Extra buses get thumbs up

Extended times to a well used bus service has been given a warm welcome by residents in the Cotswolds.

Paul Hodgkinson with Jenny Forde (centre) and Isobel Walker at one of the stops on the route

Paul Hodgkinson with Jenny Forde (centre) and Isobel Walker at one of the stops on the route

The 51 route from Cheltenham to Cirencester and onto Swindon attracts alot of customers. Linking villages like North Cerney, Rendcomb and Coberley to the towns, it has previously run in daytimes only and not on Sundays.

Now, after lobbying over a number of years, bus bosses have announced an improved service.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley) has been an advocate of more buses to link villages to the towns:

“This is a good service, but residents have told me often that they wanted to be able to get to the towns in the evenings and on Sundays. I’ve called for an extended service and now it’s happened!

“At a time of cuts, this is really good news.  People can now leave work later if they want to or shop in Cheltenham or Cirencester on a Sunday and get the bus home. This kind of new flexibility is a real bonus, especially for those who rely on public transport.”

For full details of the new bus times, go to: http://www.stagecoachbus.com/uploads/51.pdf

 

 

#DangerousA40

 

Anyone who drives along the A40 regularly in the Cotswolds will know that at times it can be a dangerous experience.

Laura Watts and Paul Hodgkinson are campaigning for a safer A40

Laura Watts and Paul Hodgkinson are campaigning for a safer A40

The well-used highway which connects Cheltenham and Oxford has a high accident record. Recently, there was a fatal crash near Northleach.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson and local campaigner Laura Watts are calling on Gloucestershire Highways to consider solutions to make the road safer.

Paul says: “You see drivers checking their phones in turnings, and cars overtaking at junctions. This dangerous driving has led to numerous accidents.”

Is the lack of dual carriageway on the A40 in either direction to blame? Or is it that drivers need have a better understanding about the dangers of this particular stretch of road?”

Laura Watts lives with her family in Aldsworth and uses the road every day:

“How do we make this road safe? Better road markings and improved signage at junctions? Or maybe orange signs like you have in Oxfordshire announcing the number of casualties in so many years?”

We are keen to hear your views on the A40. Please get in touch or follow our campaign on social media using #DangerousA40.

 

Bring on Le Tour Cotswolds!

Two leading county figures are calling for a Cotswolds stage in a future Tour De France.

Le Tour Cotswolds

With the country gripped by cycling fever as the famous race winds its way around Yorkshire, a bold bid could mean we see the same scenes in Gloucestershire soon.

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has joined forces with Lib Dem Leader in the Cotswolds Paul Hodgkinson in writing to Tour organisers. They are inviting cycling bosses to consider having a Cotswolds leg of the Tour in the next few years.

Cllr Hodgkinson, would-be MP for the Cotswolds and a keen cyclist, says the area’s unique scenery would provide a perfect backdrop to the race:

“My vision is for the Tour to start in Chipping Campden, racing down the Fosse Way through Moreton, Stow and Bourton before going through the historic towns of Northleach and Cirencester. Moving on to Tetbury and the hills of Minchinhampton what a superb advert for the Cotswolds this would be.

“The potential for tourist business is enormous. Shops in Yorkshire have already seen takings going through the roof whilst 1.5 million people lined the route. There’s no reason why we can’t replicate and better what is happening so successfully in Yorkshire right now.”

Mr Horwood feels Cheltenham would be a fantastic location to end the race:

“The Promenade lends itself to a great sprint to the finish line. Can you imagine the boost to the town it would give? The TV images would provide a real show case for the area and be a great event for us all to enjoy.

“With 3 billion TV viewers tuning in it could give the county a tremendous boost and really show off its character.”

In the letter to Tour organisers, the two men will invite them to see the area for themselves and understand the benefits of ‘Le Tour Cotswolds’.

Air Balloon upgrade to be ‘taken very seriously’ by Government

A notorious traffic blackspot has been seen first hand by the Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister.

CleggKramerPaul

Prospective MP for the Cotswolds Cllr Paul Hodgkinson invited Nick Clegg and Susan Kramer to see for themselves the ongoing issues at the Air Balloon A417 junction last Friday.

