Task group set up to save lives on A429

At last week’s County Council Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee unanimous cross-party support was given to the setting up of a task group to investigate safety and congestion on the A429.

Paul A429

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the Water and Northleach) requested a ‘call for action’ back in the Summer and now the Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee will look at road safety issues along the A429.

Cllr. Hodgkinson said that “The Cotswolds continues to have the worst accident record in Gloucestershire, every life lost on our roads can be avoided and we should act to prevent further injury and loss of life on this stretch of road. I’m therefore delighted that the Environment & Community Scrutiny Committee has today supported for my calls to set up a working group.

“Once formed, this group can work together to come up with recommendations that deal with safety and also to work out how to ease the increasing gridlock which Stow, Moreton and Bourton all face regularly.

“As I’ve said before this road wasn’t built for a massive increase in traffic – the whole thing needs looking at and hopefully through this task group solutions can be found.”

Air Balloon solution stalling

Last year the Department of Transport approved funding to Highways England for fixing the A417 ‘Missing Link’, as part of a £15 billion countrywide road improvement scheme, but it has now been confirmed that a solution will not be delivered before 2021.

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Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bouton-On-the-Water and Northleach) raised the issue this week with a Senior County Council Officer and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in his capacity as Chairman of the Gloucestershire Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said: “Many of us have spent years lobbying for a solution to the triple problems at the A417 – air pollution, gridlock and accidents. The outgoing Coalition Government committed to a sum of £250 million to be allocated to solving the Missing Link last December.

“Now, the new Government appears to be moving the goalposts. Not only do we now have no absolute commitment to spending money on a solution but the date for actual works is moving back beyond 2021.

A report from the LEP presented to the county’s council leaders this week stated that ‘..Highways England say any delivery of A417 solution is not in current funding programme to 2021’.

Cllr Hodgkinson, who represents part of the area covered by the A417 added: “Fixing the A417 does not feature on Highways England’s current funding programme up to 2021 and I’ve also seen no guarantees that it’ll feature on any programme after 2021 either.

“This isn’t on. We want a clear and definite commitment and total clarity about when works will start.”

Cllr Nigel Robbins (LD: Cirencester Beeches) who represents another part of the A417 said: “How many more fatalities are going to happen on this stretch of road before something is finally delivered? Fixing the A417 is vital in cutting accidents and reducing congestion and pollution levels.

“More than 6,600 people pledged their support in January 2014 when it seemed we had finally turned a corner in delivering a solution.

 “Residents of Gloucestershire deserve certainty and the timetable for delivering a solution to fixing the A417 missing link is slipping. I’m calling for more to be done to get it back on track.”

“We’ll continue to campaign to get the missing link fixed.”

“Get the road signs cleared!”

A call has been made to sort out our area’s road signs.

C8G2TM Road sign obscured by shrubs, UK

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has asked why road signs are unreadable and overgrown and has called for them to be cleared across the Cotswolds.

He met with Gloucestershire Highways and the Amey road contractors this week:

“We drove up and down one of the roads in my county council division (the A435 between Cirencester and Cheltenham) and I pointed out the signs which were either totally invisible or partly obscured.

“I’ve had a commitment that there will be major cut backs of vegetation in the next 7 weeks.

“I’ve noticed many signs across Gloucestershire are unreadable or only visible when you are on top of them – which can be too late if you are looking for something.

“The A429 on the approach to Northleach from Bourton is particularly bad – big signs are almost totally covered by overhanging branches. Clearing them is a no brainer to me as money’s been spent on the signs in the first place and it helps people who don’t know the area to navigate safely. At this time of year there are a lot of tourists driving round our area.

Cllr Hodgkinson feels it’s also about a clear and professional approach:

“There’s also something here about civic pride in having a clean and having a well maintained road network.”

Review of A429 called for

Following last week’s two deaths along the A429 in the Cotswolds, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) is calling for the County Council to urgently set up a task group to get to grips with issues along the road.

accident

He has called today for the Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee to look at the issue at its September meeting:

“The issue for us locally is that the Cotswolds continues to have the worst accident record in Gloucestershire. There were still 10 deaths in the district last year – that is 10 too many with the impact that has on families and friends of those who lost their lives. Now we have ben blighted by a further 2 on the Fosse Way. I get repeated concerns from residents about the state of the road and its dangers. It’s now time to act.

