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Councillors have made renewed calls for a new Melksham bypass to the east of the town around Beanacre, after Bath introduced a ‘clean air zone’ for lorries.
Larger vehicles such as HGVs will now have to pay £100 to travel through Bath leading to claims that they will reroute along the A350 through Melksham.
Although cars will be exempt from the Bath charges, Melksham councillors believe Melksham’s pollution levels will soar, making a new bypass for the town a ‘must’.
Last week, Bath & North East Somerset Council (BNES) voted to support plans to introduce a ‘clean air zone’ for Bath in December 2020.
Originally it was proposed that all vehicles that did not meet the Government’s minimum emission standards would be charged a fee to drive through the ‘clean air zone’.
The proposal sparked debate that the ‘clean air zone’ could help build a stronger case for a new bypass for Melksham because of fears that north/south traffic would avoid Bath by using the A350, increasing traffic and pollution through Melksham. There was also concern for patients of Bath’s Royal United Hospital (RUH) from Melksham, who faced being charged a fee to drive through the city to access crucial services.
However, at last week’s meeting, BNES councillors decided to back a proposal which exempts cars from being charged to drive in the zone. Charges will still apply to higher emission buses, coaches and HGVs, at a cost of £100; and LGVs/vans, private hire vehicles and taxis, at a cost of £9.
Speaking to Melksham News, Melksham’s mayor, cllr Adrienne Westbrook said, “This decision helps people who want to travel to the RUH, but does it solve the problem? The biggest polluters are HGVs and the ‘clean air zone’ will still push these vehicles along the A350 and through Melksham.
“I do feel sorry for the Bath politicians – they will be prosecuted if they don’t reduce air pollution in the city, and if this goes ahead, they are under pressure from residents in the greater area who are concerned about the impact on them.
“It’s difficult, I know from living in the centre of Bath myself that air quality is poor – I had a child that was ill when we lived there. As soon as we moved out of Bath, a fortnight later she was fine. Perhaps Bath should look to Richmond in London for inspiration. The council there is asking drivers to help reduce air pollution by turning off their cars when stopped at level crossings, outside schools, and in town centres. This could be something trialled in Bath.
Bypass a must
“However, this does highlight that a new bypass for Melksham is a must. Also, it shows that the Bath RUH is on the wrong side of Bath to service Wiltshire. And this is something that the Clinical Commissioning Group should be looking at.”
A BNES spokesperson said, “Following today’s (Tuesday 5th March) decision more detailed information on the scheme including bids for funding will be sent to central government. After receiving approvals and funding needed, the council will then start the formal processes for implementing the scheme, including any required consultation, with the aim of the scheme starting in December 2020.”