Pictured l-r front Councillor Kevin Guy, leader B&NES Council, Michelle Donelan MP for Chippenham, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, Wiltshire Council leader Councillor Richard Clewer
back l-r Councillor Manda Rigby, B&NES cabinet member for Transport, Councillor Mark McClelland, Wiltshire’s cabinet member for Highways and Councillor Richard Samuel, B&NES deputy leader and cabinet member for Economic Development and Resources.
We’re going to go on talking say council leaders and MPs after round table talks to address the North-South traffic issues affecting Bath & North East Somerset and neighbours Wiltshire County Council.
The move follows a recommendation, approved by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s cabinet to work with Wiltshire Council, and the Sub-Regional Transport Board, to complete a strategic study into north-south connectivity between the M4 and the Dorset Coast with an aim of making the A350 the strategic route and limiting HGV use of Cleveland Bridge.
Bath & North East Somerset Council hosted a meeting, called by Bath MP Wera Hobhouse MP and joined by Michelle Donelan, MP for Chippenham. Around the table were Wiltshire Council leader Councillor Richard Clewer and Councillor Mark McClelland, Wiltshire’s cabinet member for Highways.
They were joined by Councillor Kevin Guy, Bath & North East Somerset Council leader, Councillor Manda Rigby, cabinet member for Transport and Councillor Richard Samuel, deputy leader and cabinet member for Economic Development and Resources.
Councillor Guy said: “We held a very constructive talks and I want to thank Wera Hobhouse for calling the meeting and for Michelle Donelan and councillors Richard Clewer and Mark McClelland for coming along to the Guildhall to talk with us.
“It goes without saying that we all want our fair share of cleaner air and less pollution generated by HGVs on our roads. We are saying there has to be a fairer and better way of getting freight to and from the M4 to all the southern ports and that it cannot all come through the heart of Bath and across Cleveland Bridge. This was an opportunity to express our concerns with our neighbours and understand what the next steps and options are to tackle this issue regionally.
“We have agreed to continue talking and will be taking up Wiltshire’s invite to meet in Westbury to understand their traffic issues.”
“We have agreed to keep on talking…”. Well, at least they are talking now (how much of a stink does one have to make to get two parties to talk – it’s not Korea after all.)
Right, some cautionary warnings :
1. These talks MUST have a time constraint that runs for months, not years. This is not to be a game of football with a handy patch of long grass to lose the ball in.
2. Both parties have needs, some of which appear to be incompatible at first sight. Therefore, negotiation will be required, with possibly some arbitration. This negotiation CANNOT be left to Councillors or MPs, who are neither trained or skilled in that science. Each party must employ a professional negotiator and possibly a non-partisan, but professional arbitrator. It cannot be left to local or national politicians – this is NOT a political issue.
3. It is crucial that each party clarifies its NEEDs, not its WANTs and communicates them to their negotiator. It is crucial that the negotiators, when meeting, spend all of their first meeting clarifying, challenging and understanding the other party’s NEEDs. This may lead the negotiator to return to his/her client to confirm or challenge their pre-conceived needs that were originally communicated to him/her.
4. Negotiation Currency – this could include legitimate ‘bribes’, or commitments to some action that is within the gift of a party. “If I say ‘Yes’ to this, will you give me that?”.
5. What is really important to understand here, is that the goal for each party must NOT be political point-scoring. The success depends on the negotiation to be a collaborative exercise, not a competitive one.
Finally, I am heartened to hear that not only has Cleveland Bridge been visited, but that Westbury is to be visited as well. Smells a little like collaboration.
However, I have one more final caution – back in 2009 a small group of very vocal activists in Westbury said “No” to the planned by-pass over what they perceived to be ‘hallowed land’ that ran under White Horse hill. Even earlier, a similar small group of activists said “No” to a link between the A36/A46 over what was also considered to be hallowed land over Kensington Meadows (I think). Small groups of vocal activists must NOT be allowed to influence these negotiations – those loud minorities have held our suffering majorities to ransom for far too long.
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