Glastonbury Town Council Rejects A361 Proposals

Blog post, 4/11/2019

The A361 in Chilkwell Street, looking towards Coursing Batch. In August a local newspaper report suggested that rather than building a bypass, houses could be demolished here to allow for the road to be widened. This was apparently a ‘misinterpretation’ of what had been said by the South West Peninsula Sub-National Transport Body. When proposals appeared from Somerset County Council and Mendip District Council, this option was not mentioned.

On Tuesday October 29th there was a closed meeting of Glastonbury Town Council. Press and public were excluded at the request of Mendip District Council. Glastonbury’s Town Councillors seemed increasingly frustrated and mildly bewildered by this continuing attempt to keep the issue away from the public domain, which has led to rumours and speculation and has tended to erode the public’s trust in their elected representatives.

At the meeting it was decided to respond to the proposals from Somerset County Council and Mendip District Council (see ‘Latest Plans for Glastonbury Bypass’, 7/10/19) by rejecting all four suggested routes intended to bypass Glastonbury. The Town Council also said that there is insufficient room on the ‘island’ of Glastonbury for development on the scale implied by the funding proposals, and asked for a more ‘wholesome’ approach to the whole matter. They are expecting a reply to which they can further respond, by which time it will be after the general election.

This response was not just from the Green Party Town Councillors who now form a majority on the Council. One Lib-Dem Town and District Councillor told me that all the four routes around Glastonbury were ‘nonsense’, and had been hurriedly put together as the result of pressure being brought to bear from central government level. This suggests that the campaign for a bypass is being encouraged by the Transport Department, which is of course promoting its plans for a Major Road Network including an upgraded A361/A39 between Shepton Mallet and the M5. Although he no longer has direct links to the Department for Transport, the immediate answer to the question of who is driving the effort to get these plans accepted and in place would appear to be James Heappey MP.

At Mendip District Council, Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats have been “fighting like ferrets in a sack”‘ as one observer put it, to pin the blame for these proposals on each other. They originated under the previous Conservative administration, though now Conservative councillors are demanding that the proposals should be “taken off the table” immediately. This puts them in the position of being disloyal to their own MP; one Conservative councillor has been heard to persistently blame Heappey’s ambitions for development of the A361 for the current impasse. Meanwhile the Lib-Dems, who inherited the situation, have done nothing as yet to put a halt to the District Council’s money being spent on further development of the proposals, or to stop them being put forward to central government for funding consideration.