Rural Lanes: a further statement

Good Friday is not normally the time to release statements, but given that our Member of Parliament has issued one today, and figuratively speaking, my ears are burning… I feel I need to make the following statement:

Let’s put things into perspective. Had the Conservatives not lost control of North Somerset Council (NSC) in May 2019, they would have waved through the expansion of Bristol Airport last year (all Conservative councillors on the Planning Committee voted in favour of expansion). The country lanes around Yatton are (or were, prior to the pandemic) constantly used by airport taxis as a ‘rat run’ (yes, a rat run). As I said at that meeting in February 2020, one consequence of expansion to 12 mppa* would be an estimated additional 5,000+ two-way car journeys onto our local road network on an average summer’s day. The impact of that would be off the scale.

Then there is the not insignificant matter of the impossibly high housing target imposed on North Somerset by Whitehall. To Dr Fox’s credit, he has recently spoken out in parliament in support of NSC. But it is government policies and dodgy algorithms that create the conditions for huge increases in road traffic. I would respectfully suggest to Dr Fox – and to his constituency assistant, Annabel Tall – that they quit the blatant political opportunism and first get their own house in order.

Fact: North Somerset Council was recently awarded £474,000 from the Department for Transport to introduce upgraded routes for cycling and walking – in line with national policy. NSC was actually one of a handful of councils awarded more money than we asked for due to the strength of our ambition.

Similarly, I am also part of an administration finally showing some intent to deliver the long-awaited extension of The Strawberry Line from Yatton to Clevedon. (The challenge here is less about funding, and more to do with dozens of different landowners.)

You might also like to read: On being a councillor…

As to what if any scheme the Council ends up bringing forward for public consultation around rural lanes, I do not yet know myself what this will finally look like.

I have participated in three meetings with neighbouring ward and parish councillors and Cllr James Tonkin (Executive Member for Planning & Highways). Council officers are still busy looking into a toolkit of measures that might address some of the challenges we witnessed last summer with a huge increase in cyclists on these routes mixing with vehicles travelling at the high permitted speeds on these rural lanes. I also want to protect and enhance the important Kenn Moors SSSI which is scarred by littering. (I simply disagree with those who suggest we do nothing at all).

As I wrote earlier this week…

Council officers [have] briefed councillors on some possible measures we might want to consider. There was enough data and interest for us to collectively give officers the nod to work up some ideas we might then ask residents to comment on.

The publication of a rather procedural and technical Traffic Regulation Order earlier this week – without context or any detail at all on what a possible scheme might look like – set hares running. In that sense, I perfectly understand some of the confusion and negative reaction (I have also privately received many positive messages). However, the TRO is not the scheme.

I would simply ask residents to wait and see what actual proposal comes forward and then positively engage with the consultation that will follow. I will listen. Are we there yet? No.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a Happy Easter!

* 12 mppa = 12 million passengers per annum

19 comments on “Rural Lanes: a further statement

  1. Thanks for that Steve. Good for you. Interesting to me that our MP has jumped on the roads bandwagon rather than the Climate and carbon reduction one.. I suspect that is just politics and he picks up what will enable a sound bite against a non Tory council. The people spoke, the majority voted for Independents Greens and Liberals Democrats. I think your voters want to see change and some radical thinking. Go for it.

  2. Sam Machin

    Steve, what we all want to know then is why as this TRO notice of intent been published with what appears to be a very specific set of restrictions of “no scheme has yet been proposed” As I understand it once the notice is published and the statutory 30day consultation period has ended the Executive member is free to make the order and start putting up signs, we would then have lost the use of these routes?
    Please correct me if I’m wrong here? It’s no good saying “trust us, we’re juts getting the powers in place but we won’t use them.” We’ve seen how well that works in this country with legislation.

  3. So looking at your responses you support this proposal then?

  4. Oh dear Steve you are starting to sound like a disgruntled shadow minister. You need to concentrate on the needs of the majority of your constituents who need this access. I think you should concentrate on the bloor to clevedon bike path as was agreed.

