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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 18/11/2003
DRAFT TRAFFIC ORDERS FOR THE HINDHEAD TUNNEL AND A3
ISSUED BY THE HIGHWAY AGENCY



Summary & Purpose
The Traffic Orders for the Hindhead Tunnel and A3 were published on 23rd October 2003 by the Highways Agency. The Borough Council is a consultee. This report sets out the highway scheme and the issues that have arisen and invites the committee to make its comments.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive



The A3 tunnel at Hindhead will enable the removal of major traffic congestion at Hindhead, which has for many years been an obstacle to free flow of traffic on the trunk road. The benefits to Waverley of construction of the tunnel are that it will enable the outstanding habitat and landscape of Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punchbowl to be reunified, and will relieve the centre of Hindhead from the noise and pollution of the A3 traffic queues.

The quality of life implications are very positive, in that there will considerable benefits for the natural environment and wildlife, a major reduction in pollution at the Hindhead crossroads and potential for enhancing the local environment of Hindhead.

E-Government implications:

There are no implications for E- Government.

Resource and legal implications:

Resource implications may arise if there is a need to appear at the Public Inquiry on the A3, but it is expected that the costs will be met from existing budgets.
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Background

1. The concept of a Hindhead Bypass goes back over thirty years to the Surrey Development Plan Haslemere District Approved Town Map 1970. Since then, there has been a series of schemes, until March 1993 when the modified Yellow Route, including a bored tunnel, was announced by the Department of Transport as the new Preferred Route. In April 1993, the Borough Council agreed to support the proposed route.

2. In December 1995, the scheme was suspended due to shortage of funding and higher priorities, but it remained in the Trunk Road Programme. In February 1996, the Borough Council made detailed representations to the Transport Minister, urging him to proceed with the scheme and not put it “on hold”. The letter also stated support for closing the existing A3.

3. In 1998, a new study was carried out to see if charging a toll for the tunnel would be appropriate. It was decided not to charge a toll, and in 2001 the present scheme entered the Government’s Targeted Programme of Improvements with a delivery date of 2009.

4. The Borough Council has supported the scheme for A3 Improvements and a tunnel for 10 years. The circumstances have not changed except that traffic conditions have worsened and the significance of the wildlife designations of Hindhead Commons has increased markedly. Over the years, the Highways Agency has aimed to show that the proposed scheme is an acceptable approach to completing the upgrading of the A3 and providing a bypass for Hindhead.

5. Exhibitions were held by the Highway Agency in July 2003, and there has been local response to the proposals. (The issues are considered elsewhere in the report). The Draft Traffic Orders were issued on 23rd October. On the same day, the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee met at Haslemere Museum for a special meeting and the outcome is reported in Annexe 3.

The draft Traffic Orders and the programme

6. The Draft Orders are produced by the Highways Agency on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. They seek legal authority to construct the new road and tunnel. This is achieved by means of a public inquiry to take place next summer. Public comments on the Draft Orders will be considered and the Inspector will make recommendations to the Secretary of State, who will then decide the outcome.

7. There are five draft orders:

THE A3 TRUNK ROAD (HINDHEAD) ORDER 2000 (route of the new main road);

THE A3 TRUNK ROAD (HINDHEAD) SLIP ROADS ORDER 200 (slip roads off the junctions)

THE A3 TRUNK ROAD (HINDHEAD) DETRUNKING ORDER 200 (detrunking of sections of the existing A3)

THE A3 TRUNK ROAD (HINDHEAD) SIDE ROADS ORDER 200 (work to the side roads)

THE A3 TRUNK ROAD (HINDHEAD) SIDE ROADS NO.2 ORDER 200 (closing of existing A3)
The case for the tunnel and A3 improvements

8. The need for a bypass for Hindhead was recognised in 1970 and in the intervening time the traffic has doubled. The A3 is a major trunk road from London to Portsmouth and the traffic congestion at Hindhead is a considerable obstruction. The section at Hindhead is the only length that has not been upgraded to the standard of a modern dual carriageway. The improvement scheme is needed as part of the south-east region road network. It is also needed to alleviate the continual damage suffered by the centre of Hindhead and by the extensive nationally and internationally important wildlife areas of Hindhead Commons and Devil’s Punch Bowl. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Site of Special Protection for birds, the severance of the Commons into two by the A3 with its noise and pollution does major environmental harm.

Description of the scheme

9. In view of the importance and impact of the scheme, the document published by the Highway Agency “A3 Hindhead Scheme: Explanation of the Scheme and Non Technical Summary of the Environmental Statement” is attached to this report. (Annexe 1 - Members only. A copy has been placed in the Members’ Room). This leaflet explains the scheme and provides a map, as well as setting out the matters considered in the Environmental Impact Assessment.

10. In summary, the improvements to the A3 would be a new two-lane carriageway and a twin bored tunnel 1.9km in length. The south portal would emerge in Tyndall’s Wood and the north portal in Boundless Copse. The section of the existing A3 between the National Trust car park and the Youth Hostel would be closed. There would be a junction at Boundless Road, that would give access to Boundless Road, with a byway connection to properties in the Punchbowl. The junction at Hazel Grove would cater for all movements. The existing byway, BOAT 500, (Byway Open to All Traffic), which was the Old Portsmouth Road and lies parallel to the existing A3, would be downgraded to a bridleway with surface improvements for cyclists, walkers and horse riders, but not off-road vehicles. The bridleway would become a through route for those users prohibited from the tunnel. The existing A3 would be buried under spoil, thereby restoring the contours of the hillside sloping up Gibbet Hill and enabling the unified management of the heathland.

