Why is the Road Consultation being carried out in such a rush? (February 2018)

An article in the Central Somerset Gazette (February 15th) confirmed that the Town Council’s Road Consultation is being carried out at the request of MP James Heappey, and goes on to say that people in Glastonbury are ‘being asked to respond quickly, as the government has a short deadline for accepting proposals’.

This latter statement is nothing short of bizarre. In the very next paragraph the article goes on to say that this proposal is a ‘long-term solution’ that will take five years or more to actually come about. The Department for Transport’s national consultation is consulting about how the Major Road Network programme is to be organised, how investment planning is to be carried out and so on. Communities across the country are not carrying out hurried consultations like this on. The MRN programme is at a very early stage – in fact it is still a ‘proposal’ until next summer, after the national consultation has been completed. No proposals have as yet been invited.

The national consultation includes only two questions (out of 16) that say anything at all about individual routes. These ask whether there are any routes that are not included on the Indicative Major Road Network map that should be, or any that are that shouldn’t be – according to very strict criteria that do not include opinions from local people as to whether they would like a bypass.

So why is Glastonbury’s consultation process – which is asking whether Glastonbury people would prefer ‘Route A’ or ‘Route B’ – tied to the Department for Transport’s deadline? That is one of the many unanswered questions about the consultation process – and the real reason why we are being asked to respond quickly – so quickly in fact that the questionnaire and its background information have been insufficiently thought through, and were certainly not agreed democratically by the Council as a whole – has still not been made clear.

As a result we now have half the relevant information in the consultation document and the other half in leaflets that are flying around the town. What we really needed was to have this consultation withdrawn, and for it be re-run properly, with full information about what the options are and what implications they may have; to ensure that everyone is properly informed and engaged in the process. It may now be too late for this, but it is still important is to get it right from the community’s point of view, rather than the Department of Transport’s.