Plans for the future development of Wessex Fields are to be reviewed due to BCP Council’s recent announcement of a Climate Emergency.
Councillors are to discuss the plans on Monday 30 September 2019. Indications are that they are planning to scale back the plans for Wessex Fields.
The review to the previously approved plans are to ensure that the future plans of the BCP are on a more sustainable environmental footing, with travel options in place that don’t just focus on increasing road-space for cars.
The previously approved plans from the preceding conservative administration included a new link road and junction directly connecting the A338 with Deansleigh Road via the Wessex Fields site, and formed part of the £45.2 million Bournemouth International Growth (BIG) Programme, But the original plans to provide relief to the heavily congested Castle Lane East and Airport area look set to be watered down under current council plans.
The BIG programme is part of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership’s (Dorset LEP’s) Strategic Economic Plan to drive economic growth, improve housing, transport and infrastructure and create more highly skilled jobs.
The recommendation is not to proceed with the plans
Councillor Mark Howell is the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Culture at BCP Council said: “We promised to carry out a thorough review of the plans that were developed under the preceding council, to ensure the principles of any future development at Wessex Fields effectively responds to the commitment we have set out in the climate emergency motion. We have now completed that review.
“The recommendation is not to proceed with the construction of the part of the road planned to be built on the Wessex Fields site as construction may compromise the emerging masterplan, or encourage through traffic before environmental mitigation features are introduced to reduce the amount of vehicle journeys in the surrounding area.”
Cllr. Howell added: “It is vital that travel, transport and infrastructure developments in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole support clean economic growth, help to improve health and wellbeing and make the three towns a better place to live, work and visit.
“This will require more focus on delivering a high quality, integrated and low carbon transport system across the three towns not just for the immediate future, but for generations to come.
“We will engage the local community in exploring the potential of the Wessex Fields, in order to evolve the current vision and masterplan by holding a public consultation event.”
‘Road To Nowhere’ with 2,000 jobs at stake
Senior Conservative Councillors slammed the plans by the ruling ‘Unity Alliance’ as a failure of ambition for the area and a “wasted opportunity”.
Deputy Group Leader Councillor Philip Broadhead, who also serves as the Conservatives’ Spokesman on Regeneration, commented: “The plans for Wessex Fields were the once in a generation opportunity to create 2000 jobs, unlocking this prime area for a technological science park to put our area firmly on the map. Instead of seizing this opportunity, the Unity Alliance have ‘bottled it’ and decided inexplicably to build the road, but stop it before it gets to anything. This really is the Road to Nowhere.”
Wessex Fields is in the ward of BCP Councillors Lawrence Williams and Bobbie Dove, both of whom have highlighted the negative effect that scrapping the scheme, even temporarily, will have on local residents. Cllr. Williams said “Our email inboxes have been inundated with residents asking “what about us?”. Congestion in this area is now beyond the pale and to not progress with these two new junctions, nor connect them to any other roads, seems bonkers.”
Absence of link road could affect Hospital and ambulances
A neighbouring Dorset Councillor responsible for Highways, Travel & the Environment questioned the decision saying that estimates showed it could add an extra 3 minutes to an ambulances journey to the hospital.
Cllr. Laurence Williams supported this view: “The hospital is crying out for these extra link roads. We’ve all seen the newspaper stories about ambulances sat in gridlock unable to reach the hospital, putting lives at risk. Frankly, not providing these extra roads will make this worse. There could be blood on their hands.”
The final decision for the scheme goes before Cabinet on 30th September where the 7 party alliance, led by the Liberal Democrats, is expected to approve the new course of action.
For more information on the future plans of Wessex Fields, visit the BCP Council’s website.
What do you think? Are the council right to change the plans in light of the local ‘Climate Emergency’ or should they be pressing on and building more roads to relieve congestion? Comment below.