Less than a week after B&NES Council agreed to the need for a traffic plan for Keynsham to take account of the forthcoming development projects, planning officers are recommending the largest of those schemes, at Somerdale, should go ahead without any additional access route.
Next Wednesday (25th September) the Development Control Committee will decide on a detailed planning application from Taylor Wimpey for full permission to build 157 houses, 113 apartments and the new Fry Club, as well as outline consent for the rest of the scheme. This includes 430 new homes, an infant school, care home and local retail centre. The access and egress from Somerdale is proposed by way of a three-way traffic light controlled junction on Station Road, roughly where the present entrance to Somerdale is located.
Vehicle access to Chandos Road would be closed and residents would also have to pass through the new controlled junction.
When the application was first lodged in May it was greeted with dismay by local residents and councillors with many pointing to the chaos which regularly ensues on the A4175 the minute any obstruction or temporary traffic controls are put in place.
Cllr Tim Ball, Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning told Keynsham North Councillor Charles Gerrish that B&NES Council deemed a single access point unacceptable and that discussions with Taylor Wimpey were ongoing. At that time, Cllr Gerrish commented: “The need for a second access road to the site is clear and Taylor Wimpey must listen to the concerns of local residents, who are best placed to understand the traffic issues in the area.
“We have ensured that the council’s recently agreed Core Strategy development blueprint includes a second access as a requirement of the Somerdale development.”
Now it appears that Taylor Wimpey has produced further traffic modelling reports which indicate that a second access point would make no difference to traffic conditions. This has been accepted by the council planning officer handling the application although he does admit that traffic volume in the area would reach its capacity as a result of the development.
Part of the report to the planning committee says: “In conclusion, whilst there will be increased journey times through Keynsham as a consequence of the combined impact of the Somerdale development with traffic from other committed development in the area, officers consider that the modelling work demonstrates that the local highway network is able to operate satisfactorily in the am and pm peaks. It is also considered that the provision of a single access point to the site is acceptable.
“Increased journey times can be reduced through junction and other works in the wider network and it is appropriate that the Somerdale development contributes to their further design and implementation.”
In Keynsham, many are seeing parallels with the K2 East development with a council under pressure to deliver housing and local residents concerned at the lack of proper consideration of the infrastructure required for such a large scale development. Several also remember that when Somerdale was being considered as a potential site for the Ministry of Defence (before ultimately Filton Abbey Wood was chosen), direct access to and from the A4 Keynsham bypass was seen as mandatory.
One Keynsham councillor has already urged the planning committee members to reject the plan out of hand for as long as Taylor Wimpey insist on a single access point. Alan Hale has told them in advance of next week’s meeting: “Keynsham is under siege both from development and its generated traffic and traffic itself with no suggestion or indeed scope of any improvement in the road network.
“It seems that developers are being allowed to ride rough shod over the native community in the pursuit of profit and then they, of course, walk away leaving that legacy of that profit.
“Keynsham has been, and will continue to be plagued by a high degree of inconvenience, congestion and misery for at least the next decade, and with the proposed single access/egress, that congestion, inconvenience and misery will not go away because the developer traffic will be replaced by the many hundreds of extra vehicles from the development as set out above.
“I would have truly thought that the lessons of K2B at Park Road would have been learnt where a single access was deemed acceptable, albeit by a Government planning inspector. Your predecessors at that time wisely refused the application, an application much smaller, and I would beg you for the benefit of the town and surrounding areas to refuse this application until there is a second point of access egress or indeed a one-way system of access and egress built into the application. Please consider the people of Keynsham and others that use the town and not just the developer.”