RESULTS OF CHIDEOCK PARISH POLL held on 17th August 2017

As the originator of one of the 2 polled questions I feel some obligation to distribute the results and also to try to pass them on together with a request to the A35 planning and decision making bodies that they take our poll results into consideration when making their plans. This document does not express co-ordinated opinions of the Chideock electorate or Parish Council. They are my expression of what I see as the problems we face and a hope that some progress can be made in resolving them.
1. The Poll and its Results:
The Chideock Parish electorate were polled on 17-Aug-2017 with the following 2 independent questions:-
Qn. 1. “Do you support the construction of a new A35 trunk road Chideock by-pass which does not pass through any part of the parish of Chideock? “
Result was:- YES votes = 155 NO votes = 34
Qn. 2. “Do you support that the A35 from Dorchester to Honiton be de-trunked and therefore designated a scenic route?”
Result was:- YES votes = 104 NO votes = 71
The WDDC-run poll was only open for 5 hours on the day. No postal or proxy voting was permitted. The parish electorate is estimated to be around 534 voters in total. A big thank you to those people who turned out to vote on an August evening. I have been assured that this was a good turnout in these circumstances.
2. Background
A Parish Poll was called as a first step towards trying to address some of the long-standing issues in Chideock which result from the very busy A35 Trunk Road passing through the village, plus the ever increasing volume and weight of traffic. There has been a sense of deep frustration that little progress on these issues has been apparent.
Such issues include:-
– Air quality problems at various points
– Noise and vibration, especially from heavy vehicles
– Separation (a barrier) between the sub-communities on each side of the road and associated safety concerns.
– Traffic congestion making it sometimes difficult to join the A35 and also delays for those passing through the village.
The issues are exacerbated by numerous factors which include, but are not limited to:-
– Primarily the high volume of traffic using the route, often for non-local purposes.
– Use by many HGVs.
– Steep hills on entry and exit.
– Stoppages due to road junctions to North Chideock and Seatown in the village centre.
– Use by buses with no pull-in bus-stops.
– No cycle paths to displace very slow cycles on the steep hills.
– Difficulty for pedestrians to safely cross the road since much of the road does not have pedestrian
walkways on both sides.
3. Possibilities
If there were a simple solution to the set of issues, it would have been pursued already. There have been various suggested measures which might be roughly separated into the 2 categories:-
– Long term implementation: usually by national authorities; can be high cost and very contentious especially if they involve construction and/or demolition. Can provide major relief for some, while introducing new problems for others. The location of a new road and de-trunking are obvious examples.
– Short term implementation: could be either locally implemented or by national authority; can be of wide scope such as re-routing traffic by signage, low emission zones, traffic calming, etc; sometimes providing a temporary limited relief to specific (possibly local) issues only.
3.1 Long Term
The polled proposals fall into the long-term implementation category, since neither can be implemented soon and because the poll’s intention was to provide a measure of the parish’s support for 2 such longterm proposals. As for the feasibility of the 2 proposals, that is well beyond the scope of what can be expected of a parish electorate. Such determinations can only be made by specialists in conjunction with other affected parties. What the parish can do is to provide its inputs as to the sort of measures it would like the authorities to investigate further and also what it would not want implemented. Due to the
long-term nature, further investigation would require the authorities to make realistic projections of future traffic needs and its associated consequences; (such projections may already exist). The inputs into the long-term planning for the SW Peninsula Routes must take into account all such projection data, cost, feasibility and also the wishes of those who take the trouble to undertake the necessary processes to provide validated opinions. Our poll represents such an opinion and should therefore be
taken into consideration.
3.2 Short Term
Short term measures are being actively pursued by the A35 Working Group & the Chideock Parish Council in liaison with our MP and Highways England. It appears that the perception of limited progress has fuelled frustration in some quarters.
4. Way forward
By itself the parish poll is requesting that our 2 long-term proposals be considered. Plus, it reinforces the parish opinion that something must be done in the long term to provide a major solution to a problem that is only ever increasing. It also implicitly states that the solution must not include the building of a new road within our busy and populous parish. This was expressed by the choice of question 1 specifically excluding a new road through our parish, which was very significantly supported at the parish meeting whereas a proposed question suggesting the building of a new road through the village was overwhelmingly rejected.
Such inputs into the decision-making process are an important step towards our parish’s issues being noticed rather than overlooked during planning. However, our issues are severe right now and merely hoping that long-term planning alone might resolve them is not a palatable way forward for those worst affected today. Therefore in addition, every effort should continue to be made to address the already severe problems we face today. They continue to become progressively worse and are not going to go away by themselves. To rely only on short-term measures would, at best, “kick the can” a short distance down the road. To rely only on long term measures would leave us continuing to suffer for the foreseeable future. Therefore both
need to be pursued simultaneously and right away.
4.1 Highways England and the Department for Transport
In the next few months, Highways England will draft their “Strategic Road Network Initial Report” which will identify projects for subsequent consideration by the Dept. for Transport when planning their projects for the period 2020-25 .
We now request that Highways England take the wishes of the parish into account when they write their draft. We understand that we can only lobby for fair consideration and not demand anything.
4.2 Local MP
We also ask our MP the Rt Hon Sir Oliver Letwin, who suggested the parish poll in the first place, to both lobby for our expressed wishes and to help co-ordinate the proposals with the other affected parties. Clearly neither proposal is “Chideock-only” and as such can only be meaningfully pursued if both coordinated with, and largely agreed by the other affected parties. It is obvious that any proposed change is bound to meet with some opposition. Hence the need for co-ordination, open-mindedness and diplomacy. The de-trunking would also involve a change in the road management and to those financially responsible for the road. As such it would also require agreement from many parties.
4.3 The A35 Working Group
The result of the poll should provide the group with important information about how desperately the parish feels the need for a major solution to our issues. Slow progress and little prospect of anything to significantly improve the situation have led to rather persistent measures by some of those most affected.
4.4 Neighbouring parishes and towns
If implemented, either proposal would affect others. For some it may be positive, for others negative. Clearly Chideock Parish is not able to speak for our neighbours and as such is absolutely not dictating how others should react. We simply feel the need to raise the flag and say that the situation here is very troubling and even though we cannot identify a perfect solution, many of us feel the desperate need for some solution(s) in both the long and short terms, and fear that remaining silent will not lead to sufficient progress.
Alan Colville