'No gridlock' promise for next year's Balloon Fiesta
ORGANISERS of Bristol's International Balloon Fiesta have pledged to work with police and council leaders to stop a repeat of traffic gridlock caused by this year's event.
A special meeting – attended by police, Long Ashton parish councillors, festival organisers and representatives from Bristol and North Somerset councils – was held yesterday to thrash out issues caused in the village by the fiesta.
Residents complained that the village became gridlocked after hundreds of thousands of people – 300,000 on the Saturday alone – visited the four-day event. As part of the fiesta traffic management plan, the main road into the village was blocked at each end to stop festival goers using it as a route to the fiesta.
But the closures caused problems for residents who said they could not get in or out.
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When residents tried to negotiate the road closures and find alternative routes, they became caught up in traffic waiting to get into the fiesta site.
Bob Cook, Wraxall and Long Ashton ward councillor on North Somerset Council, who called the meeting, said: "The biggest problem with the fiesta this year was the traffic and I was inundated with complaints from local residents.
"The fiesta organisers had not consulted with local police or the parish council before the event and if they had, the situation may have not reached a crisis point.
"The whole village was snarled up during the fiesta and the road was closed at Cambridge Batch plus at the Ashton Court end of the village.
"At one point, the traffic was queued along Belmont Hill along into Failand and over towards Barrow Gurney, with people trying to get into the fiesta.
"Local residents just couldn't get in and out of the village.
"I had to do something to prevent the same thing from happening again next year. The meeting was useful and we are planning further talks with the organisers again in April."
Long Ashton beat manager PC Trevor Byford said: "There were unprecedented levels of visitors to the fiesta, which had a knock-on effect on the village.
"Hopefully by working more closely together with the organisers we can avoid problems next year."
Event managers have already apologised and have promised to review the traffic management system for next year.
Festival project director Ben Hardy said: "On the Saturday of the fiesta we received an unprecedented level of interest in the event and consequently this did cause some travel disruption and congestion.
"We met with Long Ashton Parish Council to discuss their concerns and now, as we do every year, we will review our traffic management system to see if we can make any improvements. This will be presented to the parish council ahead of next year's event, for review."