Speed gates come to the Churn Valley

Road safety has been an ongoing concern for residents who live along the A435 in the Churn Valley.

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In particular the speed of traffic going through North Cerney. There have been regular speed checks by the police and community which show a small but persistent number of drivers exceeding the 40mph limit.

The centre of the village sees pedestrians including school children crossing the road to catch buses, a busy junction into the village and accessing the pub and primary school.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson discussed these issues with North Cerney Parish Council last year and – after meeting Highways on site – agreed to jointly fund a set of 4 gates at either end of the village. These gates are a feature of some other villages in the Cotswolds and the aim is to alert drivers to the fact they’re entering a village environment and a lower speed limit.

The gates have been jointly funded by Paul with the small pot of money he gets each year to fund highways projects, North Cerney Parish Council and Gloucestershire Highways.

The good news is that all 4 gates are now in place.

Further up the A435 heading to Cheltenham, two trial gates have been installed approaching the turning into Rendcomb. The aim of these is once again to slow traffic after numerous complaints about difficulties in exiting the junction there safely. These gates have also been jointly funded with Rendcomb Parish Council.

Council pays out thousands of pounds for pothole damage

Nearly £18,000 of taxpayers’ money has been paid out to drivers for pothole damage in Gloucestershire.

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The figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire County Council show that £17,774 has been paid in compensation to motorists for pothole-related damage over the last three years.

Now, the county’s Liberal Democrats have expressed bitter disappointment with the Conservative controlled Council for not properly investing in the area’s roads. 

Liberal Democrat Shadow for Highways, Cllr. Chris Coleman (St Mark’s and St Peter’s) said:

“A total of 1,713 unsurprisingly annoyed drivers made claims for compensation between November 2013 and November 2016. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone, whether they are motorists, councils or taxpayers.

“People already have to fork out so much to drive a car, the least they should expect is that their vehicle doesn’t get ruined by a bumpy road.

“Thousands of pounds are now being spent on pay-outs that could have been invested instead in fixing our roads.

“Roads should be fixed quickly so this compensation does not have to be paid out in the first place.

“It is about time the Conservatives sorted out our county roads for good.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Gloucestershire County Council, Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) added:

“The volume of claims is large for A roads. I’m not at all surprised given the correspondence I get regularly from constituents who have damaged their cars driving through potholes.

“The spike in claims in Spring 2016 reflects the massive backlog in repairs which GCC’s roads contractor Amey was experiencing. It also came at the end of a very wet winter when so many potholes appeared.

“It highlights a failure by the Conservatives who have been responsible for roads in the county for the last 12 years. They need to invest more in road maintenance and improve the quality of repairs. It is the number one thing people raise with me and it has to improve.”

Nationally a total of £12 million has been paid out over the last four years on pothole compensation, with an average payment per person of £650.

500 back call to re-open road

Recently Cllr Paul Hodgkinson launched a petition to re-open a road connecting Northleach and Compton Abdale.

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The road is referred to as ‘the Old A40’ locally as it was the original main road linking Cheltenham to Northleach before the Northleach by pass (A40) was built.

This Wednesday 7 December Paul formally presented the petition at the County Council meeting in Shire Hall.

The petition has attracted just under 500 names – a large number for a local issue.

Cllr Hodgkinson told the council meeting:

“The old A40 runs between the A40 at Puesdown and the Old Prison at Northleach and has been well used by local people as an alternative route to Northleach and to villages such as Yanworth and Compton Abdale. It was closed in 2015 as a result of a wall collapsing and the ground subsiding.

“Whilst we all understand that it takes time to investigate and remedy a situation, I believe that enough is enough and that County Council highways bosses must now act and provide a timetable for the road to be re-opened. It’s now 15 months since the road has been closed and the long-promised geotechnical survey of the road won’t even happen until early next year.

“That survey is key to finding out what’s wrong with the road and for Highways then to decide what action to take.

“I’m pleased so many people have supported my campaign to re-open the road. It’s been shut for far too long and we need to see something happening. People pay their council tax and expect roads to be usable.

“I hope this petition will put pressure on Highways to act quickly.”

The wording of the petition is: ‘We the undersigned call on Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucestershire Highways to re-open the old A40 as quickly as possible.’

Fight to keep popular newsagent

Residents in Bourton on the Water have expressed anger at moves to oust the village’s remaining newsagent shop.

Newsagent protest

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is campaigning to save the ‘community hub’ in the iconic tourist centre, encouraging residents to file objections to an application by the shop’s landlord.

The Cotswold District Council planning website has received 100 responses from local people who oppose the proposed conversion of the store into a fast food take away.

