The fight over a bypass in rural Somerset — which has set neighbouring villages at loggerheads with each other — is set to be decided in 2023.

The village of Banwell on the northern slopes of the Mendip Hills has been calling for a bypass to be built around it for decades.

The A371 carries traffic from Weston-Super-Mare right through the heart of the village, where the road narrows down to a small lane, causing frequent congestion.

“Currently the traffic is two metres from my house and garden,” said Steve Sadgrove, who lives on the road. He added: “I don’t hear the traffic much in the house but, when it’s busy, if I have family and friends in the garden, you can’t hear each other when traffic whoshes past.

“Depending on the wind direction, fumes can be bad so I have to keep windows closed.”

One local resident, Steve Voller, decided to take direct action on traffic fumes. He said: “Last summer, I used an outdoor air quality monitor to record traffic particulate pollution on West Street near the school and at times it was worse than in some parts of London!”

He added: “Over the 20 years I’ve lived in Banwell, the traffic has increased significantly with increasing delays, frustration, pollution and actual physical damage to some properties.”

Plans for a bypass were finally included in North Somerset Council’s draft Local Plan at the start of 2022. These would see new roundabouts on the A371 on each side of Banwell with the road curving northwards around the village.

But people living in neighbouring villages are concerned that the bypass could push the bottleneck down the road and lead to congestion down their streets.

Objections to the bypass have been raised by the parish councils of Winscombe and Sandford, and Churchill — with Churchill parish council taking the dramatic decision to write to the Prime Minister and ask him to put a stop to the bypass.

But Patrick Keating, who represents Churchill on North Somerset Council, disagreed with their letter. He said: “”Local residents who need to travel to Weston for work, education or medical appointments are very keen for the Banwell bottleneck to be unblocked. I have been pushing hard for investments in measures to improve road safety and active travel in Churchill as part of the scheme, and am pleased to see these being brought forward.”

Plans for a controversial 2,800 home new village just north of Banwell were included in North Somerset Council’s draft Local Plan alongside the bypass. This has fanned the flames of the bypass debate as some see the bypass as enabling these homes to be built.

Karin Haverson, who represents the Banwell area on the council, said: “People with good will are disagreeing about how to solve an almost intractable problem in a fair way.”

One Banwell resident living on the congested street said: “If you look back at the history of the villages, Banwell as a commercial centre has been destroyed by this road. Even 30 years ago there was a stream of shops and businesses all the way up Banwell West Street.

“Well look at it now. Its just a wasteground.”

Ms Haverson added: “For the sake of our neighbours in Banwell, the bypass is a necessity but we need the optimal traffic calming measures for Sandford, Winscombe, and Churchill.”

A consultation is currently underway on the traffic calming measures and a decision will be made by North Somerset Council on whether to approve the plans to build the bypass early in 2023.