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Environmentalists vent their spleen over WECA road plans


03 April 2020

Local authorities in the Bristol area have approved a new local transport plan for the conurbation amid a heap of criticism from climate change campaigners who say it contains too many road improvement schemes.

The West of England Combined Authority and the West of England Joint Committee adopted the final draft of the fourth Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP4) at their joint meeting on 20 March. In doing so, however, members immediately signalled a start of work on a new LTP (JLTP5), which appears likely to give added emphasis to environmental issues. 

JLTP4 covers the four unitary authorities of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, and North Somerset. The first three are members of the West of England Combined Authority led by elected mayor Tim Bowles. North Somerset has not joined WECA but is a member of the West of England Joint Committee. 

The meeting received eight questions from the public about the plan and a further 35 statements criticising the plan’s contents. One of the statements was by Steve Melia, a senior lecturer in transport and planning at the University of the West of England. He is behind a petition on the 38 Degrees website that says: “Scrap the road building and widening plans in the Joint Local Transport Plan. In a climate emergency any available funds must be used to improve public transport, walking and cycling.”   

Councillor Stephen Clarke, chair of the combined authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, spoke at the meeting, saying that JLTP4 appeared to have been written by a “number of different people”. The scene-setting parts of the plan appeared to be “carbon aware”, he said, yet the detailed chapters contained “numerous major road building schemes”.

Clarke expressed confusion about the expected lifespan of JLTP4, saying officers had implied it was a “stopgap” and that work on JLTP5 would start straightaway. 

The meeting also heard that the combined authority had taken legal advice about JLTP4’s consistency with the Paris Agreement on climate change in the aftermath of the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow had failed to consider the Paris Agreement (LTT 06 Mar). The legal advice said the LTP was in alignment with Paris, subject to adding some statements that the meeting approved.  

Alongside approving JLTP4, the combined authority did approve that officers should start  preparations for JLTP5. 

Councillor Dine Romero, the leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said that, though JLTP4 was not perfect, it was important to approve it so that the councils could “move on to working on the next iteration of the plan (JLTP5) as quickly as possible”. This would “develop a much better plan for the future”.

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