Liberal Democrats in North Somerset have welcomed the raft of cycling investment and initiatives that have been committed in the authority announced during the Coronavirus Outbreak. Temporary cycle routes, alongside investment packages in more long term Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plans, and a free Bike Loan for up to three months will all go a long way to encouraging the healthy and thriving future of Active Travel in the district.
Cllr Mike Bell, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group in North Somerset Council, has led calls to the Government and Parliamentarians to limit outdoor travel limits for outdoor exercise under the eased lockdown rules announced this week. “We don't want visitors to come to North Somerset,” said Bell, the Deputy Leader of North Somerset Council, who commented on the need “to keep our open spaces for local residents only for the time being to keep our area safe.”
Under government rules, people can travel unlimited distances for outdoor exercise, sunbathing, picnics and sport as long as they stay in their household group and practice social distancing. This means that many people may choose to hit the beaches and open spaces of North Somerset.
Cllr Bell, who is the Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care added: “we'd like the government to clarify the rules and limit distances that people can travel and give police the power to enforce this. We all want to ease the lockdown and get our lives and economy back to normal, but it has to be done in a phased way and not risk a dash to the seaside or tourist areas.”
Cllr Bell’s comments followed the well-publicised Don’t Visit Weston Campaign launched by Tourism bosses in North Somerset Council. A Council Spokesperson stated: “We’re asking would be visitors to please stay away. Don’t visit North Somerset. Not yet. Not at the moment. We don’t wish you were here and we’re not open for visitors. Our priority and our main concern is protecting the health and wellbeing of our local communities.”
Mayor of Weston, Mark Canniford, amplified these messages, commenting: “We will be open again soon and look forward to seeing our visitors then but for now, stay away and stay safe”
North Somerset Council needs to produce a new Local Plan as the existing document expires in 2023. Attempts by the previous administration on the council to agree a Joint Spatial Plan with other West of England authorities collapsed last year due to problems with the details that were highlighted by planning inspectors.
Local Plans are about the big strategic decisions on planning for the future of communities over a 15-year landscape. They also spell out how housing development is to be achieved and where and help prevent a ‘free-for-all’ by housing developers that would occur if there was no Local Plan.
The government has imposed a target on North Somerset of building an extra 15,500 houses in the period 2023-38 over and above the current commitments of 5,035 houses - so an extra 20,535 houses in total.