'Don't turn Filton Airfield into another Bradley Stoke', inquiry told
FILTON Airfield could provide a golden opportunity to help ease chronic traffic congestion on the northern fringe of the city, a public inquiry has been told.
The airfield is due to close at the end of the year and South Gloucestershire councillors have already paved the way for thousands of new homes to be built there.
But Nigel Hutchings, commerce director at Business West, which represents 6,000 firms in the Bristol area, said he hoped the airfield would not become another small town like Bradley Stoke.
He said the airfield, if developed, would provide a golden opportunity to build transport links – not just for cars – so that new housing would not create a series of rat runs for commuters and continue to leave the motorways clogged with traffic.
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Mr Hutchings was speaking at the inquiry which is looking at a development masterplan, known as the Core Strategy, drawn up by South Gloucestershire Council.
If the planning blueprint is adopted later in the year, then it will provide guidelines for the way in which the area will grow and be built on during the next 15 years.
The inquiry's inspector Paul Crysell asked council officials if they believed that the transport measures in the pipeline would be enough to cope with a population boom in the years ahead. Nearly 6,000 new homes are expected to be built in the Cribbs/Patchway New Neighbourhood including:
â New Charlton – 3,700 new homes, including 2,500 at the airfield
â Haw Wood, between the airfield and the M5 – 1,000 homes
â Cribbs Causeway – 1,000 new homes.
This is in addition to the thousands of new homes already built or under construction at Harry Stoke, Stoke Gifford and Stoke Park.
Traffic on the M4, the M5 and Avon Ring Road already grinds to a halt at peak times and other main roads on the north and eastern fringes also suffer from jams.
South Gloucestershire's transport director Chris Sane said a number of transport measures were coming on stream to ease congestion.
â The new rapid bus route between the northern fringe and Hengrove in south Bristol which should be operating by 2017
â The showcase bus routes which provide fast services into the city centre
â Electrification of the main railway line between Paddington and the west country
â The Bristol Metro Scheme – a local railway network for commuters
â The managed motorway scheme to reduce congestion around the Almondsbury interchange
â Hopes of a junction on the M49 to open up a new transport link to industries at Avonmouth.
Patrick Conroy, the council's strategic planning advisor, said it was council policy to phase in new housing so it dovetailed with new transport measures as they were introduced. Developers also believe the impact of new homes is being offset by a shift from cars to public transport to get to work.
But Ian Crawford, from the Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance, said this shift was as little as one per cent.
He said: "People don't use buses because they find it cheaper to use their cars – the cost of using buses is roughly double the running costs of a car."
Mr Crawford said much more should be done to promote rail as a way to improve public transport and make it easier to move around the Bristol area.
One of the issues, for example, is the opening of the Henbury Loop, a railway line which runs around the north west side of Bristol and joins up with the Severn Beach line near Avonmouth.
Transport campaigners say the loop would open up a cheap and reliable means of transport for commuters who live in south Bristol but work in the north of the city.
It would also provide a commuter link for new jobs which are being created in the Severnside area.
But the inquiry was told that a business case has only been made so far for the loop to be a spur as far as Henbury Station.
Transport campaigner Dave Redgewell said council officials should get a move on and draw up plans for the electrification of local routes. He said work gangs would be electrifying the mainline between 2015 and 2018 but once they had finished, then the chance to upgrade local lines would be gone.
He said rapid bus routes were all right up to a point but at the end of the day, they were only a bus service.
Christina Biggs, secretary of the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, said there was a culture in Britain to use trains instead of buses and the track was already there, so it would be relatively cheap to utilise.
Andrew Roberts, from the Highways Agency, said he envisaged the motorways and main trunk routes could cope with future growth as long as proposed local transport measures were put in place.
Mr Crysell will not finish the inquiry until the middle of next month, after which he will draw up a report and might make recommendations before the masterplan is adopted, probably before Christmas.