  5. Michael Harriott

    Well said Steve

  6. I totally agree with you Steve about Dr Liam Fox, he has all ways chosen to put his name to the chosen political opportunism that he feels he would look better in backing, we have been to him over our son who was sent to a specialist school near Bridgewater and transport to there and back , he appeared to be on our side all the way, and then when transport blatantly lied to him , which we could prove he didn’t want to know, we couldn’t get pass his secretary, he likes to add his name to things that he thinks makes him look good unfortunately.

    You have worked tirelessly to get a bus service for us to Clevedon , something nobody else wanted to take on, and other things, it’s such a shame people blame you for the things the council are looking at, I suppose you are the easiest to get to.

    Like a lot of people when someone posted about shutting places of especially the moors we as a family were thinking how do we get our daughter to work , and we use the moors every day, but then we saw your comment on f b , and realised we could still get our daughter to work at a livery along there , I must admit I much prefer going that way to nailsea Kingston Seymour,and Clevedon as a much prettier option, and not lots of traffic, if we could ride bikes perhaps we would do but due to health issues we can’t, but we will wait and see what happens.

  7. Ray Baker

    No Steve we will not wait and see what transpires,everybody needs to know what you and your fellow cohorts are trying to push thro against the wishes of the majority.
    Liam Fox is entitled to his opinion,and you accuse him of political opportunism because his views are different to yours.
    There are many residents who do not have access via the internet that need to be aware of what is going on.

  8. Rob Nicholson

    Hi Steve
    This is getting very messy. Can you comment on Bridget Petty touting for support from well outside of the local area and actually copying Xtinction Rebellion in her Twitter campaign. Surely this is to be condemned?

  9. Thank you, Steve

  10. Mr & mrs hayman

    This is ridiculous, closing all lanes around Yatton, use the money to put speed restrictions on them .and give the rest to extending the Strawberry line to Clevedon . The High St, in Yatton is just too dangerous for the school run ,and adding more traffic is a disaster waiting to happen . I have lived in Yatton 42yrs and my husband all of his 67yrs. Think our thoughts matter,as most of the residents,by looking at the posts on FB !
    Do something good for our community,instead of for outsiders !

  11. My daughters husbands business runs out of Clevedon Craft Centre , there are many outlets there run by local small businesses and craftsmen . They have already suffered considerably this last year and these plans would further restrict their chance to make a living. You cannot access these businesses by any public transport so cars are how people get there..

  12. Martin Harvey

    If there has been a grant awarded, why not ask the people who would use it for suggestions on how to make improvements rather than railroad a proposal through that will stop the young, elderly and physically unable from being able to enjoy our countryside which works hinder people’s mental health.

    I completely agree with your thoughts Sam Machin

  13. Thank you for this clarification Steve. For the record I a. In favour of all the proposals and wish they would go even further

  14. Phillipa James

    I have run, walked and cycled those lanes for years, often up to 7 days a week. I have never seen them to be a rat run. And yes I do live very close to them! My only request would be traffic calming so that those few cyclists and drivers who do not follow the highway code, have to slow down and think. I have been almost hit off my bike by large groups of inconsiderate cyclists, never by cars! Better ideas would be
    Open the strawberry line
    Better signage on the very many usable footpaths in the area
    Open up the route down the estuary to Weston-super-Mare
    Slow the roads to 40 or 30.
    Making it car free would make the countryside inaccessible for people with disabilities, older adults and a scary place for single females. It will cause ore pollution on the highly congested roads in the area, and the suggested tro has already caused a bigger wedge between road users who have co existed on those roads for years. This will cut off people in the rural areas, and take away passing trade from places like the craft centre, avrils, Rose holistic….. it will force people into cars, I for one will feel unsafe on a road with less passing traffic.

