ANOTHER VIEW: Not all Newbury's businesses want a bypass

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At a meeting in Newbury yesterday, a group of local businessmen voiced our opposition to the Newbury bypass, much to the astonishment of local journalists. Why do we take our present position? Because often environmental concerns are also those of business.

Fundamentally, there has been no discussion of the issues surrounding the Newbury bypass since the last public inquiry in 1988, which did not look at the transport alternatives and had one single objective - "Which route should a north/south trunk road follow?"

Since then, a number of significant changes have taken place across the country which now call the decision to build a bypass into question. First, the decision was made before the M25 was opened, which we all assumed would relieve traffic around Greater London.

Second, while 90 per cent of business is located to the east of Newbury, an eastern route was not feasible, due to the American Air Force base at Greenham Common, which cuts right across land to the east.

Thirdly, digital telephone technology allowing people to work from home, linked into their office computer systems, was not available as it is now.

And lastly, the incidence of children being molested on their way to and from school has become a significant issue, thus increasing the number of parents driving their children twice a day.

Newbury does have a traffic problems, but typically only for one hour in the morning and evening and on race days. The traffic in neighbouring Reading is much worse. What is different in Newbury is the significant number of HGVs, particularly car transporters, coming through the town. Local opinion is divided as to how much of this is local and how much through traffic. Given that a traffic survey has not been carried out since 1986 - and that was done in August to avoid school traffic being included - it makes it very hard to identify the scale of the problem.

In order for us to run our businesses effectively, we need an infrastructure that is not clogged by cars taking children to school nor held up by local commuters getting into the town centre (when they could be using a park and ride). We need to free trunk roads from the HGVs that are a threat to our lives. (My brother-in-law was killed by an HGV in 1982 while working as an agricultural feed representative.)

We don't want to spend pounds 101m of government money on a controversial road scheme that will not solve Newbury's traffic problems - in five years' time traffic will be back to present levels. That money should be invested in the rail network and in subsidies to businesses to provide shared transport for their employees and tax incentives for businesses that are based at home. As it is, Newbury has just opened a new business park at Greenham and it has not one single bus to service it.

The writer is managing director of Focus Executive, based in Newbury.