Cllr Hodgkinson, who represents Bourton and Northleach on the County Council, said: “The thought of losing the one remaining newsagent is really bad news.

“I’m very angry about this as Bourton has expanded hugely in recent years with more houses being built at the moment.

“We have 4,000 people in the village and there’s just one newsagent left to serve the community.”

Cllr Hodgkinson doesn’t feel Bourton needs another food outlet as there are already 35 in the village.

He added that neighbours meet each other on their daily visits to the newsagents and also buy a range of other goods:

“It has become a social hub and one which people do use and value. Let’s hope common sense prevails and that the newsagent can stay.”

A protest outside the newsagents attracted 50 local people who watched as Cllr Paul Hodgkinson and other councillors handed a letter of objection to the landlord at his home in the centre of Bourton.

Missing Link work won’t start before 2021

Construction of the notorious ‘Missing Link’ at the Air Balloon roundabout is unlikely to start for another 5 years.

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

That’s the latest word from roads bosses who are managing the project.

In a letter to the Leader of Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Highways England have confirmed that the project is still ongoing despite changes in Government but that any hope of construction work starting soon has gone.

Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) wrote to the new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in July asking him to re-commit to the project following the Brexit vote. Mr Grayling didn’t answer himself but passed the letter to Highways England to respond.

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach), who represents the area around the Air Balloon roundabout on the A417, says he’s happy that the work is still planned but disappointed it is taking so long to happen:

“The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for our county for more than 20 years. It’s now heavily congested at all times of day. Recently we have seen weekly incidents including broken down lorries and yet more accidents.

“Whilst I’m glad that fixing this urgent problem is still on the agenda, the news that work won’t even start for another 5 years is frustrating. This road is a real drag on Gloucestershire’s economy.

“My other concern is that Highways England say in their letter that funding for all schemes is reviewed regularly. Does that mean the Government could pull the plug if it wanted to?

“I will keep the pressure up on the new Transport Minister. It’s a shame he hasn’t given his personal commitment to the scheme and has not responded to my request for him to visit and see the issues for himself.”

Highways England are currently working to identify a number of different options to solve the issues on the A417. They say that they will be engaging with local people later this year.

Are you listening, O2?

A Cotswold village has today made a bank holiday protest after weeks of non existent phone coverage.

O2

Led by County Councillor Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton & Northleach) residents and businesses today made their voices heard in Bourton on the Water.

With throngs of tourists looking on, Cllr Hodgkinson joined villagers in the iconic Cotswold location when they asked, ‘Are you listening, O2?’

Holding banners and phones a crowd of young and old – plus a worker and pony from the village’s equestrian centre – told the mobile company they were at their wits end.

For weeks, Bourton and nearby Cotswold villages have been seething at the lack of phone signal from phone operator O2. It comes on the back of intermittent coverage since the beginning of the year. Despite frequent complaints from residents nothing has changed.

Now, the local councillor and villagers have had enough.

Cllr Hodgkinson has raised the issue every day with O2 but is getting frustrated:

“The sun rises each morning and once again there’s no phone signal. So I message O2 daily asking for an update but they say the same thing – ‘we’ll get back to you when we have some news’. Well, this is totally unacceptable for all the customers paying for a service. It’s not only hitting residents but also the many local businesses who are now at the height of the tourist season.”

“Let’s not forget that O2 customers are paying the wages of O2 staff and helping them make a profit. We need action.”

Local mum Anouska Jones said she’d been with O2 ‘right from the start’ and always thought they were ‘fantastic’ until this year:

“It’s just got worse and worse. The past 3 weeks we’ve had no signal at all. I can’t keep in touch with my child’s school. I’ve been paying my bill for the last 15 years and it’s just an absolute nightmare.”

Poppy Fountain from Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre says it’s not only affecting businesses but for her is now an issue of safety:

“Our bosses at the Centre can’t get hold of us when we are out with ponies and horses and we can’t speak to them. If a horse’s shoe comes off the Centre would come out to sort the issue out, now they can’t.”

Broadcaster Sean Maffett has lived in Bourton for many years and is furious with the situation:

“O2 has utterly failed to provide anything resembling an acceptable service in this area for a considerable time. And it needs to do something about it – not in 48 hours or five days but NOW! It’s their responsibility to make sure the mast is working nearby.”

Cllr Hodgkinson has now written formally to the Ombudsman Services for Communications and says he’s expecting a quick resolution to the issue:

“There’s a compelling message from us all – we want urgent action. We are looking to O2 to get its act together and fast.”

End of ‘Coxit’ welcomed

Today it was announced that the so-called ‘COXIT’ has been abandoned due to a lack of public support and difficulties in merging two councils from different counties.

