The Freight Transport Association says that North Somerset Council's proposals to introduce an experimental weight restriction scheme for goods vehicles travelling on the A368, together with a permit scheme for 'local' traffic, are badly flawed and will result in an increase in traffic rather than a reduction as intended. FTA says that the scheme must be reconsidered. These views reflect the outcome of a recent traffic forum meeting held in Weston Super Mare.
The proposals would see an area-wide weight restriction implemented along the A368 between the A38 and the B3134 Burrington Combe, and all roads north of the A368 up to the boundary with Bath and North East Somerset. Alongside this traffic order, it is also proposed that a permit scheme will be introduced to allow access for heavy lorries based, or delivering, within 4km of the restriction.
The Council claims that the restriction is required to alleviate growing concerns from local residents regarding safety and the environmental impact of HGVs using the A368. The proposed alternative routes suggested by North Somerset Council include the A371, A37, A38 and the already congested A4174 Bristol ring road. These routes are likely to add between 30 to 40 miles to an HGV's journey, which will significantly increase the environmental footprint of the vehicle and add to traffic congestion along roads which are in some cases no better than the A368.
FTA Regional Policy Manager for the South West, Ian Gallagher said, 'How North Somerset Council can argue that local inhabitants will be environmentally better off with this restriction is beyond belief. The reality is that HGV traffic will have no choice but to use the A368 when coming off the B3134. The village of Blagdon is likely to see an increase in HGV traffic rather than a reduction, so who exactly is going to be better off? Certainly not the local inhabitants as claimed by the Council, and not the local economy.
As for the permit scheme, Gallagher added, 'Not enough thought has gone into the scheme's administration. North Somerset is simply out of touch with the realities of how a modern business operates in today's real time society. Businesses order goods like every one of us, and, like the public, remain unaware as to who the delivery agent is likely to be. How then, bearing in mind the real practicalities of remaining competitive, are permits going to be delivered to these vehicles to enable them to pass through the restricted area and ensure that local business needs continue to be met? This ill-conceived plan should be scrapped immediately.
'It is not only industry which has real concerns about this restriction. The police, who were also represented at the Weston meeting, argued that these proposals were badly flawed, along with neighbouring authorities which have either objected outright or believe more work needs to be done before any such system should be considered, let alone put into place.'
Mike Moore, Area Manager for the Road Haulage Association, said, 'North Somerset's proposal for a weight restriction on the A368 will prove to be a complete disaster. It was clear at the last meeting with North Somerset Council that their proposed permit scheme had obviously not been thought through. Questions still remain unanswered about how it could be enforced, what benefits would arise from such a scheme, and how it would impact on local and surrounding businesses, not to mention the cost involved.'
Nick Huff, Operations Manager, Stowell Concrete Ltd, based in Yatton, said, 'If the proposed weight restriction goes ahead, we will incur a massive increase in costs. In today's climate of spiralling fuel costs and a general lack of confidence in the economy, this will seriously jeopardise our ability to compete on the open market. Inevitably this could result in job cuts. I cannot believe that North Somerset Council is spending thousands of pounds trying to implement a scheme which will seriously affect the profitability of many local businesses.'
The Freight Transport Association, together with the Road Haulage Association and local businesses, urges the County to rethink and abandon its plans for this unpopular restriction and permit scheme. The impact on the long distance vehicles that North Somerset Council is trying to discourage would be small. But the potential impact on local business would be massive.