Call for transparency over A417 consultation

Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire are calling for clarity on how local communities will be involved in the development of vital plans to solve the A417 ‘Missing Link’.

The Air Balloon roundabout has huge amounts of traffic and is a notorious blackspot for accidents and pollution

A comprehensive consultation area, involvement of hard to reach groups and briefings for local councils are among the demands being made by councillors Paul Hodgkinson, Steve Jordan and Max Wilkinson.

Gloucestershire County Council has briefed that the consultation for Highways England’s project will take place in the first two months of this year.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • a consultation zone to reflect the national significance of the project – including all of Cheltenham and all nearby  villages in the Cotswolds and Tewkesbury districts
  • a comprehensive programme of consultation events so local people can have their say
  • a thorough strategy for ensuring hard to reach groups can take part, including marginalised communities and time-poor working people
  • briefings for all impacted local councils, including Cheltenham Borough Council and Cotswold District Council
  • involvement for parish councils, including offers of community benefits

So far, the county council has closely guarded the details of the A417 proposals and the accompanying consultation has been delayed.

It is thought people will find out more within the next two months, including potential routes.

However, aside from the county council cabinet members, local councils have so far been kept in the dark.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council Lib Democrats, represents part of the A417 and says there needs to be as wide a consultation as possible: “We’ve waited so long for this road to be built so it’s important that everyone knows what is going on and has a chance to comment on the proposals.”

Cllr Steve Jordan, Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, added: “As a Council we have supported plans to resolve the ‘Missing Link’ from the start. It is important that there is an open and comprehensive consultation to make sure the details are right.”

Max Wilkinson, Cheltenham Liberal Democrats parliamentary candidate, said: “This is a vital project for the future of Cheltenham and the wider county, so we’re calling for Highways England and the county council to ensure local people are fully involved.”

“That means a proper schedule of events and publicity to inform everyone about the proposals – including the time-poor working people who use the road to commute to work.”

 

Is new pilot another step towards the closure of Cheltenham’s A & E?

Liberal Democrats have once again raised concerns over the future of Cheltenham hospital as a new NHS pilot will see patients moved to Gloucester.

A letter circulated by Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust gives details of service changes over the coming months as part of a winter plan. From October 2017 to March 2018, all orthopaedic acute and trauma patients requiring admission or surgical intervention will be moved from Cheltenham General Hospital to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Health and Communities, Cllr Iain Dobie (Leckhampton and Warden Hill) said:

“We’ve already seen Cheltenham’s A & E reduced at night between 8pm and 8am from a full doctor-led service to a restricted nurse-led operation in 2013. Martin Horwood MP and Liberal Democrat councillors opposed this permanent downgrading  at the time. In this latest move, the day time service is now being cut back at Cheltenham A&E.

“People turning up in pain with a broken leg or arm which needs an immediate operation, or someone with a broken hip which demands time in a hospital bed, will now be sent over to Gloucester.

“We are calling for the restoration of a full 24/7 A&E service at Cheltenham General and a properly funded NHS.”

Elected members in other parts of the county are also worried about the impact these changes will have on residents in their own districts, for example, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said:

“This news is troubling. People in the Cotswolds rely on Cheltenham as their nearest hospital so this will mean extra travel for them and their relatives. But what does this really mean for the future of Cheltenham hospital? Slowly but surely services are being whittled away and moved elsewhere. The future of this hospital is at stake – many people value it a lot and it must stay!”

“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.”

Call for hospital’s future to be secured

A call has been made to safeguard the future of Cirencester Hospital.

PaulHospital

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson – Prospective MP for the Cotswolds – made the call following a statement issued by the Clinical Commissioning Group in Gloucestershire which launched a review into whether the hospital could be used more.

Mary Hutton, Accountable Officer at the county’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“A Cirencester Hospital project group, with representatives from the Clinical Commissioning Group, Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust and the South Cotswolds GP Executive Group, has been set up.

“The review aims to fully understand the health needs of people living in the South Cotswolds and how more patients could, where appropriate, be treated at Cirencester Hospital rather than at the main hospitals in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Swindon. The review will take some months to complete.

