WILTSHIRE council is being accused of lacking common sense after designing a 32-mile diversion to avoid just 300 yards of roadworks.
Resurfacing work will close the stretch of High Street in Royal Wootton Bassett between Whitehill Lane and Wood Street from 7pm to 7am for five nights from February 8. During the hours of operation, a diversion will send motorists on a long loop using A-roads, instead of smaller roads that could save motorists a huge amount of time and fuel.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Chris Wannell, a town councillor. “It will take cars 30 to 40 minutes extra if they follow the diversion signs, and for lorries it will add the best part of an hour.”
Wannell said he had suggested a much shorter route but council planners insisted they had to match A-roads with A-roads when creating an alternative route. Wannell said that this is only guidance and not set in stone.
“It is typical of councils that some read the guidance notes and take them to the absolute furthest limit and don’t use common sense,” he said.
Paul Heaphy, another town councillor, described the diversion as “overkill” and added: “It is stunning that this is the shortest route they could come up with. My first reaction when I heard the plans was, ‘Why have they done that?’ It doesn’t seem logical. We are still waiting to find out why the council has opted for that route.”
Philip Whitehead, the council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We have to divert vehicles onto roads that are suitable for them, and in this situation the road is a tactical diversion route for the M4, should Highways England need to close it in an emergency. Consequently diversions often appear very long because we have to cater for HGVs. Local people will find their own way using local routes that they know.
“If we use local routes for the signed diversion, all the HGVs will end up on inappropriate roads, which could cause chaos and damage.”
The Wootton Bassett diversion trumps an 18-mile diversion near Stowmarket, in Suffolk, which is also driving local residents to distraction.