I am writing both to reiterate my previous support for many parts of the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) published by the four West of England Councils – Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire – as well as my fundamental opposition to the transport and housebuilding plans for the A38 corridor between Sandford and Bristol Airport. Please see my previous submission (copy enclosed) from October last year which outlines both the areas I support, and those I oppose, together with detailed reasons why in each case. This letter is intended as further information to strengthen the case against the parts of the plan which I and many local residents oppose.
The fresh information is that, since my previous submission, it has become increasingly apparent that serious concerns about the plans for the A38 corridor between Bristol Airport and a new M5 Junction 21a (which I outlined in my initial response) are not being treated seriously. Nor are the advantages of a J20 link road alternative which would be both a greener and better-value option either. Since my initial submission, most of the latest work seems geared to confirm the initial proposals without seriously considering the alternatives. Plans for the A38 corridor are still being funded and developed, while the J20 link option has had only cursory and superficial consideration.
This seems an unwise and dangerous example of embedded and institutional confirmation bias in the process, which is likely to produce unsound conclusions for several reasons:
- Three quarters of the J20 link road is already included as a strategic option in Joint Local Transport Plan 4 (JLTP4). Given that this road is likely to be needed and built anyway, the most valid comparison for the A38 corridor plan is with the very short extension from the eastern end of the JLTP4 road to create a strategic connection to the main road network around Bristol Airport. Concluding that this short extension is a worse option than the long distance and environmentally damaging A38 option, on the basis of a very limited investigation, seems highly likely to be both unsafe and wrong.
- The J20 link could be a big step, if desired, towards completing a strategic south Bristol bypass (the ‘Bristol box’) which would reduce pressure and improve resilience for the M4/M5 junction and the M5 split sections between J19 and J20 too.
- The same route which is envisaged for the J20 link is also proposed for a possible new light rail (or equivalent alternative technology) link between Bristol Airport and Temple Meads rail station. If the topography is potentially suitable for rail, it seems both inconsistent and suspiciously convenient to conclude it is unsuitable for a J20 link road on the same route.
- Given the expected growth in peak commuter road traffic between Weston and Bristol, which will make current (already unacceptable) jams around J21 even worse, the plans must include credible increases in capacity for J21 itself, and for the M5 north of J21 as well. At the moment it does not cover these essential points adequately, mainly because the A38 corridor / J21a proposals won’t deliver what is needed for the reasons set out in my initial submission. The plan must be amended to address this extremely serious flaw and, once it includes proposals to increase motorway capacity north of Weston, the J20 link option becomes an even stronger option.
Taken together, I am increasingly concerned that the current planning process is failing to give sufficiently careful or fair consideration to alternative proposals which could be far cheaper for taxpayers, more economically efficient and productive than the much more expensive and long-distance plans which are currently envisaged, and more environmentally sustainable according to the existing impact studies too. Most important of all, the alternatives would have far more public support. I hope you will be able to amend and improve the current dangerously flawed approach before it goes any further.
John PenroseMP for Weston-super-Mare