The meeting today with the Department for Transport went very well. The Minister was hugely supportive of our case and we managed to resolve a number of uncertainties. Below are some of the main points:
- The meeting was with John Hayes MP who is a Minister of State at the Department for Transport. In effect he is the Secretary of State’s second in command at the DfT.
- Sir Edward Leigh – our local MP chaired the meeting.
- We were represented by members of HRAG, the Chairmen of both Cherry Willingham and Reepham Parish Councils and Cllr Ian Fleetwood, Lincolnshire County Council member for Bardney and Cherry Willingham.
- Senior officials from the DfT National Funding Team also attended the meeting.
- The Minister felt we had a strong argument for keeping Hawthorn Road open.
- He felt the villages to the east of Lincoln would become isolated if Hawthorn Road was closed.
- His first impression looking at the scheme design was “Where is the bridge for Hawthorn Road”.
- Funding is secure and ring-fenced within the current DfT programme. This programme continues for a number of years and will not expire on 31st March 2015 when Parliament is dissolved for the election.
- The DfT would look into how any resulting funding shortfall due to adding a bridge back into the design could be dealt with.
- The Minister and his officials will write again to LCC clearly stating that the funding is secure allowing LCC to amend their plans without fear of losing the bypass.
- The Minister intends to look more closely at the issues we presented and said he would work with Sir Edward and Karl McCartney on the matter.
- Although no formal decision had been taken the number of objections and the fact the Parish Councils had objected means it is likely there will be a public inquiry.
- If LCC were to quickly commit to changing the design to incorporate a road bridge it would be possible for objectors to withdraw objections on day 1 of the inquiry resulting in a very short less expensive inquiry.
- After the meeting Sir Edward Leigh and HRAG member Sally Lidbury were interviewed live on BBC Radio Lincolnshire from the Central Lobby of the Houses of Parliament.
- Sir Edward said the case for a road bridge was now unanswerable and it was now up to Lincolnshire County Council to do the right thing.
Overall the meeting was hugely positive and we were pleased to get such a positive response. We feel that the remaining major obstacles cited by LCC as preventing Hawthorn Road remaining open have now been removed and we will now be waiting to see if LCC will do the right thing so everyone can work together to get the bypass built.
We must once again give huge thanks to Sir Edward Leigh for arranging this meeting and for his support during the last 12 months.