Earlier Owl reported yesterday’s Western Morning News report on the A 303 decision.
In today’s WMN Tim Jones, chairman of the South West Business Council (SWBC) and David Ralph, chief executive of Heart of the South West LEP join Peninsula Transport Group chair Councillor Andrea Davis in lamentation.
Too many groups of questionable accountability and effectiveness? – Owl
Extract from Today’s WMN:
Mr Justice Holgate, adjudicating on a challenge by Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site campaigners, ruled the minister’s decision was unlawful due to a lack of evidence regarding the impact on the historic site and a failure to consider alternatives. It means the future of the transport scheme is now unknown and the South West could miss out on what business groups were predicting as an investment bonanza.
Tim Jones, chairman of the South West Business Council (SWBC), said the Government’s own figures had predicted it leading to a £40 billion boost for the region over a 20-year period. “So the cost of this decision for the South West will be about £2 billion a year – negative,” he said.
“That’s scary numbers. It’s a complete body blow.” The SWBC had predicted that just by completing the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme, including the tunnel, the Westcountry would gain a £4 billion boost.
Further improvements to the A303, particularly by dualling the road between Honiton and the M3, would escalate this to £40 billion as it would ease access to Southampton and other south-coast destinations, and London and the South East.
Mr Jones said that is now all in jeopardy and added: “We thought a positive decision had been made and this would kickstart a new series of investments. That’s now put in doubt. There is no certainty that it will be possible to reverse this decision.”
The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) called the High Court decision “a huge disappointment” and said it would be writing to the Government to find out how it plans to improve transport into the region.
David Ralph, chief executive of Heart of the South West LEP, said: “This is a huge disappointment for many South West businesses and constitutes yet again a failure of Government to deliver on its promises to address the inadequate infrastructure getting into and out of the South West and specifically the A303 over the last two decades.
“We will be writing to the Department of Transport and Highways England directly to clarify how they propose to move forward and deliver the connectivity that is so badly overdue and talk directly with our MPs to seek reassurances that progress can be made as soon as practically possible,” he added.