|Worthless WCC Bypass Planning Application 'Debate'|
Back in May 2007, Conservative Councillors nodded through their favoured Eastern Bypass scheme... *
Councillors were insufficiently concerned about transport integration, their own freight policy, or the impact on other Wiltshire communities. They accepted being told that these were other matters. It was that futile.
They were told that there was only one planning application before them and that damage is always done.
There was hardly any actual debate amongst the councillors and much of what they said was off focus.
A biased and fundamentally ignorant meeting, which did not follow correct procedure, we thought.
Transport and environmental campaigners who were there did their best and tried to present the facts.
The WCC committee chairman would not read out submitted statements, where the questioners were not in attendance, as it was
not worthwhile, as the councillors knew about them, he said, but he did not allow the time in lieu for those of us who were
there. He was constantly interjecting if ever we were overrunning our two minutes, even when it did not allow our
submitted statements or questions to be read out completely.
Oh... and the Council's prepared responses mostly dodged the pre-submitted questions and concerns.
In response to an ACA letter warning WCC that the bypass scheme might not be viable because of its inadequate mitigation, an officer told the councillors (who had not had this letter drawn to their attention) that this was probably covered within the environmental statements and anyway the council's expert advisors had just not had the time to consider the implications, so the councillors may as well ignore them.
Another objector managed to bravely and skillfully detour from the script of her questions to mention that the ACA letter was of 21 pages, whereas the general public had been expected to read, assimilate and comment on over 2400 pages of complex issues in the WCC environmental statements in 21 days..., at a rate of over 100 pages a day. It seemed that different rules applied for WCC and its officers or advisors.
We listened to the supposedly informed deliberations of our councillors. We were disappointed.
Most of the councillors at the meeting said nothing, did not raise any query and had no part in any debate.
One councillor suggested a visit to the intended route of the bypass, as if the councillors had not studied it, but was put off from this by other councillors saying that they had been out to the chalk quarry previously and had seen enough of the bypass route from there.
Prompted by an ACA question, a councillor asked about the impact of the forecast increase of HGVs (to be caused by the bypass) on the neighbouring Wiltshire communities of Southwick, North Bradley & Yarnbrook. But the Wiltshire Councillors were reassured by an officer that this was a matter for the Highways Authority. Which is...? Highways officers and councillors in charge of highways were all there at this same meeting.
A vote for the application was called. Seven out of twelve committee members present raised their hands. In a previous odd twist, the original chairman, who had made the number on the committee up to fourteen, went from the committee just prior to this Westbury Bypass planning application meeting on 16 May 2007. There was a party briefing meeting, two before, at which we believe councillors were told how to vote.
Our Wiltshire councillors did not have any proper debate about whether need outweighed adverse impact. Apart from environmental and public transport campaigners, no-one really considered the adverse impact.
Wiltshire County Council shrilled 'Westbury Bypass Plans Approved' to the media, though this was not true.
* In July 2007, the Government ordered an independent inquiry into WCC's planning application. In 2009, the inspector recommended refusal of planning permission because of the bypass's potential adverse impact.
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