A period of up to one hour is allocated to consider the motions on notice. This may only be extended with the agreement of the Council.
The Chairman opened the debate in respect of Motions that had been submitted for consideration at the meeting and in doing so reminded Members that they could not discuss specific planning applications when commenting on the Motions.
A Western Distributor Road for Bromsgrove
Members considered the following Motion on Notice submitted by Councillor L. Mallett:
Council notes the WCC JMP Western Bypass Report, 2015. This report was subsequently discredited as a basis for understanding the feasibility of such a scheme in research commissioned by Bromsgrove Council in 2018.
Council resolves to urgently review the case and formally assess the feasibility of the Western Distributor /Relief Road. This would allow the incorporation of this scheme, should it be found to be feasible, into all relevant planning documents and funding opportunities, at the earliest opportunity.
The Motion was proposed by Councillor L. Mallett and seconded by Councillor H. Rone-Clarke.
In proposing the Motion, Councillor Mallett commented that the subject of the Motion was not new to the District, having been discussed for 2 decades and he thanked Whitford Vale Voice for the petition that they had submitted on this subject and the people who had signed the petition.
Members were advised that what was being discussed was a distributor road, not a bypass. The purpose of a distributor road would be to enable traffic to progress round to the west of the town without having to go through the town centre. Councillor Mallett noted that there was a distributor road in Worcester, between the north and south M5 junctions, which set a precedent for towns in the county to have distributor roads. Councillor Mallett commented that the introduction of a distributor road would also help to address problems with congestion in the town centre, the issues arising from vehicles using residential streets, such as All Saints Road, to travel through the town, the impact of high traffic volumes on air pollution, which impacted on the health of local residents and would have a beneficial impact on economic growth in the town.
When sites to the west of Bromsgrove were designated as suitable for development in 2004, Bromsgrove District Council had requested that a Western Relief Road should be considered. However, Councillor Mallett commented that no assessment appeared to have subsequently been undertaken by Worcestershire County Council in respect of this matter. Consequently, since then, a number of developments had been approved, though without the mitigating action that had been intended when those sites were first earmarked for development.
In 2014 Councillor Mallett had proposed a Motion which had resulted in the Council agreeing unanimously that a relief road should be considered. This decision had ultimately triggered the JMP report, commissioned by Worcestershire County Council. Councillor Mallett questioned the appropriateness of the brief that had been provided to JMP for this report and he commented that it did not give proper consideration to local road infrastructure and traffic volumes, did not assess the economic benefits arising from easing congestion and did not take into account the potential contributions that could be made by developers, either in the form of land or a financial contribution.
Councillor Mallett suggested that if a Western Relief Road had been incorporated into plans in 2014 it would have been a more sensible solution to resolving traffic issues on the western end of Bromsgrove than further investment in the A38. Partly, this was because traffic needed to travel through the town centre to reach the A38 and this was where he suggested the main traffic problems were located.
In 2018, Mott Macdonald, consultants that had been commissioned by Bromsgrove District Council, concluded that the report issued by JMP could not be relied upon when determining whether a Western Relief Road was needed in Bromsgrove. Mott Macdonald had concluded that a full feasibility study should be carried out to answer any outstanding questions on this subject. In the meantime, the Western Relief Road was added as a scheme for future consideration to Local Transport Plan 4. Councillor Mallett suggested that by 2021 it would be timely to undertake this feasibility study, prior to further development taking place.
In seconding the Motion, Councillor Rone-Clarke thanked Whitford Vale Voice for their grassroots organisation in respect of this matter. Councillor Rone-Clarke commented that Bromsgrove was a growing town, and the Western Relief Road would be vital to the future development of the town and would help to address issues with air pollution. A Western Relief Road would also help to relieve congestion in the town centre, which would potentially provide greater capacity to focus on measures that would have a beneficial impact on the local environment, such as the introduction of more cycle lanes in the town.
During the debate in respect of the Motion, the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services commented that in June 2019 Members had considered a Motion which proposed that the Council should seek solutions through a strategic transport assessment. This assessment would have been difficult to undertake over the previous 12-month period, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, Members were advised that it would not have been appropriate to conduct such an assessment at that time, as traffic volume was significantly reduced during the lockdowns and would have made the assessments unrepresentative.
