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Agenda item

A350 Melksham Bypass

*                 Report of the Chief Executive

 

Minutes:

Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Cabinet Member for Transport, Waste, Street Scene and Flooding presented the report reviewing the responses received to the second public consultation on the proposals for the A350 Melksham Bypass scheme.

 

Andrew Nicolson read a statement on behalf of Wiltshire Climate Alliance.

 

The Leader thanked Mr Nicolson for his comments and confirmed that it would be published alongside the agenda on the Councils website.

 

Cllr Dr McClelland reported that the A350 Melksham Bypass is a Large Local Major scheme which had been awarded development funding by the Department of Transport (DfT) to take it to Outline Business Case (OBC) stage. It would be a major improvement to the A350 Primary route which provided vital transport links between the M4, the towns of western Wiltshire and the south coast. The Melksham Bypass is required to address current growth trends and future planned growth within Wiltshire. Cllr Dr McClelland commented in detail about the options for the scheme and the second consultation, including scheme publicity and responses received as contained in the report, along with proposals for moving the scheme forward.

 

The Cabinet commented on the proposals and in particular the need to respond to climate change issues, a call for reductions in carbon emissions and the promotion of alternative forms of transport. However, the Cabinet noted that Wiltshire was a rural county with an economy increasingly reliant on vehicles. The growth in the number of hybrid and electric vehicles was welcomed. It was noted that many vehicles, including HGV’s travel through the centre of Melksham, very close to residential properties and a bypass would help to ease congestion and subsequent health issues being experienced by residents along town centre routes.

 

Cllr Ian Thorn encouraged the Cabinet to be brave in making its decision on the proposals, based on the evidence before them. He felt that on balance the opportunities outweighed any negatives of the scheme.

 

Cllr Jon Hubbard thanked the Cabinet and officers for a good consultation, including attendance at Town Council and Area Board meetings, which offered the public an opportunity to raise any issues. Cllr Hubbard confirmed that congestion was a major issue in Melksham and the proposals were welcomed.

 

Cllr Nick Holder reported that there appeared to be a misunderstanding amongst residents that a final decision was being made by Cabinet at this meeting. Cllr Dr McClelland and officers confirmed the next stages of the scheme were detailed in the report which indicated that a final decision on the scheme would take a number of years to be made and was dependant on an outline business case, a full business case, further non-statutory consultation, preparation of a planning application, statutory orders and review by the Department for Transport, if approved funding would be provided to enable the construction of the scheme.

 

Cllr Gordon King commented on the projected start date for the project and highlighted the ongoing request for a Westbury bypass.

 

Cllr Brian Mathew welcomed the schemes inclusion of walking routes for residents of Melksham and commented on the reconsideration of the Stonehenge tunnel and the possibility of reassigning those funds to a Westbury bypass.

 

Cllr Clare Cape commented on the investment to release a bottleneck in one part of the scheme and the potential for it to rematerialize in another area.

 

Cllr Helen Belcher commented on the need to retain countryside views where the proposed bypass joins the road in the vicinity of Lacock. She also commented on the traffic volumes on the A365 as a consequence of the closure of Cleveland Bridge in Bath and whether an assessment had or would be completed on this. Cllr Dr McClelland explained that discussions would be held with the National Trust in relation to the junction near Lacock and further data analysis would be undertaken on the closure of Cleveland Bridge, Bath as a result of fluctuating traffic levels during the pandemic.

 

Resolved:

 

  1. The response to the second public consultation and the views of the town and local parish councils and others are noted and taken into account in the scheme development,

 

  1. In view of the comments made in response to the consultations the route variants should be the subject of further investigation and consultation as appropriate after the OBC has been approved,

 

  1. The possibility of improving walking and cycling facilities in the area in conjunction with the scheme or separately should continue to be explored,

 

  1. Further consideration should be given to the scheme when the results of National Highways’ M4 to Dorset Connectivity study and the DfT’s comments on the OBC are available.

 

Reason for Decision:

The A350 Melksham Bypass is a Large Local Major scheme which was awarded development funding by the DfT to progress it through to OBC stage. It represents a major improvement to the important A350 Primary north-south route which provides vital transport links between the M4, the towns of western Wiltshire and the south coast.

 

Various options have been considered and a potential route corridor has been identified to the east of the town which meets the transport objectives and appears to meet the criteria for funding to develop to the next stage in the business case process.


Further survey and development work is required to prepare the scheme to the level of detail necessary to submit a planning application and environmental impact assessment. This would include further consultations with the public, town and parish councils, the Area Board, and other relevant organisations.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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