Today we received the unexpected (and quite exciting) news that planning permission for the Westbury Bypass has been turned down by the Secretary of State. As well as being an unexpected result this is also quite an unusual one too – the success rate of defeating a road at public inquiry is frustratingly low.
There have been reports that Government budgets for local road schemes have been cut by 35% and that priority is now being given to more economical solutions such as using hard shoulders instead of additional lanes. With any luck this decrease in funds will initiate a closer look at alternative solutions to road building – ones that really are ‘sustainable’.
However, the White Horse Alliance has been tirelessly campaigning against the Westbury Bypass scheme for a number of years now and without doubt was instrumental in the refusal of this road scheme. The scheme was due to pass right under the White Horse of Salisbury Plain and would have had large scale adverse landscape and environmental impacts – despite not actually addressing the traffic problems of the area!
It is reassuring that the Government are looking for more financially viable schemes, particularly as improvements to public transport are often at a fraction of the cost, both economically and environmentally, of traditional road schemes. This result should give confidence to others campaigning out there and potentially highlight to Local Planning Authorities that they can’t just push through pointless and environmentally damaging road schemes (Weymouth Relief road!) as they previously have done.