Old A40 set to re-open

After 4 years left closed due to a land slippage, a Cotswolds road has been given the chance for a brand new lease of life.

The Old A40 links villages including Compton Abdale and Hazleton to Northleach and has been the subject of a lively campaign to get it re-opened. 500 people signed a petition organised by Cllr Paul Hodgkinson to allow traffic onto the road again and he presented this to County Council bosses in 2016.

The road has become a target for joy riders and a travellers’ encampment recently which has prompted renewed calls to sort the situation out.

Now, a proposal put forward by Highways will see traffic being allowed through in one new lane near to the slippage area whilst the rest of the road will have two way traffic. The works will be carried out so that cars can start driving the road next Spring.

Originally it was suggested by the County Council that local parish and town councils should contribute to the scheme but the move proved controversial with residents pointing out that they already paid council tax for road repairs. But yesterday Highways stepped in to help fully fund the new project.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton and Northleach) says that re-opening the road is important to residents in the Cotswolds:

“After discussions with the County Council Leader, I have a commitment to get the road open again and it is really good news. This is a perfect example of cross-party working to get things done.

“We have now pieced together the money to get this fixed with the County Council paying the lion’s share. I’ve pledged £17,000 from the small Highways Local fund and the Community Grant Fund I get each year. And a generous local organisation has pledged another £5,000.

“A lot of people have already been in touch with me telling me how pleased they are that the road will be open again within six months. This is a good day for local people power and I’d like to thank all those who supported the campaign to get this re-opened.”

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.

Call for volume to be turned down after road cash revealed

A lobby group is calling for noise from a busy road to be lowered after figures show large amounts of income going to the company maintaining it.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

The issue of excessive noise from the A419/417 dual carriageway between Gloucester and Swindon 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.

Since 2012, a group of residents and councillors have been working to reduce noise pollution from the road. Calling themselves A419NAG (Noise Action Group) they come from Bagendon, Baunton, Latton, Down Ampney, Driffield, Cirencester and Cerney Wick.

Now, they have released figures showing that a large amount of money has gone to Road Management Services (Gloucester) Ltd, the company which maintains the 32 mile highway.

Figures obtained by the group from the Highways Agency show that Road Management Services received a total of £285 million from the Government from 1996 to 2013. This was part of the contract agreed when the road was built and is based on a ‘shadow toll’ for every vehicle using the road. It is estimated that the company will receive at least another £200 million until the agreement ends in 2026.

Road Management Services have confirmed that they spend between £1 and £1.5 million a year on maintaining the road, excluding management costs.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) is chairman of A419 NAG and believes the figures show that cash is available to reduce the noise, “Those who live around Cirencester suffer just as much from excessive and irritating noise from the road as those around the Water Park area and north Wiltshire. People have been raising the issue again and we are calling for something fundamental to be done about this.”

“This is about righting a wrong – since the completion of the dual carriageway, a large amount of cash has been given out by the Government and very little spent in comparison. Surely a small part of this eye popping £285 million can be spent on reducing the noise? It is a reasonable thing to ask.”

Cllr Hodgkinson added, “We believe that the Highways Agency in conjunction with Road Management Services should use some of the cash and address this issue once and for all. Measures can be taken to bring the noise levels down.”

The group is currently producing a report, detailing the responses of 500 residents who have completed a survey on the impacts of noise pollution. They aim to publish this in the early summer.

Community demands urgent action over ‘racetrack’ road

Residents of villages along the A436 have formed an action group to pressurize the Highways Department and police. They want measures actioned urgently to combat the unacceptable speed of traffic along the stretch of road from the Air Balloon Roundabout to Bourton on the Water.

Paul Hodgkinson (right) with residents and councillors from along the A436

The action group, to be called the North Cotswolds Rural area Against Speeding Harm (No Crash), will provide a focus and co-ordinated approach to the authorities. The A436 is a major thoroughfare for traffic from Oxford, Cheltenham and Gloucester and is used by tourists visiting our area. Running past Andoversford and Shipton and through a series of hamlets it currently has large stretches which are derestricted and the lowest speed limit is 50mph.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (CDC, Churn Valley) chaired the first meeting of the new group last month and welcomed the joint effort as a good example of communities working together for a common goal, “There is a history of serious speeding along this road. Residents living along it have not only seen constant increases in traffic but talk about the road being used as a racetrack by some drivers. It’s out of exasperation at the lack of action in countering this that we have all joined together to do something positive.”

“The villages next to the A436 also have the same issues – Shipton, Andoversford and Syreford all experience speeding traffic where people are living, working and going to school.”

The group also consists of residents Peter Hellyar, Peter Ellis, Amanda Kitson, Robert Buck, Peter Davies and Frank Hemming along with Hugh Piggott from the National Star College and supported by Simon Redmond, Andoversford Parish Council Chairman and Shipton Parish Council Chairman Robin Finch.

The group has put together a list of demands which they say are ‘easily done and sensible solutions’. They will be presenting these to local councillors and police to launch their campaign.

Peter Hellyar, who lives alongside the A436 near Shipton, has taken numerous speed readings and is frustrated at the lack of action by the authorities against those who speed, “We have had awful problems with some vehicles. I do not believe that any person with any common sense would take the risk of driving at more than 100mph knowing that if they get caught they risk losing their licence.”

Amanda Kitson, another resident who lives by the A436 between Shipton and Bourton, described the impact on him and other neighbours, “We are taking our life into our own hands pulling into and off the road because of the excessive speed of drivers. There’s been no willingness from the police to take any action and we need managed enforcement of the limit.”

Councillor Hodgkinson said he hoped that the forgotten voices of residents would now be heard, “My own experience of campaigning for greater road safety along the A435 and as part of the successful SAFER group at Leckhampton Hill is that people power can win out. Accidents do drop and speeds can come down too as a result of heightened awareness. We all hope that the quality of life experienced by residents along this stretch of road can be improved. Now that the Government is consulting on reduced speed limits in rural areas, the will is clearly there to promote road safety.”

The Group will be meeting again shortly to share its solutions with the authorities.