Weston’s MP John Penrose has condemned North Somerset Council’s dismissive reply to cross-party proposals for solving traffic jams on the M5 near J21, and a new section of green belt to protect rural villages from urban sprawl.
The proposals were part of a cross-party letter sent by John, with LibDem Councillor Patrick Keating, to North Somerset Council asking for them to be included in the Council’s new local plan. The Council’s previous local plan was thrown out last year by planning inspectors, and will decide the future of local transport, housing and green spaces.
Last year, John arranged for Transport Ministers to write to the Council encouraging them to make the new local plan much bolder and more ambitious about the M5 problems. Both the M5 and the new green belt proposals were major local issues in December’s General Election campaign, when John won the highest majority and vote share for half a century.
John said “I’m afraid the Council is badly out of touch with local residents about this. They need to think again, so their new local plan doesn’t make the same mistakes as the last one.
“The idea that the M5 traffic jams will be solved by a bit more public transport is sweet, but completely naïve. I’ve campaigned successfully for better commuter trains to Bristol for years, and will keep doing it in future too. But there’s no way they will be enough on their own; the town is growing far too fast for that. What about commuters who don’t work near a train station in Bristol, so they have to go by car? And what about the tourists, not just visiting Weston but on their way past to Devon and Cornwall too, who create huge tailbacks every weekend? The M5 has been a problem for years and we can’t just let the Council stick its head in the sand; they’ve got to face it squarely. It isn’t a question of “either public transport or a better M5”; the new plan has to have both. Don’t forget, cars stuck in jams pollute more than free-flowing traffic and, if lots of us are using electric cars in 10 or 20 years from now, the M5 will be much greener than today.
“The same thing goes for this short-sighted refusal to create new green belt too. Without it, the Council are clearing the way for thousands more houses that will turn villages into towns and choke local roads with traffic too. It’s all very well for the north of the District, where the villages have been protected by green belt for years. How can the Council refuse to give the same protections to local residents in Congresbury, or Banwell, Sandford, Churchill or Langford? And how can they refuse to improve the M5 because it wouldn’t be green, while they’re planning to concrete over green fields and add thousands more commuters in the south of the district at the same time?”