“Working with other councillors in the Cotswolds I am calling for the Council to set up a working group to come up with some recommendations to deal with safety and also to work out how to ease the increasing gridlock which Stow, Moreton and Bourton all now face regularly.

“This road wasn’t built for a massive increase in traffic – the whole thing needs looking at.”

Cllr Hodgkinson has submitted a ‘councillor call for action’ which requires the Council to now consider what action it should take.

You can hear Paul’s interview with Radio Gloucestershire about this issue here:

https://audioboom.com/boos/3480054-paul-hodgkinson-calls-for-action-over-the-a429

Businesses asked for views on noisy road

An action group from along the A419/A417 is asking local businesses for their views on the noisy road.

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The issue of noise from the dual carriageway 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 so far. The action group, calling themselves A419NAG, was formed in 2012 and is made up of local residents and councillors who live in the Cotswolds and North Wiltshire. It surveyed 500 residents last year and the findings showed that the road is having a real impact on people’s lives and health.

The research findings were published in a report called ’The Social Consequences of Road Noise’ and found that from 500 respondents 97% said they could hear the noise from the concrete section of the dual carriageway. 88% said it was disruptive to their everyday lives.  Many reported loss of sleep and headaches, others stress and anxiety.

Now, the group is taking its campaign one step further by seeking feedback from businesses near to the busy highway.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) is chairing the group and says the aim of the new survey is to find out whether the road noise is impacting on the local economy:

“Last year’s report made uncomfortable reading for the authorities. Highways England have taken it seriously and met with us but have said that it is the economic impact which could help push the Government to act.

“So now we want to find out how the road noise affects businesses located close to the concrete section of the A417/A419. We’ve set up a pilot online survey and have approached some firms along the stretch of the road to see if the noise is also an issue for them, their staff and customers.

“Once we’ve got the results of the pilot we will roll out the survey out to a wider area along the dual carriageway and will publish the findings in a report later this year.

“Our aim as always is to show that there is an issue here with this road which needs addressing. It must be solved before the improvements to the Air Balloon roundabout come on stream as those much-needed changes will inevitably lead to more traffic along the whole stretch of the road further south.”

 

The survey can be accessed at: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/A419NAGBusinessSurvey/.  It will be available to complete online until July 31st 2015.

Pull your socks up, roads contractor told

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson received cross-party support yesterday for a call to monitor more closely Gloucestershire’s highways contract with Amey. He also received backing to continue imposing financial penalties if performance targets are not consistently achieved in the upcoming 2015/2016 financial year.

The long awaited debate coinciding with World Pothole Day regarding the condition of Gloucestershire roads was finally discussed with contributions made from elected members across all political parties.

PaulPothole

Shadow Cabinet Member for Highways and Flood, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the-water and Northleach) who led the call said that:

“This debate has been a long time coming, but I’m pleased that elected representatives have finally had a chance to voice in public their concerns and frustrations regarding the county’s highways contract with Amey.

“The very fact that my request for closer monitoring of the contract and for financial penalties to be imposed if they don’t keep up with high performance has received such support from all sides of the chamber tells me that there are still many problems that need addressing.

“I’m particularly pleased that the Cabinet Member for Highways has finally taken off his ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ to see that something needs to be done. It is time that Amey pulled up their socks and get on with the job that Gloucestershire’s residents, businesses and visitors all deserve.

 

Road noise levels double – shock findings

An action group from along the A419/A417 have published startling new figures which show a dramatic increase in noise levels.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

The issue of noise from the dual carriageway has been rumbling on for residents since it was first built in 1998. Various attempts to reduce the sound have been made over the years without success so far. An action group, calling themselves A419NAG, was formed in 2012 and has been lobbying on behalf of residents all along the infamous road.

Now, the group is taking its campaign one step further by publishing noise readings taken at two locations along the highway.

