Town Puts Pressure on County Portfolio Holder as Anger Mounts over EDF HGV increases

Bridgwater Tory, Cllr David Hall, the man in the spotlight

On a day when the NDR was at a standstill and it took the BBC crew 40 minutes to get down the Taunton road to interview Town Council and EDF reps about the proposed 50% increase to HGV movements through Bridgwater, the pressure is mounting on East Bridgwater Tory County Councillor David Hall who is the Somerset Portfolio Holder for Resources and Economic Development and is the one who has to make the decision on whether or not to approve the controversial proposals by next Monday, December 18th.

EDF proposes increasing their HGV movements through Bridgwater from 500 to 750 in what they call a ‘temporary measure’ but which will actually last some 21 months.  

Bridgwater Town Opposition

Cllr Brian Smedley talking to the BBC this morning

Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) said “The County decision making process requires the Transport Review Group to implement the policy and any mitigation package. However, the TRG is a 7-member body comprising of single reps from Sedgemoor, West Somerset, Somerset CC and Highways England plus 3 reps from EDF. The decision made by David Hall will be to instruct the Somerset rep on that body (Andy Coupe) to support or oppose the proposals. If he supports then the majority will be 4.3 and case closed.  However, we hope that Cllr Hall will put Bridgwater first and do the decent thing  by his town and at least insist on a comprehensive mitigation package .”

As the story hit the county media , Cllr Smedley and other councillors have written to Cllr Hall in increasing numbers during the day.

The Town Leader wrote “Dear David I’m sure you are aware that the Town Council has not been properly consulted in this current round of EDF proposals for changes and I hope you will agree that this is an oversight. As a Bridgwater representative on County and a former Town Councillor I would hope that you understand that the frustration of the people of the town with these constant increases in traffic movements and at the same time failure to provide real infrastructure benefits to the Towns transport system and to compensate the businesses affected by the seemingly never ending roadworks is very real. When you take your Portfolio decision next week I would ask that you lay down the law to EDF regarding what many people are seeing as ‘taking Bridgwater people for a ride’ (which is not easy considering the amount of congestion!!!).

“Heading for gridlock?” asks Clinton Rogers “We’re almost there” says Cllr Smedley

If these extra movements are totally necessary then their mitigation package needs to be considerably higher and apart from the obvious suggestions like double glazing and air quality monitoring, a genuine long term commitment by EDF to solving the future transport infrastructure of the town, dealing with the key pinch points , completing the Colley Lane relief road  and maybe helping to fund a better public transport system, are the least we could ask for when clearly a By-Pass would have solved all this in the first place.But we also need to compensate the hard hit Town Centre businesses and provide a legacy project for our town in it’s commercial heart – getting the long awaited  Celebration Mile finished and putting more into the relevant linkages through cycle routes and pedestrian safeways.

Crucially David I would ask that you urge EDF and SCC movers and shakers to remember that there is a third local authority to consult when it comes to major projects that impact our town and that’s Bridgwater Town Council. I have written to Andy Coupe asking him to come to a meeting with us this week to hear our thoughts and so far have had no such positive response. I think to demonstrate good faith and future concern you ought to echo this call by your town council “.Yours sincerely Cllr Brian Smedley Leader of Bridgwater Town Council

District Labour Leader bids for Mitigation

District Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria) wrote “Dear David   As you know I am concerned about the funding for walking and cycling, regarding the mitigation package. In terms of the impact assessment relating to HPC congestion funding has been made available for the legacy projects, such as the Celebration mile. At the moment work is commencing on the Bridgwater Railway Station, Fore Street and Clare Street. Eastover and St John’s Street are important strategic sections of the Celebration Mile and funding is necessary to complete this work and in the future both Northgate and the Docks will need completing.

Cllr Mick Lerry has been discussing a comprehensive mitigation package with EDF and SDC

The Celebration Mile is embedded in both the Bridgwater Vision and Local Plan. The consultation, design and feasibility study have taken place, funding is now needed to complete this regeneration project. The Celebration Mile is also an important pedestrian and cycle route and  completion of Eastover and St John’s Street will regenerate these sections of the Celebration Mile and increase safety for both pedestrians and cyclist. It appears that at the moment, not enough consideration has been given to the fact that the Celebration Mile will also improve safety for pedestrians and cyclist, while connecting the Bridgwater Railway Station to the Town Centre. I recently attended a meeting where David Mitchell explained that work was going to begin on a Cycle Infrastructure Strategy for Bridgwater, Yeovil and Taunton, but at the moment work is only just commencing. The strategy has not been produced yet and when it is completed, a Supplementary Planning Document can then be produced to draw down funding from future development. The necessary documentation already exists for the Celebration Mile. However, at the same meeting representatives from SAGE informed us that EDFe had refused permission for land to be used for the possible Bath Road cycleway, which is obviously a major set back for the project and will halt any delivery. I can provide you with a copy of the letter if you need it.

