Bridgwater Town Council will meet this Thursday 27th October amidst growing anger around the town towards yet more traffic chaos caused by EDF’s failure to build a by-pass and County’s decision to cease funding to key bus routes. The meeting starts at 7.30 and the Public are invited to the Town Hall.
Ahead of the meeting, County Councillor for Bridgwater South, Leigh Redman (also a town and district councillor) said “A representative from HPC came to Sedgemoor District full council meeting to give an update on their plans for the Bristol Road junction modifications. I was surprised that this was the first time I had set sight on this plan. It proposes turning parts of Wylds road and Bristol road in to one way streets, allowing traffic to flow as they work on these junctions at the same time.However, you will see from the plan below that it lacks detail, a point that was made to their representative. Labour councillors expressed concern that the plan posed more questions than answers, HPC made a point that this was a draft for consultation.”
“Some of the points we did manage to glean during his flying visit were:- The traffic lights will be operational on a modified sequence, there will be no night working till resurfacing, the plan is to do both junctions simultaneously in a 29 week window starting from January 2017, businesses are to be consulted and informed of plans, signage will be extensive, the plan will be modified to include more detail including adding Wickes to the plan, there will be further meetings to allow public and council comment.”
“These are not mine or the councils ideas, they are HPC’s proposals based on discussions with County and District councils. Your town councillors have yet to be consulted on this proposal. I would welcome any thoughts or comments so that we can feed these in, I will advise as the proposal develops and meetings are advertised.”
Following pressure from Town Councillors , EDFe and SCC Officers will be attending Thursdays Bridgwater Town Council meeting to update councillors on plans. All Town Council meetings are open to the public and this item is a presentation on their proposal. Leigh added “We will be pressing for them to hold public meetings to allow our community to comment. The Mayor has been asked to allow questions from the public. If you want to ask a question you are asked to register questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Businesses will suffer
Cllr Adrian Moore (Labour,Hamp) said “This is going to seriously affect the businesses in the area and will cause no end of traffic displacement around the town as people seek alternative routes. Cannon roundabout won’t be able to cope and will be gridlocked and will simply shut down. This is unacceptable.”
Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour,Victoria) said” We will be pressing for mitigation measures, consideration of compensation and proper consultation with businesses and residents.”
Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said “EDF simply haven’t learnt from the last chaotic mess. On Taunton road/Broadway they failed to consult in advance and just went ahead bringing misery to traders in St Mary street and the town centre and had to make up a response as they went along to mitigate the effects. We asked for a by-pass, they weren’t prepared to do that. Instead they are pushing ahead with this series of so-called junction ‘improvements’. They need to go back to the drawing board on this one, consult residents, involve the businesses and talk to the Grassroots ward councillors of the town who live and work dependent on these streets. They won’t of course.”
At the same time as the traffic chaos looms, public transport is about to take another knockback. It has now been announced that the temporary support for former Webberbus routes is unlikely to be extended when it runs out in December. This will affect the F and C services in Bridgwater town centre .
The interim contracts expire on 26 November and no new operators have expressed an interest in taking them on. Although the County Council plans to extend the contracts until the end of the year they say they cannot afford to extend any longer. A decision taken on Friday 21 October recommended that the emergency funding for the contracts is not extended beyond 31 December, when the routes will cease to operate.
Town Council Leader Brian Smedley said “We are trying to free up our roads by encouraging public transport and we’re not helped by short-sighted decisions like this. We need County to get it’s priorities right. At our last Transport Forum we called for County to take a more strategic approach and consult with local users by setting up a County Wide Transport Forum. We also called for an emergency meeting with Portfolio Holder David Fothergill. That meeting is now more urgent than ever.”
Sedgemoor Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry said “ In some areas the Council has actually taken over and run a bus company to make sure that people can access services and travel to their chosen destination. In Nottingham the Council owned bus service has increased the number of passengers using the public transport. SCC refuses to consider this option and prefers to once again to reduce the bus service, for people in Bridgwater and the surrounding area. Clause 21 of the Bus Service Bill is also looking to ban Councils from running bus companies, which will only mean more cars on the road. At a time when the transport strategy is to reduce cars on the road and encourage greater use of public transport and other forms of sustainable transport, SCC fails to implement this strategy. In Bridgwater we are going to see more transport movements, due to the Hinkley C project, when local people are losing there bus service”.
The Labour controlled Town Council says it will work with a united front of organisations to make the case for public transport and a proper strategy lobbying the government to maintain the right of councils to run bus services, prioritising public transport and seeking ways of funding a regulated service for Somerset.
Somerset UNITE Community group were out on the streets of Bridgwater this week petitioning for the restoration of a County Wide Transport Forum. The petition reads “We, the undersigned, call upon Somerset County Council to re-instate the County Transport Forum, which was suspended in 2013. The County Council has a strategic role in transport planning and a Transport Forum facilitates exchange of ideas, better accountability and communication with interested organisations.”
Local public transport campaigner Glen Burrows said “Wednesday 26th October is the 30 year anniversary of our buses being deregulated and privatised. In the last 30 years, most places have seen fares rising well above inflation and bus services being cut back or lost altogether. Despite these failures, the government wants to stop English councils from setting up new public bus companies (even though there are 12 successful municipal bus companies across the UK). The 30 year anniversary gives us a great opportunity to ask MPs to take control of our buses’ by stopping this ridiculous ban. Public ownership of buses would make life better for the millions of us who use buses to get to work, go shopping or see friends and family. It’s outrageous to ban councils from following in the footsteps of Reading and Nottingham which have award-winning public bus companies.”
Campaign against the cuts
Community campaigning group Bridgwater Forward at their meeting this week also voted to support the campaign. Chairman Ian Tucker said “The members present at the meeting were concerned about the possible reduction/axing of services particularly in Bridgwater. From the latest information it is now obvious that at least two local Bridgwater services are going to be cut. With only two months left for us to fight against this, or find alternative transport options, I feel it is important that the transport forum meets sooner than the 1st December. It would be imperative for representatives of SCC and as many bus operators as possible attend. Also perhaps a community group that at present operates a service like WithyLink in order to explain how their service operates.”
The Transport petition is accessible here
Cllr Moira Brown (Labour Eastover) Chair of the Town Transport Forum, said “Transport issues are very much at the fore just now and there is quite a lot to deal with. The function of BTC Transport Forum is to listen to views and pick up in issues that we can do something about and/ or pass on to the Town Council for their consideration/decision. As a first step, I will ask Jane Newell and John Perrett if they can make an earlier date, and find out their availability. I’ll chase David Fothergill once again for a meeting about the possibility of a county transport forum.”