Wednesday, 21 August 2019

New bypass route dubbed ‘ludicrous’ by councillors

A NEW proposed route for a bypass in Watlington has sparked concerns from parish councillors.

The current “edge road” route would run from the B4009 Pyrton crossroads in the north to Britwell Road in the south and is seen as vital to the town and its neighbourhood plan, which earmarks three sites for at least 260 homes.

It has been included in the plan, which passed a referendum last year, to alleviate congestion and improve air quality in the centre of Watlington.

But a parish council meeting heard that Oxfordshire County Council was considering another option that would use Willow Close and the existing Cuxham Road roundabout.

This would take an “awkward and winding path” that would be a disincentive for drivers of all kinds of vehicles to avoid the centre of town and would cause developers to abandon their well-advanced schemes, it said.

The impact of the road going through, and not around, two of the sites in particular would affect the marketing of the properties there.

A motion prepared by Councillor Tim Horton said the council wanted to impress on the county council and the Oxfordshire Growth Board the “undesirability” of the second option even if it was observing “due diligence”.

It said: “It [the route] will undermine the cause of providing a major alternative to the centre of town that has unsafe air quality.

“It will cause additional costs to arise upon developers and others, reduce the desirability and potential scale of new development, act to delay the achievement of housing targets and cause potentially the use of legal action.

“The council eagerly awaits the achievement of a settled, funded scheme for the re-alignment of the B4009 but not at a cost to functionality, improved air quality and other diminished environmental qualities for present and future residents.”

Councillor Horton told members: “I would never have voted for a neighbourhood plan that had this indicative route and that’s the message I want to get across. Ten to 11,000 cars each day will use this road.”

Councillor Keith Woolfson said: “It’s a ludicrous idea. I would never have voted for a road that goes past all these houses.”

This was echoed by Councillor Alex Basden who said the route was supposed to go around the edge of the developments.

Councillor Rob Smith said he was “appalled” by the proposal and that houses on the west of the developments would be isolated.

Councillor Terry Jackson said that 80 per cent of the town voted for the road outlined in the neighbourhood plan.

Keith Jackson, from the public gallery, said the second option would “adversely affect” the connectivity between the three housing sites and the rest of the town.

The developers of all three sites were against the new option, he added.

Meanwhile, the council’s neighbourhood plan advisory board has asked for the tender documents for the survey work on the two alternative routes.

In 2015 about 80 residents of the Marlbrook estate attended a public meeting to complain that they had not been properly consulted on the neighbourhood plan.

At the time Watlington had been allocated 79 new homes.

The residents were concerned a new link road joining Willow Close could be built through the estate resulting in a dramatic increase in traffic and causing problems of safety, noise and pollution.

A spokesman for the county council said: “Funding for a Watlington relief road was allocated through the Housing and Growth Deal in 2018. The council is progressing the scheme including investigating route options as is appropriate.”

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