A DATE for the potential construction of Westbury bypass suffered a setback this week as it was announced a public inquiry has been postponed.

The inquiry was due to start on April 29 but solicitors acting on behalf of the White Horse Alliance, who are against an eastern route for the A350 bypass, complained they did not have enough time to prepare.

A new date for the public inquiry will be announced at a pre-inquiry meeting on Monday at County Hall in Trowbridge.

Alliance secretary Patrick Kinnersly said: "We had already written to the Planning Inspectorate in January saying that our expert witnesses would not be available at such short notice for an inquiry starting in April.

"The Inspectorate went ahead and set the date without explaining their decision. We took the first step towards a legal challenge in the High Court but the Government's lawyers have accepted our case for delaying the inquiry."

Westbury Bypass Now campaigner Dorian Jones, who supports the £33m bypass and £1.3m Westbury town centre improvement scheme, said: "The White Horse Alliance have had 40 years to get their act together. It's grossly unfair that they have done this to the people of Westbury at the eleventh hour.

"We were looking forward to the inquiry because it would be a chance for everyone to have their say."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is also concerned the bypass will have a negative impact on the Westbury White Horse.

Senior campaigner Laura Jansen said: "It is incredible that the county council wants to push forward this intrusive and damaging scheme. It would have a major impact on an historic landscape, "It does not say much for the scheme that it was not even included in the list of 80 transport schemes for the south west that a panel of inspectors wanted to see progressed.

"Why should such a precious landscape have to be damaged by what is clearly not a key priority for the region?"

Conservative county council portfolio holder for environment, transport and economic development, Fleur de Rhe-Philipe, believes the countryside will remain unspoilt if the bypass went ahead. She said: "No road helps the countryside, but I know that piece of countryside very well, having fallen off my horse on nearly every inch of it.

"It's in a valley and won't be seen much or heard much. There are already measures to mitigate any damage the bypass may cause and a lot of the money has been spent to ensure this."

Mr Jones fears further delays will mean Westbury will not benefit from the central government investment.

He said: "Westbury is dying on its feet, no-one wants to come here. Everyone was looking forward to the rejuvenation of the town centre on the back of the bypass plans. But this has now been thwarted by a minority."