Following the latest death in the area 2 weeks ago, Cllr Hodgkinson said that urgent action must happen without any further delay:

“There have been 5 deaths in this location in the last 6 months. Such a sad waste of life is coupled with dreadful congestion and pollution problems. Politicians have been to Westminster to get a solution but I’ve asked Westminster to come to the area to see first hand why this has to be fixed.”

A campaign to get the ‘Missing Link’ on the A417 solved with a dual carriageway has gained momentum recently. Now, Mr Clegg has pledged that the Government will look at the issue “very seriously” after seeing the problems caused by the notorious stretch of road.

Mr Clegg was presented with the compelling argument by Paul Hodgkinson in favour of replacing the road between the Cowley roundabout and Brockworth with a new dual carriageway. The Transport Minister Susan Kramer also heard from residents the issue of rat- running through local villages as a result of gridlock on the A417.

Cllr Hodgkinson added, “My call for a commitment from Government to get this blackspot fixed has a better chance than ever before of turning into real action. This is having a real impact on the regional economy and I won’t rest until this is sorted out.”

Call for volume to be turned down after road cash revealed

A lobby group is calling for noise from a busy road to be lowered after figures show large amounts of income going to the company maintaining it.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

The issue of excessive noise from the A419/417 dual carriageway between Gloucester and Swindon has been a running sore for residents since it was first built in 1998. Various attempts to reduce the sound have been made over the years without success.

Since 2012, a group of residents and councillors have been working to reduce noise pollution from the road. Calling themselves A419NAG (Noise Action Group) they come from Bagendon, Baunton, Latton, Down Ampney, Driffield, Cirencester and Cerney Wick.

Now, they have released figures showing that a large amount of money has gone to Road Management Services (Gloucester) Ltd, the company which maintains the 32 mile highway.

Figures obtained by the group from the Highways Agency show that Road Management Services received a total of £285 million from the Government from 1996 to 2013. This was part of the contract agreed when the road was built and is based on a ‘shadow toll’ for every vehicle using the road. It is estimated that the company will receive at least another £200 million until the agreement ends in 2026.

Road Management Services have confirmed that they spend between £1 and £1.5 million a year on maintaining the road, excluding management costs.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) is chairman of A419 NAG and believes the figures show that cash is available to reduce the noise, “Those who live around Cirencester suffer just as much from excessive and irritating noise from the road as those around the Water Park area and north Wiltshire. People have been raising the issue again and we are calling for something fundamental to be done about this.”

“This is about righting a wrong – since the completion of the dual carriageway, a large amount of cash has been given out by the Government and very little spent in comparison. Surely a small part of this eye popping £285 million can be spent on reducing the noise? It is a reasonable thing to ask.”

Cllr Hodgkinson added, “We believe that the Highways Agency in conjunction with Road Management Services should use some of the cash and address this issue once and for all. Measures can be taken to bring the noise levels down.”

The group is currently producing a report, detailing the responses of 500 residents who have completed a survey on the impacts of noise pollution. They aim to publish this in the early summer.

Call for roads to be fixed to boost cycling

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with residents along the Churn Valley cycle and walkers route.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with residents along the Churn Valley cycle and walkers route.

Data supplied by the National Office of Statistics shows that cycling to work has dropped by a massive 26% in the last ten years in the Cotswolds compared to a rise of 14% across the country.

Whilst the rest of the UK has had a bout of cycling fever on the back of Tour de France and Olympics success, Gloucestershire has lagged behind. Figures for the census period 2001-2011 announced on 26 March reveal that cities like Bristol saw a sharp increase of 94% in people cycling to work whilst the South West as a whole has seen a rise of 15%. In contrast, the Cotswolds has dropped at an alarming rate whilst nearby Tewkesbury dropped by 7% and only Cheltenham managed a 4% increase.

Now, Cotswolds Liberal Democrat MP hopeful Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) is calling for the County Council to use some of the cash from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to improve road conditions:

“Spending money on cycling is cost-effective.  It reduces traffic, improves air quality, and improves health for the cyclists and for anyone breathing the local air.  The figures show that when towns and villages spend time, effort and money, they have been rewarded.

