Cogges Link Road inquiry: day 17

December 6th, 2011 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

This took place on Wednesday 30th November and was attended by about 80 members of the public. It began with final submissions from the non-statutory objectors. Paul Kinchesh began and expressed his concern over the county council’s flood model, which he judges to be inadequate because it does not replicate the 2007 flood levels. Dr Kinchesh argued that a flawed flood model cannot lead to adequate flood mitigation levels.

Owen Edwards then spoke about the numbers of people who have expressed their opposition to the Cogges Link Road. There have been 16 non-statutory objectors and only two supporters for the CLR.  The inquiry has received 9 letters of support and 24 against. (Interestingly, one person submitted a letter of support and a letter of objection!) Mr Edwards also mentioned the continued objections since the 2008 planning application stage and the 4000-signature petition collected by Witney First.

Mr Edwards also spoke about the plans for exchange land, saying that it is not just about exchanging one piece of land for another of equal size. Quality, amenity and convenience matter just as much. He believes that the proposed exchange land for the Eton Close play area is not as good and therefore not an adequate replacement. He concluded by saying that the CLR scheme is not in the public interest.

Then Nick Wilcock spoke about traffic management. He said that the county council have not made adequate provision for non motorised traffic at the Jubilee Way/Oxford Hill junction. He also expressed concern that the Staple Hall traffic lights will be used  as an artificial deterrent for Bridge Street and said that this should not happen without providing alternatives.

Katy Jennison then gave a statement on behalf of Gill Salway. Key points from Dr Jennison and Mrs Salway’s submission:

  • We need green space at the heart of this rapidly expanding town. The country park is well used and the proposed exchange land has less amenity value.
  • The CLR won’t decrease traffic in the town centre.
  • Avoiding inflicting the damage in the first place would be better than mitigation.
  • The CLR favours the car without encouraging other modes of transport. “We would urge OCC when considering any scheme to look beyond advantages to the motorist & think about the town as a whole.”
  • The CLR is needlessly expensive.
  • If there are as many pro-road residents as the council claims, why haven’t we heard much from them?

Dr Jennison ended by thanking the inspector for his running of the inquiry.

Then Wayne Beglan, lawyer for the Mawle Trust, began his closing submission. He began with a reminder of why this inquiry is taking place: the inspector needs to decide if the compulsory purchase of Mawle Trust land is justified. He reminded the inquiry that it is a basic principle that no citizen should be deprived of his land without overwhelming public interest. The CLR fails this test if an alternative scheme is found to be more favourable. This inquiry is the first public forum for a proper, objective comparison of the CLR versus the Shores Green alternative.

Then he moved on to compare the two schemes. Key points:

  • Both schemes significantly decrease pollution in the target areas and reduce traffic flows.
  • However, the CLR would increase total traffic movements and encourage short car journeys.
  • The Shores Green option has been criticised for mixing A40 drivers with Witney drivers – why is this a problem? Mr Beglan humourously commented: “There are no characteristics of Witney town centre drivers that make them innately unsuited to use of the A40.”
  • The inquiry cannot discriminate between the two schemes on traffic reduction, but it can on air quality and environmental impact.
  • The flooding risk of the CLR is a clear area of contrast between the two schemes; the CLR would effectively be a dam across a floodplain.
  • Shores Green requires less public subsidy than the CLR.
  • Shores Green may be built in the future anyway, even with the Cogges Link Road in place.
  • Shores Green reduces cross-town flows and short car trips more than the Cogges Link Road.

Mr Beglan also made the point that if there are no mechanisms to “lock in” the benefits of either scheme, neither scheme is in the public interest because neither will have lasting benefits. In other words, the county council needs to plan for a shift away from the car as the primary mode of transport whatever scheme is chosen. Mr Beglan said that neither the county or district councils have a good track record in seeking to encourage sustainable travel in Witney. Both councils use “economics” as the reason for not wanting to put off drivers, but there has never been any study that shows sustainable travel hurts local economies.

He ended by saying that the compulsory purchase order should be refused.

Then Matthew Reed QC gave the closing submission on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council. Key points:

  • The CLR scheme generated “significant local support” at the planning approval stage.
  • In response to Mr Beglan’s statement that there was very little difference in traffic reduction between the two schemes, Mr Reed said that the CLR would reduce traffic by 44% in the morning versus 40% for Shores Green, and 46% in the afternoon versus 41% for Shores Green.
  • There will be extensive complementary measures associated with the CLR, including the Staple Hall traffic lights which will “serve to discourage traffic from entering the town centre”.
  • These complementary measures include “enhancements to ecology” as compensation for the loss of part of the country park.

He also criticised the evidence of Mr McNeil, traffic expert for the Mawle Trust.

This concluded the public inquiry. The next step is the final report from Stephen Roscoe, the planning inspector. This is due out on 6 February 2012.

All documents relating to the CLR inquiry are available on the Persona website.

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