Bringing the Midlands to rural Wiltshire and Dorset
Road building is outdated
Although the world has moved on, when it comes to transport, many local authority councillors in the rural shires appear to be stuck in the past. Perhaps this is because alternatives, involving building around modern metro systems like the ones you see in other countries, just aren't being built in England. Perhaps it's because there is little government money to work up bus and rail to the point where ordinary people use them to get around. And with much talk about cycling and 'active travel' we are still building much out-of-town in places where walking or cycling is often impossible. More and more cars come onto the roads as more and more land is opened up specifically for car-based sprawl. Road building comes back on the agenda.
Old road schemes already rejected being bought back
Many of the road schemes involved have already been examined and rejected at some point over the last three decades by governments and planning inspectors. Many millions have been spent on planning and devising and assessing roads that turned out to be duds.
Over the last three decades our two campaigns - the A36/A350 Corridor Alliance and the White Horse Alliance - have collected inspector’s reports or government statements on scrapped road schemes. Some, such as the inspector’s report on the A36-A46 link east of Bath, had all but disappeared. There was no trance of it in ministerial files or the National Archives. We eventually tracked it down to a library in Bath.
When crucial and expensively created documents like this can disappear so quickly from public view in what looks like deliberate cultivation of ignorance it is no wonder that councillors and planners keep on mistaking old follies for brilliant new solutions to current problems.
When you can't think of anything else to do, build roads!
A belief in the transformative power of road-building remains an article of faith for Wiltshire and certain neighbouring local authorities. For years Wiltshire's transport policy has been dominated by a mission to turn the A350 into an economic growth corridor. See also Local Transport Today article 28 September 2018
Faith in the power of roads as the basis for growth apparently exempts the believer from any duty to protect the planet from climate disaster, the natural world from ecological collapse, the countryside from the desolation of land without farms or tranquillity, or rivers without water or fish. Large new highways are not about local economies – our market towns and villages – but rather about releasing large greenfield sites in the countryside for the international real estate market. An expressway to the ports is associated with this unsustainable notion of growth, The dream imagines more and more container lorries travelling to expanding ports, with faster journeys to and from warehouses and just-in-time deliveries. But all this only serves to continue our three-planet lifestyle.
Infinite growth in roads and traffic.....
Needless to say the M4-DC study does not concern itself with such nightmare visions of a future built for infinite growth in roads and traffic. Electric cars and trucks will, it is supposed, get us to Net Zero; new roads will deliver a 20 per cent biodiversity gain; the study doesn’t have to ‘do’ spatial planning or transport by modes other than the highway network. Other bodies will consider investment in trains, trams, buses, bikes and walkable p[laces.
Major road building might seems a a strange thing to be doing in the sooty twilight of the carbon age. In a truly modern country it might even look like a charmingly eccentric pastime. But this is government policy in Britain today, pursuing business as usual, and free at last from the EU’s red tape, the government will feel free to do exactly the wrong thing.