THE former leader of North Somerset Council has criticised plans to spend almost half a million pounds to undo much of the controversial scheme on Clevedon seafront.

The council executive voted unanimously on Thursday March 27 to spend £425k on reversing changes made to The Beach by the council when Steve Bridger (Yatton, Independent) was the leader.

But Mr Bridger warned that the issue had been weaponised by what was often “a rather nasty campaign”.

There had been outcry in the town after beloved sea-view parking was removed from the town’s Victorian seafront and replaced with a cycle lane, “bizarre” wiggly lines, and a buff road surface compared to the “yellow brick road” from the Wizard of Oz as part of a scheme funded by Active Travel England.

The partnership administration formed after the 2023 local elections — which saw Mr Bridger leave the executive and his former deputy leader Mike Bell (Weston-super-Mare Central, Liberal Democrat) become council leader — committed to an independent review of the scheme.

Now, as recommended by the review, many of the changes are set to be reversed, although the one-way system and 20mph speed limit will remain, along with a new contraflow cycle lane.

But Mr Bridger urged the council executive at their meeting on Thursday to only make changes necessary for road safety.

He said: “In my view, after making the tweaks following the road safety audit, the right course of action would have been to let the scheme bed in for a further 12 to 18 months. That’s what would normally happen.”

Mr Bridger warned that the scheme had been weaponized by “a rather nasty campaign”.

He said: “Now, the executive wants to reverse the seafront parking because of — I think, in my view — those who shout the loudest and the reaction of the Daily Mail.”

He warned that it could damage the council’s relationship with Active Travel England.

But the council’s executive member for highways and transport, Hannah Young (Clevedon South, Labour) insisted that the council was not being asked to repay funding to the body and had been told the changes would not affect their ability to receive more funding in the future.

Mr Bridger added: “The executive has decided that the car remains king in Clevedon and that is purely a political choice and, in my view, a backwards step.”

Mr Bell said: “This partnership administration believes in trying to do things with the community, not to the community. When we get things wrong we will hold our hands up and recognise that and try and put it right.”

Two Clevedon locals addressed the meeting and welcomed the planned changed.

Cathy Hawkins, a founding member of the “save our seafront” campaign, said: “It just shows that if you fight to change something, it can be changed.”

Malcolm Simmonds, who has run Beach Pottery on the road for almost 40 years, thanked Ms Young for meeting with locals and working on the changes. He said the scheme has caused “chaos,” leading to people speeding on the road and people blocking the loading bays “essential” for his business.

Mr Bridger stressed that he was not including Mr Simmonds in his comments about the “rather nasty” campaign.

North Somerset Council will take £153k out of its capital and revenue reserves to help meet the £425k price tag.

£50k which was to be spent on repairing the slipway in Clevedon — a project the council say is not at the implementation stage — will also be redirected to fund the changes to the road. Other sources of funding for the works will include another unallocated £21k from the Great Lakes project, along with section 106 money from developers and local transport plan funding.

Work on the seafront could start in the autumn, in order to avoid disrupting the seaside town in the summer, and it could be completed by the end of the year.