Banwell needs traffic lights, and better public transport, not a controversial new road

The controversial Banwell Bypass plans are dividing Banwell people, as well as creating a divide between Banwell and the nearby villages of Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe

Some people in Banwell are delighted to think that congestion in Banwell is going to be solved. They may not know about, or prefer not to think about, local traffic including HGVs still being able to travel through Banwell centre, and the fact that traffic levels on bypassed roads rise again after time. 

For other people  living in Banwell,  there are more important issues which rule out the Bypass plans. For them, it’s the 3,000  new houses which come with the Bypass, opening up the area around Banwell to yet more development after the initial 3,000,  the impact on already stretched local facilities like schools, the surgery and Weston hospital, local shops and businesses having trade drawn away by the Bypass, the loss of Banwell’s countryside setting and village identity.

Felicity Saunders, who has lived in the same house on East Street in Banwell for the last 60 years, completely disagrees with the idea of the Bypass.   The Southern Link Road passes very close to homes on East Street and Dark Lane.  The lovely green fields and ancient wooded Banwell Hill, home to rare and protected horseshoe bats, Banwell’s countryside backdrop and part of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will be carved into by the Southern Link Road of the Bypass.

Ms Saunders says:  “ We need traffic lights and yellow lines , that would keep the traffic moving.  We don’t need a bypass. Planning to stop up Dark Lane and Castle Hill, It’s crazy, it’s a danger. There’s a need for the fire brigade and ambulances to get through.  We can’t all be caged in here.  It will be like 2 cul-de-sacs.  Even the binmen will have trouble. We’ll be prisoners basically.  The lanes must be open, they can’t block off a village like that.  There will be more and more traffic along East Street. It’s an A road, so lorry drivers will still have the right to come along it.”

The Council is supposed to explore the alternatives to building a costly new road, according to Department for Transport Guidance. Smart on- demand traffic lights are one obvious alternative.  Why is the council not pursuing the alternatives?   Traffic lights, and better public transport for commuters and schoolchildren, leading to fewer cars on the road, would provide a lasting solution to congestion in Banwell.  

Congestion has been a problem in Banwell since the 1930s.  A bypass was last thought of over 15 years ago, and was rejected by the Council on cost benefits grounds. Over the years, whenever vehicles on the A371 travelling through Banwell village refuse to give way to oncoming traffic through the Narrows, one or both of the opposing vehicles, one usually an HGV, can get stuck in the Narrows , causing long queues to build up.   When drivers give way, and confrontations don’t  happen, the traffic runs relatively freely.    When drivers don’t give way, there is congestion, and sometimes damage to buildings lining the A371.  Over the last five years five slight injury collisions have been recorded on the A371 through Banwell centre, and no collisions with serious injury or death resulting, according to Crashmap data.

So which is more important?  A lasting solution to Banwell’s congestion problem, and a focus on building new housing near existing larger settlements, which already have roads and facilities, or going ahead with a carbon-costly, environmentally destructive new road  and unsustainable new housing on countryside? 

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