The Hawthorn Road Action Group (HRAG) has recently sent out an email update on what has been happening regarding the Campaign to keep Hawthorn Road open. We have emailed the update to those on our email list but i’ve included the text of the email below for those who aren’t on the list. I’ve also included a link via which you can access the original email and a link for anyone not already on the email list to sign up to receive future update emails.
The email read as follows:
When the Lincoln Eastern Bypass is built by Lincolnshire County Council it is currently proposed to close Hawthorn Road to through traffic where it crosses the bypass, and provide only a limited access junction with the bypass. The Hawthorn Road Action Group together with local Parish Councils has been campaigning to keep Hawthorn Road open by providing a road bridge for Hawthorn Road over the bypass.
As many may already be aware at the public meeting in November 2014 the Action Group and the Parish Councils asked residents to object to the closure of Hawthorn Road by writing to the Department of Transport (DfT) objecting to the closure. We understand that over 500 objection letters were received which is an outstanding effort by all involved and one which we feel that residents of the villages should collectively be proud of.
The DfT have now announced that a public inquiry will be held into the scheme orders for the bypass. Although this inquiry will consider the whole bypass it is expected to mainly concentrate on the proposals to close Hawthorn Road. We do not know yet when the inquiry will be but it is likely to be sometime between March and June. It is important to realise that this will not be an in depth inquiry into whether it is a good idea to close Hawthorn Road but will only look into whether reasonably convenient alternative routes are available if Hawthorn Road is closed.
We had always hoped that by talking to the County Council and demonstrating that many of their arguments for closing Hawthorn Road didn’t stack up we would be able to avoid a further expensive Inquiry. LCC accepted some time ago that the cost of a road bridge was no longer an issue. Unfortunately they also stated that they couldn’t change the bypass plans to include a bridge as the DfT would withdraw funding if there were any delays to starting construction. Our MP Sir Edward Leigh was kind enough to arrange for us to meet with Transport Minister John Hayes and his senior officials at Westminster who confirmed to us that the funding was in fact guaranteed for several years and was not at risk. The minister even observed that we had a very strong case for a bridge and commented that even his 10 year old son would see the need for a bridge. Unfortunately as the bypass is a local road it is the County Council’s decision whether to provide a bridge and the Minister has no power to overrule them.
We hoped that with the funding guaranteed LCC would now be in a position to make minor amendments to the bypass plans to include a bridge. Now however LCC said that although the DfT had confirmed funding for the bypass was secure they felt that a change of Government at the next election could cause the bypass to be cancelled. Although this is theoretically possible the fact that the bypass plans are now so advanced means this would be highly unlikely especially as Lincoln is politically an ultra-marginal parliamentary seat and the bypass is a very cost effective scheme. In any event, the introduction of our road bridge into the scheme would not increase this risk as LCC’s present scheme cannot start before the election and they already face the same scenario, with or without our bridge.
This leaves us in the position that LCC still refuse to even investigate the possibility of adding a bridge to the scheme preferring to plough ahead with the current plans against the wishes of local residents. They state that adding a road bridge for Hawthorn Road will delay the bypass by 2.5 years. We do not believe this has to be the case and LCC has resolutely refused to investigate any ways to either reduce this delay or to look into commencing construction of the bypass and add a road bridge afterwards. Thanks to the support of many of the residents of Cherry Willingham, Reepham and the Carlton Centre who will be affected by the scheme over 500 formal objections to the current plans were made to the DfT. This has resulted in them calling a public inquiry as described above.
We are naturally very disappointed to reach this point as we hoped that by addressing the arguments in a positive way with LCC, this expensive and time consuming inquiry could be avoided.
The previous inquiry into the bypass cost over £350,000. Unfortunately LCC have continued to try and dismiss the level of support for a road bridge for Hawthorn Road and try to argue that there is little true support in the villages for keeping Hawthorn Road open. We know this is not true.