However, Members were advised that in April 2021 Bromsgrove District Council and Worcestershire County Council had commissioned a strategic transport assessment. This assessment would take into account the transport needs of the whole district, not just the town of Bromsgrove and would be completed in 3 parts, starting with a focus on cycling and walking. As part of the assessment process, consideration would be given to the potential for alternative forms of transport to be explored further in the District, such as walking, buses and cycle lanes as well as vehicular access requirements. This would help to offer greater flexibility moving forward. Members would be kept informed about the assessment process and there would be briefings, at meetings of the Strategic Planning Group. It was anticipated that the strategic transport assessment would be completed by December 2021.
The Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services acknowledged that there was a need to address traffic congestion where this arose. In addition, there was a need to encourage a reduction in reliance on use of cars for journeys in the District whilst embracing new ways of working that had been introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Members subsequently discussed the Motion in detail and in so doing commented on the following points:
· The announcement of the strategic transport assessment for Bromsgrove, which was welcomed by some Members.
· The need for the strategic transport assessment to take into account the potential for future housing growth and the impact that this could have on traffic in the District.
· The financial implications of introducing a Western Relief Road.
· The number of people who had signed the petition, at approximately 5,000 by the date of the meeting, and the strength of feeling in the community demonstrated by this petition.
· The previous improvement works that had been undertaken on the A38 and the extent to which this had impacted on traffic and congestion in Bromsgrove town centre.
· The impact that the reopening of schools in March 2021 had had on traffic in the District.
· The potential for the strategic transport assessment to identify whether a Western Relief Road was needed.
· The timeframes for the completion of the strategic transport assessment.
· The potential for houses to be built in the location where a Western Relief Road might otherwise be situated.
· The potential for lessons to be learned from other recent housing developments when reaching a decision on the possible introduction of a Western Relief Road.
· The issues with air pollution arising from traffic congestion. Members noted that there were three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Bromsgrove District.
· The Council declaration of a climate emergency and the need for action to be taken, including action that would encourage use of sustainable forms of transport, to help reduce carbon emissions in the District.
· The potential impact that the introduction of an additional road might have on carbon emissions in the District.
· The timeframes involved in commissioning the strategic transport assessment and the delays that would occur should an alternative feasibility study or assessment be required.
· The timeframes in which the work to commission the strategic transport assessment had been completed.
· The financial costs involved in commissioning strategic transport assessments and feasibility studies.
· The availability of new modelling data to enable the Council to assess the impact of developments on traffic in Bromsgrove.
· The potential for there to be a reduction in car ownership in the long-term and the impact that increasing demand for electric vehicles would have on carbon emissions. Alternative views were provided that car ownership was likely to increase.
In summing up, Councillor Mallett commented that there was a need to take action soon in order to avoid losing the opportunity to introduce a Western Relief Road. Councillor Mallett questioned why the strategic transport assessment had taken time to be commissioned. Concerns were raised that the strategic transport assessment might conclude that a Western Relief Road was needed but that this proposal would be too late to shape the development of the west of the town.
In accordance with Procedure Rule 18.3 a recorded vote was taken and the voting was as follows:
Members voting FOR the Motion:
Councillors S. Colella, S. Douglas, A. English, C. Hotham, R. Hunter, R. Jenkins, J. King, L. Mallett, P. McDonald, S. Robinson, H. Rone-Clarke, K. Van Der Plank (12)
Members voting AGAINST the Motion:
Councillors A. Beaumont, R. Deeming, G. Denaro, M. Glass, S. Hession, H. Jones, A. Kent, A. Kriss, R. Laight, K. May, M. Middleton, M. Sherrey, C. Spencer, P. Thomas, M. Thompson, J. Till, S. Webb and P. Whittaker (18)
Members ABSTAINING in the vote:
No Councillors (0)
On being put to the vote the Motion was lost.
The debate in respect of the Western Relief Road lasted for 57 minutes. Suggestions were made that the remaining Motions should be debated at the following meeting or that the next Motion on the agenda should be debated before the meeting closed. However, concerns were raised that it would be unfair to only debate some Motions.
During consideration of this item Councillor R. Hunter proposed that the debate in respect of the Motions should be extended by an hour to provide time to debate them all. This was seconded by Councillor P. McDonald.
On being put to the vote this proposal was lost.