COUNCILLOR Drew wrote about acoustic fencing for the A303 (Advertiser, 3 January).
Although Councillor Drew often brings a touch of sanity to political discussions, his views here need further amplification.
To call the £2m Highways Agency figure a ‘ransom payment’ is debatable.
The HA quoted a figure of £1.2m to install the fence. According to the Department of Transport’s Parliamentary Under Secretary this is based on ‘costs incurred on previous schemes’.
It includes many factors, such as site surveys, high spec materials to meet set HA standards, traffic management, clearing virgin ground, liability cover, building the fence on the ideal site etc.
Goodman’s cost simply covered the materials/labour of building a fence away from the road and removing any existing fence.
Having seen HA erecting an acoustic fence beside the M3 the HA’s estimate is not surprising. Goodman’s £230K estimate came from a two-party tender exercise in September 2010.
They took the lowest tender and TVBC accepted that estimate at face value. Did neither party consider approaching the HA to test the likely liability at planning approval stage?
Initially the HA refused to build a fence on their land, only conceding the point in February 2012, thus contributing greatly to the confused position.
The HA balance of £1m was for regular inspection and maintenance to ensure the fence remained safe and effective. Goodman’s figure made no allowance for maintenance which is now the responsibility of the householder on whose property the fence is built, or TVBC if it is on council land.
Originally the erection of the fence was a legal obligation but was allowed to be bought-out. Would such a concession be available to a private householder?
I acknowledge that Goodman have exceeded the council’s latest requirement but they appear to have been let off the original hook. The council had an ideal opportunity to revisit the position when planning permission was requested for the second warehouse but failed to pursue it. By April 2013 only 734 metres of fence had been erected out of a total requirement for 1,754 metres.
What appeared to be originally a robust planning requirement to install and maintain high standard acoustic fencing has been watered down because of weak implementation of the original planning requirement; HA’s original failure to agree to erect a fence; and a failure to accept the eventual HA quote because a cheaper, although much less satisfactory, solution was available.
We are left with a compromise solution.
The fence is not always ideally situated and the maintenance costs fall to householders and TVBC.
David Clark Conholt Road Andover