New proposal to get Old A40 reopened

After 3 years left of being closed due to a land slippage, the Old A40 near Northleach has been given the chance for a brand new lease of life. A proposal by Highways would see traffic being allowed through in one new lane near to the slippage area whilst the rest of the road would have two way traffic.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson says he supports the re-opening of the road and led a petition 2 years ago to do so which got 500 signatures:

“The new proposal by the County Council means that the £55,000 must be pieced together. I’ve already committed at least £12,000 from the small Highways Local fund I get each year. GCC will put in up to £23,000 if local town and parish councils contribute the remaining £20,000.

“Recently Northleach Town Council discussed the proposal with me and will make a decision on whether to fund some of the scheme at its September meeting.

“To gauge opinion I asked residents to fill out a short survey online. So far 150 people have done so with 85% in favour of re-opening and 15% against. We’re faced with a lower cost solution to get the road open again and we should seize it otherwise I’ve been told the road will be closed ‘for many years.’

Northleach resident Tony Dale also wants the road re-opened: “This is one of the safe crossing points across the Fosse Way for any parents and commuters travelling to and from Northleach. Opening this road after too many years of delays would instantly lighten the traffic passing down ‘All Alone’ and by the primary school.”

Scouting for success

Cubs and scouts in the Cotswolds have just benefited from a grant from the County Council.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson gave £1,000 to the Northleach scouts and cubs last year as part of the Council’s ‘Children’s and Young People’s Activity Fund’.

He says that helping local voluntary organisations is vital:

“I’ve worked with parish and town councils over the last 12 months to get funding to specific groups and activities. The cubs and scouts are thriving in our area and the cash helps promote healthy lifestyles.”

Tony Dale, Commissioner, North Cotswold District Scouts, is delighted with the grant:

“We allocated the money to a new Patrol Tent – full canvas, lasts 25 years, sleeps 10 scouts. We also bought support equipment including tables and were able to support a Community Camp in 2017 to invite a wider, more diverse group of parents and children into scouting.

“This was very successful and we now have a new Beaver Colony in Northleach with 10 beavers; two new ‘BaME’ recruits in scouts and cubs – and across Northleach scouting we now have an almost 50/50 gender balance in the children and amongst the leaders. I am so pleased that this taxpayer money has achieved a real difference!  Scouting grew by 8% in this District during 2017 compared to 4% in Gloucestershire and 1% nationally – so we are doing well!”

Call for ‘people’s challenge’ to road closure

A councillor has asked residents to contact Gloucestershire County Council en masse in a bid to re-open a well used Cotswolds road.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton & Northleach) is calling for the ‘old A40’ near Northleach to be brought back into use after being closed by the Council in 2015. He has tabled a question at this week’s County Council meeting asking if highways bosses are allowing roads to fall into disuse.

The road links villages like Yanworth, Compton Abdale and Hazleton with Northleach and was used as a more direct route to avoid the congested and busy A40. It was temporarily closed under emergency powers after the Council claimed that an initial high level inspection showed that damage to the road was severe enough to cause public harm.

Now, the County Council has formally published its intention under the Road Traffic Act to extend the road closure indefinitely. People have until just 14 September to let Shire Hall lawyers know what they think about this.

Cllr Hodgkinson is asking for as many people as possible to contact Council lawyers urgently:

“Last year I presented a petition with 500 names on it to the Council Leader calling for the old A40 to be re-opened yet their wishes have been ignored. Highways officers promised me that a full geotechnical report would be produced in April with recommendations on how the road could be mended or even partially opened. To date I have still not received any recommendations or proposals. The Council is dragging its feet and I’m fed up with promises being made which aren’t kept.”

“The road is already falling into disrepair and I have been told it is not a priority to open it quickly – I have no faith that it will be re-opened at all.”

“The only way we can get Council bosses to listen is through a people’s challenge to the legal notice which Shire Hall lawyers have issued asking for the road to be closed indefinitely.

“Having taken advice it’s clear that the Council has failed to establish whether the damage to the road is indeed severe sufficiently enough to close it completely, partially if at all. To date and after frequent requests there is still no formal report outlining the severity of the damage. This may lead to potential grounds to challenge outright the extension in full or reduce the current order. For example, to allow one way traffic flow on one side of the road for cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

“I am told that the use of the Road Traffic Act in circumstances where work has not even started or in fact where there are no firm plans or even a timetable to begin work introduces grounds for a challenge. The fact that it took them over 12 months to commission a survey in the first instance and then fail to provide a full report prior to the issue of the legal notice on August 24 infers that Council bosses are deliberately dragging their feet and behaving unreasonably. A challenge may have the potential to force them into scheduling the works within a definite timetable.”

