'Ransom' is just not realistic

AS a Test Valley Councillor at the time of the Airfield site planning application and having subsequently spoken with many people about the acoustic barriers, I thought it might be helpful to add to and clarify some of the details.

In 2005, following increasing complaints and concerns about A303 noise by residents, Sir George Young MP approached the Highways Agency (HA).

The encouraging news then was that, along certain stretches, the noise is such that it qualifies for help.

Unfortunately they said that there were 40 other hotspots in southern England and there was no prospect of help because of pressure on the budget.

However, they did say that a quieter road surface would be used next time this section was resurfaced.

In 2010 an application was approved for the Co-op with a warehouse one third smaller than the original.

It was during the original negotiations that the acoustic barriers were added into the proposals.

If the development was to go ahead, councillors saw this inclusion as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for those living close to the A303.

The cost to build was about £350,000.

For the council, the barriers were a clear opportunity to use the new development to source funds for a reduction in the overall A303 noise levels.

A survey was carried out by Vangardia Consulting on behalf of the developer.

This indicated that its noise reduction properties would be greater than that added by new traffic accessing the airfield development.

Nobody at that time predicted the £2m premium, or ransom payment, demanded by the HA to install the barriers on their land.

Thus the legal agreement between Test Valley and the site developer became unenforceable.

To their credit, the developer continued to work with the council and the residents to see if an alternative could be found.

This involved using land not owned by the HA. It was found to have some benefits but not to the same extent as the original scheme.

The only way that the scheme could be reinstated is for either the HA to relent or for someone to pay the £2m ransom.

David Drew, Andover

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