Statement by Dr Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset.
Banning cars from country lanes is the most crackpot idea yet to come out of North Somerset’s “rainbow coalition” council and should be strenuously opposed.
For those who have not yet heard, North Somerset Council is proposing to restrict access by motor vehicles to the lanes between Clevedon, Yatton, Nailsea and Backwell in order to “promote and enable greater Active Travel, particularly cycling and walking.” All this is part of the council’s plan for ‘making walking and cycling the natural choice for a cleaner, healthier and more active North Somerset by 2030”. The roads are described as “rat runs” by the council.
While we would all encourage healthier activities such as walking and cycling, these plans seem to come from a different planet.
These routes are used regularly by those who live around the edges of our towns as a legitimate means of transport. I know that many elderly drivers prefer using these routes to busier and more congested routes. The council asserts that “most journey lengths within the area will be perfectly suited to cycling, but the lanes will also be attractive to pedestrians and equestrians”. Have they bothered to look at the age profile of many of those who live in the area?
Forcing traffic out of the lanes in question is also likely to result in greater congestion through our towns with slower traffic, more air pollution and greater hazards for children attending our schools. It is not difficult to imagine, for example, what more traffic at peak times would mean for parents and pupils trying to get to and from schools in Backwell, Yatton or Tickenham. Having slower traffic (producing greater pollution) travelling through the congestion points in our towns hardly seems to fulfil the councils own aim which is stated as “Given the climate emergency and NSC's own target to become carbon neutral by 2030, we see this an essential means to help make this happen.” While we all want to see effective action on climate change, I simply do not believe that the council’s plans will have the effect they seek.
As a regular user of many of these routes over the past 30 years I have to fully agree with a constituent who wrote to me that “I have lived in Yatton all my life and use these roads regularly. They are a lifeline to local people and are not rat runs as I have seen described by a local councillor. I have used them in my car and on my bicycle and never had a problem. Drivers, horse riders and cyclists and runners/walkers share these roads well.” This echoes the views of many of those who have written (though many have been much less polite about the council’s plans!).
The countryside must continue to be an economically viable area and not seen to be somewhere where people simply go for recreation. I wonder if some on North Somerset Council understand the nature of our area outside the most urban areas.
There will also be the considerable issue of how such a policy will be policed. Will we really divert the activities of Avon and Somerset Constabulary into ensuring that cars do not drive on country roads at a time when the police far greater priorities? It would also be interesting to know how much such a scheme, including its policing, is intended to cost the council taxpayers of North Somerset, something that seems to be notably missing in the consultation period.
The proposed scheme to close rural roads in North Somerset to motor vehicles is the most crackpot idea yet to come out of North Somerset’s “rainbow coalition” council and should be strenuously opposed.
If you are against these proposals then please contact me via my website: https://www.liamfox.co.uk/contact
You can see the full proposals (such as they are) at the following link: https://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2021-03/Notice%20of%20intent%20-%20combined%20doc%20with%20map.pdf
NB the consultation process ends on 30 April.