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Cabinet to ignore feedback on A350 Melksham bypass project

November 28, 2021 8:13 PM

Wiltshire Council's Conservative administration is to press ahead with an eastern bypass for Melksham, despite a majority voting against the scheme in the recent consultation. According to the report for Tuesday's 'cabinet' meeting "There were 396 (52%) questionnaire responses that did not support the need for an improvement to the A350 at Melksham and Beanacre, and 331 (44%) that did support the need for an improvement." Note the continuing use of the word 'improvement' for the road-building. Clearly as far as the Tories are concerned anyone who doesn't support the big new road must be of unsound mind, for who could oppose an improvement? The report goes on to overstate the bleeding obvious: "From the questionnaire responses there was a clear divergence of opinion between those who supported the need for an improvement to the A350 and those who did not."

The main benefit of the scheme is that traffic will be able to go faster between the M4 and the south coast.

Improvements to walking and cycling are mooted: "The scheme includes a complementary package of walking and cycling improvements which would be developed in parallel with the bypass. This could include continuous footways across junctions." So pedestrians will be permitted to cross the road. These parts of the scheme will probably drop out during the planning stages, and if built will probably not be of any practical use for real pedestrians and cyclists.

There's little enthusiasm for the scheme from local councils: "Melksham Town Council listed the pros and cons for the scheme and suggested ideas for mitigation measures should the scheme proceed. Melksham Without Parish Council considered that further evidence is required to justify the scheme and suggested some changes to the proposals. Lacock Parish Council objected to the scheme and raised some specific issues. Seend Parish Council indicated that their preferred choice would be no bypass."

WC's preferred route had been decided before the so-called consultation. "From the consultation it is clear that there are opposing views about the need for a bypass. However, from the design and assessment work carried out to date, there does not appear to be any technical or practical reason for not adopting Option 10c as the preferred route corridor based on current knowledge."

The report goes on to say that the Outline Business Case will go to government immediately, with four years of preparation required before construction can begin. The minimum cost would be £235million.

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Here's the WC press release:

At its meeting on Tuesday 30 November, The WC Cabinet will consider feedback from the second consultation on the A350 Melksham bypass project.

The council's executive will also consider the financial implications of proceeding with the scheme.

Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: "We had a similar response rate to our second consultation as we did to the first, with 760 questionnaire responses and 480 emails most recently, compared to 1,018 responses and 175 emails during the first consultation.

"Local contributors and stakeholders made some valuable comments about the scheme, particularly about the route, and Cabinet will consider this, along with whether to submit the outline business case to the DfT.

"There is still a long way to go for this scheme, and we will look at it again once we have feedback from DfT and once we know the outcome of National Highways' north-south connectivity study, which will look at routes between the M4 and the south coast. This is likely to be in the summer of 2022.

"We'll also look at the financial aspect. Although this project would mostly be funded by the Government, if it goes ahead there would also have to be a contribution from the council.

"A bypass on the A350 at Melksham would reduce congestion for local residents and businesses, and improve journey times on this important route through Wiltshire, which serves as a key regional link from the M4 to the port of Poole."

After the original consultation, held from 4 November 2020 to 17 January 2021, sought views on a long list of route options, the second consultation, from 23 June to 8 August, asked what people thought of option 10C, with three different variations at the north of the proposed scheme.

To read the Cabinet papers, people should go to https://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=141&MId=13773; or to find out more about the scheme, people should see www.wiltshire.gov.uk/highways-a350-melksham-bypass.