Bath loses its bid to push lorries towards Somerset countryside roads
A proposal to ban lorries from driving along one of the West’s key main roads has been thrown out by the Government after a bitter war of words between three of the region’s biggest local authorities.
Civic chiefs in Bath wanted to stop HGVs using the A46-A36 road which, because the city does not have a north-south bypass, runs right through historic city centre areas such as Bathwick Street and London Road.
But the ban would have meant lorries travelling from the south coast to the motorway network going through Wiltshire and Somerset instead, and council bosses in those neighbouring local authorities objected after opposition from residents across a whole swathe of the West, from Bradford on Avon to the Mendips.
Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) Council wanted to trial a weight restriction banning 18-tonne vehicles crossing the River Avon at Cleveland Bridge, which would effectively stop lorries using the A46-A4-A36 trunk roads to access Southampton, Dorset and south Wiltshire from the M4 and the Midlands.
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Council chiefs in Bath said heavy lorries were creating air pollution and damage to some of the Georgian buildings along the main roads, and had vowed to go ahead with the ban.
The next major river crossing upstream is in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, where the prospect of a ban brought residents out to form a lorry watch scheme, manning the town’s only road bridge 12 hours a day to catch truckers breaking the bridge’s own weight restrictions.
And villagers in east Somerset feared HGV drivers would divert through to access the M5 south of Bristol rather than head through Bath also protested, prompting an unprecedented objection to the proposal from both Wiltshire Council and Somerset County Council.
Yesterday, the Department for Transport told Bath to think again, and upheld appeals against even the idea of trialling a weight restriction for a few months. Because of the opposition from neighbouring councils, B&NES was only able to suggest diversions for lorries through its own territory – and the lanes of North East Somerset were not deemed suitable by the DfT.
A spokesman for B&NES council said: “We will be inviting representatives from the Highways Agency, Somerset County Council, Wiltshire Council, and the Government to work alongside us to address the concerns of our local residents about heavy goods vehicles travelling through Bath, particularly along A4 London Road and A36 Bathwick Street.”