The eagerly awaited ‘last chance’ to stop the 250 extra movements per day of EDF HGVs through Bridgwater came and went today with a simple rubber stamp of the EDF proposals by Somerset County Council Portfolio Holder for Resources and Economic Development (and, as it happens, Bridgwater Tory) Cllr David Hall (Con, Bridgwater East & Bawdrip). Despite pleas from Labour leaders at Town, District and County level, he simply agreed to the whole package of extra congestion.
EDF currently runs 500 HGVs through the town each day. The proposal was to increase this to 750 a day until September 2019, what EDF calls a ‘temporary period’.The Chair of Policies and Place Scrutiny Ctte Cllr Tony Lock (Lib Dem,Yeovil East) had the option to intervene on the proposals but agreed that the measure was to be treated as ‘urgency’ and waived that right.
A spokesman for Somerset County Council said “The Leader of the Council and the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee for Policies and Place have already agreed the use of ‘urgency’ to enable the immediate implementation of this decision i.e. the scrutiny ‘call-in’ provision cannot be used. A number of representations were received since the publication of the notification report on 8 December and the decision maker was made aware of these along with receiving advice from officers. Written responses will be issued regarding the representations received.”
Labour Leader at County ‘disgusted’
Cllr Leigh Redman (Labour, Bridgwater South) said “I am disgusted by the way that this decision appears to be have been steamrolled through both councils. From my position, an elected member of both councils, to be presented with a fait accomplis a final package of mitigation that will see thousands of additional HGV movements forced on to my town for however short a period, is in my opinion, truly wrong.The multi million pound mitigation package negotiated is lacking any form of real community benefit, something that could have been discussed and negotiated into the package if they had been open about the decision, this is effectively shutting out the people that will be directly impacted by this massive 50% increase in HGV movements. I know that many people took the limited opportunity to make comments, only to be apparently ignored by the councils. It seems that despite the urgency of the decision there is still a need to agree the small print around the mitigation and I have called for involvement but won’t hold my breath considering the way this decision has been pushed through both councils.
‘Town was Refused, Rejected and Rolled Over’
Leader of Bridgwater Town Council Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Bridgwater Westover) said “We learnt of these proposals on Friday December 8th, we wrote objecting and calling on the Portfolio Holder to extend the mitigation package or to oppose the movements, we raised the issue in the local Press, on the TV and the Radio, we offered a meeting to consult with the Town about the issue. We were refused, our offers rejected and our objections rolled over. In the end it’s One Tory One Vote. You wonder less and less why people may be cynical about this whole operation. Did they underestimate the original logistics of the project or were they hiding the fact that they would inevitably be throwing in more and more increases like this in an effort to avoid building the By-Pass that we all argued for originally!?”
‘Without doubt cause some disruption’
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources and Economic Development said: “We have carefully considered the impacts the increase will have, especially on residents and businesses. We recognise the natural concerns some have raised about the prospect of more traffic. However, a project of this scale will without doubt cause some disruption; it’s important to keep focused on the bigger picture. We believe an appropriate package of mitigation has been secured to address these impacts. I look forward to progress being maintained on the project to achieve a sustainable legacy from its construction, benefitting our County for generations to come.”