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Will Westbury finally get a bypass – and where will it go?

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SHOULD Westbury begin looking at a possible route for a future bypass? This was the question considered by town councillors at a recent meeting of their highways, planning and development committee. 

Chair of the committee, cllr Mike Sutton, had sent a letter to Wiltshire Council about the problems caused by traffic and poor air quality in the town and councillors considered a reply from the leader of Wiltshire Council, cllr Richard Clewer. 

In his reply, cllr Clewer reiterated that there is currently no safeguarding for a Westbury bypass, but the council’s core strategy says, “the strategic transport network along the A350 corridor will be maintained, managed and selectively improved to support development growth at Chippenham, Melksham, Trow- bridge, Westbury and Warminster.” Over the last five years, he said that councils had been lobbying for investment for improvement. In March this year, the Secretary of State gave the green light for upgrading of the A350, linking the M4 to the Dorset coast. 

Westbury councillors have expressed hope that a bypass around Westbury could be part of future upgrades to this work. In his letter, cllr Clewer said, “It offers an unprecedented opportunity to argue for investment far beyond levels available to us through usual channels – the study is due to report in late 2022 in time to inform the next RIS period (2025-2030).” However, he added, “We will need to see the outcome of that work prior to giving any serious thought to the safeguarding of any land.” 

At Westbury Town Council’s highways, planning and development committee meeting, cllr Mike Sutton said, “If you’re thinking about a road scheme for Westbury, where are you going to put it? We know that everything has been built on the west side of Westbury and therefore the question arises, where do they actually think this road will go? Have they safeguarded or identified any land where the bypass or the road alleviation will go? And you’ll see in their reply that, no, they haven’t identified any land. So, the question now for the committee is, do we go back to Wiltshire Council and say we are surprised that you haven’t identified any land.” 

Cllr Gordon King described the relationship the town council has with the local authority, “It’s a process of push and pull. We can wait for Wiltshire Council to decide what route to use or we can propose a route ourselves for Wiltshire Council to consider. And certainly, I think it should be up to this town council to take the lead on that going forward. The response given to us by Wiltshire Council does give broadly outline a timetable in which they will apply for grant funding to build a bypass in Westbury on or around 2025 and that all the preparation stuff will start probably next year.” 

Cllr King went on to describe how the new route could actually provide links that the South West are lacking, “As the document provided states, there are very few north to south links within the South West of England, most of them go east west, so there’s very big problem with connectivity. This is a vital thing going forward.” 

Cllr Sutton added, “My only concern is where this space will be. There’s a nasty suspicion that Wiltshire Council will turn round and say, ‘there’s no space that side, let’s look at the underpass again under the White Horse.’”  

2 Responses to Will Westbury finally get a bypass – and where will it go?

  1. Julia Underwood

    October 3, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    “let’s look at the underpass again under the White Horse.”

    There is already a road under the White Horse and there has never been a bypass route proposed that does go under the White Horse.

    The eastern route, which does not go under the White Horse, was chucked out because the people of Westbury wanted a route through the countryside and hamlets to the west, regardless of how ineffective that was in improving traffic conditions in the town and regardless of how damaging that was to the rural landscape and communities in the west.

    Via the grapevine, I hear that there are proposals afoot to reintroduce western bypass plans that are very similar to western routes that traffic modeling demonstrated last time as being quite useless in significantly reducing traffic through Westbury.

    Maybe sanity can prevail? Maybe the people of Westbury are ready to accept a bypass that does the job. You know, the one that was offered last time and doesn’t go under the White Horse.

  2. Russell Hawker

    October 3, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    Wiltshire Council’s highways projects officer team will absolutely have to explore all possible routes and justify the chosen “best” rout in relation to cost and the expected improvement in traffic flow in terms of more reliable journey times and less congestion or traffic in the town.

    I would ignore every word that comes out of Cllr Sutton’s mouth as it is usually based on utter nonsense rather than correct procedures or established routines.

    Whatever the town council’s more foolish members think about the project, Wiltshire Council’s officer team will analyse all suitable routes from scratch and will certainly not have any sort of preferred route prior to starting the exercise.

    An awful lot depends on the amount of government money that would be available. The eastern route that went through the Wellhead Valley and turned downhill to cross Bratton Road and rejoin the existing A350 route by “cement works corner” was the shortest and cheapest route and also was the only one that provided a significant reduction in traffic flow through the town. In fact, at the closest point towards the Westbury White Horse, the bypass would have been at least 1 Km away and hidden in a cutting which would have been wurrounded by many new trees.

    I understand that the far western route going from the A36 at Standerwick across to North Bradley and following a railway line would be vastly more expensive.

    I believe that if the money can be achieved for the far western route, there will be considerable political pressure from on high in the government to see the project done. If the money is simply not available (ie. cannot be justified because of the enormous cost and spoiling of vastly more countryside for a relatively insignificant improvement in traffic journey times etc), I believe we will end up with a strongly justified and funded eastern route in the end.