That's according to South Hams councillors
A Totnes bypass as part of a bid to improve the air quality in the town should be ruled out ‘forever’, councillors have said.
South Hams District Council had been exploring ways that they can protect and improve air quality with a focus on the Air Quality Management Areas around Totnes.
Among the ideas in the plan was a bypass for Totnes, as 70 per cent of journeys on the A385, the main road that runs through the centre of the town, are from through traffic that doesn’t need to enter the town.
The potential impact on air quality in Totnes was considered high, but following a consultation last year on the Air Quality Action Plan and Clean Air Strategy, the bypass to Totnes plan has been ruled out as being too expensive and not deemed appropriate to consider further at this time.
But South Hams District Council’s executive on Thursday voted to remove the words ‘at this time’ from the plan and to definitively rule it out for good.
Cllr John Birch, proposing the amendment to the plan, said: “The evidence is there that the bypass should not form part of this plan and should be firmly rejected. The words ‘at this time’ should be removed as doesn’t fit with what the council is doing.
“I want it rejected definitively. The majority view is that a bypass is not the answer to the traffic problems in Totnes. The words ‘at this time’ give hope to those in the minority that there could be a bypass in the future.”
Cllr Jacqi Hodgson added: “Certainly I think the opportunity to have a vague possibility for a bypass could undermine all the other sustainable travel schemes being proposed, not just for Totnes but in the district and around. If you have something big that could suck up all the money, people may not invest in the smaller schemes that could do things quicker.
“A bypass is detrimental to the schemes but also to the climate change agenda and the environment, and the proposed route as to where this bypass could have gone was horrifying to so many people.”
James Kershaw, South Hams’ Environmental Health Officer, said that at the moment in time, no studies that showed that a bypass would have a meaningful benefit had been done. He added that there were other studies that could be done that would completely rule it out, but that there was no intention to get the studies and Devon County Council were not working on a bypass at the moment and didn’t intend to bring one forward.”
Cllr Judy Pearce, leader of the council, accepted the amendment to the plan and added: “We are saying to Devon County Council it is not worth having a bypass then its puts the pressure on them to improve the junctions and keep the traffic in Totnes moving.”
ThenTotnes Air Quality Action Plan said: “The cost of such a large bypass is likely to be very high due to the technical challenges posed by any route and the need to compensate landowners.
“While this option is technically feasible, at this time it is felt not worth exploring further due to the excessive cost and environmental impact of such a large infrastructure project. We are not considering the bypass proposals for Totnes further.”
Another option discounted by the study would be the compulsory purchase of properties in at risk areas where the air quality is considered unacceptable, as the cost would run into the millions and would not be cost effective.
Instead, the strategy proposes that Devon County Council should undertake a study to identify and make improvements to pedestrian, cycling and ultra-low emission vehicle usage in the six measures to be taken forward.
They include carrying out a review of pedestrian crossing points on the A385, installing electric vehicle charges points in council run car parks, green travel vouchers to promote alternatives to car usage, installing bike racks in key locations to promote cycling for short journeys, seeking contributions to support additional community bus routes and developing a regional cycling strategy for infrastructure improvements.
Changing the traffic light controlled crossing on Bridgetown Hill to a Zebra Crossing, a new pedestrian crossing closer to the junction of Blackpost Lane, and a review of pedestrian crossing option on the junction of Plymouth Road and the Western Bypass warrant further investigation, the report says.
Cllr Birch also called for the wording of the policy on electric vehicle charging points to be changed to say that they would install a minimum of two charging points in car parks, rather than the two in one car park it had said, and again, his amendment was accepted.
The revised Air Quality Action Plan for Totnes will now go forward to next Thursday’s full council meeting to be officially adopted by the council.