‘Business As Usual’ Will Not Work says Labour as Sedgemoor Transport Investment Strategy Approved

Sedgemoor Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley studies the new transport strategy. Under some trees.

Sedgemoor District Council’s newly approved Transport Investment Strategy was passed yesterday after some two years of consultation. The aim of the document, created by consultants ‘Steer’ and assisted in-house by SDC officers was to provide a strategy for transport in the district through to 2050 and review what would be needed to respond to growth targets and infrastructure projects in that period. The strategy listed the key schemes and developments as Hinkley Point C, Gravity (the planned Enterprise Zone at Huntspill),the £83m Somerset Housing infrastructure fund, Bristol Airport Expansion and the North Somerset (Banwell by pass) HIF bid and Bristol South West economic link. The full Strategy can be found here.

Sedgemoor Opposition Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) spoke at the meeting giving the Labour groups comments on the document. “We welcome this strategy and the work put into it by Sedgemoor officers but stress that our view is that it must be seen as an ongoing working document which needs to be flexible and open to new ideas and further input particularly in response to the rapidly developing  climate change emergency. Obviously Somerset County Council is the Transport Authority and should be doing this in the first place and we have long argued for a Somerset Transport Forum. They have not taken the lead and they have not set up a Transport Forum, so at Bridgwater Town Council  we have decided to run our own transport forum for the past 4 years which regularly meets with the public and feeds responses to SDC & SCC. We are already well versed in what are the key transport issues and our transport shadow Cllr Leigh Redman has made an important contribution to this consultation with our Labour Group response document.”

Need to think outside the box

Cllr Leigh Redman (Hamp) drafted the Labour transport strategy response.

Cllr Smedley continued ” We can skip swiftly past all the obvious bits that anyone would support and move to where action needs actually taking. Crucially ‘Business as usual for transport will not work’. We need to think outside the box–but we’re not quite doing that in this document. For instance on charging points for all forms of electric transport in domestic, commercial and public areas, the need for these should be included now, in every planning application going forward, so that we can meet the growing demand and be ahead of the curve.

 “We would like to see greater inclusion of enhanced cycling and pedestrian routes in the strategy, building on the work already started,  for instance Why is a cycle foot path only an ‘aspiration’ over the Parrett Barrier it’s clear that we should see this as obvious.”

Lack of By-Pass is Real HPC Legacy

“A Northern ‘outer’ bypass is finally raised as ‘an opportunity’- again a little late as HPC will have gone past its peak soon. The scandal of having  Europes biggest infrastructure project on our doorsteps with inadequate road access provision is part of the legacy of this costly development. We all wanted a by-pass and they should have provided one.   And why is there no mention of an Eastern bypass?  Simply by adding a bridge over the rail lines, we can continue from Colley Lane access road into Dunwear Lane, opening up land that is already earmarked for development”

The consultants draw line around Bridgwater

“Crucially the point is that our principal town Bridgwater remains constrained by its medieval centre and piecemeal expansion – and we need to be able to open that up to future environmentally friendly internal modes of travel by a comprehensive by-pass system which allows for a person friendly interior. This is the key way in  which we see of dealing with the ‘pinch points’ in town where historic road bridges cross victorian railway lines and create an unnatural traffic stop and flow problem.

“The document aspires to Improve air quality/reduce carbon emissions/increase resilience to climate change…yet at the same time proposing more roads and a doubling of Bristol Airport expansion . The future of air travel to such great extent in the future is under considerable scrutiny at the moment due to climate change and we shouldn’t be making projections based on this but rather ameliorating the consequences and avoiding this potential disaster. None of the climate change related factors will be addressed by digging up further swathes of North Somerset and having more aviation fuel in our atmosphere.”

Fully Integrated Public Transport System

Climate Change has to be the key driving factor in our plans for the future

“The report envisages a higher quality and frequency of public transport’. This is key to what we want to see come out of a future strategy. A publicly owner fully integrated transport system with low prices, increased service and getting cars and lorries off the roads. Probably this also requires a Labour government and no Brexit. But whatever,  the strategy clearly  identifies that the reasons for a poor public transport system are down to ‘current funding restraints from central government and the cutting of subsidies to public transport’. This is what we have long said and what we will sort out when we are in Government.”

“In terms of Railways, there are 2 stations in the District, Bridgwater and Highbridge, and we welcome the realisation of improvements to those stations, the aspiration to connect to the wider public transport network and crucially we need more trains to stop there in the first place”

Eco-Friendly Modes of Transport

Will the transport strategy serve notice on ‘the car’ or give it a further green light….?

“Cllr Redman has done a lot of work promoting cycleways and is one of the few councillors that actually cycles in to meetings.  In the Labour response document he reminds the consultants that we would like to see greater inclusion of enhanced cycling and pedestrian routes in the strategy, building on the work already started, why are we not aiming to achieve completion of the inner and outer rounds of Bridgwater, pushing to maybe offer people the chance to connect with the Burnham and Cheddar rounds or the Quantock hills round, with a leg that goes up to Bristol airport or their park and ride facility just outside of Axbridge, truly accessible beaches, hills and areas of interest, with the development of battery powered bikes and scooters, longer, non-car journeys are going to be in scope before we know it.”

“Finally there is no mention of Waterways – apart from an oblique reference to flooding. Bridgwater  has a river, docks and a canal. Sedgemoor has rivers, rhynes and a coast. One major infrastucture project is the Parret Barrier. We should be supporting the adaption of that project to inlcude navigability that could further open up our waterways to become an extremely environmentally friendly compoent of our long term transport strategy .”

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