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THE news that the government is to help fund a new A350 Melksham bypass has been met with a mixed reaction locally.
Whilst some residents have welcomed the news and its potential relief of traffic congestion; others have raised concern about the bypass’ impact on green spaces and local wildlife, and expressed fears that the bypass will open up the town for more housing developments and put even more pressure on local resources, already at breaking point.
Funding for the bypass was announced earlier this month as part of a government initiative to improve local transport networks across the country.
A spokesperson for Wiltshire Council has told Melksham News that the scheme will consider two options for the route of the bypass to the east of the town – a shorter route ‘Option A’, costing an estimated £51.2million, that would connect the A350 north of Beanacre with Eastern Way (where it meets with Sandridge Common); and a second longer route ‘Option C’, costing an estimated £135.8million, that would connect the A350 north of Beanacre with the A350 Semington bypass, south of Bowerhill. See map on page 22.
In support of the bypass, Stuart Jackson said, “About time. I’m sitting in traffic as a passenger on the A350 at the moment. Traffic is queued all the way back to Whitehall Garden Centre traffic lights. It’s like this most days now.
Beanacre resident, Graham Gillings added, “At last, when we moved to Beanacre 30 years ago we were told there would be a bypass soon.”
Speaking against the bypass, Elisa Amor said, “Bad news. More green spaces destroyed, and [a] new bypass always gives the go ahead to build homes in between the town and bypass. Just look at all the new houses in Snowberry. Melksham is one giant housing estate with no character any more.”
Vikki Rivers, said, “There’s barely enough important resources needed, that are very sadly lacking in Melksham. It’s now just one big housing estate with very little else to offer and very few amenities for people to use. The way things are growing, the villages will end up being swallowed up as well. One day soon Melksham will have no green fields left for children to play in. What a great shame and a very sad day that will be!”
Hilary Marson added, “Great! Even more homes will go up on the land between it and the town.”
Phil Chipper asks, “How much will the bypass scheme actually cost and how much of that will have to be met by Wiltshire Council itself? Can we get a split between what the Government will pay and what we, as Wiltshire Council ratepayers, will have to pay? And what guarantees are there that, with central government funding quietly being cut/removed, that Wiltshire will be left to carry the can financially?”
Wiltshire councillor for the Melksham Without North ward, Phil Alford said, “This news will come with mixed feelings across the town but in Beanacre and to the north of the town where the A350 causes endless difficulties around Beanacre Road, it will be welcomed.
“My own view is that this is the only realistic, long term solution to a traffic problem that is getting worse. Having been awarded the money, we need to go through the next stage with a refined plan and what I will be doing is campaigning hard to see that the road is as far away from existing homes as possible, limits habitat loss, has excellent acoustic barriers and ample crossing points to support wildlife in the area. We must also ensure good access is available across it to the canal and that we do all we can to use this as an opportunity to enhance our local environment for the benefit of everyone.”
Cllr Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for highways, transport and waste, told Melksham News, “The government has announced its support to fund the A350 Melksham bypass, a major road improvement scheme.
“We will now develop an outline business case for the scheme to enable it to progress to the next stage of development; this will include exploring two route options, which we will consult on.
“Depending on the route option chosen, we recognise that there will an impact to the landscape, biodiversity and the water environment, but the project will have scope to reduce or mitigate against these during the planning and design process.”
If successful, construction of the bypass could start in March 2024 – and depending on which route is selected, completion of the bypass is estimated to be March 2026 for the shorter bypass, and June 2028 for the longer bypass.