Verdict on £100m Banwell bypass bid due ‘any day’ with council confident of winning funding

Village sign on Knightcott Road, Banwell.

Village sign on Knightcott Road, Banwell. - Credit: Archant

A decision is due on a £100million funding bid for a Banwell bypass and a new secondary school in Locking ‘any day now’, but concerns remain whether the plans are ‘sound’.

North Somerset Council is waiting on news from the Government regarding its bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) to build infrastructure to support the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), which will see 25,000 homes built in the district by 2026.

A pair of garden villages of 2,700 and 1,900 homes near Churchill and Banwell respectively will adjoin the bypass, if the funding is secured.

The bypass has been talked about as a solution to Banwell's traffic problems for decades, but the JSP has proved unpopular with many homeowners near to the proposed garden villages.

The council agreed to begin a procurement process for the project at its meeting on Tuesday on the presumption funding will be granted.

James Tonkin, executive member for planning, said: "The council has submitted a bid for approximately £100million to the HIF to build a new secondary school at Locking and a bypass at Banwell to enable plan-led growth proposed in the JSP.

"Approval is needed to progress with the procurement of a package of works and services to deliver the infrastructure in the event of a positive decision is given by the Government - which is expected any day now."

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Independent Yatton councillor Steve Bridger expressed concerns, with the JSP set to be examined by Government inspectors in the coming weeks to see if it can be sustainably implemented.

He said: "I'm mindful of the fact the JSP examination hearings begin next week, so my concern is the amount of work and money the council is spending potentially not knowing if the inspectors are going to find the JSP sound."

But Alex Hearn, the council's assistant director of placemaking and growth, is confident the funding will be secured.

He told councillors: "That is the dilemma of delivering housing in the country and making sure there is infrastructure for it. We have been preparing this bid for a very long time and worked very closely with the Government.

"It has consistently advised us it's in the top three bids in the country. There are several bids, but I would say we have got a very strong chance. This is a very well-worked-up bid."