In my last blog I argued that the system that has been foisted upon Weymouth has incurred unnecessary expense and delays to the residents and those who work into the town. In this final piece I argue that half measures that will seriously disrupt most of the county for 9-12 months don't go far enough. In for a penny - in for a pound: that's all that is left in this county so let's start pumping the cash in hard!
Many years ago before the Credit Crunch my friend and I decided to take a look at how society expects us to support the economy by visiting the Cribbs Causeway shopping mall near Bristol in January Sales. We duly joined the traffic jam a mile up the M5 motorway and the car was ready to overheat 90 minutes later when we found a parking space. I was having palpitations before we entered what can only be described as a modern version of Hell - hordes of people desperately spending money on stuff because it was 'on sale'.
Society expects the nation to pollute the atmosphere in Dorset and join traffic jams for hours on end to see why on Earth Britain is the focus of the world's attention next August. I'll give you a tip - watch it on TV. Another tip? Don't go west of Bournemouth for 12 months before, because the Highways Agency is going to give west Dorset a flavour of the pain by putting traffic restrictions on the main A31 road west of Wimborne between September and May. Wait a month (after the overrun) and then watch gridlock develop for the week of the sailing events in Weymouth!
The Highways Agency will be carrying out a £5.7m scheme to improve congestion and safety at one of the busiest roundabouts along the A31 in Dorset.
The A31 Canford Bottom junction is a busy interchange with significant congestion at peak times and weekends, resulting in long traffic queues on the approaches to the junction. The scheme aims to improve the safe operation of the Canford Bottom junction by reducing congestion at this location, both from the A31 and from local roads. New signing, road markings and traffic lights will be installed, as well as new pedestrian / cyclist facilities which will link the local communities either side of the A31.
This has been considered for some years but the Olympic Delivery Authority got involved as part of the Olympics Route Network. Not just Weymouth this time - the whole of west Dorset takes it for Team GB!
The main road has been in place so long it bends round the local Lord of the Manor Richard Drax MP's estate at Charborough. Where we can't complain of sugar and slave money getting in the way of modern progress, I can only believe the road would not have had a kink in it if the Drax Family were not there. Would they perhaps be so kind as to give over some of their land to public service (and lose the kink) as Mr Drax does his time? He'd almost guarantee his peerage then!
Speaking to local haulier John Probert of Wyvern Cargo you can see that Dorset's road infrastructure is woefully substandard for the modern day: 'To be honest, roads in Dorset were probably better in Roman times. In all directions they're a nightmare, for locals and tourists alike. How can the economy really flourish in such an environment? Of course, if you've always lived in Dorset you've never even seen a motorway!
As an observer who once knew Cornwall prior to the A30 dual carriageway scything through the countryside, I take the view that not all progress is good. Simply, money flowed into Cornwall and the soul went out the other way. A modern Cornish accent is 'Estuary English' instead of something almost unintelligible to the outsider, caricatured yet beautiful. I remember a currently world famous pasty company that once made world beating pasties!
The soul has left Dorset already. A lucky man meets and gets to know the Portlander whose family was documented in the Domesday Book. The writer remembers the poem To see The Rabbit when he visits Lulworth Cove with sadness - tourists have destroyed something once of great beauty. We need the road not to destroy what is left but to be honest to the economy (that has already killed the soul of the county) and drive it on into the future.
The Canford Bottom Roundabout is a half measure - slated to help Dorset traffic for a decade before the South East Dorset Traffic Study brings about a possible dual carriageway across the county. Road construction engineers Atkins have been asked to model this (as they did the Weymouth Transport Package) which states that already:
South East Dorset has probably fallen behind other parts of the South West in the amount of investment in transport. This study is aiming to change that, by providing the evidence to Government to justify improvements to the transport system. It will take on board the expected growth in people and jobs in the area over the next 20 years.
The study in question only really focuses on Bournemouth and Poole, which are already well served with the A35 and a fast link to the M27. The rest of Dorset will be largely ignored. There are three Parliamentary constituencies west of Poole - on basis of the average population per constituency in England, that is 210 000 people, as well as the influx of tourists as Weymouth fixes on cash for 1/7th of its economy. There is a large port in Portland - that could even rival Southampton if proper links were in place.
Dorchester is fairly unique among towns in the UK for its diversity of independently trading shops. It is far away from being a 'cloned High Street' of the type one will see in Swindon or Reading. It is heading for ruin already - without the expected chaos on the main supply route. One of the town's biggest employers is Dorset County Council, which is facing around 500 job losses. Add to this is a dodgy building project run by the Tory run West Dorset District Council's Cabinet. At a protest meeting on the 2nd September this year I listened to independent traders blame a typical loss of 20% of business on the Charles Street Development - this, on top of the recession sending many into difficulty. Dorchester is heading into dire straits, ironically thanks to a political party that represents entrepreneurs and business.
Dorchester will be the wallflower to Weymouth's week in the spotlight next summer. Dorchester, Bridport and Wareham will suffer as the Olympian scourge takes a half measure so traffic can travel more freely (NOT totally free) for the week. Where Weymouth enjoys the party, several other towns will quietly take it for Team GB.
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