5 October: We've been unpicking council claims to have consulted on their dusty old road schemes, with shocking results...
The final bids for government ‘Development Pool’ funding are now being considered (see our interactive map) and – with local campaigners - we’ve checked whether the public have been properly consulted about four of the biggest road schemes.
We found that no specific consultation about the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road has happened since 2004, when East Sussex County Council looked at different routes rather than asking if people wanted a road at all. The council is relying on the planning application and compulsory purchase processes as evidence of consultation, despite these being processes they are legally obliged to follow anyway.
The council has completely avoided consultation this year, instead holding two invitation-only 'focus groups’, from which local campaigners were excluded.
Similar things have been going on at Kingskerswell in Devon. The last consultation on Devon County Council's bypass was in 2002, and local people were again given different road routes to look at, not asked if they wanted a road at all!
The council held some new public exhibitions this summer. Yet, as we described in our blog of 26 July, they have tweaked the results to hide the 63 per cent of local people who oppose the scheme.
There has never been a specific consultation on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, which has always been a part of much larger and complex consultations for transport and development around Norwich. This scheme has changed so much since it was first proposed that the public have never been asked specifically about the current route.
In their final bid document Norfolk County Council says that, way back in 2003, 78 per cent of people supported the road, failing to mention that, in the same questionnaire, over 90 per cent said they supported public transport improvements.
The residents of South Bristol have also never been asked specifically about the South Bristol Link Road. In 2004 and 2006 a wider regional transport consultation showed the new road as a vague dotted line, and now the promoters prefer to focus on the buses they want to run along it, leaving many people to believe wrongly that the road itself has been dropped.
This year, the West of England Partnership left it to a voluntary group to organise two public meetings that included bus proposals as well as the road, and these were held outside the areas affected by the road, with no publicity for residents in the affected area.
We've sent our comments on all these failed attempts at 'consultation' to the Department for Transport today, and links to the documents are below. We hope they will recognise that these roads don’t have the public support they claim, and that these shoddy consultations leave the councils wide open to legal challenges in the future.
Download our consultation reports for each scheme below.
Guest blog by Rebecca Lush Blum