LORRIES often mount the kerb and have injured pedestrians in the narrow streets of a congested Somerset village, a local man has told a public inquiry.

Steve Voller lives in Banwell and is the organiser of the ‘build our bypass’ campaign group.

He was giving a statement as a supporter of the bypass on the second day of the Banwell bypass public inquiry on Wednesday, July 12.

The public inquiry, which is being held on Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier, is over whether North Somerset Council can use its compulsory purchase powers to make landowners sell them the land for the new road to take traffic around the village.

Delivering his statement, Mr Voller said: “This is going to take about five or six minutes just to read through, which is roughly less than four seconds for every year we have been waiting for this bypass.”

He said that in the 20 years he had been living in the village, the traffic had gotten worse and the peak times for traffic had extended earlier and later in the day.

He said: “Queues caused by congestion or an issue in the narrows are likely to form at any time of day.”

Two main roads, the A371 and A368, meet in the village. 

“The narrows” is a gap between a house and the village bakery where the A-road traffic has to go through in single file.

Mr Voller told the inquiry: “Properties on several streets are less than one metre from the road, meaning they are frequently damaged.

“People have suffered injuries as vehicles, including HGVs mount pavements due to the restricted carriageway width.

“A couple of weeks ago we had the usual occurrence of an HGV getting stuck, and the not unfamiliar sight of a local with a tractor having to physically pull the real axles around to try to free it.

“This blocked the village for over an hour. This is a ridiculous situation on part of the road network described yesterday as being of ‘critical importance.’”

Weston Mercury: Congestion in Banwell as A-road traffic goes through “the narrows”.Congestion in Banwell as A-road traffic goes through “the narrows”. (Image: John Wimperis)

He said that the strain on the roads had been worsened by the building of new housing developments in this part of North Somerset, of which Banwell was at the “epicentre.”

The bypass is being funded by £66m from Homes England in order to support more housing development, but Mr Voller warned that new homes would still be built even if the bypass was not.

The bypass has been opposed by the parish councils’ of neighbouring villages — with Churchill Parish Council writing to the Prime Minister last year to urge him to block the scheme — but Mr Voller insisted it would not cause “detriment” to other villages.

He said: “This scheme has been subjected to extensive protracted consultation, agonisingly long some of us would argue.

“Feedback where possible is taken on board by the planners and it should be no surprise to anyone that there was always the possibility of it proceeding, since its been on the drawing board since 1927.”

Read more: Council approves extra £12m to build bypass following 'inflationary pressures'

Joanne Burston of the planning inspectorate, who is chairing the inquiry, asked Mr Voller what he would say to objectors.

He said: “No matter what scheme is put forward, there’s always been objections. This isn’t the first time the bypass has been discussed for this area.

“There was arguably a better route in many senses which would have gone through to the A38, avoiding Sandford and skipping around Churchill, and that was back in 2014.

“But that was objected to by parish councils then on the basis that it would facilitate housing developments.

“So it’s a little but of ‘be careful what you wish for.’”

The public inquiry is running ahead of schedule, with Mr Voller originally having been scheduled for day three.

On the first day of the inquiry on Tuesday July 11, North Somerset Council set out their case.

Delivering the council’s opening statement, Andrew Tait KC said that the compulsory purchase orders for the bypass were a necessary interference with the human rights of landowners.

He said: “The interference with human rights that will be caused by this scheme is justified and proportionate, especially having regard to the availability of compensation.”

The inquiry has now been adjourned for the week and will sit again on Tuesday July 18 where objectors to the scheme will give their statements.