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Council officers criticised over delays to Dorchester traffic scheme
9:07pm Monday 4th February 2013 in News
HIGHWAYS officers faced a barrage of criticism from town councillors over delays to traffic improvements in Dorchester town centre this evening.
The team from Dorset County Council working on the Dorchester Transport and Environment Plan (DTEP) gave a presentation to Dorchester Town Council’s planning environment committee on the latest developments on the scheme.
Talks to develop a plan to improve traffic flows and reduce pollution in Dorchester town centre date back to 2003 and after several delays, Dorset County Council has now pushed back the bulk of its funding to the 2015/16 financial year, despite having already spent around £650,000 on the scheme.
The county council plans to carry out another phase of consultation on the scheme, but does not propose starting this until later in the year.
Tim Norman, group manager for highway improvements and systems for Dorset County Council, told town councillors that a new design team had recently taken over the DTEP scheme and ‘pretty quickly’ realised they did not have a sufficient budget to complete the whole scheme.
They have now put forward a proposal for a phased approach which will see around £5.5million of funding required to enable the implementation of two phases of the scheme and design for a third.
Mr Norman said: “What we have tried to do is come up with a pragmatic way of achieving this scheme.
“If we had not come up with a phased approach I think the scheme would have died.”
He said the first phase would involve traffic management to introduce a one-way system eastbound in High West Street and directing traffic to the south.
Phase two would see those changes made more permanent as well as a number of other minor alterations around Dorchester.
Phase three would feature a major overhaul of a number of junctions and traffic improvements on routes around the town.
Officers anticipate that phase one will be completed by February 2015 and phase two by June 2016.
If the £4million of further funding required for phase three is obtained it is expected that could be implemented by May 2018.
Mayor of Dorchester Andy Canning said that, while he accepted officers were doing what they could to make some improvements happen, he felt it was extremely unlikely phase three would ever happen.
He also blasted the county council for the amount of delay to the project already.
Coun Canning said: “The whole history of this project is exactly the sort of thing that brings local government into disrepute.
“It’s been dragging on for so long,”
Coun Trevor Jones asked that the committee formally request that engagement with members of the public be brought forward so it could be confirmed whether or not the town still wanted the scheme.
He also slammed the lack of progress to date.
Coun Jones said: “We have already spent £650,000 and what we have to show for it is a bollard in New Street.”