  15. Matt Croughan

    Dear Steve
    Firstly can you please stop referring to the roads as ‘Rat Runs’ they are perfectly legitimate roads for inter-town travel for motor vehicles and cyclists.
    Rat Runs are: a minor, typically residential street used by drivers during peak periods to avoid congestion on main roads. Please stay true.

    Secondly please do not base you arguments in ‘what would have happened if the Tories were still in charge’ because they are not and simply because they might oppose something now does not mean you need to support it. Rise above the usual tit for tat please.

    Many will agree that some people use these roads poorly and travel at too high a speed but the same can be said for any road and crazy driving is not by any means limited to these inter-town roads.

    You have been allocated these not insignificant funds so please use them wisely and get the Clevedon to Yatton Strawberry line section open and the costal route to WSM which will have a far greater impact on reducing journeys by car and increasing leisure cycling in the groups that actually need encouragement. I have worked in the NHS for many years and health promotion is not required for the super fit road cyclists that this appears aimed at. It is needed for the uninitiated to exercise and they are far more likely to use sociable cycle routes such as the Strawberry line or around lakes and it is these that need investment.
    Stealing these legitimate routes from the population, the very people that voted you in, in order to hand them to out of town cycle clubs that will doubtless drive with their bikes on their car roofs to get here (parking???) is not what you were voted in for.

    Can you please answer the following:
    How does this plan improve the air quality of our towns?
    How do you envisage Yatton high street will function if this goes ahead??

    If the plan goes ahead will the ‘cycle/walking tarmac’ become ‘unadopted’ by the council as it will in effect become a private road?

    How do you expect to enforce this? Are you expecting our already significantly underfunded and overstretched A&S Police force to do this rather than focus on actual crime with actual victims?

    Where are the responses of support and objection being made public so that in the interests of transparency we all can see the true feelings of North Somerset residents as is befitting of a democratic process?

    I assume that feedback from those not resident in North Somerset will not be counted nor taken into consideration?

    Where can one find the vehicle count/usage data from traffic surveys that were doubtless carried out prior to this scheme being drawn up?

    Where is the data of all the accidents and/or fatalities from these roads over the last 5years?

    Very few people will argue that things can be improved such as reduce the speed limit on these routes to 30mph. Perhaps even include some speed humps if you must, not that either of these deter the idiots, but to proceed with this plan punishes those that use the roads perfectly safely and perfectly as they were intended.

    I look forward to receiving your answers.
    Thank you for taking the time to read this.
    Kind regards

  16. Emily Braddock

    Hi Steve, I really appreciate all you are doing to protect our countryside and ourselves from thoughtless, profitseeking expansion. If there is anything I can do to help, me and others do let me know.

  17. It would be interesting to see the traffic flow data. We are all anxious about congestion on the High St. I’m wondering, though, if the bulk of the traffic on the lanes is going between yatton and clevedon, so is displacing traffic from the B3133 (ie north of yatton) rather than from the high street. I don’t generally use the moor lanes to get to nailsea because they get very narrow and twisty around the blue flame and it often takes longer than just going up the a370. I think it’s only the traffic going over the moors between yatton and nailsea that would be forced on to the high street, but suspect that is minimal versus the clevedon traffic? Don’t know – would be good to see the modelling.

  18. Ann Gawthorpe

    I absolutely agree with you about Liam Fox’s blatant politicalisation of these proposals. It’s ironic that he has started a petition when he ignores other petitions sent to MPs. So I won’t be signing it. However I totally disagree with closing the road across the Moors to traffic and will make my views known in the proper place.
    But if NSC has money to improve off-road routes for walkers, cyclists and horse riders why aren’t you backing Axridge Bridleways Ass DMMO order for a Bridleways along the side of Kenn River, parallel to Claverham Drove. Why aren’t you backing attempts to get linking Bridleways to join up the all the individual routes so that we could have a proper network. Then there would be no need to close roads.

  19. Matt Croughan

    Any answers to my questions yet please Steve?
    I’m quite keen to hear your explanations.
    Thank you

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