The Banwell Bypass- will this lead to gridlock in Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe?
Residents in Winscombe and Sandford, as well as Churchill and Langford are asked to comment on the Route Options and Highways Improvement for the proposed Banwell Bypass planned by North Somerset Council, and funded by the government Housing Infrastructure Fund by 16th August, less than a week away. The new Bypass is intended to enable more than 3,000 new homes to be built near Banwell.
Winscombe and Sandford Parish Council, and Churchill and Langford Parish Council, as well as interested local groups and individuals, have been asking North Somerset Council for details about the modelling of the traffic impacts on Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe since last year. It’s a worry that this information is still not available at the stage of the first consultation, which will influence the scope of which village gets what highways improvements and other mitigation within the final Plan.
Traffic flow figures which have now been released by the Bypass contractors, show an increase of between 100 and 150 vehicles per hour during peak hours , from Banwell to Winscombe, and an increase of between 150 to 275 vehicles per hour from Banwell to Churchill during peak hours, which includes Sandford, on the way to Churchill, once the Bypass is open. That’s 2 to 3 extra vehicles per minute for Winscombe, and over 4 vehicles more per minute for Sandford and Churchill during peak hours.
These figures do not include extra traffic flow from the new housing to be built near Banwell, traffic from around 3,000 new homes , announced by North Somerset Council in the Decision to go ahead with the Bypass. This will mean literally hundreds, possibly more than hundreds, when the calculations are released, more vehicle movements along the A368 and A371 through Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe..
Residents in the villages most affected, Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe fear that the traffic impacts of the Bypass on them, their homes, and their quality of life will equal or may well exceed the impact of current traffic congestion has on Banwell, especially when the traffic from the large new developments near Banwell starts up after 2026.
The Southern Link road, part of the Bypass scheme, goes from Banwell to Winscombe, and is meant to reduce traffic flow through Banwell, Sandford and Churchill. The road passes through the AONB, which if permitted risks opening up the AONB to new housing development on our valued and dwindling countryside, contrary to the wishes of local people and the emerging North Somerset Local Plan. The Southern Link also passes close to a protected water source which provides us with drinking water, and threatens rate and protected horseshoe bat Habitat. The fact that the Bypass Team, which includes North Somerset Council officials is putting forward the Southern Link Road as part of the Bypass, and as part of the eventual Planning Application for the Bypass, is also a worry.
The original plans for a Banwell Bypass, consulted on with full information given out by the Council on the merits and disadvantages, concluded that a Bypass for Banwell, and also Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe was the preferred option. Since then North Somerset Council has declared a Climate Emergency. All communities in North Somerset in the years to come will face challenges of extreme weather, flooding,, over-heating, affecting water and food supplies and community resilience.
People in North Somerset have voted to put new housing near existing settlement where employment prospects and transport links would serve them better. The new Local Plan site allocations are meant to follow that vote.
Why then is the Council now going ahead with a Banwell Bypass which will open up an area of countryside near Banwell, hardly a large settlement, to new development?
Why is the damaging impact of this new road, on countryside, and on 3 separate village communities, not being assessed by the Council;, or if it has been assessed as some consider it must have been, why is the information about this not being shared in an open and fair way ? There has been no consultation on the plans for this current Bypass proposal, or full information about the merits and disadvantages of routing all the Banwell traffic, plus the traffic that always comes with new roads, plus the traffic from around 3,000 new homes, directly through Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe.
North Somerset Council has a lot of questions to answer, and should answer them now.