COGGES LINK: A saga that has run for 27 years
6:00pm Tuesday 19th June 2012 in Witney
Oxfordshire County Council has been trying to cut congestion and pollution in the town centre bottleneck of Bridge Street for decades.
The road receives about 30,000 vehicles a day, including heavy goods vehicles, and is heavily polluted.
The Cogges Link Road would have looped around Cogges estate, from Oxford Hill to Station Lane, to allow traffic to bypass the town centre.
It was first proposed after the new A40, which originally ran through Bridge Street was built in 1977 and failed to cut town centre congestion.
The original plan was a link road running from Cogges Hill Road in the estate through to the Station Lane roundabout near Sainsbury’s.
But Cogges residents objected to the plan and it was discovered that the space left by developers between homes to build the road was not large enough.
In 1991 a plan looping a road from Stanton Harcourt Road to the Station Lane roundabout also ran into problems.
The Cogges Link Road in its current form was conceived in 1996 and County Hall first won planning permission in 1997.
Permission was then given to build the Madley Park housing estate and under the agreement developers would help fund the link road.
But then everything changed in 2003 with the detrunking of the A40, allowing new junctions to be built on the carriageway at Witney for the first time.
Campaigners against the link road scheme and James Mawle, who owns land needed for it, backed a plan to create a four-way A40 junction at Shores Green.
The campaigners commissioned reports that found the Shores Green option was cheaper, had less environmental impact and achieved the same congestion reductions.
The county council disputed the environmental and congestion benefits and maintained a link road would better serve the town.
Wyn Devonald, member of Witney Campaign to Protect Rural England and anti-link road campaign group Witney First, said: “It has got to be the Shores Green option.
“The inspector and the Secretary of state said it is the best scheme in terms of everything bar air quality.
“The council should now pull out all the stops and put Shores Green in place.”
In 2010, campaigners fought, but lost a bid to protect the Witney Meadows, through which the link road would have run, with a town green status.
A public inquiry into the compulsory purchase of land started in September last year and, after weeks of arguments between the county council’s legal team and Mr Mawle’s barristers and campaigners, finished in late November.
Last Friday, the inspector’s recommendation to reject the compulsory purchase order was backed by the Secretary of State for Transport.
The decision brought to an end decades of transport planning and County Hall will now need to look again at how to solve the congestion problem in Witney.
But the Cogges appeal hascome at a cost. The council spent £1.4million on the public hearings and will have to pay costs to it opponents, estimatedat around £700,000.
With Witney constantly expanding and more large-scale estates on the way, it is a race against time to alleviate traffic congestion.