Beleaguered Melbury Abbas & Cann villagers have turned to crowdfunding in an attempt to stop Dorset County Council implementing what they claim is ‘the slow destruction’ of its village, reports Richard Thomas.
The village is taking Dorset County Council to court after failing to get it to change its mind about traffic control measures on the C13 Higher Blandford Road south of Shaftesbury. And it is hoping the public will fund the cost.
Melbury & Cann parish council claims that a ‘flawed’ public consultation’ last June resulted in DCC’s cabinet voting in December to retain the voluntary one-way system and ignoring a request for a 1.5-tonne weight restriction for the village requested by the Police, the emergency services and the parish council.
It says the one way system was first rejected by the majority of parish councils on the A350/C13 corridor in 2011, when they were originally consulted on the issue. It has been trying to get the county council to stop heavy goods lorries coming through the village, that includes the notoriously narrow Dinah’s Hollow, since 2016.
Chairman of Melbury Abbas & Cann parish council William Kenealy said a six-month consultation carried out between June and December last year resulted in the county council ignoring public opinion, including the views of both the Police and the emergency services.
He said his council filed for a judicial review on 2 March after ‘our parish exhausted all means available to us to stop the slow destruction of Melbury Abbas.’
DCC was given a £2.5 million grant from the Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund last year to carry out structural maintenance and improvements along both the C13 and A350 between Shaftesbury and Blandford.
The two roads are part of what Government considers the ‘vital’ north-south HGV route into Poole from the Midlands.
Mr Kenealy claimed last month that after signs directing lorries through Melbury Abbas were installed without consultation in June 2016, villagers have recorded over 1,400 jams due to HGVs lasting an average of 27 minutes.
He said: ‘This represents 630 lost hours for unfortunate local motorists, plus the damage the large vehicles continue to inflict on verges, road signs, garden walls and even telephone poles.
‘During this period, the police had to close the road completely 15 times in order to sort out the blockage.’
He added that ‘unfortunately, our local MP [Simon Hoare] obtained £2.4 million from central government from the National Productivity Fund, which the [county] council, already massively in debt, has used to progress this reckless plan under the guise of “Traffic Mitigation”.’
‘The majority of funds have been used to resurface the A350, but the county is also planning to install permanent electric signage directing lorries through the village and even worse to build a lay-by in Melbury Abbas that will turn the village into a shunting yard for lorry traffic.’
He said that following DCC cabinet’s decision in December to retain the voluntary one-way system through the village without an HGV weight restriction ‘our parish immediately sent a letter to the county council advising that we reserved the right to proceed to judicial review if the December cabinet decision was not reversed.
‘The letter laid out our position that the decision was flawed due to an improper consultation and due to a lack of duty of care for Melbury Abbas residents.
‘The county council’s legal department replied on 8 January that the decision stands. They refused any negotiation and said they will fight any legal action. They left us with no option.’
Mr Kenealy said the local community, which has paid for everything out of its own pockets so far, estimated it needs to raise an extra £10,000 to cover its costs.
He said the crowdfunding appeal had raised £1,530 b by yesterday (11 March), three days after going ‘live’. Mr Kenealy is now appealing for further help by inviting local people to contribute via www.crowdjustice.com/case/savemelburyabbas.
• Mr Kenealy claims Shaftesbury Town Council has not been consulted about a permanent electric sign DCC Highways is planning to install on Christy’s Lane in Shaftesbury as part of its ‘mitigation measures’ for the A350/C13. It is believed the sign will be sited where the existing temporary sign now is. Mr Kenealy said he believes the sign is being ‘pushed by the A350 group who claim some kind of mandate to speak for all of North Dorset on road issues.’