Strategic Road Network: South West

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 19th July 2017.

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Photo of Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian Liddell-Grainger Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset 11:00 am, 19th July 2017

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He has been a champion for the A303 and A358 since he stood as a candidate. He has done a remarkable job in ensuring that the Government are fully aware of the feelings of the people of Yeovil. Yeovil and Bridgwater are the only two industrial towns in Somerset. This issue matters enormously given that the railway station for Yeovil is outside the town, so we have double strategic problems.

Nexus is a rosy apple in the eye of Tumbleweed Town’s Wyatt Earp, Councillor John Williams. Quick on the draw as he is, Wyatt Twerp intends to make sure it happens. Anyone who objects could end up on Boot Hill with an overdose of lead poisoning. Nexus is a plan for a giant business park on green fields next to junction 25, off the M5. Wyatt Twerp’s builder pals from Summerfield bought the plot cheap a few years ago. Taunton Deane now intends to use a local development order to force it through. Local development orders were designed for one purpose: to enable the development of brownfield sites, but Nexus is greenfield, and Wyatt Twerp is on the fiddle again with legal trickery to stifle objections. Local development orders, like development consent orders, make a mockery of consultation, but in lawless Tumbleweed Town that’s the way they do things. Wyatt Twerp wants to win, which is why he complained so strongly about the plans of Sir Tim Smit, the architect of the world-famous Eden Project, which we have all been to and know so well. Sir Tim Smit wants to build an extensive complex at junction 27 on the M5. It is a well-engineered proposal from a team with excellent form. Sir Tim Smit understands consultation. He actually attends all public meetings in person, which is impressive.

Wyatt Twerp sees any rival development, even in neighbouring counties, as a dreadful threat. Right now, he is getting his posse together to ride out and lynch the man—bizarre, I know. Imagine: Sir Tim Smit’s plans might lure people away from the invisible attractions of Tumbleweed Town.

My hon. Friend the Minister will be aware of another crazy caper dreamed up by Wyatt Twerp to merge West Somerset Council, which is in my constituency, with Taunton Deane. That could result in a new authority, no doubt to be called Greater Tumbleweed. West Somerset would end up without a single local office, and with no staff and few elected councillors. Wyatt Twerp organised a consultation process, which, as hon. Members would expect, was shallow, shabby, inaccurate and so badly drafted that few people took part. It was not worth the paper it was written on.

Once again, Wyatt Twerp is on the fiddle. His bid to merge has been submitted to the Secretary of State using a piece of law that gets around the need to consult anybody. Needless to say, my constituents are crying foul play. When they finally rumble his bent regime and boot him out, he would be very well qualified—dare I say it to the Minister?—to join Highways England as a consultant.

That brings me back to the A358 and the road that Highways England wants to build with no links to Nexus 25. I have a suspicious mind. I have already discovered that Summerfield Developments has bought another large plot of agricultural land, which happens to be remarkably close to all of Highways England’s route options for the A358. At present, Summerfield would not get permission to erect a garden shed on it, but if the A358 becomes a dual carriageway, nearby land will become ripe for new homes and Summerfield will be quids in. I wonder how much more land it has an option on already. I wonder which well-known land agents are scouting on its behalf, and who else has invested in that beautiful green-belt corner of Somerset.

Perhaps Wyatt Twerp himself will come clean and tell us why he bought a 30-acre plot close to Stoke St Mary parish church all those years ago. He might claim that it was because of his love of rural scenery or his abiding affection for the great crested newt, which we have all come across. Perhaps it was because of his desire to safeguard a precious plot for posterity. Or was it an early bid for a garden town—“Williamsville”, for instance, which is a great name—which my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil has championed? We know that there are fairies at the bottom of his garden and pink pigs flying above them, but the leader of Taunton Deane Council is a greedy builder at heart, and he must have known that 300 houses would fit on 30 acres. Wyatt Twerp bagged a bargain when he bought that land.

The point is this: if the A358 is turned into a highway, there will be huge building opportunities. Highways England understands Wyatt Twerp’s ambitions. Taunton Deane Council has been involved in secret talks with Highways England for months, but it took a freedom of information request from a gentleman called Dave Orr, who is not one of my constituents, to prove it. Two weeks ago, he obtained a memo from Highways England’s global consultants. Those experts recognised Taunton Deane’s extraordinary plan to build 17,000 houses and advised that 3,460 could be built on the land near the motorway junction. As far as I can make out, Mr Orr is a fair man. He decided to alert officers of Taunton Deane Council and Somerset County Council in case they had not seen the document. Nobody reacted, so Mr Orr called the press. It was a story—it was all true—but Wyatt Twerp went bananas and ordered his deputies to threaten the local paper for publishing “fake news”. Wyatt had a nasty attack of the Trumps.

That is a revealing episode in a very sad saga. I believe that this is the wrong strategic route for the south-west. We now know for certain that any road developments around this green part of Taunton will bring extra houses by the thousand, which will affect my hon. Friends the Members for Wells and for Yeovil. No wonder so many people are angry. No wonder there is growing distrust of the system and growing contempt for the local politicians—my hon. Friends excluded—who have conspired to allow this to happen. On that point, I rest my case.