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Roads to Nowhere

Defend the Blackdown Hills from new road plans

Bridget Fox's picture

Local campaigners are rallying opposition to plans for new road options along the A30 between Honiton and Devonshire Inn in Devon. 

As Clive Potter from Blackdowns Road Action Group (BRAG) reports, the impact of all three proposed routes on landscape and tranquillity in what is supposed to be a protected landscape setting will be devastating.

Consultation closes on Friday 30 September, so don’t miss out on having your say.

At Campaign for Better Transport, we've added our voice to those objecting to the proposals. (You can read our response here). If road plans like this get the go ahead, the implications are far wider than for Devon alone. 

AONBs have special protected status in planning law – that’s the point of having this designation.  Both the NPPF (planning policy) and NNNPS (road planning policy) make this clear.

We understand that holiday queues are frustrating. But with the A30 traffic assessments showing over an 80% increase in traffic on this route in August compared to January, we don’t believe that permanently concreting over protected countryside can be justified to fix a seasonal problem.

The real agenda is that the road is part of the strategic A30/A303 cross country route that the road industry has long wanted to upgrade (the same route also threatens the Stonehenge World Heritage Site). 

Increasing road capacity attracts more traffic with consequent impacts on air quality, road maintenance, noise and safety: all this at an estimated construction cost of £20 million per km represents a very poor deal for communities along the route.

There are alternatives. The consultation points out that the primary route via the M5 is 14km longer than the A30 – but in the context of a 300km plus journey, that’s marginal.  

Smarter traffic management, including better real time travel information, managed freight queues at peak times, and measures as simple as improving junction sightlines and enforcing speed limits could all make a real difference.

Longer term, solutions lie in improving rail connections. As the Government’s new Rail Freight Strategy states, each freight train removes the equivalent of up to 76 lorry journeys from our roads. And there are cross cutting benefits of rail freight investment for passenger rail services.  The Peninsula Rail Task Force has some good proposals, and improvements to the Exeter-Salisbury line are long overdue.

We’re not alone in raising objections to the A30 Blackdown Hills plans.  Local campaigners are mobilising, and an online petition has attracted nearly 500 signatures, in addition to the many responses sent in to Devon’s consultation.  

While it’s important to take part before the consultation closes on 30 September, that’s not the end.  The next stage will be to identify a preferred route which will then have to go through the planning process and bid for national funds.

Twelve- years ago, then Transport Minister Alastair Darling rejected plans to dual the A30 through the Blackdown Hills, on environmental grounds.  Let’s hope that similar wisdom will prevail now.

 

 

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