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The A36/A46 link road

In short, I conclude emphatically and without any reservation against the case for the A.36 Link. It is unimpressive in trunk road terms, prejudicial in some important respects, intolerable in the landscape impact and devastating to recreational amenity. Of course something will have to be done to meet the north south through traffic demand ……… but to build an A.36 link…. would be to disregard the widespread effect on the Avon Valley that would have to be endured forever and which might well set a precedent for further inroads into that treasured landscape.”

This was the unambiguous conclusion of the Independent Panel Inspector   Sir Michael Giddings KCB, OBE, DFC AFC and Bar  in his 1991 Report submitted  to the Secretary of State for the Environment (Michael Heseltine) and the Secretary of State for Transport ( Malcolm Rifkind) following a Public Enquiry held over 75 days throughout 1990 at Bath Rugby Club. The total number of objections to the link road proposals numbered 1318 while 290 letters were submitted in support of the scheme.

The Valley Parishes Alliance submission to the Strategic Route Network consultation

The 1990 Report provides the strongest base for countering the latest initiative by Bath and North East Somerset Council and the West Of England Combined Authority who seek to resurrect the idea of an A36/A46 link road by having it included in the next Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2) which will identify for development key strategic national routes in the years ahead.

Given that the scheme has been rejected by Government in the past, the Valley Parishes Alliance take the view that it is not for opponents to any new initiative to justify their opposition to these latest proposals. It is for those who seek to resurrect the case for the A36/A46 link road to establish just why the scheme is now deserving of being progressed. What has changed? If the key elements of the 1990 Report are now thought to be no longer relevant then we would like to know what they are and just how any new proposals can overcome the proper concerns that were recorded, submitted and subsequently accepted by Government.

The VPA believe that the short answer is that nothing has changed which would justify any further consideration of a link road scheme. The reverse is more true: namely, that since 1990 there is now a more comprehensive and ready understanding of the devastation both to the environment and to recreational amenity caused by ill conceived and budget blowing road schemes.  Seldom do they fulfil or live up to the expectations ascribed to them but always they have a profound adverse impact on the people and communities affected by them and they ‘would have to be endured forever.’

The VPA has made its position clear by first writing to the Secretary of State for Transport and subsequently by broadly reiterating its views by letter, accompanied by supporting evidence, to those charged within the Department for Transport for handling the initial consultation on the Strategic Route Network. The representations made by the VPA  cover the key considerations which demonstrate  why the link road scheme is unjustifiable and goes on to propose that an effective and sustainable solution can be found by upgrading the A.350 (Warminster to Chippenham) as part of the Strategic Route Network. These are the key points made by the VPA:

·       The A.36 is geologically unstable and continues to require enhanced maintenance regimes and extended road closures to retain the integrity of the route. Additional traffic will exacerbate the problem and have incremental cost implications over and above the high capital costs associated with a link road scheme.

·       A link road might initially alleviate congestion on London Road, Bath but any released capacity would soon be taken up by suppressed demand and the Bath area as a whole would see little or no improvement. Through HGV movements constitute a very small percentage of total traffic using the London Road. It is reasonable to expect that air quality objectives will be met at virtually all London Road – A.36 Warminster Road corridor locations without any link road scheme. Nitrogen Dioxide levels have been falling in recent years with sites now approaching or below the annual average objective level.

·       Any link road option would have adverse impacts on the Green Belt, AONB and World Heritage Site landscape setting and recreational amenity irreversibly blighting the exceptional beauty of the Avon and Limpley Stoke Valley.

·       The nearby A.350 is the principal north-east route through Wiltshire. Sections of the Chippenham Bypass have been improved significantly in recent years and further improvement works are underway. These works and further upgrades north of Warminster will greatly enhance the strategic function of the A.350 enabling economic growth across Wiltshire and attracting through traffic (particularly HGVs) away from Bath. The A.350 is more level, more easily navigable and does not suffer terrain instability problems when compared with the A.36/A.46 trunk route.

Further information is available on the website of the Avon Valley Action Group:

No final decision has been taken as to whether or not a link road scheme will be incorporated into the future Route Investment Strategy for the years 2020 – 2025. Freshford Parish Council will continue to monitor closely any proposals that come forward in the course of this year and will keep residents informed.

Nick Stevens.

Freshford Parish Council and member of the Valley Parishes Alliance.

 (The Valley Parishes Alliance was formed in April 2010. It is a cross-county border alliance of seven rural parishes (five B&NES and two Wiltshire). Taken together, the seven parish councils which form the VPA represent over 7,000 residents (and over 5,500 electors).