“In rural areas the roads feel lethal. Friends who are “would-be-cyclists” won’t cycle anywhere whilst the roads feel so intimidating.  The A40 and A436 are two roads which see high speeds and it feels very unsafe to cycle. I cycle on roads but don’t feel very safe and would do more of it if the conditions were better.

“These new figures suggest that making rural roads pot hole free and providing space for cyclists does work. In the Churn Valley I set up a safer cycling group 5 years ago and we have used the existing bridlepath between Stratton and North Cerney to give a route for bikes and walkers which is away from cars. It has cost very little due to people giving their time for free and this could happen elsewhere in the county.

Paul Morrish, from Shipton is a regular cyclist and works in Cheltenham. He would like to see disused railways used for cycling, walking and horse-riding, particularly as rural communities grow bigger:

“In rural areas and towns there is a high perception of danger.  Vehicles are getting wider which means less space on the road for bikes, pedestrians or horses.  Pot-holes are potentially lethal to cyclists –  hit one and you can be thrown off, avoid one and you can be killed if you swerve.

“A collision between car and cyclist will inevitably leave the cyclist physically worse off, but can leave the driver with unresolvable guilt.  There are many more developments planned in rural areas but sustainable transport needs to be considered as part of that.“

Now Cllr Hodgkinson has written to the County Council’s Highways boss for more to be done to sort out potholes and to provide better routes for Gloucestershire’s cyclists:

“These figures show the county has a lot to do to improve conditions on its roads and to encourage people to cycle so they feel safe and able to do what the rest of the country is doing in ever greater numbers. Whilst cycling to work in rural areas will always be more difficult we can take steps to make it a real option for people whilst improving road conditions in the towns.”

‘Bin the school waste charges’ campaign kicks off

A campaign kicked off this week to throw Cotswolds primary schools a cash lifeline.

Paul Hodgkinson with Jenny Forde.

Paul Hodgkinson with Jenny Forde.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for the Cotswolds) is calling for primary schools to be included in Cotswold District Council’s waste collection service.

At present, all primary schools are classed as ‘businesses’ and have to pay for their waste to be collected by private contractors.

Cllr Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) believes the time is right for the Council to be flexible:

“I have previously asked the Leader of the Council to be bold and generous on this issue but it fell on deaf ears. His administration currently doesn’t collect waste from primary schools in the district. However, small rural schools like Chedworth, Southrop and North Cerney pay as much as £1,000 each year for this – when their budgets are very stretched.

“At the moment a school like Temple Guiting has to pay for a private waste lorry to come into the village especially to pick up one or two bins of rubbish. That doesn’t make any sense from a green or cash perspective.

“Given that CDC’s domestic waste lorries literally drive past the schools every time they collect rubbish from residents and could easily pick up their bins, I feel the Council should throw a lifeline to our small schools by including them in waste collections. This would save schools much needed cash.”

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson has joined forces with North Cerney Primary School Governor Jenny Forde by writing to all 44 Cotswolds primary schools asking them to back the campaign. Ms Forde, who lives in Bagendon, feels that schools work hard to make small budgets go a long way:

“Every single penny makes a difference to our children’s education. I think it would stick in most people’s throats if they knew they were paying twice for waste collection – through their council tax and through public money that goes towards our state schools.

“This solution seems like common sense to help our schools out so they can put taxpayer’s money to better use to educating our children.”

Once they have heard from all primary schools in the area, Cllr Hodgkinson will present the responses to a Cotswold District Council meeting with Ms Forde.

Campaign kicks off for EU flood money

Gloucestershire’s Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson has continued the fight for the region to obtain EU funding to tackle flooding after meeting with the European Commission responsible for the EU Solidarity Fund. The news comes as an online petition to support Graham’s campaign reaches nearly 1,000 signatures.

Paul (right) with North Cerney resident Tim Adams, whose home was spared from floods this time round due to a new bridge being installed.

Paul (right) with North Cerney resident Tim Adams, whose home was spared from floods this time round due to a new bridge being installed.

