Call for action over gridlocked road

Lib Dem MEP for Gloucestershire Sir Graham Watson has visited the notorious Air Balloon roundabout.

L to R: Duncan McGaw from Coberley Parish Council. Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Watson at the traffic blackspot.

L to R: Duncan McGaw from Coberley Parish Council. Paul Hodgkinson, Graham Watson at the traffic blackspot.

He was invited by Cotswolds Parliamentary Candidate Cllr Paul Hodgkinson who is leading the call for an urgent solution to the congestion and pollution blackspot south of Gloucester.

Councillor Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton and Northleach) first approached Sir Graham last year to ask what could be done about the high levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) in the area off the A417. Whilst air quality policy falls under EU law, it is up to central government and local authorities to meet targets to reduce air pollution in the interests of public health. Currently the South West is failing to meet its targets to reduce air pollution, particularly when it comes to transport.

Sir Graham wrote to DEFRA about the problem and was told by them that it was down to local councils to work with the Highways Agency to deal with the issue.

Now, the MEP joined Paul to speak to one of the residents whose life is blighted by constant traffic fumes and to see for himself the ongoing traffic gridlock.

The roundabout is in Councillor Hodgkinson’s County Council ward. He commented:

“Residents living near the Air Balloon junction are hugely concerned about the effects of pollution. Their lives have been changed as the road has got busier and busier. In addition, the endless traffic queues are getting steadily worse, not just at peak times but often throughout the day. Try sitting in a queue which backs up for 2 miles south of the roundabout on a Friday afternoon.

This blight on the local economy is costing companies and individuals money and time. It needs urgent fixing. Only a proper solution will do. Residents have been asking for a tunnel or dual carriageway linking Brimpsfield to Brockworth for years but their plea has fallen on deaf ears. If we are serious about building a stronger economy and reducing air pollution this is the way forward.”

Noisy road campaigners make their voices heard

Campaigners are stepping up their bid to reduce noise from the A419/417 dual carriageway in the Cotswolds.

Residents from Baunton and Bagendon with Paul Hodgkinson (centre).

Residents from Baunton and Bagendon with Paul Hodgkinson (centre).

The A419 Noise Action Group (A419NAG) was formed last year in an attempt to get the Highways Agency to replace noisy concrete parts of the road with a quieter surface.

They say the noise along parts of the road has impacted on people’s lives and is getting worse.

Now, group chair Cllr Paul Hodgkinson  has written to Gloucestershire County Council, Cotswold District Council and Wiltshire County Council, asking them to contact DEFRA to try to get the whole length of the A417 and A419 designated as an “Important Area” for noise level purposes:

“This would mean that the Highways Agency would then take action to reduce noise levels on the whole length, not just in very small pockets. Villages like Cerney Wick, Driffield, Down Ampney and Baunton all suffer from noise pollution.”

Paul said in the letter: “I would be most grateful if you could write to Defra requesting that they designate the whole length of this road so that hopefully remedial measures can be undertaken to reduce the noise affecting residents and businesses living and working nearby.

“They have suffered for far too long.”

Three hundred people have responded to the action group’s request for information about their experiences of the road noise. The online survey can be found at http://a419nag.co.uk/take-our-survey/

Bagendon resident Brian Forde is a member of the campaign group. He and his wife Jenny have called for action to be taken to ‘right a wrong’. He said: “All we are campaigning for is something much nearer to the sound levels predicted at the time of the road being built.”

 

Bid to give primary schools a cash lifeline

A call is being made to throw Cotswolds primary schools a cash lifeline.

Matt Fulford (left), Chedworth School Chair of Governors, with Paul Hodgkinson.

Matt Fulford (left), Chedworth School Chair of Governors, with Paul Hodgkinson.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Cotswold District Council) has publicly asked for primary schools to be included in the 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.

