Last night’s cabinet meeting of B&NES councillors committed itself to finding a way to restrict HGV through-traffic in Bath.
The heard Cleveland Bridge will reopen on time but they currently have no powers to stop these heavy lorries using it.
It was agreed that such a move was essential to reducing air pollution and congestion, protecting public health, and preventing repeated damage to Cleveland Bridge.
B&NES Cabinet members are promising to look into all possible mechanisms to stop HGVs using Bath as a North-South cut-through route and are saying residents can’t wait 15 years for the government’s strategic route study to come to fruition.
A weight restriction on Cleveland Bridge has helped reduce HGV through-traffic but, with repairs to the bridge due to finish on time, normal traffic patterns are expected to return. This will inevitably lead to further, costly repairs being needed in future.
Councillor Manda Rigby, Cabinet member for Transport, said:
“Recent months have shown there is no need for HGVs to use Bath as a rat run. With the weight restriction and then closure of Cleveland Bridge, lorries have taken other North-South routes.
“When the bridge reopens, there will be no controls on the type of traffic permitted to cross it. It’s part of the primary route network and the Council doesn’t have the power to just ban HGVs.
“We need to find another way to put a restriction in place. Really, the only obstacle to stopping HGVs and delivering cleaner air, reduced congestion, and fewer health risks, is essentially red tape.
“We are already working with regional partners to try to make the A350 the strategic route. The snag is this could take 15 years to come to fruition, even if regional agreement can be reached. The people of Bath and North East Somerset can’t wait another 15 years for relief from through traffic HGVs.
“In the meantime, we are keeping every other possible option on the table. We are seeking advice on financial mechanisms, looking at whether traffic regulation orders could be used to protect health, air quality or the heritage structure of the bridge, and we’re working with Wera Hobhouse MP to lobby government.
“Although it’s possible that none of these might work, I am convinced that there must be a solution which gives a net benefit to the region. We will try every possible way forwards. This is about the fight for cleaner air, reduced through traffic and a better environment.
“Also, Cleveland Bridge wasn’t built to withstand HGV traffic. If we don’t stop lorries using Bath as a through-route, we will be back to square one in a few years, spending more public money on repairs. It would be so much better to fully fund a permanent solution.
“If we can restrict HGV through traffic, it will benefit the whole city and the surrounding area. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Councillor Richard Samuel, Deputy Leader commented:
“The impact of HGVs on the historic city of Bath is corrosive. Road surfaces are damaged constantly by the hammering they take from these beasts, historic structures have been hit, the sheer difficulty of manoeuvring these HGVs causes congestion and delays. In a nutshell Bath’s street were not built for these giants. The Council will be seeking views and support from those in Bath concerned about the historic environment.
“But there is another insidious problem. That is the pollution these vehicles emit both NOx and CO2. The former has a serious impact on health for residents along roads where these vehicles travel. The most serious impact is on the quality of life for thousands of residents who are daily disturbed by the continuous roar of HGVs. Cycling on the carriageway is unpleasant and at times unsafe. Life as a pedestrian whether walking with children to school or going to work is a dispiriting polluted experience.
“It is our duty as Councillors in Cabinet, and for me as a ward Councillor to say on behalf of my and Bath’s residents: enough is enough. It is time to put an end to the daily procession of oversized lorries through our historic streets and in particular over the historic Cleveland Bridge.
Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse, said:
“I have raised the issue of Cleveland Bridge in Parliament on a number of occasions. Each time the government has reiterated its position, that the consideration of the North-South route should be undertaken through a strategic study by the Western Gateway Transport Board. Although this work has now started, it will take years. This is unacceptable and I will continue to press the government on this issue.
“B&NES Council are doing an excellent job exploring the alternatives and I offer my full support to their efforts.”