A public inquiry opened today into plans for an Oxfordshire road project worth £279m. The HIF1 scheme proposes a new dual-carriageway on the A4130 from Milton Interchange to Didcot, including new bridges and a bypass at Clifton Hampden. The plans were submitted to the government after Oxfordshire County Council’s planning committee rejected them last July.

BBC Oxford was there to report on the opening. Oxfordshire County Council says the project is about improving connections between the science employment sites of Harwell, Milton Park, and Culham, where thousands of new homes are being built.

Oxfordshire County Councillor for Infrastructure and Development Strategy Judy Roberts, told the BBC the aim was “to reduce congestion that’s already in the area and predicted to become worse” and “make it safer for all modes of transport”. Greg O’Broin, of Appleford Parish Council, said the scheme would not solve congestion and was unaffordable. Chris Church, co-chair of ORAA and  member of Oxford Friends of the Earth told the BBC:

“This is the biggest road scheme since the M40 was built. “To say it’s got a pavement and a cycle track doesn’t really amount to massively sustainable transport options.” He said upgrading the train stations at Culham and Appleford would be more useful than “having to cycle alongside a high speed road”.

Ms Lesley Coffee introduced herself as the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State  and declared the HIF1 Inquiry open. 

Two opening statements were made by Oxfordshire County Council, one as Applicant and one as the Local Planning Authority (LPA).  The latter claims to be neutral following the Emergency Planning Meeting on 27 Sept-23.  The LPA statement recited the arguments made to justify the roll back of the reasons why HIF1 was originally rejected.  Listeners were not convinced that the LPA are neutral observers.

 The two District Councils (Vale & SODC) made shorter statements in favour of the scheme. This was followed by an opening statement from UKAEA which claimed Britain’s world leadership in Fusion research will be lost without the 11 km HIF1 road between Didcot, Culham and A4015. They conveniently omitted to mention that the JET Tokamak which contains poisonous & radioactive materials will take 17 years to decommission.
David Woolley, Advocate for the Rule 6 parties opposed to the scheme, listed 11 reasons why the Inspector should recommend rejection of the HIF1 application. Various speakers spoke in a personal capacity.  Most spoke against the scheme with a few in favour.
Tomorrow, Rule 6 party POETS (Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment and Transport Sustainably) will present their proofs of evidence opposing the scheme.
The Inquiry will run until May.  The Inspector will consider the issues and make a  recommendation to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities in due course.