The end of congestion for Banwell ?

No-one can deny that the traffic congestion in Banwell is a serious problem for residents and local motorists.  Residents in neighbouring villages empathise with what Banwell residents have to put up with, and welcome the prospect of a solution.

A major new road- but not classed as a major project

A new road  to facilitate major new housing, the Banwell Bypass,  is being funded by the Housing Infrastructure Fund, with a view to a large amount of new housing being, around 2,000 new houses, built near Banwell, accessed via the Bypass.   Although this is a large and expensive new road project, because it is introduced via the Housing Infrastructure funding, it is not classed as a major project, unlike the current A38 improvement proposals , and is not subject to the same rules and regulations, including on consultation. 

North Somerset Council will apply to itself  for planning permission for the new road.  The Parish Council can apply for mitigating conditions and benefits for the Parish as part of the planning permission

Interestingly, and some might think strangely, NSC will not only apply to itself for planning permission for the new road, having set up the whole bypass proposal and commissioned the contractors, and ultimately has the power to grant itself planning permission to build the road.   Parish Councils for the parishes affected will be consulted about the planning application.  Our Parish Council is able to ask for conditions and provisions mitigating the effect of the bypass on Sandford and Winscombe, through the normal S.106 application procedure.  The Parish Council is also the appointed point of contact for communications with the Banwell Bypass Team of contractors and NSC officials planning the Bypass.  This is why it is important for the Parish Council to know  residents’ views about the impact of the Banwell Bypass proposals, and their hopes for mitigating the impact.

The impact of the new road on Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe

 Apart from the monetary cost, there will be the physical and social effects of a great deal more traffic, the Banwell traffic, plus traffic from over 2,000 new homes, plus induced traffic, routed along the A368 through Sandford, Churchill, and diverting through Winscombe.  Working groups from Banwell, Sandford , Winscombe and Churchill have commented on the proposals so far, one remote meeting has taken place with the Banwell Bypass Team, and more about this can be found in the Banwell Bypass page of the villages website,  

The carbon cost of the new road and a new Towerhead roundabout to North Somerset

The carbon cost of a new road will have a very considerable impact on North Somerset Council’s  carbon emissions reduction targets, whichever of the options is chosen this year.  Road schemes increase carbon  by land clearance- many trees are felled and carbon sinks are lost; embodied carbon in steel concrete and asphalt is used to build roads; construction activities;  higher speeds, for example from 60 mph to 70 mph causes a 13% increase in emissions; increased road capacity generates more traffic and more car-dependant housing estates, retail parks and business parks.

 Just how high the carbon cost will be is not yet disclosed, and what measures the Council is proposing to make up for this are also not known.  It will add to the overall carbon cost of transport nationally.

The carbon cost of the Banwell Bypass for the UK

Nationally, the UK is not on track to comply with existing carbon budgets, and the carbon reduction from transport is much slower than needed, confirmed by the Department for Transport, the Climate Change Committee, and other expert bodies.  A new road adds to the carbon cost, slowing reduction, which must take place urgently within the next ten years.

Will electric vehicles take-up help?

A July 2020 Report by Transport for Quality of Life  shows that even if take-up of electric vehicles happens at the most optimistic rate estimated by the Department for Transport,  carbon emissions from the UK’s roads ( The Strategic Road Network, SRN ) will be more than the roads carbon emissions budgeted for under the Parish Climate agreement ( 381 megatonnes of carbon dioxide  ( MtCO2) instead of 214 MtCO2).  

RIS2, The UK’s second Road Investment Strategy,  commits over £13 billion to new roads and increasing capacity of existing roads to 2025, and from existing government data,  will make carbon emissions from the SRN go up significantly:

 ‘This suggests that RIS2  is incompatible with our legal obligation to cut carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, the Committee on Climate Change budgets, and the emerging principles for the Department for Transport’s decarbonisation plans’. 

The Report recommends RIS2 be cancelled, and the funding used for other measures, reducing road congestion in an effective, sustainable and permanent way. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused  enormous behaviour change, with work and non-work journeys replaced by video conferencing facilities and greater use of local facilities, new ways of working and socialising, and a greater appreciation of our local environment.

Other measures to reduce transport’s carbon cost

A faster switch to electric vehicles, and a significant reduction in vehicle mileage are the only possible ways to reduce carbon cost sufficiently, the Report finds, with measures to restrict driving, such as road pricing, better and more affordable rail and coach services, active travel improvements ( cycling plus rail travel would replace many journeys) better planning to prevent car dependent development, and superfast broadband to support remote working, speed reduction and camera enforcement.

Locally, what about North Somerset’s carbon budget?  The Report links to the Tyndall Carbon Budget Tool, which gives climate change targets for UK local authority areas based on the UN Paris Climate Agreement commitments, which most local authorities are working to .  If you click on the link, you can see North  Somerset’s entry, prepared in June 2021 .The recommended carbon budget for North Somerset from 2018 to 2027 is 7 Mt CO2.

An Environmental Statement should be submitted with the planning application, which is scheduled to be put in after the Options stage is complete this summer.  NSC should also inform us of the carbon cost of the Bypass, and how this fits in with their overall carbon cost reduction strategy.

Cresten Boase, Sandford

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