At the first public meeting in January 2014 around 400 residents packed the village hall in Cherry Willingham and vocally demonstrated their feeling about Hawthorn Road to the LCC representatives present. A vote of the attendees indicated unanimous support for keeping Hawthorn Road open. This was further backed up by over 3500 people signing a petition in 3 weeks. In November 2014 another public meeting was held in Cherry Willingham in the largest hall in the village. This time the meeting was attended by around 700 residents almost all in support of our campaign as well as local County and District Councillors and our MP Sir Edward Leigh all of who support us.
As a result of this meeting over 500 letters of objection were written by residents which accounting for the fact many letters represented more than one person we feel indicates very strong local support for which we are very grateful. Unfortunately Richard Davies, the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport & ICT at LCC, simply dismissed this out of hand as only being 10% of the affected population when answering a question at December’s County Council meeting. We believe the number of objection letters written is far more than many similar much larger road schemes. Institutional arrogance persists as does their continued attempt to save face regardless of public opinion.
That was bad enough but the situation was further compounded by the minutes of the LCC Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee that were recently released and are on the LCC web site –
The minutes include the statement:[Square Brackets are our emphasis]
“It was also commented that at the meeting which took place recently in relation to this issue in Cherry Willingham [the November public meeting], a lot of the people present were supportive of the Non Motorised User bridge [foot, cycle and horse bridge] plans, and that there was a relatively small but very vocal group of residents driving the campaign against the NMU bridge.”
In effect, this official record states that many people at the November public meeting at Cherry Willingham School supported LCC’s present proposal to just provide a footbridge and that only a small group were campaigning for a road bridge. As all those who were present at this meeting will recall, as will Sir Edward Leigh who was also present, that this is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and the 500+ written objections prove it.
We feel it is wrong to try and misrepresent the genuine high level of support for providing a road bridge for Hawthorn Road within the local community. This support has been repeatedly made clear by residents and trying to belittle and dismiss it, rather than address the problem, leads to a loss of respect for Councillors. In Cherry Willingham we are very lucky that our local Councillor Ian Fleetwood is completely supportive of us and has put himself in a difficult position with his political party at County Hall in choosing to support local residents rather than his party bosses. We are very grateful to Ian for his support.
Anyone who feels strongly about LCC’s poor attitude to the Hawthorn Road issue and its dismissal of residents concerns should write ( no matter how brief the letter) and complain about LCC’s total misrepresentation of the strength of feeling locally about Hawthorn Road. Formal complaints have to be registered and evaluated by LCC against targets and are the best way to ensure that your dissatisfaction is registered. Please make sure that you title your letter or email with the words FORMAL COMPLAINT so that they cannot ‘misunderstand’ the situation. All complaints should be sent to:
Lincolnshire County Council Leader, Martin Hill – email@example.com
Portfolio Holder,Highways,Transport & ICT, Richard Davies – firstname.lastname@example.org
Official Standards Monitoring Officer, Richard Wills – email@example.com
Their postal address is County Offices, Newland, Lincoln, LN1 1YL.
The more complaints that they receive, the better chance we have of getting them to see sense or at the very least respect local residents views. Please spare a couple of minutes and help us to stop them riding roughshod over us all.
As regards preparing for the public inquiry we are now talking to legal advisers who are experienced in highway and Council matters as it would be great to fight the County Council on a level playing field with proper legal representation. This will however require funds to pay for barristers etc and when we have evaluated the options available we will be looking at fund raising locally.
Anyone who wrote an objection letter and has received a letter from the DfT notifying them of the public inquiry will be able to submit evidence to the inquiry regarding their objection. This is not as daunting as it sounds. It can be as simple as re-submitting an updated version of your objection letter to the inquiry but it should also be possible for those who wish to do so to personally present their arguments at the public inquiry. We will provide more details regarding the inquiry on our web site http://www.savehawthornroad.wordpress.com as they become available and will also email details to anyone who registers with us as described below.
Finally, we are assembling a database of supporter’s email addresses so that we can contact you all and keep you up to date. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.