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson believes the time is right for the Council to be flexible:

“I asked the Leader of the Council to be bold and generous. His administration currently doesn’t collect waste from primary schools in the district. However, small rural schools like Chedworth, Temple Guiting 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 Chedworth 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 Leader should throw a lifeline to our small schools by including them in waste collections. This would save schools much needed cash.”

At this week’s CDC Council Meeting Cllr Hodgkinson received no commitment from the Council Leader to his suggestion but remains undaunted:

“I will continue to push this very reasonable proposal until the Council sees sense.” 

 

 

No Crash – one year on

Residents and councillors who formed an action group to campaign for lower traffic speed are celebrating their first anniversary by issuing a report on progress.

The action group, the North Cotswolds Rural area Against Speeding Harm (No Crash), was set up to combat the excessive speeds of some motorists on the A436 and surrounding villages. The road is one of the busiest in Gloucestershire and runs between the Air Balloon and Bourton on the Water.

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with residents and councillors from along the A436

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with residents and councillors from along the A436

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) is chairman of the group, “Last August we launched this campaign in the face of ongoing concerns from Cotswolds residents over road safety in rural areas. Since then we’ve met with the authorities regularly and have lobbied them to take action. Gloucestershire Highways have been very helpful although there is still a desire for lower speed limits along part of the road. The police have committed to speed checks following their survey last November which recorded a staggering 92,000 vehicles speeding in just one week.”

Information was collected by the police from ‘speed data recorders’ in October and November 2012 along the road and showed the number and speed of vehicles. The highest speed recorded was 136mph at the old restaurant near Andoversford. In total, just over a quarter of a million vehicles were recorded, of which 92,000 had broken the speed limit.

Peter Hellyar, who lives on the busy road near Shipton is group secretary: “Speeding is now referred to by some as anti-social. Those of us who live along the A436 are literally in the firing line of traffic. The initial response from the police was reassuring. The tests they carried out backed up our view that there is a real speeding problem. However, we do feel frustrated and what we now need is a very visible and high profile speed check campaign by the police which will remind drivers of the speed limit.”

Hugh Piggott works at the Star College and lives near to the Air Balloon roundabout: “I’ve received a renewed request from members of our golf club to push for a 40mph limit on this stretch of the A436. That is what I want to see in place.”

The group has listed the road safety improvements achieved to date:

  • Hamlet signs have been put up to flag to drivers that they’re approaching some houses
  • Andoversford – ’20 is plenty’ temporary signs have been put up in the area around the school to alert drivers to the hazards there and to protect children. Highways have now confirmed that a ‘school safety zone’ will be out in place in the next 6 months (this would include yellow flashing lights at key school times and roadmarkings near to the school)
  • Lorry companies have been contacted by the group to alert them to some of their drivers exceeding the 40mph limit on the A436.
  • Shipton has launched a Community Speed Watch group in the village to check vehicles speeds.

Cllr Hodgkinson thanked Highways and police for the actions they’ve taken so far but added a word of caution, “We can see some real progress over the last year as a result of our campaign but more needs to be done. This is clearly a long term campaign!”

Now, the group is calling a public meeting for October to allow residents to see the progress made and let the authorities know what they would like to be tackled. Full details will be released next month.

See the press coverage here: http://www.cotswoldjournal.co.uk/news/10639291.Work_to_be_done_say_campaigners/

Call for urgent action on notorious traffic blackspot

The saga of traffic gridlock at the notorious Air Balloon roundabout in the Cotswolds took another turn this week.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is calling for urgent action at the Air Balloon roundabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson says enough is enough at the Air Balloon roundabout (photo courtesy of Wilts & Glos Standard)

Gloucestershire County Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee has written to the Highways Agency asking for progress to be made on the A417 ‘Missing Link’ and finding a solution to the traffic and pollution problems.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) is a member of that committee and helped to create the letter with other councillors on the committee.

He led the campaign earlier this year against a proposal to stop drivers turning right at the roundabout and now wants a long term solution:

“After the debacle of the ‘no right turn’ suggestion earlier this year, we are left with ever-increasing traffic jams at the Air Balloon, air pollution issues and a blot on the local economy.

