Row over who is to blame for ‘intolerable’ delays at Hambrook lights

A ROW is raging over who is to blame for the “intolerable” delays caused by traffic restrictions at the Hambrook traffic lights.

Conservative councillors representing wards near the junction of the Avon Ring Road and Bristol Road (pictured above) have called on South Gloucestershire Council to either reverse or rethink the restrictions.

They say they are backing residents who have signed an online petition, which has gained more than 4,000 supporters, calling for the changes – which divert traffic heading towards Winterbourne around the M32 roundabout – to be reversed.

Jack Lopresti, who is standing for re-election as MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, the constituency where the junction stands, joined the councillors.

He called the delays “intolerable”, and said he had presented a petition to the Commons calling for the junction to be restored to its previous state, the night before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a general election for July 4.

But the Liberal Democrat council cabinet member in charge of infrastructure says it is “ridiculous” that the Tories are demanding changes to arrangements they introduced when they were the party in charge of the council in 2019, at the insistence of a Conservative government.

The online petition, started by Moorend resident Angie Gay in February, calls on the council to either reinstate the right turn from the Avon Ring Road towards Winterbourne, and allow traffic to drive straight across from Frenchay to Hambrook, or to “provide a viable alternative route”.

How the restrictions at the junction work
How the restrictions at the junction work

Calls to rethink the closure have increased since the closure of the A432 Badminton Road bridge over the M4 last summer.

Mr Lopresti said: “The situation at Hambrook junction is intolerable and creates inconvenience for local residents and visitors alike.

“I have experienced this myself, and many constituents have got in touch to voice their frustrations, too.”

Frenchay and Downend councillor Liz Brennan said: “While I accept that the right hand turn restriction was initially introduced in order to improve air quality, the increased journey times that have resulted mean we risk pushing the problem elsewhere.

“We need a better solution that works for all residents.”

‘Ridiculous’ to blame council

Council cabinet member Chris Willmore, part of the Lib Dem/Labour administration which took over when the Tories lost power last year, said the restrictions were put in place almost five years ago “following a direction from the Secretary of State” to tackle pollution at the junction.

She said: “It is ridiculous that councillors and MPs are calling for the council to change something set by the government in Westminster.

“The previous administration was unable to provide alternative solutions that would enable this layout to be changed.” 

Cllr Willmore said that to revert to the previous layout the council had to provide “two years of compliant data” for the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit to consider. 

But she said the government had refused to accept figures from 2020-22 because of the effects of the pandemic on traffic levels. 

Government tells council M4 bridge closure doesn’t change situation

Cllr Willmore said changes at the junction will only be allowed if the council can prove they would not make air quality worse – and the government might even insist on waiting for data from after the reopening of the Badminton Road bridge, in 2026.

She said: “The council has challenged the situation and been told that the bridge closure does not provide any justification to bypass the statutory direction.

“I have every sympathy with residents and businesses struggling with difficult journeys whilst the A432 bridge is closed, but I also have sympathy with people who are worried about the quality of the air they and their children have to breathe.

“This situation is not of our making but we will strive to find ways to help.”

A council spokesperson said the Joint Air Quality Unit had been given 2022 and 2023 air quality data and an assessment report would be published later this year to see if roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution levels were now within the legal limit.

Petition founder Angie Gay said: “It must cause more emissions travelling all the way down through five sets of traffic lights! It’s inconvenient and stressful.”

The petition can be found here.