New motorway exit for 'at-capacity' Weston?
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 February 2016
Two of North Somerset's district councillors have said they believe a new motorway junction should be created to ease growing traffic pressure on Weston-super-Mare's crowded junction 21.
More than £15million has already been spent by North Somerset Council on improving the approaches to Weston’s M5 junction, with the majority of people in the town praising the improvements when they were completed in 2013.
However, the creation of thousands of new homes within the Weston villages, as well as the Junction 21 Enterprise Zone, have led to renewed congestion and delays during the morning and evening rush hours – a problem councillors fear will only get worse once almost 21,000 homes are built in North Somerset by 2026.
The problems have led the council’s executive member for highways, Elfan Ap Rees, to revive an old idea for a junction 21a in order to alleviate the pressure, and one idea he has proposed could see traffic travelling to and from Bristol leave and join the motorway via the A371.
He said: “It is reviving an idea for a plan which we had quite a few years ago, but the Highways Agency said we could not have two junctions too close together. But other roads, like the M25, have lots of junctions close together so I don’t think that is the case anymore.
“I am on the joint transport board for the West of England and we had a meeting two weeks ago where I said that in future planning for transport infrastructure, we really needed to look at a junction 21a and also a new junction 20 at Clevedon.
“We can see that traffic is beginning to increase and get congested again (and) we will reach a stage where junction 21 cannot handle it.”
Cllr Ap Rees said he felt there was a ‘strong business case’ for creating a junction 21a as many people in Weston would travel to work in areas such as Filton and Avonmouth, where thousands of jobs are set to be created in the coming years.
He said: “Although we encourage people to take the train to central Bristol, when we look at the jobs which are being created at Severnside and Airbus’ expansion at Filton, we have a lot of skilled people in Weston with computer knowledge who will be working there.
“It will all depend on proving to the Government and the Highways Agency that there is a business case. I think the business case is getting stronger.”
Cllr Ap Rees’ views were also shared by Weston Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale.
He said: “Residents tell me they fear that villages will turn into towns and towns will have to expand rapidly to accept the influx.
“Others feel that Weston has also reached its capacity – and any further imposed development might mean we will need to dust off plans for another motorway junction.”