Unanswered questions about the Bypass
One of the most worrying aspects of the Banwell Bypass Plan is the lack of communication by North Somerset Council, and the lack of answers to the reasonable and basic questions we in Sandford have about the current plan. The question ‘Why has there been no public consultation about this new bypass plan, before the Council went ahead and appointed contractors to carry it out?’ is still unanswered.
Sandford Neighbourhood Group members have not been granted a meeting with Cllr Steve Bridger, Executive Member responsible for the Bypass planning, despite repeated requests.
We know there is a North Somerset Council Banwell Bypass Panel/Committee, but there is no information on the Council website about who the other members are, or when they meet, or what is discussed and decided at these meetings. The Bypass is an expensive project, financially, environmentally, and socially, and the Council is under a duty to assess the full impacts as well as its value for money.
So far, the Bypass information online on the Council website is contradictory, and raises even more questions about the Bypass plans.
North Somerset Council’s Local Transport Plan, JLTP4, is the same Joint Local Transport Plan Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, and South Gloucester have, since March 2020. The Plan says:
- ’ The bypass has been a long-standing aspiration of North Somerset Council…providing significant improvements to air quality and public realm in the centre of the village, improved access to the residential and employment growth to the north-west of the village, supporting the delivery of Weston Villages; and improving local and regional connectivity for longer trips, enable pedestrian improvements in the centre of the village, helping to promote more sustainable modes of transport wherever possible, improving accessibility and the quality of life for Banwell residents’.
- This is a very partial and inaccurate account. The current very short Bypass plan is totally new, and very different from the previous bypass proposals, which all included a bypass of Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe.
- Also not mentioned in the JLTP4 description is the significant deterioration in air quality, public areas and quality of life in Sandford and Churchill which will come with the greatly increased induced traffic from the Bypass, and via the proposed Southern Link to Winscombe.
- Congestion from the induced Bypass traffic flow in Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe will impact road journey times and costs for businesses, commuters, private car users along both the ‘old’ A368 and A370 at either end of this short Bypass. This is not mentioned or tackled.
- An expensive new road like this Bypass encourages more road traffic, induced traffic, traffic from new car-dependent developments, and keeps HGV and freight traffic on the roads, instead of sending it by rail and via distribution centres, so it doesn’t promote more sustainable modes of transport.
- The bypass will take up the HIF funds, plus whatever funding is needed in the medium or long term to deal with the congestion in Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe. This goes against JLTP 4 policy, which prioritises sustainable travel planning. A new road is an outdated solution to congestion, which has been proved not to work in the medium and long term. These issues have not been tackled.
- Focussing on the Bypass new road as a short term project means the Council is not focussing on more sustainable transport for the whole of North Somerset, buses, walking, cycling, light rail, low traffic neighbourhoods, wide area lower speed limits to improve quality of life and opportunities for walking and cycling, in villages blighted by speeding traffic, networking with mass transit and other sustainable schemes across the West of England.. This issue is not tackled.
- The Bypass will have high carbon emission costs when built, and gives access to yet more car-dependent development, the traffic from which will add to carbon emissions as well. This will have a destructive effect on the Council’s target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, to slow climate change. The much cheaper and sustainable solutions should be explored and tried first. Action on carbon emissions and tackling the climate crisis is a Council top priority. This issue is not tackled.
- There is no evidence at all that the Bypass will improve access to new development to the north-west of the village, as we do not know where this new residential and employment development will be sited, or that it needs a bypass to access it, all of which should be evidenced and costed first.
- How will the Bypass support the delivery of the Weston Villages, which are West of the M5? Unless of course a new Weston Village is intended by the Council, East of the M5, which might be accessed by the Bypass.
