Traffic-free days in Cheddar Gorge are one step closer

02 Apr 2024

Cheddar Gorge is well known as a spectacular feature of the Mendip Hills National Landscape. It is an obvious destination for rock sport enthusiasts with the country’s highest inland cliff, but also for walkers who want to take in the incredible setting and unique wildlife that can be found there. The Cheddar Pink is an example; this rare flower only grows on the steep, rocky slopes around the Gorge.

The National Landscape Team has used funding from Defra to explore the idea of closing the road that runs through the Gorge to vehicles, thereby opening it up to a wider variety of users. It is hoped that cyclists and horse riders would see the benefit of the scheme, as well as pedestrians, in particular those with limited mobility.

The proposal is to limit vehicle access to the Gorge on one day a month, and the public consultation was open for six weeks to capture as much feedback as possible, especially from local residents. More information about the consultation can be found here.

The National Landscape Team was delighted to see a huge amount of interest in the proposal. Over 1,700 people submitted a response, far more than anticipated. Over 80% of the respondents agreed that the Gorge could be more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-vehicular visitors.

The majority of respondents (71%) said they wanted to see the road closed on a Sunday, but Saturday was also a popular choice with 43% selecting it. 17% of respondents were not in favour of the road closure.

Around half (48%) said they would simply enjoy a traffic free environment, but there was strong interest from rambling groups (47%), cycling groups (46%) and families (45%) to use the Gorge on traffic free days. Additionally, a third of responses said they would like to see live music events and a quarter selected theatre performances, so there is a great deal of interest and opportunity that could come from this experiment.

Jim Hardcastle, Manager of the Mendip Hills National Landscape Team, said: “We are thrilled to have had so much positive feedback to this proposal and we are grateful to everyone who took the time to respond. We have received many comments expressing support from those who would be more likely to visit the Gorge on traffic free days to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the area.

“There were some respondents who raised valuable and interesting points which we will carefully consider. These include the speed at which cyclists may come down the Gorge, the impact on local businesses, the provision of parking and space for vehicles to turn around, and concerns about the length of the diversion route and impact on other roads nearby. We are confident that we can take these concerns into account when deciding on the next steps in the process.

“We are excited to take this project into the next phase, and look forward to improving this picturesque location by opening it up to a wider range of visitors. Over the next few months we will be working with partners and the Highway Authority to decide on the best options. Look out for updates from us later in the year.”

An Experimental Traffic Regulation Order trials changes in road usage patterns, enabling local bodies to test how effective these changes are in managing traffic, enhancing road safety and improving the environment. Businesses in Cheddar and the car parks at either end of Cheddar Gorge would remain open as usual during the ETRO.

Jim added: “There has also been some feedback that covers issues outside the scope of the temporary road closure. These include road improvements, support for local businesses and improved public transport. While these are out of our direct control, we appreciate this feedback being raised with us and will share it with partners who are well placed to respond.”

The full consultation report and further details can be found online.
Traffic-free days in Cheddar Gorge are one step closer
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