Today, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited the Weymouth Relief Road to mark its completion.
HRH met local dignitaries and council officers under the new Ridgeway bridge before having a guided tour of the new road with Dorset County Council project manager Matthew Piles.
Afterwards, HRH met with members of the workforce and local school children, who waved Union Jack flags to welcome her to the site offices in Littlemoor.
County council Chairman, John Wilson, gave HRH an official welcome, he said:
Your Royal Highness,
It gives me great pleasure to offer you our warmest Dorset welcome and thank you for honouring us with your attendance here in our lovely County and particularly at this, the site of our new super highway.
I am also delighted that so many of the people who have worked on this project have been able to be here today. These are the people whose skill and dedication has delivered it from planning and design, through the public inquiry and into construction, construction that has been achieved as a result of an extremely successful partnership between Dorset County Council and Skanska Civil Engineering.
There were always going to be environmental issues with building a new road across such lovely countryside, especially so when much of it is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Consequently, it was imperative that the scheme was sensitively designed, that it took into account the scheduled monuments and, especially, the visual impact on the landscape. During our drive down the road we have seen many examples of the outcome of this sensitive design work ranging from the iconic Ridgeway green bridge to the natural curve of the cutting, both demonstrating a good balance between Dorset’s road and Dorset’s unique environment.
I could talk a lot at this point about all the evidence of Dorset’s rich history that has been unearthed during construction, from Viking burial pits through Iron Age Settlements and back to large pre-historic ammonites but much of that has been well covered by others. I just want to mention two 21st century aspects.
Firstly, the march of modern technology that allowed the drivers of very big earth-movers to dig out at the exact specified location and to the exact depth by having GPS satellite navigation equipment in the cabs.
Secondly, many people will remember that there was much concern at the public inquiry stage about damage to an area of woodland called Two Mile Coppice. I now understand that a number of officers from the County Council’s Natural Environment Team collected acorns from the coppice’s oak trees and took them home and nurtured them into life. Then, last month, under the guidance of County Officers, children from the local Wyvern School planted these baby oak trees in a meadow where, in time, they will grow to hide the view of the road. A fine example of conservation and of involving the local community.
So, at long last, we have the Weymouth Relief Road, a road that local people first started asking for in 1948. Weymouth and Portland has been a community that, all too often, has seemed to be almost cut off from the rest of Dorset by the difficulty and delays in getting there by road and for many local residents living on the A354, there has been the unpleasantness of congestion outside their properties. So this new road is certainly valuable to the community. It will offer more travel choice to residents and visitors, by bike, on foot or by bus, or even on horse back. And, because of their confidence in the road system, businesses will be able to plan and develop for the future, so contributing towards securing the economic growth of Weymouth and Portland.
Lastly, but by no means least, we all know that in Portland Harbour, Dorset is to have the huge accolade of hosting the sailing events for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games when this road will be an integral part of the Olympic route network.
So, on that note, it now gives me great pleasure to invite Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, to unveil the commemorative plaque, a plaque that has been produced in the new stone masonry class of Weymouth College.