Campaign to Protect Rural England - Somerset

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2017 AGM - The End Of The Road?

 A Better Way Forward
 
A packed meeting in Taunton recently agreed that new roads are not the answer and that we must try to work together to find a better way forward.

On October 12th, 2017, over 70 people packed in to the Large Hall at St James Church, Taunton.  Many were members of the Somerset branch of CPRE  but the meeting also attracted many others, including representatives of cycling groups Parish Councils, Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council as well as the general public. They all had one thing in common – an interest in looking for alternatives to the current Government policy of more and more road building, which is threatening Somerset’s countryside, the way of life of our rural communities and our air quality. 
 
Somerset is currently facing major new roadbuilding proposals with recent consultations on dualling the A303 and the creation of a new A358 dual carriageway cutting through unspoilt countryside east of Taunton. CPRE Somerset is so concerned about the threats of these major road schemes and the impact they will have on our countryside that we decided to devote ourAGM this year to exploring alternative approaches and we opened the meeting up to everyone.  There were four main speakers ranging from community activists to national campaigners.
 
Mike Farrell of Stoke St Mary Parish Council explained how he and his neighbours had taken on the might of Highways England this summer, challenging the unfairness of its consultation process which offered only one option for the new A358 dual carriageway, which would run through unspoilt countryside in their parish. 
 
Daniel Carey-Dawes, Senior Infrastructure Campaigner with CPRE, explained CPRE’s ground-breaking research in their recent “The End of the Road?” report [1], which proves that new roads just generate more traffic, damage the landscape and do little to help the local economy. 
 
Chris Todd, Campaign for Better Transport, gave an inspiring talk showing what could be achieved with careful planning – a topic close to home for residents of Taunton who have seen a huge increase in new housing. He stressed the importance of good walking and cycling routes plus integrated, co-ordinated public transport, saying: “If we build new housing in the middle of a field in the countryside it is hardly surprising when, miles from anywhere, people drive, clogging up the roads with traffic. New development needs to be located on good public transport nodes or corridors, where people will have a choice of how they get around.  We also need to be building proper communities with local services that most people can access by walking and cycling, further reducing the need to travel by car.”
 
Christopher Maltin painted a stark picture of the long lasting effect of the Beeching cuts on rural rail travel.  His Transition Langport group is working hard to get a new station in the Langport/Somerton area through their Back On Track campaign.  He said “At 28 miles long, the line between Taunton and Castle Cary is the longest section on the London – Penzance line without a station.  Our vision is to have bio-methane powered stopping trains to link local stations to mainline services. ”
 
CPRE Somerset Chairman, Prof Chris Lewis said “CPRE tries to reconcile the conflict with development pressures and increasing population and trying to keep our countryside beautiful and tranquil.  Highways England’s agenda is to move traffic quickly along the planned “expressway” from London to Devon and Cornwall but we called this meeting to look at what Somerset needs.  I am delighted that we have been able to present some positive visions of the future, away from road building.”
 
The talks were followed by a lively discussion with questions from the audience.  

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