The Banwell Bypass won’t solve Banwell’s traffic problems

Like many people experiencing the congestion through Banwell first hand over many years, I empathise with people in Banwell who badly want a solution to the problem, and see the Bypass as providing that solution. However, having looked at what the Bypass plans are, it doesn’t offer the solution Banwell needs.

How can we tell if the Banwell Bypass will solve Banwell’s traffic problems?

The good news is that Highways England has published information about new roads and their effects, going back over 20 years. There are 2 expert reports clearly analysing that information, Beyond Transport Infrastructure, in 2006,…/Beyond… and The Impact of Road Projects in England, in 2017…/TfQLZ..

. The bad news for Banwell is that if the Banwell Bypass opens as planned, going on the 2006 Report, the most likely result will be based on what happened with the other bypasses:

• A reduction in village centre traffic levels, but not as great a reduction as forecast.

• Regrowth in traffic levels on the bypassed roads, with a considerable overall increase in traffic in combination with the new road.

• Community severance and noise problems for residents living on or near the proposed Northern and Southern Link roads.

• Shop and business closures

• Noise and substantial landscape impact on the rural character of the area around Banwell.

According to the transport data, the Bypass may be a short term partial ‘fix’ for Banwell congestion, but it’s not a long-term solution. :The Banwell Bypass diverting some of the traffic flow through Banwell will only provide a short-term, very expensive ‘fix’ to the issue of congestion in the centre of Banwell, but it won’t solve Banwell’s long-term traffic problems.

Within 1 or 2 years of opening, many of the schemes reported on in 2006 show between 10-35% increases in traffic volumes. What happened in Polegate from 2002 highlights the problems which will continue to be faced by Banwell residents once the Bypass is opened. The A27 Polegate Bypass, length 2.8 km, so similar in length to the Banwell Bypass Northern route, opening in 2002, had a 76% total traffic increase in the Polegate corridor one year after opening ( on the A27 and the B2247 ‘old’ route) with 27% of that being traffic growth. The expected reduction in town centre traffic was not as large as forecast, at 62%, and traffic levels increased from 2003. Residents living on the bypass side of the town have continued to report problems of severance and noise pollution. The total number of casualties in the area had increased, not reduced as predicted. People are bypassing Polegate for shopping trips and accessing Eastbourne via the Bypass, with a number of shop closures in Polegate since the Bypass opened.

It’s also bad news for Banwell, going on the 2017 Report, which analyses the first 5 year effects of over 80 road schemes, and the long term effects of 4 separate road schemes completed between 13 and 20 years ago. The overall finding is that road schemes generate traffic over both short and long term. This is the case even when allowing for background traffic growth. In the long run, 8-20 years after the new road schemes opened, the mean increase in traffic was 47% more.

There’s no proposal to entirely stop traffic coming through Banwell, and there will be regrowth in traffic on the bypassed roads. How much regrowth and increase there will be depends on all the factors. For Banwell, this includes the large housing developments being planned for alongside the Bypass.

The Bypass is to be used as an opportunity to build large housing developments near Banwell, according to North Somerset Council These will be car-dependent, and traffic-producing developments, due to lack of adequate public transport. This means a much larger increase in traffic flow, from commuters from the large developments, inevitably affecting Banwell.

What next for Banwell, after the new large developments? More road improvements? Another new bypass? How will local people, old and young, walkers, cyclists, horse riders, manage with the increased traffic from the new large developments?

Here are some examples of what’s happened elsewhere:

• The A34 Newbury Bypass, 13.5 km, opening 1998, involved a new dual carriageway. Traffic increased by 77% , there was a large amount of car-dependent development, so the ‘relieved’ former A34 was heavily congested again. The pressure is on to enlarge junctions and sections of the ‘relieved’ former A34. Congestion issues on the old bypassed road, the A339 corridor, were noted by 2003, with junctions close to capacity, reducing accessibility in to Newbury Town Centre for all road users including cyclists and pedestrians

.• The A46 Newark- Lincoln road scheme, 13km, opening in 2003, had a traffic increase of over 33% in the Northern section. This facilitated an application for 2,500 new car-dependant housing units, and a Southern Bypass linking to the A46 is expected.

• In Essex, there is now pressure to dual the A120 east of Braintree, because the traffic growth as a consequence of the dualled road west of Braintree is placing pressure on the remaining single carriageway section. Business lobby groups, and the county council, argue that a new off-line dual carriageway east of Braintree will help businesses and create thousands of new jobs, but the evidence from the previous road building is that it did not increase the number of jobs in the corridor at all.

It’s not just the added traffic from the Bypass and the new developments. There are the environmental impacts on Banwell, the social impacts, the economic impacts on existing businesses. Wider problems for Banwell are the damage to its valued AONB setting, landscape, ecology and biodiversity, light pollution, and the issues of congestion, severance, and health impacts in neighbouring villages, Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe.There are good and positive alternatives to the Bypass, outlined in the 2017 Report ( see Pages 128 to 129) All we need is for people to get behind the alternatives, and for North Somerset Council to take a reality check on the true impacts of the Bypass.

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