“What this letter is doing is asking the Highways Agency to come up with a proper solution and to engage with councillors and residents. We have waited too long and patience has run out.

“One of the residents at the Air Balloon has moved out, having sold their property for a song. They had had enough of bad health caused by the pollution. The Highways Agency has a duty to act quickly for the sake of the other resident who is left there.”

The County’s Environment Committee is hoping for a positive response to the latest initiative.

New safety zone on the way for village

Gloucestershire Highways is looking to make improvements to the School Safety Zone on the A436 by Andoversford Primary School.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson with Andoversford resident and mum Emma Bowen who have both been pushing for greater road safety

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson with Andoversford resident and mum Emma Bowen who have both been pushing for greater road safety

The aim of the scheme is to try to increase driver awareness, reduce vehicle speeds and create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists on Gloucester Road in the village during peak school times.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has been chairing the ‘No Crash’ campaign (North Cotswolds Rural area Against Speeding Harm)  for greater road safety along the A436 and in surrounding villages:

“We have been pushing for added road safety measures and its great to see the possibility of safer roads around the school and along this busy road which runs though the village.”

The proposed scheme will feature new signs indicating ‘Max Speed 20 when lights flash’ and a school warning triangle sign which will notify drivers of their entry to the School Safety Zone. These will be supplemented by flashing ‘wig-wag’ lights that will operate at the beginning and end of the school day.

Glos Highways is also suggesting red patches on the carriageway with SLOW markings.

Consultation on these proposals is now taking place with a view to the scheme being introduced in the next year.

Plans afoot for Fortey House

A building which has been empty for 5 years is set to be redeveloped.

Paul Hodgkinson (left) with Neil Fletcher outside Fortey House in Northleach.

Paul Hodgkinson (left) with Neil Fletcher outside Fortey House in Northleach.

Fortey House, Northleach, provided sheltered accommodation for local people but has been derelict with the large building lying unfilled.

Now, Bromford, who own the site, have announced plans to demolish the site and build 24 affordable homes. The homes – yet to be given planning permission – will comprise rented properties, part rent/part ownership and some to be sold at 80% of market value.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson heard the announcement at a meeting of Northleach Town Council last week, “We really need more affordable homes in the area and Fortey House has been a sad sight for ages. I’m pleased something is being done at last but does the building really need to be demolished?”

Bromford are holding an open day at the Cotswold Hall, Northleach, on 7 July. People are being urged to take a look and give feedback.

 

 

 

Call for cash injection into roads

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is calling for a big investment in Gloucestershire’s roads to sort out the potholes which have plagued the area.

PaulPothole

The move is made in a notice of motion and a question being put to the full meeting of the County Council on June 19.

Gloucestershire’s roads have featured in lists of the worst highways in the country and have led to the County Council paying out money in compensation to drivers. Numerous potholes have developed due to the cold and wet winter and spring.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Paul Hodgkinson is concerned that much more needs to be done to bring the roads back to a safer standard: “Potholes can been very damaging and something needs to be done as soon as possible. They are really bad news for drivers and have become a huge problem in Gloucestershire, with some repairs to vehicles costing as much as £1,000 due to pothole damage.”

“The Council has reserves which it should use immediately to give Highways the boost in resource to fix our roads. We are looking to make these repairs ones that last. Too many of the repairs we see just ‘wash out’ after a few months – that can’t be good value for money! The whole process by which roads are mended needs looking at radically.” 

“This is an issue which goes across both rural and urban areas. Some roads in the Cotswolds have been riddled with craters and holes and, despite a lot of work being undertaken recently, we need a proper injection of cash to really bring our roads up to standard. It is the matter which people raised consistently on the doorstep during the recent local elections and it is our duty to act decisively to repair our roads properly.”