Anyone wishing to make their views known should contact Carrie Denness, Principal Lawyer, Legal Services, Gloucestershire County Council, Shire Hall, Westgate Street, Gloucester, GL1 2TG.

Email: carrie.denness@gloucestershire.gov.uk.

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.”

“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

Schools serve up a success at lunchtime

Schools in the Cotswolds have been praised for dishing up a new initiative to the area’s infants.

PaulSchoolMeals

Since September all 5-7 year olds have been eligible for a free meal at lunchtime for the first time.

Now, as part of National School Meals Week, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for the Cotswolds) has thanked schools in the area for making the scheme a success:

“As the second half of the autumn term kicks off, it’s clear that primary schools up and down the Cotswolds have worked hard to make this work.

“All the evidence shows that a hot, healthy meal at lunch time greatly improves the health, behaviour and results of schoolchildren, providing them with their best start in life, enabling every child to fulfil their potential. “I was impressed by the quality of the lunch when I visited Bourton primary school recently – a roast dinner and fruit was the best lunch I’d had in ages!”

Jenny Forde is a governor at North Cerney School and says that she’s been impressed with how smoothly and competently the schools have responded: “It’s great it is to see so many families taking up the free school meal and lovely to see the children all sitting down to eat the same meal much like a family.”

Laura Watts is on the governing team at Sherborne School: “I’m really impressed with how coolly and calmly the local head teachers have gone about providing hot school meals to the very youngest pupils. Ask busy people to get stuff done and they do it, with very little fuss.”

Cllr Hodgkinson, who is also County Councillor for Bourton and Northleach, served up lunches at North Cerney School this week: “The quality of the food was fantastic and I’m glad to have done my bit for School Meals Week and to thank everyone in the school for getting this initiative off the ground.”

#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.

 

Lib Dems choose Cotswold Leader to be prospective MP

Cotswold Liberal Democrats have selected their high profile leader on Cotswold District Council as their new Parliamentary Candidate.

PPC group pic

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson’s selection comes just four months after he stunned the Conservatives by becoming the first Lib Dem to win the so-called ‘true blue’ seat of Bourton and Northleach in this May’s county council elections.

The 51-year-old, who has lived in the Cotswolds for 25 years, will be up against the Cotswolds’ Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who has held the seat since 1992.

“I have made this beautiful area my home and set up my small business here,” he said. “Residents asked me to stand after seeing my record as a councillor and I will be the voice for the many who feel disconnected from decisions made in Cirencester and at Shire Hall in Gloucester. I want to give our area a real voice, actively speaking up for it rather than seeing some MPs motivated by their own pockets.”

Cllr Hodgkinson was first elected to Cotswold District Council for the Churn Valley in 2007 and has held the rural seat since then. He became leader of the council’s Lib Dems four years ago, going on to steer the opposition group to the party’s best results nationally in 2011 when they gained seven seats to take their total to 12.

A successful local businessman with a strong record of campaigning for local people, he has fought against high parking charges, led road safety campaigns and challenged unethical behaviour by public figures in the Cotswold Water Park fraud scandal.

The news was welcomed by Cirencester mayor Joe Harris who was mentored by Cllr Hodgkinson after he became the country’s youngest district councillor at the age of 19.

“The Cotswolds needs a change of representation at Westminster and Paul is the best man for the job,” said Cllr Harris. “Under his leadership we have been standing up for Cotswolds people on the big issues that matter  – tackling the cost of living in our area, working to sort out transport problems and protecting the unique character of the district. We need someone as our MP who can take the case to Parliament and get some action.”

Cllr Hodgkinson is planning to build on the dramatic swing to the Liberal Democrats across the Cotswolds which saw them gain three seats in May’s County Council elections.

“There is a demand for change and  growing disillusionment with the performance of the Tories locally, right through from district and county level to our MP’s track record in Parliament,” he said.

“It is shameful that our MP has done little to address the fact that the Cotswolds suffers from some of the highest rural house prices in the country coupled with low average wages.

“Those in power have concentrated on turning the area into a second home haven for privileged outsiders while ignoring the pressing needs of working local families. That is something I will be fighting to change.

“Our progress at district and county level has already shaken the Tories and we will be working hard to make the 2015 general election the next major upset.

“You can really feel the breath of fresh air that our new councillors have brought to local politics and it is gratifying that the voters have noticed. Mr Clifton-Brown has had 22 years to get things fixed in the constituency and has been a part-time MP. I will do everything I can to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in the Cotswolds and give this area the effective and energetic representation it so badly needs at Westminster.”

 

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.