EBC Leader House stumbles on B and C traffic questions

ADD UPDATE, 8 November 2016:  As ADD supporters know all too well, one of the main objections to options B and C of Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan is the implications for traffic in the area north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.  The proposed Bishopstoke ‘link road’ (or so-called bypass), if indeed this folly is affordable, would not only be an environmental disaster but would also fail to deal with the traffic.  Given the predictable bottleneck caused by the tiny ‎Allbrook railway bridge, the much-increased volumes of traffic would look for other ways to reach the M3 and beyond.

A transcript of a recent Winchester Southern Parishes meeting, at which EBC Leader Keith House spoke about EBC’s Local Plan process, shows that House himself is far from convinced by, or indeed abreast of, the traffic arguments associated with options B and C.

In a Q&A session after House’s set-piece remarks, an Owslebury parish councillor asked him: “Our main concern in Owslebury is traffic, or traffic volume.  Do you have any data that speculates properly on the amount of traffic that you think is going to come north out of this, because at the moment we have a major problem in Owslebury, which there is no plan to alleviate.  Basically, everyone coming from Portsmouth, Bishop’s Waltham, Waltham Chase, Wickham, Fair Oak, and beyond, doesn’t go through Twyford and Shawford onto the M3, they try and get there through Owslebury.

“There is no capacity left on those roads, they are dangerous, and yet it appears that a rule of thumb says that 20-25% of the people who could live in those [6,000+] homes we are now talking about are going to try to do that. It isn’t going to work.”‎

House’s reply, which was both rambling and unconvincing, betrayed a remarkable lack of attention to detail, given his position and the magnitude of the proposed development.  “The Borough Council is not the highway authority,” he said, “so we have to be reliant on data given to us by Hampshire County Council [HCC], as the highway authority, so we are a bit ‘piggy in the middle’ on the traffic issue, between the development interests, who will always say, ‘it works, doesn’t it?’… and the County that has to model projections based on what the developers tell them.”

“Hampshire claim that their modelling is pretty sophisticated and that it takes into account just about every factor possible coming out of a new development.  Their modelling, as we understand it at the moment, suggests that the effect of creating this new northern bypass, effectively from Fair Oak across to Allbrook, will actually take traffic off roads in the Owslebury area, because it will give traffic coming from Fair Oak and Bishopstoke and south an escape route to the M3 where they are trying to get to, rather than going through the existing villages.  Now I can’t comment on whether that’s true or not, I can only say that that’s what the County Council [claims].”‎

And then came the bombshell.  Pressed on whether he had seen the data he was talking about, House replied: “I haven’t personally seen the data, again I am not a traffic engineer, so I wouldn’t be confident in analysing it anyway.  It’s a work in progress at the moment, as I understand it, and we are expecting more of that to come to pass before we take our own reports through to cabinet in December.”

Given House’s current state of preparedness, let’s hope he and his fellow councillors do not, as we fear, plump solely for‎ options B and C at their meetings in December, but rather keep as many options on the table as possible.  They are clearly not ready to make an informed decision – and to do so would not only be a dereliction of duty but a disservice to everyone, for many generations to come, who will have pick up the pieces.