National prize at end of long Cogges anti-road fight

Witney Gazette: Conservationist David Condon, who led the campaign against the Cogges Link Road, for four years Conservationist David Condon, who led the campaign against the Cogges Link Road, for four years

CAMPAIGNERS who successfully fought a 25-year battle against the Cogges Link Road in Witney have won a national award for their efforts.

The West Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) won the 2013 Marsh Award for Countryside Champion of the Year.

The gong was presented by former Poet Laureate and CPRE president Sir Andrew Motion at the organisation’s annual general meeting in June.

Sir Andrew said: “It takes incredibly dedicated people to conduct a campaign for this length of time.

“This was solid CPRE campaigning from a sound evidence base with good media work and engagement of other groups as well as the local community.

The Oxfordshire County Council-proposed Cogges Link Road aimed to cut congestion and pollution in Witney town centre by linking Station Lane with Oxford Hill. But it would have been built over green space and a flood plain. Campaigners said creating a four-way junction on the A40 at Shores Green would be a better solution.

A Government inspector at a public inquiry to decide whether the county council could compulsorily purchase land for the road ruled for the campaigners.

The campaign was led by the Witney branch of the West Oxfordshire CPRE,whose branch chairman David Condon said: “We are delighted.

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“It proves these battles can be won against local authorities if you are prepared to put in time and effort, and with the support of the town’s people.

“It took an awful lot of constant document reading and document understanding. It was very tough.”

Mr Condon, who was part of the campaign for 15 years and led it for four, said the group was taking a break.

He said: “From a small group of people this was a phenomenal amount of work and effort. We are now waiting to see what the county council decide with regard to the Shores Green slip road alternative. We are ready for any new cause to campaign for in Witney.”

The West Oxfordshire branch also received £1,000 for winning the award, which Mr Condon said would be used “for the next campaign”.

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