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Rerouting the Andover Road: is the tide turning?
IT’S the issue that just won’t go away.
Planning permission has been granted, the public inquiry is a distant memory, and you can almost hear the sound of the invading diggers and lorries rolling on to Barton Farm.
And last November the fate of the greenfield site looked settled once and for all when the scheme was given the go-ahead by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
But contained within that permission was a proposal to block off Andover Road, turning it into a tree-lined boulevard, and channelling a new Andover Road through the 2,000-home development.
And many refuse to accept the rerouting of a road into the city that was first laid down by the Romans.
In August, that issue was again at the fore as five city councillors were among those calling for a rethink.
But Cala land director, Mike Emett, believes things are changing.
“I think the tide has gradually turned over the course of the year and I genuinely believe we’re doing the right thing.
“It was actually our architects who came up with the idea – it wasn’t an engineers’ proposal, it was a designers’ proposal.
“When they first presented it to us, our initial reaction was not too dissimilar to many people’s in Winchester.”
The reasons behind the move, Mr Emett says, are three-fold.
Henry Beaufort School will no longer be “hemmed in” and can be expanded easily as part of the developers’ obligations.
Secondly, developers say the busyness of the road has been overplayed, but also argue it is much harder to calm an existing road, than to build calming measures into a new Andover Road.
There is also the question of creating a vibrant hub and Cala say 2,000 houses will “support a supermarket but not necessarily a thriving village centre.”
But for many, the idea of rerouting a busy artery through a village is counterintuitive.
Campaigner Mike Slinn said: “There are bound to be more risks and more casualties as soon as you put a busy road like that through a development.
“I think there is a certain amount of anger. It’s just bad democracy when something goes through ‘on the nod’ without proper public consultation.”
There is also concern that disruption on the A34, such as a breakdown or an accident, would result in chaos as people use the new Andover Road – at 30mph - as a diversion.
Mr Emett feels that may be missing the point: “There are times when Andover Road is busy and I make no qualms about that. Maybe it will be worse, but not much worse.
“But we have never claimed to solve those traffic problems – it was never the intention to reduce traffic with this measure.”
Highways consultant, Mike Fuller, says that each day an average of 10,000 vehicles use the current Andover Road, from Harestock Road to the City Road junction, and that will increase to about 16,000 when the development is complete. He predicts journey times in the morning rush hour will increase from five to eight minutes, to about 6.5 to 9.5 minutes. The county’s highways officer, Steve Jenkins, has previously estimated an increase of about 90 seconds.
That seems a modest rise resulting from a hefty 60 per cent increase in vehicles.
“It’s like comparing apples and pears. You will have different speed limits. At the moment you’ve got 40, 50, and 30mph limits and you get stop-start traffic. The new road will be 30mph, or 20mph, and so the speeds will be more consistent and it won’t feel appreciably slower,” Mr Fuller says.
Sean Woodward, the county’s executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: “I didn’t really understand why they were doing it (the rerouting) at the time, but that decision has been made and it will be implemented.
“There is no will within the county council at present to change the plans. Cala would have to instigate it but I don’t see why they would as they would have to start the planning application again.”
The next stage now is for a “stopping up order” which will allow developers to close the Andover Road. Mr Slinn and his associates plan to challenge that, but Winchester City Council leader, Keith Wood, who opposed the proposal back in 2010, says they have missed the boat.
“I’m just faced with a fait accompli as far as this is concerned. I can try and persuade the developers, and we have tried, but their advisors see this as the best thing to create a community at Barton Farm.
“At the inquiry there weren’t that many people who stood up and said they wanted it changed. I did. We did not like it and I said so at the time, but we lost.”
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