Watson met with Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner responsible for administering the emergency fund. The Euro-MP has been given a reassurance by the Commissioner that Britain could apply for such funding, or utilise EU regional development funds towards flooding prevention infrastructure in the future.

Watson will now continue to press the government to take immediate action, commenting:

“After taking this issue directly to the man who is responsible for this emergency fund, I will now continue to lobby the government to see that action is done. It is time the UK Treasury and Owen Paterson come clean and admit that the government can apply for EU funding.

“Whilst there are rules stipulating the size of damage in order to apply for national funding, there is provision to apply for funding on a regional basis and I have been given assurance that an application could be made for the South West.

“In Gloucestershire, the flooding has become an annual occurrence and enough is enough.

“It is time for a long term solution that will not only ensure the necessary repairs are carried out now, but to also ensure we can prevent flooding from becoming something we permanently live with.”

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Cotswolds, set up a flooding group last year to solve problems in the Churn Valley. This resulted in action by Cotswold District Council which prevented homes from flooding this time round. But he said that the flooding was ‘making life a misery’ for other residents, commenting:

“I have seen first-hand the impact on residents in Cirencester this month of flooded drains and raw sewage on the streets.

“I am backing Graham’s call because Gloucestershire – and the Cotswolds in particular – has once again been at the mercy of the ever extreme weather patterns. Towns like Cirencester deserve a share of EU money to help clear up from the impact of flooding and upgrade the creaking sewage systems which aren’t able to cope with the deluge of water. This is now a yearly event for some and it is making life a misery for those concerned.”

Council backs call to solve A417 gridlock

Following the tragic deaths of 3 people 2 weeks ago, a call was backed today to solve the traffic problems at a notorious Cotswolds junction.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson called for urgent action over the Air Balloon rounadabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson called for urgent action over the Air Balloon rounadabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) has been campaigning to get a solution to the pollution, gridlock and accident record around the Air Balloon roundabout on the A417 Today he proposed a motion at the Gloucestershire County Council meeting and received overwhelming backing for it.

Paul told us, “I was looking to bring the whole council together to take a lead in finding an urgent solution to these problems. We must face the facts and demand from Government real action before any more tragedies occur.”

The text of the motion, seconded by Cllr Iain Dobie, was: “This Council calls on the Department of Transport and the Highways Agency to take urgent action over the increasing traffic gridlock and pollution around the Air Balloon Roundabout (A417). The lack of a long term solution is harming the economy of the region and Gloucestershire and is blighting the lives of nearby residents. This Council should take a lead on this long running issue by bringing together other local authorities and agencies to reach a rapid solution. This is particularly pressing following the dreadful loss of life at this location recently.”

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson said: “I now look forward to seeing the various organisations, other local authorities and agencies coming together in finding a long-term solution to this problem road. If we are serious about building a stronger economy, reducing air pollution and cutting accidents and breakdowns, this is the way forward.

“Only a proper, long term solution will do.”

The vote was 45 for the motion, 1 against and 2 abstentions.

New crossing gets thumbs up

Bourton residents have given a warm welcome to a new road crossing along Station Road.

Paul Hodgkinson, Ginie Moss and family at the new crossing

Paul Hodgkinson, Ginie Moss and family at the new crossing

In August, the County Council installed the 24/7 safety feature on one of the village’s busiest roads. It followed on from a mass petition calling for the crossing which was presented to Gloucestershire County Council last year.

A teacher at the Cotswold School – Ginie Moss – gathered 1100 names on the petition and was backed by County Councillor Paul Hodgkinson and Bourton Parish Council.

Now, all the campaigning has paid off. The crossing is in place sooner than expected and is being used by school students, mums and dads and older residents in particular.

Cllr Hodgkinson says its a good example of people working together to make something happen, “This all started with the enthusiasm of Mr and Mrs Moss and their determination to get something done to make the road safer for pedestrians.

“I campaigned with them to get this in place and its a credit to all those who signed the petition, put money into the scheme and lobbied for it that it is now a reality.

“Thanks to the parish council and our local schools for all their support on this.”