Green Mayoral candidate, Climate Emergency leader, and UWE transport expert call on the Metro Mayor and Council leaders not to approve the Joint Local Transport Plan in its current form next month, stating that proposed new roads will worsen the climate crisis and congestion. The trio have called for an urgent review of the plans, and are encouraging residents to sign a petition.
Transport planners have released new proposals for transport in the West of England (known as Joint Local Transport Plan or JLTP4) over the next 10 years . The report acknowledges the need to take urgent action to get the region’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, but at the same time proposes to build 10 new roads and widen five more, destroying countryside and suburban fringes around Bristol.
Dr Steve Melia, Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning at the University of the West of England, has set up a petition calling on the Combined Authority and local Council leaders to urgently review their proposed roadbuilding plans. He said,
“The plan is a bizarre document, like it was written by two groups of people with totally different views. One group says: all four authorities have declared climate emergencies; we must take urgent action to decarbonise by 2030. The other says: we must build and widen lots of roads to boost economic growth.
“The trouble is, providing more and better public transport, walking and cycling facilities on its own doesn’t make much difference to carbon emissions – you have to reduce car traffic at the same time. The easiest way to do that is by reducing the road space available to cars, reallocating some of it for walking, cycling and public transport. The Transport Plan mentions this as a possibility, but then destroys its own argument by adding lots of road building.” 
Sandy Hore-Ruthven, the Green Party’s candidate for Bristol Mayor, agreed,
“The West of England is at a pivotal moment where we can choose mass transit, or mass congestion. We can choose to spend millions of pounds on 3 miles of road, or on an excellent public transport system. If the Labour Mayor and Conservative Metro Mayor go ahead with these plans to build so many new roads it will commit us to even more congestion and carbon emissions.
“I have stood in support of the campaign against the South Bristol Ring Road near Stockwood as an example how these proposals are a waste of money and will not Get Bristol Moving. The money set aside for this new road building programme should be spent on new mass transit, better buses, cycling and walking routes. If the Metro Mayor and Mayor of Bristol are serious about the climate emergency then they should put their money where their mouth is, stop building roads and invest in sustainable transport instead.”
Carla Denyer, the Bristol Green councillor who proposed the city’s Climate Emergency declaration in 2018 , added,
“It’s intensely frustrating that WECA, who followed Bristol’s lead in declaring a Climate Emergency , have produced a plan that is so singularly unhelpful in tackling it. Declaring a Climate Emergency is only the first step, it must be followed by bold and urgent action or it is worthless. So this plan is a very worrying sign that some of the Council leaders who make up WECA, all of whom signed up to the Climate Emergency declaration, may not have fully grasped its meaning. Or worse, were they jumping on the bandwagon to get a little bit of positive press coverage with no intention of following through?
“The plans are due to be formally adopted on 20th March, so we have a small window of opportunity to persuade the decision-makers to change their minds. I hope that everyone who shares my concern will sign Steve’s petition  and write to the Metro Mayor and the leaders of their local Council, before it’s too late.”
The Joint Local Transport Plan was published in January, and is due to be discussed at North Somerset Council on 18th February and Bristol’s Cabinet on 3rd March, before the West of England Joint Committee decide whether to adopt the plan on 20th March. (South Gloucestershire Council discussed it on 12th February and Bath & North East Somerset Council will make a single member decision.)
The West of England Overview and Scrutiny committee, chaired by Bristol councillor Stephen Clarke, has already called for a review of the plan. On 31st January it submitted a report to the Combined Authority saying,
“We believe that WECA should revisit the prioritisation of the major schemes list that was decided before the declaration of the Climate Emergency and re-assess them in the light of the emergency.”
- Joint Local Transport Plan 4 sets out the vision for transport in Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire up to 2036. https://travelwest.info/projects/joint-local-transport-plan
- Dr Steve Melia expanded on the problem in his Bristol Cable article: https://thebristolcable.org/2020/01/plans-for-new-road-threaten-bristols-countryside-and-undo-action-on-the-climate-crisis/#article-top
- All four Councils in the West of England, plus the West of England Combined Authority, have declared a Climate Emergency. https://www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/climate-emergency-declared-west-england-combined-authority/
- Petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/public-transport-not-road-building-in-the-west-of-england