Liveable Neighbourhoods and the Mount Road scheme
The first fifteen proposed Liveable Neighbourhoods for Bath and North East Somerset have been announced by the council, with a fanfare of positive rhetoric and claims of empowering communities to have a "bigger say".
Absent from the council's Newsroom article is any mention of the fact that some London Liveable Neighbourhoods have had to be scrapped after their low traffic measures condensed traffic and fumes onto surrounding communities. However, our council promises that communities in B&NES will be working together to "co-design" plans that will work for everyone.
These initial fifteen Liveable Neighbourhood schemes are considered 'easy wins' in comparison to other possible bids further down the line. The Mount Road scheme in Southdown is thought to be one such easy win.
The Mount Road scheme
Residents of Mount Road have had their reasons for working with the Southdown councillors to put together a Liveable Neighbourhood bid for their patch. According to those residents who added their comments to the council's interactive map, Mount Road suffers from 'through traffic', 'speeding traffic', 'HGV traffic' and 'school rat-run traffic'.
A further justification is that Roundhill Primary and Southdown Junior schools are situated on Mount Road. Parents report various near misses where a child almost got hit by a vehicle in the mayhem that ensues when kids are dropped off and collected from school by car. At the same time, residents complain that parents conveying schoolchildren by car fill up all the parking spaces along that road. The problems would all disappear if Mount Road were sealed off to through traffic.
One might think it an open and shut case that the Mount Road scheme should proceed..... but there's another side to the coin.
Bordering Mount Road is the part of The Hollow that stretches from the Beehive Surgery up to the Whiteway Road. The Hollow itself is a busy road, now even busier as a result of the Clean Air Zone. It would receive much of the through traffic displaced from Mount Road.
Shown below: the stretch of The Hollow that would be affected
This part of The Hollow is crossed by children and adults making their way to schools and shops, and to the activities at Southdown Methodist Church. Some of them are elderly people living in the warden controlled housing at Blagdon Park. In fact, the whole of the Whiteway community must cross this road if they are to walk to the local shops.
One way that the effect on The Hollow could be softened would be to install some kind of pedestrian crossing to help people cross the road safely. In a local opinion poll, most respondents favour this option. But of course, it would all depend on the council being willing to put a crossing in. Just down the hill, parents have long wanted crossings to be installed outside the Twerton schools.
A pedestrian crossing might help address the increased traffic flow on The Hollow resulting from a Mount Road Liveable Neighbourhood. Yet it could not in itself make all the fallout from the scheme disappear. Earlier this year, Southdown councillor Dine Romero wrote in response to a planning application at The Hollow:
My particular concerns are on road safety. The Hollow is a dangerous road with many accidents and near misses.
To shunt traffic from Mount Road onto the upper part of The Hollow would surely worsen these conditions? And for the forty-five or so households along this stretch, the extra 'through traffic', 'speeding traffic' and 'HGV traffic' outside their homes would be a daily experience.
So sure, communities might work together to "co-design" these projects and yes, communities can be given a "bigger say". It doesn't mask the fact that these plans will inevitably produce both winners and losers.