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Back in February the Leader of Cotswold District Council announced his intention to create a new ‘unitary’ council comprising the Cotswolds and West Oxfordshire. This would have meant the break up of Gloucestershire and the exit of the Cotswold district from Gloucestershire County Council’s area of responsibility.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Liberal Democrat County Council Group Leader Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said: “I’m very pleased that this mad idea for the Cotswolds to exit Gloucestershire County Council has been shelved. It had little support from residents and it has sadly wasted a lot of time and energy which should have been focused on delivering vital services.

“Now, it’s important for everyone in the county to work together to fix the things which people want – better quality roads, better ambulance response times and keeping the local economy moving.

“The Leader of CDC has compromised relationships with other councils and spent taxpayers money on consultants when no-one had voted for this idea and there was no mandate for it. His position is untenable and he should resign to make way for someone who can repair the damaged relations within Gloucestershire.”

Cllr. Iain Dobie (Lib Dem Deputy Leader) also said: “I welcome this return to common sense. As Chair of the Gloucestershire health scrutiny committee I had concerns that the break-up of Gloucestershire would have risked a poorer service to the Cotswolds from new health and social care providers. I trust that now we can get back to work on the best possible devolution deal for the whole of our county.”

Active Together comes to Northleach

A new fitness class has been launched in Northleach.

The new exercise class at the Westwood Centre in Northleach

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, County Councillor for Bourton and Northleach, provided cash for the ‘Fit for Life’ fitness class at the Westwood Centre through the Council’s Active Together fund to help set up the class in partnership with Northleach Town Council.

Cllr Hodgkinson said: “I have a pot of money as a county councillor called ‘Active Together’ – a £40,000 pot which I have spent on grants to organisations which promote activities leading to healthy lifestyles. So far, I’ve spent money on things like outdoor gym equipment in Chedworth, keeping the swimming pool open in Northleach and a ‘trim trail’ in Bourton.

“Now I’ve given a grant of £1,000 to this new exercise class in Northleach.”

The weekly hour-long class, given by a fitness teacher, is at 3pm every Tuesday  and is aimed at those who are less active and need help with balance to help with falls, for example, as well as people with medical conditions who need gentle exercise to build up strength and co-ordination.

The class can be taken either sitting or standing and costs £5 per session.

Following the launch, which included Cllr Hodgkinson joining 15 residents for various physical activities, he said: “They all felt they had been worked hard and they really enjoyed it. The class is clearly not just about raising fitness levels but can also be a good way of socialising too.”

Timetable bid for Air Balloon solution

We’re all painfully aware of the still-present gridlock and accidents at the Air Balloon A417 and many people were pleased when the last Government announced money for a solution at last.

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Now, 19 months after that announcement and nothing further has happened. So, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has been pressing for a definitive timetable for work to begin on the so called “Missing Link” project.

As a result of his questions, the Government and Highways England have said that construction work will begin at some point in the next roads funding period – that’s 2020-2026.

Cllr Hodgkinson believes the work should start sooner:

“This is all too far in the future but at least it appears to be in the schedule.

“However, we all need to have much more information on each stage of the project and how we will all be involved in it. I’ve asked for plans to be laid out so that frustrated commuters and residents have a timetable for when each stage will happen – consultations with us all, the announcement of the specific route to be followed, a construction start date and a final finish date.

“I’ve been promised this timetable soon and will of course share it as soon as I get it!”

 

 

Massive black hole in Tory pothole funding for Gloucestershire

The county’s Liberal Democrats have blasted local Conservatives for letting down Gloucestershire as figures unveiled in Parliament now show that cash to fix our roads has been slashed.

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Parliamentary analysis shows that in Gloucestershire pothole maintenance funding has been cut by £478,000.

This cut comes after the Chancellor promised an extra ‘Pothole Fund’ recently. Even with this cash, it doesn’t plug the gap and the county will lose out.

Nationally, the shortfall in cash is £25 million.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said: “In our area local people tell me day after day that we need to fix our roads. If the Conservatives won’t deliver it, we will.

“Fixing our roads and delivering for Gloucestershire is a key priority. But here we see that this money for fixing our highways has actually been cut by half a million pounds.

He added: “The Government have trumpeted the pothole funding but now our analysis shows a massive black hole.

“There were a lot of press releases on how wonderful this pothole fund was but in reality we now see that it delivers much, much less.

“We are facing ‘Pot Hole Gloucestershire’. Our drivers and cyclists deserve so much better.

“Millions of drivers pay tax through the nose for awful roads that are a danger to drivers and to those riding bikes.

“It is, frankly, a national and local embarrassment.”