Notice of Motion

“This council notes that the number one issue on the doorstep in the recent County Council elections was the number of ‘potholes’ and other road damage found on Gloucestershire roads. That in order to address this number one issue and show the Council is listening, Cabinet immediately releases £4 million from Council reserves to be spent over the next two years on road repairs.”

Question from Cllr Paul Hodgkinson to Cllr Vernon Smith:

‘We all know the depth of feeling amongst residents over the state of our roads. The present system of marking up potholes to be fixed and then filling them with tarmac on a separate occasion does not inspire confidence, especially as many then have to be filled again after a short period. What changes are you going to make to the current flawed system to really address this problem?’

Consultation starts for safer road crossing in Bourton

After an 1100 name petition and support from Bourton’s parish council and new County Councillor, a controlled pedestrian crossing in Bourton is set to be in place this year.

Ginie Moss and Paul Hodgkinson at the Station Road location.

Ginie Moss and Paul Hodgkinson at Station Road.

The crossing – in Station Road, Bourton-on-the-Water – was the brainchild of local teacher and resident Ginie Moss. She campaigned along with Cllr Paul Hodgkinson to call for a safer way for pedestrians to cross the busy road. They went to Shire Hall last May to present a petition to the County Council.

Now, Gloucestershire County Council is writing to consult residents on the proposed provision of the controlled crossing.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton and Northleach) said, “The proposal is to provide a puffin crossing on Station Road between Bridge House and 160 Roman Way. The proposal is supported by The Cotswold School and Parish Council. The crossing is intended to help people cross Station Road. This location is busy with pedestrians, particularly at the end of the school day.”

“It’s important that people feedback on this proposal so that it can be located in the best place to promote road safety.”

The crossing location is close to The Avenue footpath that links Station Road to High Street. This is a busy path along which are The Cotswold School, Leisure Centre and Bourton-on-the-Water Primary School.

Residents have been asked to comment on the proposals by Monday 17th June 2013.

No Crash group making “good progress” in bid to reduce speeds on A436

A stop speeding campaign to cut the number of deaths and collisions on a notorious road near Cheltenham is making good progress, say leaders.

Paul Hodgkinson with residents and councillors who formed 'No Crash' last year.

Paul Hodgkinson with residents and councillors who formed ‘No Crash’ last year.

Members of action group North Cotswolds Rural area Against Speeding Harm (No Crash) say they have made some initial breakthroughs in calls for improved signage along the A436 and surrounding villages.

The group was formed last year after residents voiced concerns over speeding on the route between the Air Balloon roundabout and Bourton-on-the-Water. Alarming figures released in December showed that 37 per cent of motorists broke the speed limit along the stretch with some travelling at up to 130mph.

Councillor Paul Hodgkinson, (Churn Valley), who is chairman of No Crash, said following meetings with police and Gloucestershire Highways, several improvements were planned.

They include:

·         A school safety zone in Andoversford to make it safer for children crossing including flashing signs to alert drivers.

·         Clearer warnings of upcoming junctions for motorists travelling along the A436.

·        Two new signs for the Hampen village hamlet to alert drivers that people live along the road.

·         A survey in Andoversford to look at the flow and direction of traffic through the village with a view to establishing whether traffic for the A40 should be diverted away from the village.

·         Gateway features for Shipton village to reduce speed at the entrance and exits.

Mr Hodgkinson said the moves were a good start to tackling issues on the road, which has been the site of numerous collisions over the years. Only last month there was a nine-car pile-up with two vehicles flipping onto their roofs.

He said: “Given that we only set up the group last summer we feel we are making good progress, but there is still a lot to do.

“We are still concerned about speed along the eastern parts of the A436 – in particular on the way to Bourton.

“Police have confirmed they have carried our regular speed checks along parts of the road, focusing on the old restaurant site near Andoversford.

“Quarry lorries have been seen regularly going over the lorry speed limit by our group members so police and Gloucestershire Highways are now also aware.

“Overall it’s good news so far. Progress is being made and tangible steps are being taken to improve safety.”

The No Crash group’s next meeting will be in April.