We now have a new mayor. According to the Council's complaints procedure the mayor should deal with complaints if the Town Clerk cannot provide a satisfactory answer. However it also says that the mayor should not deal with it if the mayor is the one complained about. I have not complained about anyone in person, but Denise Abbot was Chair of the A361 committee at the time that all these things happened, and they were largely done in the name of that committee. She would not be a suitable person to deal with this complaint.
She was also responsible for collating and 'analysing' the results, which is the subject of a separate piece here: http://www.unique-publications.co.uk/road-questionnaire.html
Here's the full text:
Glastonbury Town Council
Glastonbury BA6 9EL
Copies to: Liz Payne (CPRE)
Indra DonFrancesco (Glastonbury Friends of the Earth)
Dear Jane Czornij
I am sending this letter because I wish to bring your attention to a number of damaging flaws in the Town Council’s recent road consultation, its questionnaire form and the analysis of its results.
I was one of several signatories to a letter sent on 14th March to the MP for the Wells constituency, James Heappey. This highlighted the flaws, essentially as listed below, and asked him to use his influence with Town Councillors to have the Road Consultation withdrawn and if possible re-run, with necessary improvements, at a later date.
There has been no reply to this letter and things have now moved on. I have spoken to the other signatories and I now feel it is necessary to present this as an official complaint to the Town Council. I would ask you to make Town Councillors aware of the contents of this letter at their meeting on Tuesday April 10th. The flaws to which I refer are as follows:
• There was insufficient time given for preparing the consultation properly, for distributing the questionnaire, or for public responses. In some cases the questionnaire forms were delivered only a few days before the date for their return, whilst some households did not receive them at all.
• There was a lack of any explanation as to why the hurried timetable was tied to, and determined by, the national Major Road Network (MRN) Consultation deadline of March 19th. The foreshortened deadline undoubtedly contributed to a lack of adequate consideration in the preparation of the consultation documents.
• No attempt was made to encourage public discussion and debate of the issues before or during the consultation, and in particular there has been no Town Hall meeting.
• No space was provided on the questionnaire forms for more than one person per household to respond, calling into question its democratic integrity.
• No information was provided about the MRN, which the suggested bypasss would be a part of’; nor about its implications, which would inevitably include an overall increase in traffic.
• There was no indication that details of the MRN programme, including proposals for its national, regional and local bureaucratic structure, was available to be examined online – in fact no indication that the bypass proposal would be anything but a local scheme.
With regard to the second part of question 1, which asked us to choose between several different routes and options:
• No information was provided about the possible disadvantages of ‘Route A’, for instance damage to the environment and landscape, the likely detrimental effect on the local tourist industry resulting from such damage, or engineering problems related to building a road on peat soil on a floodplain and the consequent cost.
• There was virtually no information provided at all about ‘Route B’, in particular no explanation of what led to the ‘changes in local government priorities’ that had apparently caused its abandonment (nearly 50 years ago), nor whether they are realistically likely now to be changed after all.
• There was no information provided about any possible alternative routes.
• Similarly, there was no information provided about any possible alternative solutions.
With regard to questions 2-4, which asked whether ‘additional housing and commercial development’ is acceptable:
• There was a failure to make clear that the MRN funding regime would mean that development and a proportion of developer funding for a bypass would be a necessary condition for it to be constructed.
• There was a complete failure to provide any indication of the scale of such development, making informed consideration of the proposal impossible.
• There was also no indication of where the development would be sited. Along most of the ‘northern route’ land adjacent to the old railway line land is Grade 3 floodplain, and would be unsuitable for housing or commercial development.
Finally, the analysis of the results was similarly flawed:
• The ‘headline figure’ was 76.5% of respondents in favour of ‘a relief road’. However, a relief road without substantial development is not going to be on offer. The number of respondents in favour of a relief road and who also felt that development is acceptable was actually 59%. The difference is due entirely to the questionnaire being insufficiently clear about the necessity for development if the scheme is to be considered.
• Of these 59%, 13% favoured the unlikely ‘southern route’. Those in favour of the ‘northern route’ as well as associated development were only 46%. This appears to be the Council’s favoured option, and the figure of 46% should have been the ‘headline’ – though in fact it was avoided altogether.
• This figure would undoubtedly have been lower still if the questionnaire had included a realistic estimate of the scale of the necessary development. If the question had been ‘do you feel that building an additional 1,000 houses, or the equivalent in commercial development, is acceptable?’ then many people would have considered that this was a price too high to pay. It is, however, a likely scenario if a bypass were to be built along the full length of the old railway line.
Presentation of this complaint should set in motion the Council’s published complaints procedure. My opinion is still that the entire consultation is so badly flawed that it should be dropped completely and re-run, properly drafted and with adequate information for people to make informed decisions. My understanding of the Town Council’s complaints procedure is that it would provide an opportunity for discussion of the various issues and there may be room for compromise, though if it does not produce an acceptable result then the matter will ultimately be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman
I do hope, however, that this will not be necessary. My impression is that all members of the Council and the A361 Committee are, in their own ways, wanting to do their best for Glastonbury in a very difficult situation. I particularly like the first two stages of Councillor Tucker’s proposal for a three-stage strategy. My hope is that this process can help us all to arrive at a potential solution – a third stage – that the whole town can enthusiastically support.
Yours sincerely, Bruce Garrard