Is the consultation only preliminary

The Town Council has said that this consultation is only ‘preliminary’, and that we can consult further when we have ‘all the information’. Is this true? (February 2018)

Town Councillors may believe that it’s true, but please consider this: MP James Heappey has already said that he is seeking funding for a ‘feasibility study’, which will probably go ahead soon if the Council’s consultation produces the result that he wants. A feasibility study would be needed not to show whether the road construction is feasible but, in his words, because ‘it will be essential to emphasise the project’s contribution to regional economic benefits  … and how it would stimulate significant economic growth’.

​This means a lot of number crunching, mostly based on assumptions, which would be expressed as ‘jobs created’ and ‘new houses built’. This exercise will be expensive – I seem to remember £80,000 mentioned somewhere. The results would be fed into a ‘regional evidence base’ and submitted to the Department for Transport.

The project will by then have reached ‘OBC’ (Outline Business Case) stage, and will be considered for preliminary approval by the Secretary of State. So at this early stage, before the County Council has begun to develop detailed plans or to apply for funds to build the road, significant investment of both money and political capital will already have been made.

Once this has been done, and a whole new tier of regional bureaucracy has been established so as to prioritise projects from the South West, we would all be fed into a ‘funding pipeline’. Having been pumped along this, we would emerge back in London where the Secretary of State would prioritise funds between the various regions. The whole thing will, of course, take a number of years, but what the Town Councillors have seemingly failed to even think about is this: is it reasonable to assume that Glastonbury Town Council will be able to consult further and if necessary change its mind ‘when we have all the information’, in the midst of this enormous, multi-layered bureaucratic process?

Besides all that the history of road projects, particularly those that have been predicated on the basis of economic benefit and economic development, is not encouraging – things are said, even promised, and then what actually happens has an alarming tendency to be something different. What we decide now is almost certain to be the only chance we have to make a decision, beyond perhaps a little tweaking of the details.