Providing Evidence to the Public Inquiry

Many who wrote objection letters to the Department for Transport last Nov/Dec should by now have had notification letters regarding the Public Inquiry which will be held starting Aug 11th 2015 and basic instructions on how to submit evidence to the inquiry if they wish to do so. It is not necessary to speak at the public inquiry (although a number of people have expressed a desire to do so and this is fine) but it is important to submit written evidence to the inquiry to make sure your views are taken into account.

Lincolnshire County Council have summarised the objections received and provided a generic response to some of the points raised in the objection letter. We understand that LCC will not be responding individually to objectors. The following page on LCC’s web site contains a list of objectors (Appendix 1 – Table of Objectors and Supporters) and their main Statement of Case (Lincoln Eastern Bypass Statement of Case). The Statement of Case contains LCC’s responses to objectors letters in section 14.

LCC Statement of Case Documents

Please note that your original objection letter should be carried forward as evidence but you can if you wish resubmit the text of your original letter as evidence including any updates, additions or changes as appropriate.

You can resubmit the text of your letter (we recommend reformatting into a separate document rather than leaving in in letter format) to the inquiry as evidence. This document is called proof of evidence. Proofs of evidence will need to be submitted by 10th July 2015 and can be submitted to the following contact details:

Brenda Taplin, Programme Officer
btaplin@personaassociates.co.uk
or by mail at:

Persona Associates
1st Floor Bailey House
Barttelot Road
Horsham RH12 1DQ

If you wish to speak at the Public Inquiry you need to submit the form sent to you after the Pre-Inquiry meeting. If you do not have this form or require further details of how to speak you should contact the Inquiry Administrators. Further details are at:

Inquiry Administrators

Further details of the Public Inquiry are available on the following link. LCC will be adding documents to this page as the inquiry approaches.

Public Inquiry Documents

Please note that we are not legally qualified and cannot provide legal advice. The above is general advice which some may find useful. If you feel you need further, more detailed or legal advice you may need to obtain your own legal advice.

 

Hawthorn Road Action Group Update – mid January 2015

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.

Link to original Email : http://eepurl.com/bbMwob
Link to sign up form for email list : http://eepurl.com/bbNxzf

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 –

Draft Minutes of 15th Dec 2015 LCC Highways and Transport Scrutiny Committee

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 – cllrm.hill@lincolnshire.gov.uk
Portfolio Holder,Highways,Transport & ICT, Richard Davies – cllrr.davies@lincolnshire.gov.uk
Official Standards Monitoring Officer, Richard Wills – richard.wills@lincolnshire.gov.uk

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 hawthornroadactiongroup@gmail.com to register your interest.

Have you received a letter regarding the public Inquiry?

The standard letters which are currently been sent out to all objectors are to say that the SoS has decided that the number of objections letters means that there should be a public inquiry into the Lincoln Eastern Bypass. The inquiry will actually be into the full bypass but we would expect it to be almost completely dominated by Hawthorn Road issues. We do not know when it will be held yet but would expect it to be sometime in March. It will probably be held over several days depending on how many objectors choose to speak at the inquiry and is a formal process a bit like a court case. It will be chaired by an independent Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate. They are usually legal or planning experts with experience of chairing planning appeals or road inquiries.

As regards Hawthorn Road the question the Inspector will have to answer is “If the plans for partially closing Hawthorn Road go ahead are there reasonably convenient and safe alternative routes available.” The burden of proof is effectively on objectors to show that the County Council’s plans to partially close Hawthorn Road will mean that objectors are forced to use alternative routes which are unreasonably inconvenient or unsafe. Unfortunately the Inspector is not allowed to consider other wider issues such as whether the closure of Hawthorn Road is the best idea overall or whether the Council consulted properly on the scheme.

We will be doing some more research and putting some basic advice to objectors on our web site in the near future however it must be remembered that those involved in our campaign are residents and although we have relevant technical skills none of us are legally qualified to give advice.

Those who wrote objection letters have several options depending on how much they do or do not want to be involved in the inquiry process. Any comments, verbal presentations or other inputs to the inquiry which are considered by the Inspector are classed as evidence to the inquiry.

The available options include:

1) Allow your objection letter to be your evidence.

2) Provide the inquiry with a more detailed written ‘proof of evidence’ a few weeks before the inquiry which expands on your objection letter.

3) Provide a written proof of evidence and also appear in person at the inquiry and present your argument verbally to the Inspector.

Anyone can attend the inquiry to watch the proceedings although some of the time is spent on less interesting legal issues.

If anyone has further questions please email us at hawthornroadactiongroup@gmail.com and we will try to help if we can.

Public Inquiry called for Eastern Bypass

The Department for Transport has confirmed there will be a public inquiry into the Scheme Orders for Lincoln Eastern Bypass. This will relate to the whole bypass but it expected to be dominated by Hawthorn Road issues. The date of the inquiry has not yet been announced but is expected to be in the spring. DfT made the decision that an inquiry was necessary due to the huge response from the local area with over 500 objection letters being written. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write a detailed personal letter to The DfT with many also copying letters to Lincolnshire County Council.

The calling of an inquiry is both a success and a disappointment for the Action Group. We had hoped that our brief discussions with LCC would demonstrate that a road bridge was indeed possible, and that it was worth exploring in greater detail following the vast number of objections received. Sadly it appears that LCC are not willing to find a way to make this happen, much to our disappointment. After all if LCC were to amend plans and include a road bridge, objectors would have the opportunity to very quickly withdraw their objections and avoid the costs of a Public Inquiry. We sincerely hope they change their mind.

We will be posting more information about the inquiry here as it becomes known.

LCC calls for local people to fight plans to close road

Lincolnshire County Council has called for plans to close a local road to be abandoned. Richard Davies Executive Councillor for Highways is quoted in todays (18/12/2014) Lincolnshire Echo as saying:

This isn’t a threat we should taking lying down,” he said.

“It would be a massive setback for the city, to the local economy and would split the place into two.

“I’ve had a lot of people and businesses contact me over the last few days, worried about what would happen if it was to be shut down permanently.”

Read more: http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/Brayford-rail-crossing-closure-split-Lincoln/story-25732600-detail/story.html#ixzz3MFVzYluf
Follow us: @LincsEcho on Twitter | LincsEcho on Facebook

The article then goes on to say that the closure is strongly opposed by local businesses but the body proposing the closure has the power to force the closure through. Local people have been consulted and are against the proposals but it is likely they will go ahead regardless of local opinion.

Before anyone gets too excited that sense has been seen and this relates to Hawthorn Road we’re sorry to disappoint everyone that this relates to the Brayford Wharf East level crossing. Further details are in the echo article.

But…and without minimising what is a serious issue for City Centre …..Oh the Irony!!!

Post DfT Meeting Thoughts

One very definite point which came out of the meeting yesterday was that in the view of the Minister and the DfT senior officials the funding for the bypass was not at risk. They pointed out that spending plans are by necessity long term plans and don’t just terminate due to normal delays to a road scheme or because of an election.

The DfT felt that they may not have made this clear enough in their earlier letter to MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney. This may have left some doubt in Lincolnshire County Council’s mind that there were some scenarios where the funding was still at risk of being withdrawn. The Minister said he would write again to LCC setting out more clearly that the funding was ring fenced within the roads funding programme and was not at risk due to reasonable delays or elections.

When LCC receive this letter it will hopefully provide them with the reassurance they need to look again at the issue of Hawthorn Road as LCC Leader Martin Hill offered in his radio interview the day after the public meeting in November.

The HRAG Trip to Westminster – Update

HRAG at Westminster
HRAG at Westminster

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.