Public to have their say on major road scheme
TWO sets of public hearings will take place later this year to enable Somerset residents to have their say on turning the A303 into a dual carriageway.
Highways England has submitted detailed plans to transform a threemile stretch between the Podimore roundabout near Ilchester and Sparkford, at a cost of up to £250 million.
The plans are being examined by the Planning Inspectorate, and the Transport Secretary could give the final go-ahead by the end of the year.
Before then, residents will have two opportunities to ask questions about the scheme at public hearings to be held in late February and midMay, either side of the local elections.
A preliminary public meeting was held on December 12, at which a number of concerns were raised.
These include the design and layout of the Hazlegrove and Downhead junctions, the stopping-up of Gason Lane and Traits Lane near Sparkford, and the prospect of increased traffic through Queen Camel, Sparkford, and West Camel.
South Somerset District Council will make a formal submission to the Planning Inspectorate before June 12, highlighting its own concerns and pointing out where local mitigation may be needed.
An update on this work came before the council’s district executive committee in Yeovil this week.
Jo Manley, the council’s strategic planning specialist, said there was a difference of opinion over whether the scheme would have a severe impact on the villages of Queen Camel, Sparkford, West Camel and Yeovilton.
She said in her written report: “Highways England has concluded that their modelling does not show significant adverse effects as a result of the increased vehicle movements, and therefore no mitigation is required as a result of this scheme.
“Somerset County Council’s technical view is that vehicle movements do increase as a result of the proposed scheme.”
The county council predicts the ‘dualling’ would lead to an extra 600 vehicles per day passing through West Camel (a 42 per cent rise from current levels) and an extra 1,800 vehicles a day passing through Sparkford High Street (a 37 per cent increase).
Ms Manley added: “The county council has not yet concluded as to whether this increase of vehicles would result in a significant adverse effect.
“While Highways England does not accept that the scheme generates significant adverse effects, as a gesture of goodwill it has offered the parish of West Camel some highways mitigation outside of the official process.”
In a statement read aloud to the committee, West Camel Parish Council said the county council’s approach “beggars belief ”, and the proposals to combat existing rat runs through the village “fall far short” of the expected standard.
Highways England has said a detailed inspection of the entire route will be carried out by the Planning Inspectorate on February 19, ahead of the first set of hearings.
A spokesman said: “A number of hearings, dealing with matters such as archaeology and cultural heritage, ecology and flooding, noise and air quality, traffic and transport and socio-economic effects, will be taking place between February 26 and March 1. Any further hearings required will be held between May 14 and 16, and the examination will be completed by June 12.”
Both sets of hearings will be held at the Haynes International Motor Museum in Sparkford.
The Hazelgrove roundabout on the A303