Members of the Oxfordshire Roads Action Alliance (ORAA) have started to make their case at the public inquiry into the HIF1 Road which started yesterday (February 20) at Milton Park.

The road would be the largest road scheme in Oxfordshire since the M40 was built, providing another link from the A34 to the Oxford to Reading road north of Didcot

The Oxfordshire Roads Action Alliance says the scheme would open up land in the green belt for housing. 

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In July 2023 Oxfordshire County Council’s Planning Committee rejected the plan. However, the county council's cabinet now continues to push it forward, despite not all county councillors having declared support.

The Oxfordshire Road Action Alliance believes the cabinet will only present evidence in support of the application. 

It also believes the cabinet will ignore concerns raised at the July meeting, despite its Local Transport Policy stating new roads are “not a sustainable long term solution for Oxfordshire’s transport network.” 

Primary opposition comes from the road action alliance, impacted parish councils and other voluntary groups, with more than £20,000 having been raised by concerned groups to fight the inquiry.

A legal advocate for those protesting, David Woolley, made an opening statement yesterday morning. The ORAA stated in advance they planned to protest outside.

Chris Church of the ORAA said: "There may be other people looking to speak in the first sessions, but most of our evidence will come on later dates in the inquiry."

Oxford Mail: Protesters outside of the inquiry yesterdayProtesters outside of the inquiry yesterday (February 20)

Several arguments the road action alliance and others plan to present at the inquiry include: damage to the green belt in the section of the proposed road north of the Thames and damage to the landscape in four major areas including Appleford and Clifton Hampden.

Oxford Mail: A protest held in 2022A local protest against work for the road in 2022

Costs and viability remain a major concern for those opposing the road, with the action alliance arguing: “Since its inception in 2014, the costs of the HIF1 scheme have increased by more than a quarter to £296 million.”

The following alternatives will also be advanced by those in opposition: Climate and carbon (with the HIF1 scheme contravening the county council’s Local Transport and Connectivity Plan), an increase in traffic levels, local, health and noise impacts and a failure to consider alternatives.

The public inquiry is taking place at Bee House in Milton Park and will sit for 22 days across a 12 week period.

It started yesterday (February 20) and will run from: February 20 to 23, February 27 to March 1, March 26 to 28, April 16 to 19, April 23 to 26 and May 8 to 10.

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Chris Church, of Oxford Friends of the Earth, said: “The claim that this will solve Didcot’s traffic problems is laughable. A new road, more pollution, more traffic, more housing in remote areas will mean another road plan and it will all start again.”

Councillor Judy Roberts, cabinet member for infrastructure and development strategy, said: “Oxfordshire County Council is committed to the Didcot and surrounding areas major infrastructure scheme and will be presenting evidence in support of its planning application for the scheme. 

“If approved, the project would transform travel in the Didcot area for current and future residents as well as commuters. The project will help accommodate for planned growth."