A highways official told a public inquiry that a controversial £300m road building scheme is 'clearly' consistent with the county council's ambitions to get to net zero.

The £269 million HIF1 proposals include building a dual carriageway on the A4130 from the A34 Milton Interchange towards Didcot, new bridges, and a Clifton Hampden bypass.

In July 2023, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities called in the planning application after the county council's planning committee refused it - despite recommendations from planning officers that it should be approved.

Herald Series: Planning committee rejected the scheme last July

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John Disley, Oxfordshire County Council's head of transport policy, was asked by Michael Humphries KC on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council if its Local Transport and Connectivity Plan was against road building.

Mr Disley replied: "No it isn’t. The vision is a vision for all modes of travel."

He said HIF1 will give greater opportunity for alternative travel modes than currently exist in the area.

"Firstly, because it provides some significant facilities for active travel and cycle and paths and so forth... and provides connectivity in the Science Vale area, particularly looking at the Didcot area and Culham area, that doesn’t exist at the moment.

Herald Series:

"And, if not more importantly, it's my view that this scheme is fundamental to the future and quality of the bus network and indeed its very ability to act effectively as an alternative network to car trips in this area.

"It’s clear to me that LTCP policy does not preclude road building.

"In my view it is very clear there are situations where new roads are necessary, including where access is needed to new development or where existing roads are unsafe.

"Very clearly substantive development is under way and planned for this area and this scheme is required in order to be able to support that."

Mr Disley was cross examined by David Woolley on behalf of Neighbouring Parish Councils – Joint Committee (NPCJC), East Hendred Parish Council (EHPC) and Planning Oxfordshire's Environment and Transport Sustainably (POETS).

Mr Woolley asked Mr Disley 'what is meant by a net zero Oxfordshire transport system'?

Herald Series: Parishes protest outside county hall before the planning meeting

He said: "In the long term a system that has a net zero position in terms of the carbon impacts of transport".

"Does that necessarily import a reduction in use of the private motor car?" asked Mr Woolley.

Mr Disley previously said that in an urban area like Oxford it was far easier to create a modal shift away from car travel because of the much more developed bus and cycle networks.

Mr Woolley said: "You are not suggesting that reducing the use of the private motor car in Oxford alone is going to achieve all the other objectives of the plan."

"We would want to look at how we were able to reduce the use of the motor car as far as we are able to across all of Oxfordshire," said Mr Disley.

"And building roads is not going to help achieve that end, is it?" said Mr Woolley.

He later asked: "As a matter of speculation how many people are going to give up their motor cars?"

Mr Disley said: "We’ve done some quite extensive modelling to find out what future means of travel are likely to be."

"Are assumed to be, is that not right?" said Mr Woolley.

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"I think they are the best evidence we have for the purposes of this inquiry," said Mr Disley. "They may not be as accurate as they are forecast to be but by the same token there isn’t any evidence to suggest anything that is more accurate."

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Mr Woolley asked about OCC's policy that it "will only consider road capacity schemes after all other options have been explored".

Mr Disley said previous evidence given at the inquiry set out "comprehensively how other options were considered".

"There’s bound to more demand for travel in the years 11, 12 and so on," said Mr Woolley. "The result is, isn’t it, sooner or later, we don’t know when, the state of the highway network will return to the condition it is in today."

Mr Disley said there was no modelling beyond the timescales for the inquiry and it depended on a number of factors about travel and trip patterns "and we are talking about some way in the future".

The inquiry is adjourned until March 26. The final decision will be taken by levelling up secretary, Michael Gove.