Rather more than 20 years ago, when I was getting ready to be a candidate for the first time in a West Dorset election, I drew up a list of local issues that I thought were likely to concern the electors of West Dorset in the years ahead.
Apart from the obvious items like schools and hospitals, social care for the elderly and the prosperity of the rural economy, it seemed to me that transport and communications were likely to be high on the list for many years to come. And so, indeed, they have proved to be - but with one significant difference. Whereas the provision of up to date broadband and mobile communications has been something that people have wanted to see happening inside West Dorset itself, and whilst the provision of bus services inside West Dorset has also been a persistent concern, by far the biggest issue so far as transport infrastructure is concerned has been the need for upgrading of a road that doesn't actually pass through West Dorset at all. I refer, of course, to the A303
The lack of a continuous dual carriageway on the A303 has had two major effects on many residents of West Dorset. For those living in the northerly parts of our District, the queues that form all too readily on the single lane sections of the road are a major impediment to smooth long distance travel. For those in the southerly part of West Dorset, the effect of crowding on the A303 has been to push more traffic onto the A35 than is convenient or pleasant so far as the communities living near to it are concerned.
This issue has been discussed, considered and reviewed for so long that a certain form of battle-weary cynicism has crept into the reporting of it.
When a decision was made by the coalition government to invest taxpayer funds in the full dualling of the A303, I detected signs of widespread disbelief. I wouldn't go quite so far as to say that people were convinced it would never happen. But there was certainly a great deal of doubt about the matter.
I am sure that the doubt will not finally be removed until people can see the work taking place with their very own eyes. But the fact that the detailed engineering has now been done, and that a specific, very large sum of money has now been laid aside to pay for the work on the basis of detailed costings, certainly provides more reason for confidence than people have had in the past.
Personally, I am now convinced that this project really is going to go ahead, barring disruption by a truly cataclysmic event.
I have every expectation that, by 2022, the doubts remaining in other quarters will have been removed by visible facts on and under the ground.