Indicative Banwell bypass route revealed as villagers tell of ‘delight’
PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 November 2019
“The village has waited nearly 100 years for this and we can now look forward to when Banwell will be seen as a beautiful and tranquil village and not just a traffic jam.”
That is the reaction of Banwell Parish Council chairman Paul Blatchford after learning the village's near century-long wait for a bypass to tackle its traffic woes could be over by 2024.
North Somerset Council has secured close to £100million from the Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund to create the bypass and a secondary school at Locking Parklands, plus a series of other road improvements.
Long queues are a daily issue in the village, which is a busy thoroughfare with a series of bottlenecks.
Hundreds of houses are also to be built as a result, but Cllr Blatchford believes it is a fair price to pay.
He said: "Naturally the parish council is delighted the money has been released for a bypass.
"We have known for some time this would also mean a considerable amount of new housing, in the shape of a garden village.
"While some parishioners are unhappy with this, especially those who live close to the proposed route, we are aware of the greater benefits for the majority.
"In particular the reduction of pollution in the centre of the village and by the school that is the result of heavy goods vehicles idling in the queue."
The construction of the bypass is predicted to cost almost £49million, with £30million reserved for the 900-place school at Locking Parklands. The remainder of the £97million kitty will be used to improve other roads and paths around Banwell.
Cllr Blatchford hopes the bypass, which is set to run from the Summer Lane junction on the A371 across the moor and feed on to A368 Towerhead Road, will not adversely affect the village's character.
He said: "We have been in consultation with North Somerset, which recognises Banwell is an ancient settlement of historical importance that has many fine buildings.
"Therefore, we are hopeful the village will not lose its character and be swallowed up by housing, as has happened to Worle.
"The village has waited nearly 100 years for this and we can now look forward to when Banwell will be seen as a beautiful and tranquil village and not just a traffic jam."
Doubts remain over the project, though, as the bypass construction dovetail with housing in the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) - a masterplan for more than 100,000 home across the West Country in the next two decades.
The planners behind the JSP, which proposed to build garden villages near Banwell and Churchill of 1,900 and 2,675 homes respectively, have been sent back to the drawing board after concerns were raised by the Government over the selection of the sites.
Jan Murray, co-chairman of Churchill and Langford Residents Action Group, believes the project should be scrapped.
She said: "The planning inspectors' letter to North Somerset and the other three local authorities strongly pointed to the remote (garden villages) as being completely inappropriate.
"The locations remain unsustainable, unviable and completely contrary to North Somerset's climate change emergency commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030, and to put climate change at the heart of every decision they make.
"A Banwell bypass will simply pass their traffic problem onto the next villages, Churchill, Blagdon and beyond, and will also open the floodgates to additional diesel lorries from the M5 to thunder past Sandford Primary School where children will be exposed to toxic emissions."
North Somerset Council insists the bypass, and the housing development it will bring, is the best way forward.
Its spokesman said: "The Planning Inspectorate has raised concerns about the JSP but there remains a very significant housing need in the West of England.
"If we are to plan for successful, connected and sustainable places then infrastructure needs to be delivered alongside new homes.
"Weston is a large town that generates its own housing market. While the council is planning for new homes to be built in the town centre, there will still be a need for expansion of the town.
"Weston is surrounded by the constraints of the coast, the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and land with a high risk of flooding.
"This infrastructure can enable growth to meet Weston's housing needs and deliver the long-awaited bypass at Banwell."