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Wiltshire Council will "formally oppose" BANES' plans to restrict HGVs on the A36 at Cleveland Bridge

Wiltshire Council has published a robust open letter in response to Bath & North East Somerset Council's (BANES) proposals to restrict heavy good vehicles (HGVs) using Cleveland Bridge in Bath, on the A36.

Published 9 December 2021
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Wiltshire Council has today (Thursday 9 December) published a robust open letter in response to Bath & North East Somerset Council's (BANES) proposals to restrict heavy good vehicles (HGVs) using Cleveland Bridge in Bath, on the A36.

The letter clearly sets out Wiltshire's position, and expresses the council's disappointment that, despite BANES' promises for the two councils to work closely together, Wiltshire was not consulted on the proposals.

The plans are due to be discussed at BANES' next Cabinet meeting, on 16 December, and propose to extend the Bath Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to include the Cleveland Bridge area, which would see diesel-powered vehicles weighing over 12 tonnes having to pay a charge to enter the CAZ.

If this went ahead, fewer HGVs may use this section of the A36, with many of these vehicles using roads in Wiltshire instead as a route to and from the M4. This would potentially have a detrimental impact on traffic volumes and air quality in West Wiltshire towns and villages.

Wiltshire Council's response, in the letter from Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of the council, says: The report falls short of exploring many other options available to deal with any air quality hot spots and wrongly singles out weight limit as the only viable option.

The letter makes it clear that Defra's CAZ framework supports Wiltshire Council's position: "In implementing a Clean Air Zone, local authorities will need to consider the impact on local residents, and the need for any mitigating measures... ensuring that Clean Air Zone proposals will not result in the displacement of the most polluting vehicles away from town centres to surrounding areas.

Cllr Clewer adds: I will not condone any proposal which simply shunts polluting vehicles away from Bath on to Wiltshire's roads and has an adverse effect on communities and residents in West Wiltshire," before clearly setting out Wiltshire Council's position: "I can confirm that Wiltshire Council will formally oppose any proposal that (to summarise Defra's guidance) '...results in the displacement of the most polluting vehicles...to surrounding areas'.

Finally, Cllr Clewer stresses the need for continued dialogue between the two councils, and other agencies, including National Highways: The National Highways M4 to Dorset Coast Strategic study is in my view the only way to properly deal with this issue. I am very happy to work collaboratively with you in support of that study to find positive solutions to improving the highways network throughout the region.

The open letter reads as follows:

Dear Will

Re: Cabinet Report - Cleveland Bridge

I note that your next Cabinet agenda contains a report responding to a resolution made on 9thSeptember, instructing your officers to present options to further (and permanently) restrict HGV movements over Cleveland Bridge.

Those options are now set out for your Cabinet to consider, without seeking any views from Wiltshire despite previous promises to work with us.

I have read the report carefully.

In terms of the legal framework, I believe there is an omission insofar as any potential changes to the CAZ are concerned.

DEFRA set out clear 'minimum requirements' in its Clean Air Zone Framework relating to wider impacts and displacement specifically: "In implementing a Clean Air Zone, local authorities will need to consider the impact on local residents, and the need for any mitigating measures and... ensuring that Clean Air Zone proposals will not result in the displacement of the most polluting vehicles away from town centres to surrounding areas."

That has relevance to your Council's consideration of future options relating to the CAZ, and I believe they should be reminded of this requirement. The report also falls short of exploring many other options available to deal with any air quality hot spots and wrongly singles out weight limit as the only viable option.

Beyond that, the report author suggests that the options considered carry a high risk of legal and procedural challenge.

To help determine the level of that risk, I can confirm that Wiltshire Council will formally oppose any proposal that (to summarise DEFRA's guidance above) "...results in the displacement of the most polluting vehicles...to surrounding areas".

The National Highways' M4 to Dorset Coast Strategic study is in my view the only way to properly deal with this issue. I am very happy to work collaboratively with you in support of that study to find positive solutions to improving the highways network throughout the region.

I will not however condone any proposal which simply shunts polluting vehicles away from Bath on to Wiltshire's roads and has an adverse effect on communities and residents in West Wiltshire.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council

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