No car? No say!

September 5th, 2011 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

There will soon be a public inquiry on an issue affecting everybody who lives in Witney: 20th September is the start date for a two-week inquiry into the controversial Cogges Link Road.

Man with mouth covered in tapeYou would assume that an inquiry about the compulsory purchase of Witney land should take place in Witney, in a public place where people can easily walk in and have their say. But Oxfordshire County Council doesn’t see it that way. They’ve picked Eynsham Hall in North Leigh as the location for the inquiry. It’s a beautiful venue, nestled in stunning countryside… but it happens to be several miles away from Witney.  A nice choice for a wedding, but a disastrous choice for a public inquiry about a serious Witney issue.

In theory, anybody who lives in Witney and wants to have their say on the Cogges Link Road is welcome to attend. But the practical reality isn’t quite as simple. If you’re travelling by car, it’s nice and easy: a 10-minute journey with ample free parking at the other end. But if you’re travelling by public transport, you face a longer, more complicated trip.

The buses to Eynsham Hall don’t serve any of the Witney estates except Madley Park, so most residents will need to catch the 11 or the 242 from Market Place. That means travelling into the centre and will probably require either a long walk or a second bus.

Once the bus has dropped you off in North Leigh, you’ll need to walk nearly a mile to reach the Eynsham Hall driveway. At the end of your walk is a nice surprise – you’ll have to cross the A4095 on foot. That’s a busy road with no pedestrian crossing and a 40mph speed limit. If you make it across in one piece, you have another 500-metre walk up the driveway before you can enter Eynsham Hall.

Whether you’re for or against the Cogges Link Road, it’s wrong if the location of the inquiry  discourages you from having your say on an issue that affects your life. It makes a mockery of democracy that bus users and walkers should have to work so much harder than drivers to make their voices heard, risking injury in the process.

Residents’ campaign group Witney First is fighting back. They’re determined to ensure that people who can’t drive to the venue are not excluded from the inquiry. They’re trying to coordinate lift-sharing, putting non-drivers in touch with people who are already driving to the venue and have a spare space in their car.

Are you planning on driving to the inquiry? Could you offer a lift to a fellow Witney resident? Email Kate Griffin (griffinkate at gmail dot com), saying which day(s) you’re planning to attend and how many spaces you can offer in your car. Non-drivers who need a lift should email the same address with “Lift request” in the subject heading.

Witney First are also trying to compensate for the lack of publicity to date by spreading the word about when the inquiry is happening. The key day is Tuesday September 20th, when the inquiry opens and a full room will have maximum impact.

Sustainable Witney is a different group from Witney First (although we have some members in common), but we support their efforts to make this inquiry more democratic for residents.

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