When are we getting faster broadband?

Questions are being asked this week over when rural parts of the Cotswolds will be hooked up to faster broadband.

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Gloucestershire County Council has pledged to connect all parts of the county to higher internet speeds by 2015, but many people have still to hear when their area will get the new service.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson is concerned that there has been a lack of information for residents, “As I’ve had no full answer back regarding the criteria for the broadband roll out, I’m asking a question in public about it at this week’s County Council meeting. Although some towns have been given a date, many villages haven’t.”

“It’s certainly a hot topic in the Cotswolds at the moment – the lack of fast broadband and the uncertainty over when rural areas in particular will access it. This is also a key issue for some urban areas across Gloucestershire too. People want to know the criteria for the roll out and I have found it hard to get that so am asking a question publicly.

“Given that the economy is taking off again, this is set to be a vital service for sustaining the recovery.”

Here’s the question:

To Mark Hawthorne (GCC Council Leader) : “Rural parts of Gloucestershire suffer from slow broadband connections and often poor mobile phone coverage. Whilst the promised roll out of faster broadband is to be welcomed to build a stronger economy, people in the villages of the Cotswolds and in the forgotten urban areas are still asking when they will benefit from this. What are the specific criteria for deciding which villages and urban areas get hooked up before others?”

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 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.

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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?’

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.