Followers of this long-running saga will know that it entered a new chapter some months ago after the Development Consent Order application was accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate. After the examination process is complete, the Inspectors make recommendations to the minister, who decides whether to give the project the go-ahead.
As a reminder, following pressure from Cycle Winchester to reinstate these, the project now includes:
- A traffic-free path for cyclists across the junction from Winnall to Easton Lane, giving access to Easton and the Itchen valley on National Cycle Route 23.
- A traffic-free shared cycle/pedestrian path from Junction 9 to the Cart & Horses junction on the A33 at Kings Worthy.
- A new bridleway on the eastern side of the motorway, providing an off-road trail from Easton Lane to Long Walk.
Details of the project are available on the National Highways website, which has a simple (and therefore less authoritative) illustration, (inserted below) and also the Planning Inspectorate’s document library, which has a complex collection of plans, including one showing rights of way.
Cycle Winchester registered as an “Interested Party”, giving us the right to take part in the examination. At the first public hearing on 17th May, the National Highways (NH) representative proposed that they (NH) should agree a separate Statement of Common Ground (SOCG) with Cycle Winchester, much as they are required to do with authorities such as Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority . This is a document that tells the inspectors the things that we agree on (the Common Ground) and more importantly the things that we don’t.
This has not been a straightforward task because National Highway’s position has evolved during the process. However, our SoCG has now been submitted.
The main areas of discussion/disagreement are about:
- clarity in the legal designation of the NCN23 link to Easton Lane that ensures the continuing right of cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians to use it and resolves the current anomaly where a bridleway runs halfway across the junction then stops;
- the design specification for both the NCN23 and the route to Kings Worthy, for which NH are proposing using the absolute minimum allowable standard under their own design manual rather than the latest LTN1/20 specification; part of the disagreement is related to predicted levels of future use;
- the need for better communication between NH and HCC regarding how the Kings Worthy link will interface with proposed changes at the Cart and Horses junction;
- Inadequate diversion routes for cyclists during the construction phase.
Just a reminder: Cycle Winchester’s only interest is in the cycling aspects of the M3 Junction 9 project: we want to make sure that if it goes ahead, the people of Winchester get as many improvements for cycling (and walking) out of it as possible. We’re aware that our members will have varying views on whether the Junction 9 project should go ahead at all.