- Any large development, residential or business to the North West of Banwell must be first considered and evaluated as part of the new Local Plan, yet to be decided. The majority decision on the first consultation on the new Local Plan is that large developments should go next to existing larger settlements, ‘increased urbanisation’, and not on greenfield, so there is a major contradiction here with the emerging Local Plan
2. Also in the Transport Plan JLTP4: ‘ We will work with Highways England to provide a new Junction 21A on the M5 motorway south of the existing J21. This will be supported by a new multimodal corridor connecting the new junction with the A38, with a bypass for Banwell in the short to medium term and potential highway improvements at Sandford and Churchill in the medium/long term’
- North Somerset Council is part of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) along with the West of England Combined Authority ( Bristol, BANES, South Gloucester). The Joint Committee Report on the JLTP4 Transport Plan states: ‘. Any schemes identified in JLTP4 would be subject to further detailed feasibility work and consultation, as well as requiring planning permission.’
So far, if there has been any detailed feasibility work on the Banwell Bypass, the new Junction J21 A, the new multimodal corridor ( a new road allocating space for buses, walking and cycling, cutting across from J21A to the A38), the potential highways improvements at Sandford and Churchill, we haven’t been told about them, and we certainly haven’t been consulted on them.
- The Banwell Bypass scheme is one of the North Somerset schemes where identified mitigations have to be made at the project level, as it was flagged up in the JLTP4 Strategic Environmental Assessment as causing a potential significant effect or Likely Significant Effect on Habitat Regulation Assessment ( the Assessment on rare bats affected), Health Impact Assessment, and Equalities Impact Assessment. So far, these assessments are incomplete, and the Health Impact and Equalities Impact assessments do not take account of impacts on health and protected groups in Sandford, Churchill and Winscombe. These deficiencies have been pointed out to the Council by us in Sandford, and by the Parish Council, with no response.
- Also, the medium/longterm highways improvements at Sandford and Churchill are far too late, timed at 3 to 5 years or 5 years plus after the Bypass is due to be built. The LP6 Churchill Scheme says: ‘Improvements to other junctions affected by additional traffic, including A368/A38 Churchill signals. Improvements to strategic and local walking and cycle networks, to improve sustainable travel connectivity along the corridor between the A38, Churchill, Sandford and Banwell. ‘
- There is no Scheme for Sandford, which will bear the brunt of the Bypass traffic, with impacts including air pollution, noise, flooding, speeding, accessibility, severance, congestion at pinch points. This goes against the Council’s duty of care generally and as Highways Authority to Sandford and Churchill, and the JLTP4 Transport Plan objectives to’ take action against climate change and address poor air quality,’ ‘contribute to better health, wellbeing, safety and security’, and’ create better places’.
3. From he Council’s Transport and Infrastructure Capital Works Programme 2021-2024 in March 2021, at Scheme Reference No IT0228 , the Banwell Bypass Project Objectives are given as: (a) to deliver infrastructure that maximises, underpins and de-risks associated housing development in the shortest possible timeline;
(b) to deliver infrastructure that is affordable and provides good value for money
( (c) to deliver infrastructure that meets the needs of all stakeholders including developers and local communities; and
(d) to minimise environmental impacts and maximises opportunities for sustainable travel and biodiversity net gain
Proposed Physical Deliverables are given as: . Design, Land Negotiations and Procurement 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 Planning and Public Inquiry 2021/2022 Construction 2023 and 2024:
Evaluation form Complete? No
Evaluation Rating N/a Evaluation Score n/a
- Why do we have no details of the ‘associated housing development’?
- How can the Council know this project is affordable or good value for money, without considering the feasibility study and transport modelling?
- If the Council has considered the feasibility study and transport modelling, why has this not been disclosed to us?
- Why is design, land negotiations and procurement being carried out without an evaluation form completed for the project?
- Why has the Council budgeted for a Public Inquiry?
- Why is the Council forging ahead with planning the Bypass, without giving us the necessary information on feasibility and transport modelling, and without consulting with us?
The Council holds itself out as an open and enabling organisation, which engages with and empowers our communities, and manages our resources and invests wisely. The Leader announced the North Somerset Corporate Plan 2020-2024, and said ‘This is a new style of local government for North Somerset and it means working in new ways. We are determined to be more transparent about what we are doing and why, and to involve residents much more in tackling issues together’.
How does it look so far, with the Banwell Bypass project?