanted a western route are by far the most valid of any.

Most Westbury people have consistently preferred a western solution, not a bypass that can be anywhere.

Sadly, too many Wiltshire County Councillors voted for an eastern bypass, on 10 July 2001, just two days after these survey results were published, with no reference to the clear expression of local public opinion.

These opinion survey results were not in the report given to them.   The internal WCC information briefing instead referred to an earlier survey, of 1998, where the results were 'less straightforward', it told them.

In the 1998 consultation, people were offered four alternatives: three western and one eastern route.  This presented a less than straightforward choice.   However, response was against the eastern route by 1.4 to 1 and for the far western route by over 1.5 to 1.    In an election, this would be a straightforward result.

In 2001, the local public were presented with a clear choice between the eastern or the far-western routes.
Less than a quarter wanted the eastern bypass scheme.   Three-quarters asked for the far western route.

When councillors voted again, in May 2007, it was again the misleadingly described as 'less straightforward' (though it was actually clearly for western and against eastern) older public opinion that was put in the report given them to read and again not the more recent public opinion survey with the very straightforward result.

Wiltshire Council has not organised another survey since, but continued with its unpopular eastern scheme.

On each occasion when Westbury area residents have an opportunity of an open opinion survey, which has allowed them to write in to express their own views, with a clear choice of alternatives, the overwhelming majority do not want an eastern bypass but have wanted the western route.

Likewise, most responses to W(C)C's planning applications were objections to the eastern bypass scheme.
Of those who wrote their own letters, the ratio of objectors, inclusive of Westbury area, was over 10 to 1.

Twice as many local individuals spoke against WC's eastern bypass scheme at the 2008 planning inquiry (compared with the few people who spoke in support of any bypass for traffic relief for Westbury).

In looking back at the situation in 2001, it is apparent that there was canvassing for an eastern bypass, within the county council, on a basis that its design had been prepared and its funding was now available. The councillors who said this were wrong.   It is obvious that a superior scheme could have been designed during the intervening years.   That is what most Westbury area residents had asked the council to do.

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