Chris Grayling announces Stonehenge tunnel as part of A303 overhaul

Posted on | January 13, 2017 | Comments Off on Chris Grayling announces Stonehenge tunnel as part of A303 overhaul

Yesterday Chris Grayling made a welcome announcement detailing a consultation on long-awaited improvements to the A303 near Stonehenge.

View of traffic on the A303 passing Stonehenge.

Alongside other improvements, the plans include upgrading a seven mile stretch of the A303 near Stonehenge to dual carriageway and providing a 1.8 mile dual carriageway tunnel. Whilst campaigners will say the proposals do not go far enough, any improvements to this stretch of road are to be welcomed.

The proposed improvements, which were first mooted in the 2014 Road investment strategy, will significantly improve car journeys and can only be a boost for industry, commerce, tourism and, not least of all, residents in the South West. These upgrades will help ease congestion and improve journey times – who hasn’t sat in traffic on the A303 crowing your neck to catch a glimpse of the Neolithic stones! – at the same time greatly enhancing the setting of one of the nations most cherished heritage assets.

As the consultation moves forward, there will undoubtedly be a strong mix of views from consultees, with a significant pressure to mitigate impacts on communities, Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape. The Government will need to balance this against the economic benefits to the region that the plans will deliver, this will be no easy task!

The Government’s agenda to build a country that works for everyone begins with the renewed focus on the regions, but a focus on the South West is overdue. For the South West to meet the ambitions of the South West Growth Charter, central government must emulate the same support given to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. The A303 announcement is great news but additional and greater infrastructure decisions must be made by the Government to support the South Wests ambitions.

However, its certainly a time to be cheerful for the whole South West region with Hinckley Point, increased devolution and improved road infrastructure all to look forward to in the coming year. The door is ajar and the South West needs to work hard, shake off its natural modesty and really promote itself to ensure it reaps the potential rewards.

Gavin Barwell’s busy start to 2017

Posted on | January 4, 2017 | Comments Off on Gavin Barwell’s busy start to 2017

We are only just over the Christmas break and Gavin Barwell has already been busy. And there is unlikely to be much let up in his workload over the coming months.

Gavin Barwell

Gavin Barwell

  • Firstly, on 2 January he announces the approval of 14 new garden villages to deliver new housing.
  • A day later, he announces further details of the starter homes initiative with a first wave of 30 local authority partnerships spearheading delivery.
  • Later this month, we are anticipating the publication of a new Housing White Paper.

All of this underlines the Government’s commitment to housing delivery.

For every action, there is a reaction.

Both privately and publicly, local authorities that are in the latter stages of plan making are pre-empting the publication of the White Paper by delaying the progress of their Local Plans.

Also, not everyone is heralding the announcement on garden villages. Local resistance has already emerged since the announcement, not least in Basildon where it is claimed that the new village would lead to coalescence with Brentwood.

Separately Gavin Barwell has now been hit with the threat of a legal challenge over a ministerial statement he made before Christmas relating to housing land supply policies. This statement essentially sought to reduce the housing land supply requirement from five to three years and give greater weight to Neighbourhood Plans which include housing allocations.

The Government is walking a tightrope between expediting housing delivery and trying to give power to local policy makers – potentially creating a recipe for uncertainty.

Uncertainty is not usually helpful and it remains to be seen how these issues will affect housing delivery over the coming months. Some uncertainty in the shorter term can be overcome if local planners and communities are pragmatic and if developers are willing to engage.