Bristol South MP Karin Smyth was last week asked to support the regional Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Bid, which is seeking £250 million of Government funding for infrastructure improvements to sustain the building of more homes in the region. “There are some great transport initiatives in there to boost the number of passengers using Bristol Temple Meads railway station and improved pedestrian and cycle routes, which I fully support,” said Karin. “But the proposals also include a new road from the A37 to Whitchurch Lane, which I and local residents oppose. “
Karin requested clarification around possible alternatives to this road, plans to reduce car use in the city – not plan for more, but received no further details of these ahead of submission of the final bid this week. She says: “The draft application suggests this new road could see 20,000 vehicles a day on Whitchurch Lane – driving past homes and a primary school. Thousands of local people have told me they are worried about pollution, road safety and the impact on wildlife and I share these concerns.”
Almost 1,000 letters of opposition to the new road proposal were delivered to The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) just last week, as the consultation for the Joint Local Transport Plan closed. Karin said: “It is premature to include such a widely-opposed new road in this bid without taking stock of these views and the wider picture.
“There are growing concerns over air quality in Bristol, with 300 deaths a year linked to emissions. Air pollution has been shown to contribute to a range of health problems, including impaired lung development in babies and young children, asthma and lung cancer with newer research indicating a link to diabetes, heart disease and dementia. We know that the main cause of air pollution in Bristol is traffic. Bristol South already suffers from some of the highest levels of ill-health in the city and this new road, and the thousands of polluting vehicles coming into the area, would exacerbate that. Health and housing are both very important and one should not come at the expense of the other.”
Both Bristol City Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council recently declared a Climate Emergency, with the Labour Party urging the government to recognise a national Climate Emergency in Parliament this week. Both councils are looking at introducing Clean Air Zones in the city centres to address poor air quality. Bristol City Council is this week writing to the government about its overdue Air Quality Plan, the full detail of which is yet to be made public. “Pressing ahead with this ill-conceived road plan and inviting 20,000 cars into Bristol South goes against the city’s obligation to improve air quality,” said Karin. “For these reasons, I will not support plans for this road and cannot support this bid in its current guise.”
Karin has spoken to the Minister responsible for Housing and Planning and plans to meet with him next week to discuss this further. She added: “I will continue to press for the homes and infrastructure we need here in Bristol South. This new road is not the answer.”