Toll Road hero faces losing home

Bath residents will be delighted to hear that Kelston Road has re-opened and that Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Councillors were out in the pouring rain at 6am on Monday morning to make the opening photo shoot. But that cutting of the ribbon has cost Bath taxpayers’ dear. Aside from the original sum, the Council has approved another £660,000 to complete the road. 

An eyewitness told me they saw road builders working day and night – no doubt at extra cost – to make sure the road opened as quickly as possible. The eyewitness suggested he thought this was to deny Mike Watts any more income from his toll road, which made national headlines when he attempted to keep traffic flowing in this part of Bath. He even appeared on Fox News in the USA last week!

Taxpayers will be deeply concerned that Mr Watts might suffer financial loss as a result of his endeavour. Throughout this whole affair, I'm of the opinion that Council leader Paul Crossley and his administration have acted appallingly, showing little actual support for Watts - from ridiculous planning demands to woefully inadequate signage. Funny, though, how their other essential road-works around Bath have ground to a halt thanks to their incompetence - but they could find the extra money and will to finish Kelston Road early. I hope Mike finds it amusing…

His partner certainly doesn’t find it funny and has lambasted the council in an open letter for the local newspaper. “We applied for retrospective planning permission because it was the right thing to do but I wish we never had,” said Ms Race.

“It has cost us a further £25,000 so far,” she explains. “Most recently they have dug up an archaeologist from somewhere and they seem utterly determined to, dare I say it, bankrupt us. We have used our home as a guarantee for the costs of the temporary road, which was a decision we came to with our eyes wide open, but it seems to have fired B&NES up to do whatever they possibly can to escalate our costs, so that we do actually lose our home.”

The Council, for their part, has said that it has been “very accommodating” and has followed national guidelines. A spokesman also told the Bath Chronicle that “the Council has offered Mr Watts the use of electronic signs (at his cost) and also for his traffic consultant to be involved in designing the signage.”

Further, the Council argued that the additional £660,000 was “following further investigation works at the site, which discovered that below the land which had already moved, there was another layer of “soft rock” which was also at risk of sliding.”

Tim Newark is the grassroots co-ordinator of the TaxPayers' Alliance in the South West. 

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