Bridgwater Town Councillors who recently passed a motion calling for a halt to EDF’s ‘junction improvements’ programme and to revisit the idea of a By-Pass as a lasting solution to Bridgwater’s traffic problems today met with both EDF and Somerset County Council reps at the Town Hall to put their concerns to the By-Pass deniers.
Around the table was Andy Coupe, Somerset County Councils service manager for Nuclear, Lucy Holt, EDF’s project manager, Ros Edwards, EDF’s communications manager and Stephen Gardner the site manager for the contractors Aggregate Industries .
Massive public support for By-Pass
The meeting, chaired by Deputy Mayor Cllr Leigh Redman, straightaway pointed out the massive public support for a By-Pass and the opposition to the EDF solution which was simply tinkering with the issues.
Cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria) stated “Even with all these roadworks and after the so called improvements what actually will be the legacy for Bridgwater? What will be the long term benefit for the future of Bridgwater? And equally importantly during these works EDF has failed to properly communicate their plans to the residents who have got a right to know what’s going on”
Cllr Adrian Moore (Hamp) added “This ‘legacy’ talk makes me laugh. When you made your computer calculations did you account for the 2-3,000 houses being built along the Taunton road with an equal number of cars? And when these ‘improvements’ fail to improve anything, what’s your Plan B?”
Junction Improvements bring ‘minimal benefits’
Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) said “Can you explain why your spokesman David Eccles said he believed these junction improvements would ‘bring minimal benefit’, and why you failed to consult adequately with residents and traders in the area apart from those who simply had a ‘window’ on the junction? These road works are creating rat runs – look at Old Taunton road , look at Friarn street”
Town Clerk Alan Hurford added “This will divert more traffic into the already congested parts of the town such as Penel Orlieu and the Morrisons Junction on Broadway. There is also concern that this will affect the seasonal Butlins traffic and will still be going on during Fairtime and Carnival this autumn.”
Cllr Graham Granter (Fairfax) asked “What about the Colley Lane relief road? That’s been promised for 8 years and that could help avoid some of this EDF snarl up. But all these important suggestions and particularly the need for a By-Pass fall on deaf ears.”
Keep the traffic flowing
Stephen Gardner from Aggregate Industries, the man tasked with getting the works done ,explained the phasing programme of works, corner by corner, starting with the Petrol station and working clockwise over a 12 month period insisted the scheduled works would “Maximise the green time and keep the traffic flowing”
Lucy Holt, EDF project manager, said “No-one would choose to do these works on this junction but we have to to mitigate against our construction traffic in order to achieve the nuclear project . EDF has put millions into this and even now we’ve paid for an additional member of staff to control CCTV on the site to maintain the traffic flow.”
Challenged by Cllr Dave Loveridge (Eastover) “What hours would he work?” Lucy Holt said he would “work initially full time and after a while reduce to peak time-7 to 9am and 4 to 7pm”
Andy Coupe the SCC Nuclear service manager said “EDF is obliged to mitigate against the impact of it’s development but said “The peak will be in 2016, then it will taper off and then you’ll see the legacy and the benefit. The main improvement will be the updating of the old analogue systems to digital so the different lights can talk to each other”
EDF ‘might have given the wrong impression’
Ros Edwards, EDF Communications manager, accepted they may have got some of the PR wrong on this occaision and suggested that EDF spokesman David Eccles “might have given the wrong impression when he said there would be minimal benefit”. He added “There are 16 million pounds of road improvements and when finished we will have the right mitigation in place. What David Eccles was referring to might have been that if we were making a roundabout there you would see a difference at the end but as it happens you’ll still see a crossroads with traffic lights on at the end so it won’t look any different. In fact this junction will be a lot better for pedestrians and safer for cyclists.”
In a letter sent immediately after the resolution was passed at Town Council, Alan Hurford called on EDF to “Please heed the resolution and inform how best this may be taken forward”.
A response received today from the Planning Inspectorate acknowledged Bridgwater Town Council’s consistent position calling for a By-Pass and the representations that it had made at the 2012 application process and with the current resolution calling for the By-Pass , but stressed that “a northern by-pass would require a new application and the applicant NNB Genco (EDF Energy) was not willing to include this in their application” and added “ Any measures beyond those granted consent by the Secretary of State in the HPC DCO (Development Consent Order)..such as a new by pass….would now need to be progressed separately by the local Highway Authority (SCC) or another promoter of major infrastructure in the Bridgwater area”
Barrage is a ‘game changer’
Cllr Redman thanked the guests for their explanations and clarifications but said “We remain unimpressed. Our campaign for a By-Pass goes on because the window of opportunity is there now. The decision to fund a barrage with the potential for a road across it means a By-Pass is achievable and this is a game changer as it wasn’t on the cards during the consultation period. They have to look at this option again and that’s why I put this resolution to the Council and that’s why it was unanimously backed”