Glastonbury Oracle, May 2018

​Last week I attended the meeting of Glastonbury’s A361 Committee as a member of the public. This is the group that organised what they called the ‘Road Consultation’. Finally the results were announced: “76.5% in favour of a relief road. This completely vindicates what we have been doing,” and so on …

Which was a bit disappointing for someone who didn’t want a bypass, especially not behind the Tor and especially not with major development coming with it. But something didn’t feel quite right – I managed to get hold of a copy of the details, and I had a proper look when I got home.

What I soon realised was that this headline figure included everyone who ticked the box for a bypass, whatever comments they had added, whether or not they wanted the route behind the Tor, whether or not they approved of the development that would have to help pay for it.

When all these are taken out, the percentage in favour of what our MP has been promoting and what the A361 Committee has been supporting is just 46%. That figure, however, didn’t appear anywhere on the Committee’s report.

I think it is important that the people of Glastonbury know this, though I’m afraid the Town Council is not going to point it out to you.

Even the 46% figure is too high. As a member of the Town Council, one of our Green Councillors spent an afternoon scrutinising the responses. About one in ten of the forms bundled together as ‘pro-bypass’ actually had another box ticked as well, proposing for instance an ‘alternative solution’.

Exactly why is difficulty to say – there were a lot of problems with the questionnaire forms, including a huge lack of information and clarity. Also, of course, each household got one form with space for only one person to fill it in.

If there were two people in the household with different opinions, no doubt many of them would have ticked two boxes. If they did, however, the second response was ignored and it was just counted as being ‘in favour of a relief road’.

At the Town Council meeting the following Tuesday, the Mayor confirmed that this had, in effect, been orchestrated by our MP. He had asked the Council to ‘gauge the opinions of people in Glastonbury regarding the bypass scheme, and to pass the results on to him’.

James Heappey is trying to make a name for himself. He is Under-Secretary of State at the Transport Department, and his agenda is the Transport Department’s agenda – for a national Major Road Network. It doesn’t really have much to do with Glastonbury, we just happen to be on one of the proposed routes.

The A361 Committee has behaved like civil servants with the job of providing ‘evidence’ to support their MP’s pre-conceived policy objectives. Certainly this is what they have done, with scant regard for the actual truth, and Mr Heappey will no doubt use these dubious results as justification to press ahead with his agenda.

They have already been sent to him. Mr Heappey has got what he asked for, whether or not these results had to be manufactured – or even, I suppose we could say, produced by sleight of hand.

I just thought you ought to know.