Thursday’s meeting was brilliant, with just one problem. This was to do with James Heappey MP, who was mentioned several times – mostly by people who wanted him to be there to hear the strength of their feelings, but he was not there, even though he had arranged to address a meeting in Walton the following evening. So, just when things felt like they were going well, this arrived late that night:
Walton Parish Council meeting, attended by James Heappey: Friday 8 June
JH spoke and answered questions for one and a half hours. Here's a brief summary of the main points he made, together with some quotations :
"Mendip" (an area encompassing Frome, Wells, Glastonbury, Street, Shepton) has been identified as a "Secondary Growth Area" i.e an area ripe for development.
Better road links from the M5 to Mendip are needed. We want to plug Mendip in. A39/A361 is the only realistic option.
New roads come when there is an economic opportunity.
HGV traffic is not a bad sign.
No traffic means a stagnant economy.
The question Walton must answer (same as the one I put to Glastonbury) is:
How many houses – in thousands – is a new road worth?
Glastonbury Town Council must make up its mind what it wants before I go to meet with them.
JH seems determined that by-passing the various pinch points in Pilton, Glastonbury, Walton and Ashcott is the way forward and he several times brushed aside questions and suggestions to designate other existing roads as county freight routes, or as viable alternative routes for aggregate lorries.
From August we can expect many more aggregate lorries on the A361.
For the first stage of the build, aggregate has come from a quarry near Cheddar by road via Axbridge to Hinkley. From August a different aggregate, coming from Whatley near Frome, will be needed to make concrete for the next phase.
When EDF applied for planning they said this would be transported from Whatley by rail and then sea, arriving at a jetty at Hinkley C. However, the jetty will not be ready until next year, so from August onwards all aggregate from Whatley will be transported by road, along the A361. This will involve 15 times as many lorries as currently travel this route.
Actions to mitigate the effects of 100s more lorries each day:
1. JH recommends in, say, early September when this traffic has reached a peak flow, for local communities to mount some form of protest.
2. JH is in discussions with EDF to have night time limits set on Hinkley traffic.
3. EDF have failed to meet their planning commitment. Although they cannot be stopped from using the roads, they could/should be leant on to provide compensation, to individuals along the route and/ or to local communities.
Local communities can raise their concerns and e.g.if there are traffic calming measures, road safety etc. needed along this route we should apply to EDF for funding.
4. Trucks to and from Hinkley are (in theory) identified with an "HPC" sign on the windscreen. Any driver of a truck who infringes regulations (speed limits, curfew times etc) will lose his (her) job.
JH is going to arrange for info packs for Walton/Glastonbury/Pilton etc stating what the regulations are, and also arrange for a more easily visible way of identifying Hinkley vehicles.
Some of this is misleading – for instance EDF have been granted a 'variation order' which increases the number of lorries they are allowed and may mean that their 'planning commitment' has been adjusted. On this subject, it is interesting to note what Somerset County Council representatives said to a meeting in Glastonbury Town Hall 12 years ago.