Measurements were taken at Latton in Wiltshire and Cerney Wick in the Cotswold district. They show that the noise has doubled since the road was built 17 years ago.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) is chairing the group and believes the new figures give firm evidence that action should be taken at last:

“Our readings show that noise levels have doubled since the road was built in the late 1990’s. For residents living anywhere near the dual carriageway it’s not a surprise but it’s still shocking nonetheless. This pollution is more than an irritant – excess noise has been proven to impact on your health and well-being.”

“Now, as we are making public these figures for the first time they make uncomfortable reading for the authorities.”

Ray Brassington, a member of the group, took the readings using equipment supplied by Cotswold District Council. He was retracing his steps as he did the same thing in 1998 when the road was first built: “I was employed by CDC in 1998 as an Environmental Health Officer and undertook an extensive noise survey along the length of the A419/417 and one of the monitoring locations was in Cerney Wick. The readings then were taken at the exact same location as now and over a same 15 minute period.

“What I’ve found is that the noise level has doubled in that time.”

The World Health Organisation states that to protect the majority of people from being seriously annoyed during the daytime and evening the outdoor noise level should not exceed 55dB. At night time sound levels 1m from the facade of house should not exceed 45 dB so that people can sleep with windows open. The WHO has also stated that prolonged exposure to noise above 55dB can trigger raised blood pressure and even heart attacks.

Ray added: “The noise levels at this location have increased by 9 dB over the 16 years the road has been in operation and are now almost twice as loud. I also took readings at Latton in Wiltshire and these were also almost twice as loud as stipulated by the World Health Organisation.

Now the group is contacting DEFRA to arrange a meeting in order to present its findings.

Cllr Hodgkinson is certain this new information will help residents: “This is about righting a wrong – since the completion of the dual carriageway, people living along this section of the road have told us they suffer excessive noise pollution. Now we know for sure that this is a real problem backed up by data. We now call on the authorities to take the action they should have taken years ago.”

“We will let the findings speak for themselves and drown out the sound of the traffic.”

Air Balloon – cash at last!

 

Today it’s been announced that £250 million funding has been given by the Coalition Government to solve the issues at the Air Balloon A417.

Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with local councillors Iain Dobie and Nigel Robbins.

Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with local councillors Iain Dobie and Nigel Robbins.

In a raft of funding for major road projects across the UK, money has been allocated to develop a solution to the notorious traffic blackspot which has seen six people lose their lives in the last year.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, who represents the Air Balloon area on the County and District Council, says it is great news after the years of waiting:

“After so much campaigning, so many accidents and the blight of pollution, today’s announcement is music to my ears and to the many people who’ve been wanting this. All the hard work has paid off. 

“I put motions to both the County Council and District Council calling for action from Government and both of these were unanimously approved – these strong messages clearly helped influence ministers to act at last.

“Now it’s important to make sure that this area’s problems get fixed as quickly as possible and that this is combined with measures to reduce noise from the road for communities along the dual carriageway to the north and south of Cirencester.”

 

A united front will keep the pressure on to fix the Missing Link

Local county councillors have joined forces to ask more people to show their support for the A417 Loop solution.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

In May next year central government will make its decision on funding for the A417 Loop, Gloucestershire County Council’s solution for the ‘missing link’. Local county councillors, Paul Hodgkinson, Robert Vines and Nigel Robbins are backing the campaign and reminding anyone who travels this route that there is still time to pledge their support.

Earlier this year the ‘missing link’ was added to a Highways Agency list of roads in the south west that need major improvements because of capacity, safety and environmental issues.

The road’s appearance on the list means it is one step closer to finding funding when the Government allocates cash, but more pledges are still needed to make it known how much local support there is for the scheme.

So far, more than 5780 people and businesses have signed up at www.a417missinglink.co.uk.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, local county councillor for Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach said, “I urge you to join the Gloucestershire residents and businesses who’ve already signed up to finally fix this controversial road. If we join together, we can make the difference.”

Cllr Nigel Robbins, local county councillor for Cirencester Beeches said, “With more than 34,000 vehicles a day, it’s a bottleneck which holds up commuters and business on a daily basis; let’s get it fixed once and for all. Please pledge your support today.”

Local business owners and commuters are encouraged to show their support for the A417 Loop by signing up and pledging their backing at www.a417missinglink.co.uk.

 

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