Friday, May 27, 2005

A595 Inquiry concludes

This week saw the final session of the A595 public inquiry - held over from before the election. The main sessions a couple of weeks ago were largely taken up with the battle between the Highways Agency (the national roads organisation, who are promoting the barmy idea of de-trunking the A595), and the statutory objectors (which means Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough Council.

The inquiry over-ran the originally allocated time and most of the "other objectors" - such as the Neighbourhood Forum, Copeland Conservatives, the local Lib/Dems, and several other local bodies - had to come back a few weeks later.

I was speaking at the inquiry as a witness for Copeland Conservatives. Like all the other local parties and organisations involved, we want to keep the A595 south of Calder Bridge, and the A5092 through to Greenodd, as trunk roads maintained by the national Highways Agency.

I was very impressed by the degree of cross-party co-operation among the people who were giving evidence against the downgrading of the A595. In the initial session Copeland council's witnesses had included both the leader of the council and the opposition leader: this week we saw a Conservative councillor calling a Labour councillor as a witness.

I thought we made some telling points about the need for better access to the area to protect the economy of West Cumbria and the strategic national and internationl importance of the routes to the nuclear facilities at Sellafield and Drigg. We shall have to see whether we have convinced the inspector. If not, it will not be for want of trying.

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