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Lorry route scheme a monumental mistake
A PROPOSAL to create a lorry route through the middle of the site of an ancient monument in the north Cotswolds is being considered as one way of cutting pollution in the centre of Chipping Norton. The proposed route would take HGVs between the A44 and the A3400 right through the middle of the 5,000-year-old Rollright Stones, one of the country's foremost megalithic stone circles. The proposal, which would include the widening of Cross Hands Lane through the ancient site at an estimated cost of 5 million, is one of a number of options being considered as part of an action plan to reduce traffic pollution in Chipping Norton High Street and Horsefair.
Other proposals in the plan considered by West Oxfordshire District Council cabinet members yesterday (wed), include implementation of a system of traffic controls to push queues to the edge of Chipping Norton, the removal of the A44 primary route status in favour of forcing lorries to use alternative routes between Evesham and Oxford, and measures to stop motorists leaving engines of stationary vehicles idling. A proposal to build a Chipping Norton bypass either north or south of the town, at an estimated cost of between 16.5 million and 36 million respectively, is not being put forward at this stage. Neither is a suggested one-way scheme to route traffic along Albion Street, which consultants say would cut traffic in the High Street by 25 to 35 per cent at peak times but double traffic using Albion Street.
The district council is having to look at ways of reducing traffic emissions in the centre of Chipping Norton, which currently fails to meet government targets for nitrogen dioxide levels. But one of the most controversial proposals, which is likely to be included in the list of possible options put out for public consultation early next year, is certain to be the re-routing of HGVs between the A44 and the A3400 from the Cross Hands pub to east of the Rollright Stones. Traffic consultants say this would only be feasible if the current unclassified road, which already bissects the Rollright Stones site, was widened from 5.5metres to 7.3metres. They also say that the junctions at either end of the road would probably need replacing with lit roundabouts. "The most significant impact would be on the area of the Rollright Stones, a Scheduled Ancient Monument," the district council's environment protection and enforcement manager Philip Measures said in his report to councillors.
Karin Attwood, founder of the Rollright Stones Trust, described the proposal as a "non-starter". On both sides of the road you have scheduled monuments and because of the scheduled monument status it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain planning permission. I agree Chippy needs a bypass but it needs to be done at the bottom of the valley not over the ridgeway," said Ms Attwood. The Stones are considered to be a holy place by pagans, and druids celebrate the summer solstice there every year. Mr Measures said: "At the end of the day this is something that has been developed by officers. Ultimately, it is for council members to decide."
Consultation on Air Quality plan begins in January
West Oxfordshire District Councils Cabinet has agreed a draft Air Quality Action Plan for Chipping Norton. The Plan will go out to public consultation in January 2008. The Action Plan addresses nitrogen dioxide pollution in Chipping Norton, caused largely by traffic and in particular, Heavy Goods Vehicles. The Plan, which is at a preliminary stage, has considered options such as traffic management initiatives, and supporting initiatives to reduce air pollution. A total of 28 options have been outlined and each one has been appraised on the following basis:
- their practicality and cost effectiveness, and
- whether they show a significant improvement to air quality.
Cllr David Harvey, Cabinet Member for Environment said, This is a first class report outlining a number of options and is an excellent opportunity to support improvements to air quality in Chipping Norton. The report also takes into account any adverse impact each option might have, such as transfer of pollution to other areas, increases in noise or congestion or harm to the environment such as the destruction of ecologically sensitive areas and habitats.
The Draft Action Plan can be viewed on www.westoxon.gov.uk from January 2008. Consultation dates will also be published on the website Following public consultation, the draft Action Plan will be agreed between West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council. It will be put to the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for final comment before publication.
AIR QUALITY PROPOSALS
BY-PASS ONE WAY SYSTEM WEIGHT LIMIT
AFTER THE CONSULTATION WE NOW
AWAIT SOME RECOMMENDATIONS!
There were two public consultations on the town's draft air quality action plan on February 27and March 1. In case you missed the exhibition you can catch up with the options here:
Following these public consultations, the draft Action Plan will be agreed between West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council. It will be put to the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for final comment before publication.
The Action Plan addresses nitrogen dioxide pollution in Chipping Norton, caused largely by traffic and, in particular, Heavy Goods Vehicles. The plan, which is at a preliminary stage, has considered options such as traffic management initiatives, and supporting initiatives to reduce air pollution. A total of 28 options have been outlined and each one has been appraised on their practicality and cost effectiveness, and whether they show a significant improvement to air quality.
I asked an officer from the County Council what kind of comments the public had made about the options. He said that it was totally clear that people didn't really care which option was chosen - just get rid of all the heavy lorries. That was what everybody wanted.
But after all this work and all the reports it seems that the problem has not been cracked and there is not a viable solution in sight. Only three of the options proposed are going to make any real difference to the volume of HGVs through the town centre and all of those seem to have big problems attached.
First the Cross Hands route. (Problem: Nobody seems to think that the government will provide the millions required and nobody thinks that it will be feasible to increase traffic through the Rollright Stones site. The lobbying has already started!).
Second. The idea of gates and controlling traffic flows so that "queueing" is removed from the town centre. (Problem: You will end up with lorries queuing up New Street!)
Third: New signage and an "environmental" weight restriction through the town. (Problem: Nobody seems to think that "environmental" weight restrictions can actually be enforced. Apparently any overweight lorry will simply say that it was making a delivery - which is allowed. You have to prove that a lorry went right through the town without making a delivery. Not easy to do without eating up resources which nobody has - least of all the Police).
The only practical answer seems to be for everybody to lobby like mad to have the Cross Hands route diverted around the Stones. It will cost millions more but at least such a plan would probably get the support of the Rollright Trust who would surely be pleased to have their site integrated again without any sort of road running through it! The other idea which came up during the consultation was for the Cross Hands route to be "one-way" - with A44 traffic from Oxford continuing to go through the town. This would involve less road widening and so cost much less but still achieve a 50% reduction in HGV's.
Meanwhile, if you haven't filled in a questionnaire as part of the consultation process, pop into the Guildhall and get a form. The more people that have their say the more likely we are to get some meaningful outcome.