Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Call to review councils’ gagging order over new road

A BENSON parish councillor has asked for gagging orders signed by three councils over the proposed £3billion Oxford to Cambridge Expressway to be reviewed.

Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils agreed the non-disclosure agreements with Highways England.

Councillor John Sharman told a parish council meeting that the district councils’ agreements had been signed before the ruling Conservative groups lost control at the elections in May. He asked Andrea Powell, Benson’s representative on South Oxfordshire District Council: “Are there any plans to review or scrap it so we get proper transparency over this project?”

Councillor Powell, a member of the Green Party and the council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said the new council was considering the legal implications of the agreement, adding: “It’s certainly under review.”

Highways England said the agreements allowed organisations “to identify, develop and test potential viable route options” before putting them out to public consultation.

The councils said the deals did not prevent them commenting on proposals for the road.

Last year, Benson Parish Council joined the Expressway Action Group, which is concerned about the proposed road.

Last month, South Oxfordshire District Council decided to oppose the expressway and to support rail and other public transport connections instead.

Council leader Sue Cooper, who represents Benson, said: “This new expressway would have significant adverse impacts on Oxfordshire: it will bring more traffic, create a major source of air and noise pollution, destroy farmland and habitats and increase CO2 emissions, all of which are incompatible with the recent climate emergency declared by this council in April.”

Watlington Parish Council has formally objected to the expressway, saying there has been no formal public consultation, environmental assessment or parliamentary inquiry.

The Government says the road would create jobs, skills and homes.

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