It’s been reported extensively elsewhere, but I’ll add my own voice to the joyful chorus: the Cogges Link Road is dead!
The long-anticipated report arising from the public inquiry found that the scheme did not meet the test of “overwhelming public interest” that would have justified compulsory purchase of the land from the Mawle Trust.
For me, this is a big deal because I was heavily involved in reporting the Cogges Link Road public inquiry, from the first-day-that-never-was through to day 17, with a summary along the way. I live-tweeted proceedings from the Witney First Twitter account and wrote daily summaries on the Sustainable Witney blog.
I made heavy use of notes taken by from other members of Witney First, especially Alex Kinchesh. But even then, trying to cover 17 days’ worth of inquiry on top of my day job was exhausting and sometimes just plain impossible. As I wrote a few months ago, it’s shocking that my scrappily-written blog posts remain the only publicly available daily record of the Cogges Link Road inquiry. But I’m so, so glad I did it, all the same. I’m also glad I got out on the doorstep to collect petition signatures that proved just how unpopular this scheme was – even though the council ignored them.
My contribution might have been hard work, but it was shortlived compared to the contribution of others. The battle to stop this road was actually begun 27 years ago by the late Colin Fowler, then chair of Witney CPRE. His work has been continued by other Witney residents pulling together to save their home town from unnecessary, damaging development. (Those residents include the current chair of Witney CPRE, David Condon.)
And we’ve won. Our victory is really because of the Mawle Trust’s refusal to sell a parcel of land necessary for the road, which triggered an inquiry into the compulsory purchase order requested by Oxfordshire County Council. Had the land been available, the county council would certainly have gone ahead despite extensive local opposition. After all, it began work on the road before the results of the inquiry were even announced, and made it clear throughout the inquiry that their ears were closed to anything they didn’t want to hear. So this isn’t a clear-cut victory for people power. But it’s a victory all the same.
At the weekend I went for a walk with my husband around the land that would have been destroyed if the road had been built, and I felt so grateful I nearly cried. Now we still have our country park intact; now children using the Eton Close play area won’t be forced to cross a busy road to get from the swings to the roundabouts; now my house isn’t at increased risk of flooding.
I agree with my Sustainable Witney colleague Kevin’s view that the solution to Witney’s traffic problems lies in moving to more sustainable forms of transport. Now that the Cogges Link Road is dead, we’re one step closer to achieving that in Witney. Which means we’re one step closer to the world I want to see. I’m very happy.