I am therefore requesting to you that in your role as Portfolio Holder, you put forward to the SCC Cabinet that funding should be directed towards the Celebration Mile, which is a cycle and pedestrian scheme that is deliverable. Such improvements will also improve safe traffic flow as well. I would be quite willing to meet with you before the Cabinet meeting; but, I hope you will also express my concerns and put forward my points at the Cabinet meeting. As you know the Bridgwater community of residents and businesses have experienced major disruption, due to roadworks. Regeneration of the Town Centre and the delivery of Celebration Mile, will be an important factor in terms of Legacy, safe pedestrian walking and cycling, plus economic development for the future .Yours sincerely Mick ”

County Labour Leader offers ‘a way forward’

Cllr Leigh Redman, puts the Bridgwater case to the BBC

Somerset Labour Leader Cllr Leigh Redman (Labour, Bridgwater South) wrote directly to Cllr Hall and SDC Officer Claire Pearce saying “David and Claire, I am writing to say that I am disgusted by the way that this decision appears to be being steam rolled through both councils, from my position, an elected member of both councils, to be presented with a faite accompli, a final package of mitigation that will see thousands of additional HGV movements forced on to my town for however short a period, is in my opinion, truly wrong.

The mitigation package negotiated is lacking any form of real community benefit, something that could have been discussed and negotiated into the package if you had been open about the position, but instead you work behind the scenes in secret rooms, presenting this done deal, and effectively shutting out the people that will be directly impacted by this massive 50% increase in HGV movements.

But I am a realist, I would in an ideal world ask for a pause to allow proper debate around the proposal, but EDF appears to have forced us into a corner, threatening an extension in the build time if we don’t get this sorted now! Bully boy tactics.

Cllr Redman outlines a mitigation package

I want to try and offer a small way forward in this instance, the deal is not done until transport review group confirm the proposal, I have a suggestion that may give you a chance in to give something back to the people of Bridgwater, and indirectly help relieve the traffic in our town, you will know that for a long time now the bus services in our town have been progressively cut back, our older residents find it hard to get into town, our young people find it hard to get around in time for work or college or just visiting their mates, parents drive to and from schools, town centre workers drive because there is no realistic alternative, during the day it is at times almost impossible to get about, my proposal will need EDF to put around 1 million pounds (a small amount considering the impact more than 100,000 HGV movements will have) into trust, money earned from the trust would be available to someone (I suggest the town council) to commission a ‘Bridgwater free bus’, a regular service that can run around our town, daily, our older members of the community could still use their passes making the funds go farther, the service could operate into the evenings, on our already HGV overwhelmed roads Bridgwater people would have a reason to leave their cars at home, maybe speeding up the trip into town? I know this may seem like a poorly thought out proposal, but given the short time I have had, I do feel it is enough of a spark to hold a viable opportunity, and if I am given the chance, I would willingly work to allow it to flourish into a working plan that would be a true legacy, operating after the build is complete, a free bus service that goes a small way to mitigate, some of the impact the build traffic is having on my town.

Leigh Redman taking the issue to the media

Frustratingly though, I know this is a done deal, I hope that you will make a final bid to give something to my community other than more HGV’s. The next time, we all know there will be a next time, EDF want to make a small short term, (their words) change that will impact a community, I would hope you ask the people it will affect rather than hide behind process.

Going forward & around this s106, I would hope that the finer points of this package will go through councils formal processes, allowing division members reasonable input, we all know the ‘devil is in the detail’, it is ok making headline grabbing statements like, all homes on the transport routes will have access to the existing double glazing offer, there are homes on Bristol road that are almost 10 meters from the main road, would these qualify? The detail needs to be clear so that people are not short changed by the small print.

You still have time, holding up this change to give something back will show that it is you in control and not EDF. Please try and find a way to help my town before EDF finally kills it off.

Regards,Councillor Leigh Redman – Leader Somerset County Council Labour Group

EDF-SCC Response

The Nuclear companies ‘face on the world’, David Eccles , was quickly onto the news media today with the EDF response saying the works ‘had to be done‘ and they were ‘pressing ahead‘ whilst accepting that the proposals ‘would cause inconvenience’.

Cllr David Hall has spent the day refusing to comment saying “the County Council’s position on the proposal from EDF Energy has not yet been determined and consultation with local County Councillors is currently being undertaken. I am unable therefore at this stage to comment on the acceptability of the package of mitigation offered by EDF Energy and how that might be applied in practice.”

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