Watlington Relief Road
ORAA is opposing the planning application to build a Watlington Relief Road. The county council says it would help “fulfill the ambitions of the Oxfordshire Housing & Growth Deal”. The road is entirely in the setting of the Chilterns National Landscape and would harm views from National Trust Watlington Hill.
HIF1 Planning Inquiry
We are preparing for the Public Inquiry into the HIF1 Road which starts on Feb 20th in Milton Park (see below for details). Despite rejecting the plan in July 2023 Oxfordshire County Council are still desperate to push this forward. They will ignore the concerns raised at the July meeting and will only present evidence in support of the application.
The opposition will thus come from members of ORAA, from affected parish councils and other voluntary groups. We have raised over £20,000 to fight this Inquiry but far greater legal forces will be pushing the proposal. The County and District councils are doing their best to ignore the massive climate impacts of this scheme, the damage to nature and the Thames, and to the County’s own Transport Policy which states that new roads are “not a sustainable long term solution for Oxfordshire’s transport network.”
The case against
The arguments that ORAA and others will present at the inquiry are in ‘Proofs of evidence’. These are all available here: https://gateleyhamer-pi.com/en-gb/didcot-garden- town/inquiry-documents/proofs-planning/
A short summary of objections can be downloaded here (produced July 2023):
Our arguments at the Inquiry will include:
⦁ Damage to the Green Belt
The part of the road scheme north of the Thames is ‘inappropriate development’ in the Green Belt and the very special circumstances (required by law) to override its inappropriateness do not exist. The County Council own planning officers agree that this is inappropriate development. [See Alan James Proof of Evidence]
⦁ Damage to the landscape
There are four areas where there is major and damaging landscape impact:
⦁ A massive new bridge over the Thames
⦁ A concrete viaduct across the lakes immediately south of the Thames, where the tranquillity would be permanently damaged
⦁ The Clifton Hampden bypass which cuts through quiet mature countryside on the edge of the village
⦁ A tall bridge at Appleford with serious local impacts. [See Alan James Proof]
⦁ Costs and Viability
Since its inception in 2014, the costs of the HIF1 Scheme have increased by more than a quarter to £296 million. Up £366m may be required to build this road. The budgeted figures for inflation are unrealistically low given the current circumstances. In addition the contingency fund (£52M) is insufficient according to Department for Transport (DfT) analysis that shows how two-thirds of road-building projects exceed their budgets by at least 10%.
There is only about a 20% chance that HIF1 would stay within its budget of £296 million.
On the current figures OCC will need to borrow over £30M to supplement government and other funding – this figure could rise significantly. The scheme is not deliverable within the current funding envelope, and presents a significant financial risk to the OCC.
[See Ng Chien Xen Proof, Roger Turnbull and others]
⦁ Climate and carbon
The HIF1 scheme contravenes the County Council (OCC)’s own Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP). OCC has not assessed its impact on local carbon budgets, and proceeding will very likely mean that South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse cannot stay within their ‘carbon budget’ under the UN Paris agreement, as required by the LTCP. It will increases car trips at a time when the OCC is seeking to reduce them.
[See Ng Chien Xen Proof, Roger Williams, and others]
⦁ Traffic levels
Traffic forecasts rely on the 2013 Oxford Strategic Model’s out-dated National Road Traffic Projections (NRTP) and were made before the onset of Brexit, Covid19, and the radically increased recognition of the effects of climate change and the importance of policies to combat it, both nationally and in Oxfordshire. Increase in traffic due to “induced demand”
has not been modelled and the traffic modelling is not a reliable representation of the flows across the road network and along the new road.
This application does not support any attempt to reduce vehicle journeys from new and existing housing and employment sites in line with the OCC LTCP.
[See Ng Chien Xen Proof, Prof. Phil Goodwin, Roger Turnbull and others]
⦁ The alternatives
The Environmental Statement (ES) for the Plan fails to consider reasonable, realistic,
alternative options, as required by law (the Environmental Impact Regulations 2017). Court judgments show that not only are such assessments required, but that failure to do so renders the application open to challenge if permission were to be granted. A sustainable
transport system for the Science Vale area of the County is possible, using improved and new public transport systems including upgrading Oxford – Didcot rail services.
[See Richard Tamplin Proof, Roger Turnbull, Sam Casey-Rerhaye and others]
⦁ Local Impacts
There would be substantial impacts on local residents. Major new developments linked to the road will increase traffic and congestion, and there is no evidence of resources available for the claimed improved public transport that will result. Better ways to meet local needs exist.
The Environmental Statement (ES) for the Plan is fatally flawed since it failed to assess the environmental effects of HIF1 on the Town Centre of Abingdon, just 3km from one part of the road.
The HIF1 scheme’s eastern end would put all traffic onto the A4074 and most would pass through Nuneham Courtenay. The impact of this has been excluded from assessment in the Environmental Statement (ES) even though this “is forecast to experience an 87% increase in daily traffic by 2034”.
[See Sam Casey-Rerhaye Proof, Richard Tamplin Proof, Roger Turnbull, Chris Hancock and others]
⦁ Health and Noise impacts
The proposal will have detrimental effects on the health of the local population especially in the village of Appleford. OCC admits in its own planning proposal that this are not amenable to full mitigation.
The application is based on the premise that “ It would not be practical to deliver the infrastructure necessary to the delivery of the adopted spatial strategy for housing and
employment growth… without a highway of this scale and nature”. We do not agree. It is the case that the spatial strategy and associated transport planning needs to be reviewed in the light of new plans, commitments to deliver carbon emission cuts, the LTCP priorities and the financial risks.
[See Dr Angela Jones – Health Proof, Chris Hancock]
The Inquiry details
Full details on the Public Inquiry are here: https://news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/update-on-hif1-didcot- and-surrounding-areas-planning-application-and-orders/ It will take place at Bee House in Milton Park, and will sit for 22 days across a 12-week period. The start date is Feb. 20th and the dates of the inquiry will be:
1. 20 to 23 February
2. 27 February to 1 March
3. 26 to 28 March
4. 16 to 19 April
5. 23 to 26 April
6. 8 to 10 May (set as reserve days)