…. but minimal mitigation proposed for Winscombe

WinTAG met with a member of the Banwell Bypass Working Group to find out what North Somerset Council is proposing to do in order to mitigate the impact of the bypass on the village.

Q: What is mitigation and what could it look like in Winscombe?

A: Mitigation refers to actions or measures put in place to minimize the impact of, or damage done by something which is planned or could happen. The Banwell bypass will result in an increase in traffic with traffic congestion displaced from Banwell to Winscombe, Sandford and Churchill. We would therefore expect to see mitigation measures implemented to tackle speeding such as speed limits and their enforcement by the installation of average speed cameras. Residents are already campaigning for 20mph zones in the parish with 20mph speed limits and traffic calming measures. These are needed to tackle our existing traffic problems and would not suffice for mitigating the impact of the bypass. Other mitigation which has been suggested is longer and wider pavements, more signalized pedestrian crossings, ‘Smart’ traffic lights which respond to the ongoing traffic situation and vehicle-activated speed check signs.

We would also need action to be taken to address the dangers of increased air and noise pollution. There would need to be strict weight limits on vehicles (and also width and height limits given the characteristics of our roads) and these have to be enforced. Residential roads used as rat-runs may need additional protection such as ‘no through road’, ‘access for residents only’ (as with the ‘quiet lanes’ initiative) or one-way systems. One can envisage increasing levels of mitigation according to the level of threat from the bypass and related developments.

Other mitigation will be needed for the impact on the environment of the building of new roads along the flood plain and Banwell Hill. WinTAG has already written about the Special Area of Conservation for bats and the Groundwater Source Protection Zone on Banwell Hill. The Banwell Bypass Working Group is awaiting further information about what mitigation is proposed for this area which is within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 Q: I believe that mitigation for the impact of the bypass on Winscombe has to be considered by those working on the bypass project. Is that right?

A:Yes it does. The parish council has demanded that mitigation is put in place for when the bypass opens and not added years later after damage has been done. In the light of the information about the increase in traffic, we will need to see mitigation put in place to protect our residents by 2024 when the bypass is due to open.

Q: What mitigation is the council proposing for Winscombe?

A: The answer is very little. The extent of the proposed mitigation is a short stretch of the A371 between the railway bridge and the Sidcot traffic lights, to be designated a 20mph zone with a ‘gateway’ along the Woodborough Road. That is all. The council is proposing less than what many residents are asking for to deal with Winscombe’s existing traffic problems, let alone for when the bypass is built. The parish council is already investigating the need for a number of 20mph zones in Winscombe yet the council is proposing far less than this for when the bypass opens.

Incidentally, more mitigation is proposed for Sandford than Winscombe, although this higher level of mitigation may not satisfy Sandford residents. We asked the Banwell Bypass team if it was expecting much more traffic to use the A368 than the A371 once the bypass is completed but they said not; that the amounts would be about the same for each road (as they are now). We therefore asked the team why Winscombe was being offered so little mitigation in comparison with Sandford. Is this another case for levelling up?

Q: Traffic enters Winscombe from many directions. Surely mitigation will be needed along all of these roads?

A: There is no reference to Hill Road, Sandford Road, Woodborough Road, Winscombe Hill and Church Road (a notorious rat-run) or any other Winscombe roads in the council’s proposals. There is no mention of other measures such as speed cameras, pedestrian crossings or other improvements to the roads. The map of the extent of the council’s proposed mitigation for Winscombe shows very little of the village south of the A371.

The proposals are not acceptable in extent and scale. They do not deal with Winscombe’s existing problems with traffic let alone the increase in the number of vehicles once the bypass and new housing are built. The proposals do not apply to most of the roads where speeding is rife, where through-traffic uses our roads as rat-runs, where lorries blindly follow their GPS along residential rural lanes.

The parish council and residents of Winscombe on the Working Group made their views known to the Banwell Bypass team in no uncertain terms! The bypass team admitted that they should ‘probably include Church Road and Winscombe Hill’ but we won’t know if they have done this until we see the next version of their proposals. The next map of proposed mitigation must include all the roads in Winscombe which will be affected by the bypass, showing not just 20mph zones but more stringent measures which will protect our residents and the environment from the increase in traffic.

Q: Is there a budget for this work?

A: The budget for the bypass is £65 million of which £45 million is for the design and building of the road itself.

£65 million for a couple of miles of new road? That is a lot of money.

It certainly is. There is a small budget of £4 million within this for what are called ‘road improvements’ which will include the costs of mitigation in Winscombe and Sandford. However, there will be many calls on this budget, including the motorway junction improvements, so we are concerned that mitigation for Winscombe may be squeezed out.

Q: What can we do to ensure that Winscombe has the mitigation it needs when the bypass opens?

A: The council will be holding a consultation about mitigation in around February next year. It is expecting to submit the planning application for the bypass in May. It is important that residents take part in the consultation by attending drop-in events, completing the online forms and writing letters. The email address for the Banwell Bypass Team at North Somerset Council is banwell.bypass@n-somerset.gov.uk

However, we hope that prior to this, residents will have an opportunity to take part in a mitigation survey to say what measures they think should be put in place. Obviously, the council makes the decision about what will be allowed but we know that residents in Winscombe are very traffic-aware. It is a burning issue! Maybe the parish council will undertake such a survey? Maybe WinTAG could do one?

For further information about the implications of the Banwell Bypass for traffic and the need for mitigation in Winscombe, please contact winscombetag@gmail.com

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