Cllr Hodgkinson is looking for a positive outcome to the review: “Following on from the disappointment over the reduction in A&E services in Cheltenham, people will be wary of the word ‘review’. However, if this latest move leads to people in the Cotswolds being able to make more use of Cirencester Hospital this has to be a good thing.

“Cirencester Hospital is a gem – it provides a really good service for minor injuries and illnesses. Given the journey times to Cheltenham or Gloucester for residents, an expanded service in Cirencester would make sense.

“I want the Hospital to have a secure future as people value it. It could also take some pressure off Cheltenham.”

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’.

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.”

Call for NHS to come clean over future of Cheltenham hospital

A document has been made public which casts serious doubt on the local NHS hospitals trust’s reassuring words about the future of Cheltenham Hospital A&E.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

The document – drawn up by surgeons within Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals – was aimed at developing a long-term plan for all the different surgical specialties.  It contains a suggestion that emergency surgery should be taken from Cheltenham and centralised in Gloucester.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for the Cotswolds, has campaigned to reverse the change to Cheltenham’s A&E and is very concerned about the impact of this latest proposal on Cotswolds residents: 

“Some of the proposals are uncontroversial – no-one minds travelling a few miles for planned surgery if that means they get the best treatment.  But there are some services which you need to reach in a hurry and where, in an emergency, every second could counts. So the fact that emergency surgery was included in the list of specialties that might be centralised is worrying. Many people in the Cotswolds rely on Cheltenham as their nearest hospital.

“Major trauma emergency cases –  road accidents for instance – already go to Gloucestershire Royal and the hospital’s trust decided in July that overnight blue light ambulance admissions would also go to Gloucester and not to Cheltenham.  The trust said this was because recruitment problems had made it impossible to fully staff two A&Es 24 hours a day.  But the fear was that all ambulance admissions would soon follow and that Cotswolds patients who go to Cheltenham would be faced with a hospital with little more than a minor injuries unit.  Clinical research shows that, in an emergency like a severe asthma attack, the extra 8 miles would probably make a critical difference in a significant number of cases.

Liberal Democrat councillors on the local Health & Wellbeing Board called for a rethink in the plans earlier this year but were outvoted by Conservative councillors.  Cotswold Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he would prefer one A&E department and hoped Gloucester’s would be enhanced.

At the time the trust said there were no plans to close Cheltenham’s A&E but the surgeons’ document raises the prospect of emergency surgery being centralised in Gloucester, in which case Cheltenham A&E would have to close.

“We really need to know what the trust management are up to,” said Paul.  “What is the plan?  Are they taking this document seriously and contemplating the closure of Cheltenham’s A&E, even though they told us the opposite?  Are they committed to restoring two full A&E departments if they can? Or are they going to revive the old plan for one new hospital half way between Cheltenham and Gloucester?

“We need a well-informed but open debate, including Cotswolds residents, as soon as possible.”

Dismay at A&E closure

A decision to close Cheltenham’s A&E unit to emergency cases overnight has led to dismay in the Cotswolds.

At a meeting held last week at the NHS Foundation Trust in Brockworth, the clinical commissioning group governing body voted to restrict the hospital’s A&E admissions between the hours of 8pm and 8am. From August, patients with a critical illness who need treatment from emergency medicine doctors will need to go to Gloucester Royal Hospital.

The proposals were consulted on between February and May this year. However, few people locally have been aware of this.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, CDC Lib Dem Leader spoke after the decision was made, “I’m dismayed by the decision. How many Cotswolds residents were aware of this proposal? I was only made aware recently and it will impact in a big way on the Cotswolds – particularly to the north, east and south east of Cheltenham. “

“The proposal may lead to higher mortality rates – a study undertaken previously stated that mortality rates rise by 1% for every extra 10kms travelled.”

“There may be increased waiting  times at Gloucester Hospital.”

“For a large chunk of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham hospital is the nearest and most direct place to go to for emergency treatment. This decision was made by unelected people in the face of opposition from the Cheltenham MP and thousands of residents.”

“24/7 A&E facilities are vital for the areas surrounding Cheltenham.”