Summary of the HS2 Update Meeting led by Wardington Parish Council held on Thursday July 23rd 2015 at 7.00pm in Wardington Memorial Hall
In Attendance: Mr G Page (Chair), Mr N Bankes (Vice-Chair), Mr M Patterson, Mrs A Pascoe, Mr G Martin, Mr K Atack (District Councillor), Mr M Hickman (Clerk)
Visitors: Victoria Prentis (MP for Banbury), Stephanie Garnett (Senior Parliamentary Assistant to Victoria Prentis), Mark Kemp (Deputy Director Commercial OCC), Charles Holbech (Wardington HS2 Action Group)
Parishioners: Approximately SIXTY
Mr Page, Mr Bankes and Mr Holbech presented the HS2 update presentation. This can be seen here.
The presentation explains that a HS2 Action Group has been established by the parish council to produce a parliamentary petition against the expected increase in HGV traffic on the A361 through Wardington during the HS2 construction phase. It warns that while no specific conclusion can be guaranteed, the village would surely feel deep remorse in the future if no attempt to challenge the HS2 proposals is undertaken while it is still possible to do so.
The majority of the detailed work is being prepared by Mr Charles Holbech, for which the parish council is immensely grateful. Nonetheless, professional advice from solicitors is essential to ensure an effective and professional petition is delivered to parliament.
The parish council has been assured that there are, and equipped with, sound grounds for lodging a petition. The cost of this assessment is £1750. Further work from solicitors will be required to complete the parliamentary petition at an estimated cost of £3000 – £4250. On 23rd July the parish council authorised expenditure for the HS2 Action Group to a maximum of £6000 – which can be met from parish council reserves over a two-year period.
The action group will set the strategy for, and lead, the future campaign.
Information is sought from parishioners regarding specific effects that increased HGV traffic is likely to have on homes, individuals, business etc. This will assist the action group in producing the petition. Parishioners to email email@example.com by 9am Monday 27th July.
The petition will be submitted to parliament on August 12th.
Following the presentation, questions were put to the parish council and representatives.
> Why have concerns not been raised by Oxfordshire County Council before now?
Mark Kemp: Typically when a project is proposed, the relevant traffic information comes from the developers themselves. Like you, OCC are still waiting on that information to be finalised by HS2 Ltd. The county council would usually become involved prior to the construction stage in producing a traffic management plan in conjunction with the developers and contractors. Though the county council did perhaps take a light touch initially, we are now working to ensure that Oxfordshire highways are sufficiently protected by the proposals via a number of different forums.
Cllr Bankes: We are very grateful that a representative from OCC has come tonight. We now have a name and a face whom we can work with. We will be able to achieve little without working in cooperation with the local authorities. They have expressed willingness to work with us going forward and we are grateful.
> Can the parish council be reimbursed by the county council for absorbing the expense of petitioning?
Mark Kemp: You can appeal to the county council but local authorities do not have a budget for petitioning and so it is unlikely that there is sufficient case that they should have petitioned.
> I am aware that there was a Compulsory Purchase Order placed on land in Wardington in the 1960s for the construction of a bypass that never materialised. Would this not take precedence over current proposals?
Mark Kemp: Unfortunately the plans for this will be long buried and even if resurrected they would not have any present weight as local authorities have to periodically produce Local Transport Plans which set out their current aims. The old Wardington bypass plan is not mentioned in the current plan.
Victoria Prentis: I remember my father Tim Boswell (MP for Daventry 1987-2010) discussing working on the Chipping Warden bypass proposal 40 years ago. Chipping Warden also petitioned against the original bill, which Wardington did not. After the petition is submited to parliament there will be select committee hearings at which specific mitigating measures can be discussed. A bypass is the preferred solution but HS2 Ltd will fight very hard against this – there should be an acknowledgment that alternative measures may have to be discussed.
> What other traffic mitigating measures could be possible?
Mark Kemp: Vehicle-activated signs (VASs) are limited in their efficacy and speed cameras would perhaps not help with the issues that we are concerned with. What the county council would look to do is impose restrictions on usage, e.g. restricting HGV road usage to certain times of the day or week.
> How will the HGV numbers be policed?
Mark Kemp: Unfortunately, as an A-road, there is no legal restrictions on the number of vehicles that can use the road, so there is no way of policing.
Charles Holbech: At a parliamentary select committee meeting to discuss the Chipping Warden bypass, Sir Peter Bottomley secured a confirmation from HS2 Ltd. that there would be a consideration of the effect of HGV traffic on Wardington and the surrounding area. As far as we now nothing has come of this.
> Certain areas of the village will be very difficult to access when there are large amounts of traffic and congestion on the A361, what assurances are there that the emergency services will have the required access?
Mark Kemp: This is something that the county council will pay close attention to when it becomes directly involved with HS2 Ltd.
> What is the current safety record on the A361 like?
Parishioners: A number of examples of recent accidents were reported, highlighting the dangers already associated with the A361, in particular near the Hare and Hounds junction. HGVs reversing into E.H. Douglas was noted as an especially dangerous issue as it obstructs the road on a blind bend.
Mark Kemp: This is also something that the county council will pay close attention to when producing a traffic management plan with HS2 Ltd and contractors.
> How can parishioners send their comments?
Please can parishioners send their comments regarding specific information on the effect that the increased HGV traffic will have on individuals, homes, businesses etc to firstname.lastname@example.org by 9am Monday 27th July. This will assist the HS2 Action Group in producing the petition.
The meeting closed at 20:30pm.