Watlington Relief Road plan slammed
Oxfordshire Roads Action Alliance (ORAA) (1) is objecting to Oxfordshire County Council’s planning application to build a new road at Watlington.
The proposed new road is designed to take some traffic out of Watlington but it would increase traffic across the county (2), undermining the council’s own transport goals and create an even busier road through the centre of new housing developments (3). The council’s transport plan has to cut one in four car trips by 2030 and one in three by 2040 (4).
ORAA believes there is no justification to build this road, particularly given the strategic allocation for 3000 houses at Chalgrove Airfield has been deemed undeliverable (5). The Civil Aviation Authority recommended in 2021 that development at Chalgrove Airfield be discontinued. It confirmed to ORAA that its position has not changed and that the CAA has had no further contact from Homes England since it withdrew its outline application in May 2021 . The site’s promoter is not consulting on a revised application, as it was announced in March (6).
ORAA is particularly concerned that the road will lead to:
• An increase in HGV traffic in the area with roundabout junctions built to accommodate them – part of a policy of making this an HGV through route by stealth
• Watlington’s school site being separated from new playing fields. (The school was gifted land adjoining the site to accommodate more children from Redrow’s Hampden Meadows housing development but this would become separated if the county builds a road)
• Harm to the Chilterns National Landscape (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and listed Shirburn Park and Garden both dark skies environments
• An environmentally damaging new crossing of the Chalgrove Brook chalk stream
• Sub-standard walking and cycling facilities – shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists can create conflict and are best avoided wherever possible.
• No investment in public transport, which will be undermined by the extra car traffic the road is designed for (7)
The county has low-cost traffic management options that would reduce delay in Watlington to 2018 levels and deliver further significant and quantifiable improvements in air quality (8). However, the council has refused to progress these as they would have undermined its case for a £10m (2021 estimate) new road.
Debbie Davies, a member of ORAA, said:
“At a time when we need to be cutting road traffic, this will do the opposite. It will undermine the county council’s own transport policies and increase carbon emissions. It’s a 1960s solution to a 21st century problem. It will cost local taxpayers millions of pounds in lost investment in public transport and other community facilities.
“The county council claims to be committed to its climate change targets. For this application to be submitted during COP28, highlights the disconnect between the need to take urgent action on climate change and actually doing something about it. Unless the county changes tack it will be making things worse. The roads department seems determined to accelerate us towards climate breakdown.”
Note to editors:
1. Oxfordshire Roads Action Alliance (ORAA) is a community alliance and campaign group to prevent unsuitable road development in Oxfordshire.
2. The county council’s own Oxfordshire traffic model shows bypassing Watlington causes some traffic to reassign off the nearby M40/A40 onto the county’s roads. A WRR is a road capacity scheme and these fail to alleviate congestion for long because they increase vehicle miles travelled (VMT) Called induced traffic
3. Bloor Homes was granted planning to build Harman’s Way as a cul de sac for access to its Red Kite View housing development. Redrow Homes would build a section of the road through its Hampden Meadows housing development. Both housing developments have standalone planning permissions and are not dependent on the County Council completing a relief road.
4. Oxfordshire County Council Local Transport and Connectivity Plan Policy 36 Road schemes: (a) Only consider road capacity schemes after all other options have been explored
6. A spokesperson for Homes England told ORAA it will review amendments in the next Jt Local Plan and make the appropriate comments through the formal consultation process. The next plan deallocates Chalgrove Airfield and does not allocate any new strategic greenfield sites.
7. Oxford Civic Society Transport Group Watlington Relief Road Case Study – a WRR is a distributor road designed for motor traffic. OCS Visions November 2023, pages 8/9
8. Oxonair, Oxfordshire’s air quality website, shows roadside nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen in Watlington by 46% from 39µgm-3 in 2013 to 21µgm-3 in 2023 (provisional). The county’s air quality website is provided by Ricardo, engineering and environment consultants. Ricardo has identified actions to address the existing road in Watlington will remain open, and have traffic. Smoothing the flow by some parking removal, and enforcement to remove HGVs that should not be there, reduces emissions by a further quantifiable 35%. No actions on air quality are required as no exceedances of NO2 are recorded in Watlington. The county council could go further by implementing Ricardo’s low cost measures and not building a road. This will also reduce delay to 2018 levels, with a saving of 149 and 89 seconds in the AM and PM peaks respectively, allowing for all planned development. (Appeal Ref: APP/Q3115/W/19/3222822). Any post Covid gains on peak hour traffic from increased work from home would be on top.