The Environmental Statement

11. Under the Highway Acts 1980,1988,1994 and 1999, an Environmental Statement (ES) has to be produced. The purpose of the Statement is to ensure that the likely impacts of the Published Scheme on the environment are fully understood and taken into account before any decision is taken to go ahead with the scheme. The ES covers the whole range of environmental aspects and is a very large comprehensive document. The conclusion is included in full in Annexe 2.




The issues

12. The current position, prior to public response to the Traffic Orders, is that there is little opposition to the tunnel and new A3 proposals. However, a number of significant issues have arisen, and various organisations hold a particular position. The Borough Council decided to hold a special meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 23rd October 2003, so that these views could be considered in public. The Committee adopted an informal Select Committee format to carry out this major policy development role.

13. The following organisations made presentations at the Committee:

14. The main issues that arose from the meeting and from other correspondence were:
1) Traffic calming on Woolmer Hill

2) Rat running on Boundless Road/Park Lane

3) Closure of the existing A3

15. In brief, their positions are:

ORGANISATIONSPOSITION ON CLOSUREREASON
Highways AgencyCloseBalances environmental impact of portals and new road
Haslemere Town CouncilCloseEnhance commons
AONBCloseReunify the commons
Haslemere Chamber of Trade and CommerceOpenClosure will adversely affect businesses in Hindhead
STOATOpenWon’t affect wildlife to leave open; safer route for diverted traffic; traditional route; save extra miles
National TrustCloseReunify the commons
Surrey County CouncilCloseSafety economy and environment
Cyclists Touring ClubOpenBetter than BOAT 500 for cyclists

16. It can be seen that there are more organisations in favour of closure of the existing A3 than keeping it open, and it is significant that the owner of the land, the National Trust, is strongly in favour of the closure. Furthermore, the County Council, as highway authority responsible for the local roads, is also in favour of closure. However, the Chamber of Commerce, STOAT and the CTC hold strong views as set out in their statements (see Annexe 3).

Mitigating circumstances for dealing with the closure of the existing A3.

17. There are mitigating circumstances that can be undertaken to counterbalance the removal of the existing A3.

1) The Statement of Principles

2) The enhancement of Hindhead Crossroads


3) Safety in the tunnel

4) BOAT 500

The case for closure of the existing A3

18. The response from the Highways Agency to the concept of leaving the existing A3 open has been a document named the “A3 Hindhead – the Case for Closing the Old A3 Across Hindhead Common” (February 2003). The document sets out the position which is fundamentally that the Government requires that where damage is caused to habitat or the landscape by a road scheme, then this damage has to be outweighed by other environmental benefits of the scheme. The major environmental benefit of the scheme is the closure of the A3 and the unification of the Commons, and this is judged to outweigh the detrimental impact of the portals on Tyndalls Wood and Boundless Copse. English Nature support the case that unification will benefit wildlife.

19. If the existing A3 is not closed, then the scheme does not meet Government criteria for a major road scheme and cannot go ahead. Furthermore, the National Trust would remove its permission to use inalienable land for the route, because they have only supported the tunnel on the basis that the existing A3 is closed.

The case for leaving the A3 open

20. The likely adverse impact on the businesses on the London Road in Hindhead, between the Crossroads and the National Trust car park is a major factor when considering the case for leaving the A3 open. A number of firms rely on passing trade and this will be terminated if the A3 is stopped up at the National Trust car park. However, it could be said that even with the A3 left open, the traffic would be considerably reduced and would be mainly local rather than long distance. It is possible that the businesses would still affected even with the A3 open.

21. The case expressed by STOAT stresses the savings to local residents of keeping the A3 open, in terms of distance travelled, access for all; the use of a traditional route and a safer route for diverted traffic. They maintain that keeping the A3 open will not affect wildlife.

22. The Cyclists Touring Club contend that BOAT 500 will not be as good a route for cyclists as the existing A3 because of the gradient and the likely surface. The need of users for an appropriate surface is already being considered by the County Council and the National Trust.

These matters have to be weighed up against the benefits of the proposed improvements.

Conclusion

23. All of the organisations involved in the consideration of the A3 improvements scheme have expressed support for the tunnel and the new A3. The main issue is whether or not the existing A3 should be closed.

24. An officer view would be that it is only closure of the A3 that would counterbalance the environmental damage done to the landscape by construction of the portals. It is a critical part of the total concept for the area, and the views of the National Trust, the AONB partnership, the Highways Agency and Haslemere Town Council that the A3 should be closed are entirely valid. There is a danger that the tunnel may not go ahead without the closure, because the government criteria for major schemes would not be met.

25. Members will wish to decide whether they intend to continue to support the scheme as proposed with the A3 closed, or make an objection on the grounds that the A3 should be left open.

Recommendation

The Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee is recommended to formulate a draft response for the Executive to consider as Waverley Borough Council’s response to the Highways Agency on the published Traffic Orders.

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Background Papers (DPD)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Geraldine Molony Telephone: 01483 523296 COMMS/o&s3/2003-04/044
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