Cleveland Bridge debate – local MP joins fight to keep weight limit.

Cleveland Bridge

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee have an important decision to make at their ‘meeting’ this coming Wednesday.

Will they follow their officers recommendation in giving consent for the refurbishment, repair and strengthening of Cleveland Bridge?

The bridge is grade II* and is located within the conservation area and World Heritage Site. The busy vehicular route for the A36 is carried over the bridge, connecting the eastern side of Bath across the River Avon. The bridge is also an important architectural structure within Bath’s river-scape.

The debate has to centre around a ‘listed building application’ though any further proposed changes to weight restriction on the bridge or wider traffic routing associated with the proposed repairs to the bridge also fall to the Council as Local Highway Authority to consider elsewhere.

The bridge is currently deemed to be unsuitable to heavy traffic and has been subject to an 10 tonne weight restriction which is flouted daily.

Many people including the local ward councillors want that weight restriction to stay as it has already reduced traffic and improved noise levels and air quality.

Now Bath’s `MP Wera Hobhouse has joined the calls for keeping that restriction. She has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, urging him to hold a meeting with all MPs in the Western Gateway Transport Board to discuss upgrading the A350, removing the A36/A46 from the primary road network, and directing A4, Bristol-bound traffic to the A420.

Wera Hobhouse said: “Cleveland Bridge matters to everyone in the city of Bath. We have a duty to preserve this Grade 2 * historical asset, and in order to preserve it, we have to find a way to get the heaviest vehicles off it.

“Many constituents have written to me about this important issue and I have met with some of them to discuss their concerns in more detail.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath.

“Everyone in Bath would breathe a huge sigh of relief if we could get these heavy 40 tonne vehicles out of our city. I look forward to following up with the Secretary of State for Transport and will continue to press for a meeting with my relevant Parliamentary colleagues on this important issue.”

Here is that letter in full:

Dear Grant,

I am writing to you regarding Cleveland Bridge in my constituency. 

As you may know, Cleveland Bridge is a Grade 2* heritage asset in the city of Bath. Unfortunately, it forms part of the Primary Road Network linking the south coast ports with the M4. You will also know that, with the agreement of Wiltshire County Council and the Department for Transport, there is a long-term plan to gradually upgrade the A350, so that it becomes the main north/south route. In the meantime, Cleveland Bridge is having to carry 40 tonne lorries, which it is simply unable to bear. 

You have generously made available some £3.5m to facilitate repairs, but I understand that these may only last around 15 to 30 years before interventions will be needed again. This would appear to be entirely down to the impact of these very heavy vehicles. 

Currently, there is a temporary 18 tonne weight limit, due to the structural failings, but this rule is being flouted on a daily basis. This is causing a considerable amount of anger in my constituency. 

I hope you will agree that, together, we need to find a way of quickly introducing a permanent 18 tonne weight limit in order to preserve this important heritage asset. 

I would urge you to consider hosting a meeting of all the MPs in the Western Gateway Transport Board area, in which we could explore hastening the works to upgrade the A350, in order to remove the A36/A46 from the primary road network, and to direct A4, Bristol-bound traffic to the A420, north of Bath. 

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.