Stoke Gifford’s three South Glos councillors have signalled their intention to formally call for the implementation of a controversial new southbound bus lane on Hatchet Road to be deferred until the impact of the new Stoke Gifford By-Pass on traffic flows through the village are known.
The new bus lane, approved by South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) Environment & Community Services (ECS) Committee in July, forms part of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) scheme, which will link Bristol Parkway Station with The Mall at Cribbs Causeway and serve the new developments planned for the former Filton Airfield site.
The councillors’ intended plan of action was confirmed after a packed public meeting held at St Michael’s Primary School on 22nd November demonstrated the strength of feeling amongst local residents against the bus lane proposals.
The meeting, attended by around 140 people, was addressed principally by Cllr Colin Hunt, a member of the ECS Committee which approved the Hatchet Road bus lane option and also chair of the West of England Joint Transport Executive Committee, which oversees the region’s MetroBus projects.
Facing an audience which seemed to be universally opposed to the Hatchet Road plans, which will see mature hedgerows and scores of mature trees ripped out, Cllr Hunt made it clear from the start of the meeting that he was not prepared to consider any alternatives, saying: “one way or another we’ve got to put a bus lane down there. All we’re trying to do is provide a fast bus service. I understand that you don’t want to lose green space, but we all have to make sacrifices.”
Cllr Hunt revealed that since the decision in July, council officers have been investigating a number of measures that might mitigate the impact of the scheme, such as moving the main area of ‘land take’ over to the Forty Acres side of the road and reducing the width of the bus lane, both of which would lead to less vegetation being taken from Meade Park and adjacent to residents’ homes on the east side of the road. However, both of these options would require further public consultation and thereby delay the scheme.
Points made by members of the public ranged from general scepticism about whether any of the proposed MetroBus schemes will succeed in getting people out of their cars to specific questions about the options for Hatchet Road, with one resident describing the committee’s decision as “intellectually challenged,” given that the council’s own technical assessment showed that the less costly options of “doing nothing” or “just adding bus lay-bys” performed equally well or better in terms of journey times. “There must be some other reason why you want to do that. What is the hidden agenda?” she asked.
Another resident claimed that it was foolish to be providing a bus lane along just part of Hatchet Road and have no proposals for the rest of it (beyond Ratcliffe Drive). “The buses will just join the rest of the queuing traffic,” he added. “This isn’t about nimbyism, it’s about common sense.”
In a comment left on the Stoke Gifford Journal website two days after the meeting, Cllr Ernie Brown, chair of the parish council and one of the three South Glos councillors for Stoke Gifford wrote:
“I can see no justification for adding a extra bus lane for part of Hatchet Road, on one side and in one direction only. It is absurd to think that it will save 29 secs off the journey time when you have three sets of traffic lights and bus stops, anyone of those will see the time eroded.”
“If this work goes ahead it will close the village down for a considerable time. To my knowledge there have been no discussions on how the traffic will be redirected.”
Cllr Brown later provided the following statement to the Journal:
“Having listened to the residents and heard their strong objections, the three Stoke Gifford district councillors will now table a motion at the next South Glos Full Council meeting [understood to be on 15th February 2017] to ‘defer the decision made by the ECS Committee until the impact of the Stoke Gifford By-Pass is known’.”
An SGC spokesperson has since confirmed that the by-pass is still on track to open in September 2017.
In a further development that has come to light since the public meeting, SGC has revealed that, following further technical work undertaken since the ECS meeting in July, it has become necessary to establish a revised schedule for the CPME project.
An SGC spokesperson said:
“Construction of the CPME is now anticipated to take longer than originally estimated. This is primarily due to the expectation that it would not be possible to construct certain parts of the route simultaneously, such as Hatchet Road and Gipsy Patch Lane. Therefore we now anticipate services on the CPME would start in 2021, rather than 2019.”
This delay could provide a convenient window to defer implementation of the Hatchet Road bus lane, allowing the impact of the by-pass to be assessed and avoiding an embarrassing rift between the Conservative councillors on either side of the argument.
Photos: (Top left) Cllr Colin Hunt addresses the meeting; (top right) Cllr Ernie Brown; (above) A packed hall for the meeting at St Michael’s School.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 22 & 23). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.