Council could face manslaughter charge

NORTH Somerset Council has been warned it could face charges of corporate manslaughter if it ploughs ahead with plans to put a weight restriction on some busy rural roads.

NORTH Somerset Council has been warned it could face charges of corporate manslaughter if it ploughs ahead with plans to put a weight restriction on some busy rural roads.

Police have told the local authority that if it puts a HGV ban on the A368 it could be legally liable in the event of an accident.

The warning was given by traffic management officer Malcolm Price at a Freight Strategy Meeting.

He said Avon and Somerset Constabulary will object to the scheme and that criminal charges up to and including corporate manslaughter could be brought against the council in the event of a death as a direct result of the scheme.


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Opposition to the proposed weight restrictions on the A386 and B3134 between Churchill and West Harptree has been growing steadily since the idea was announced in May by Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, the council’s executive member for highways.

Police, neighbouring local authorities, including Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) and Somerset County Council, the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association are all opposed to the plan, according to the minutes of the meeting.

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But Cllr Ap Rees says it is the neighbouring authorities’ officers, not elected members, who have reservations about the scheme.

At the special meeting in July freight bosses called Cllr Ap Rees’ decision outrageous’ and raised particular concerns about inadequate signage or turning facilities and the danger to drivers of heavy good vehicles (HGVs) and other traffic’.

Referring to a potential charge of corporate manslaughter, Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said: “It is a ridiculous comment to make. It smacks of sensationalism because what we are doing there is designed to reduce the risk of accidents. We have been discussing with BANES about extending the scheme as it has the same problem.”

He added that he expects to hear from BANES any day now’ about whether it will agree to advance warning signs on roads before drivers reach the North Somerset boundary.

If not, North Somerset Council will have to foot a bill for a turning point at its boundary with the neighbouring authority. The cost of this is still to be finalised.

Cllr Ap Rees acknowledged he is coming under increasing pressure to bring in the ban from Traffic Management Through the Villages, a pressure group set up by villagers currently affected by HGV traffic using the district’s roads.

They say a HGV ban will ease congestion along the roads and make it safer for motorists and pedestrians.

Cllr Ap Rees added: “We do understand their concerns that this has been on the cards since May.”

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