Conservatives in Bath & North East Somerset have slammed attempts by opposition councillors to put a stop to what they describe as a much-needed improvement to Bath’s transport infrastructure.
The criticism comes following the decision of Lib Dem councillors, together with three Labour Councillors and one Green councillor, to launch a formal challenge of plans to progress Bath’s long-discussed Eastern Park & Ride by calling-in the Cabinet’s decision of a preferred Park & Ride site.
Reacting to the call-in, Councillor Anthony Clarke (Cons, Lansdown) said:
“In all the years the Lib Dems ran the Council, they failed to take any meaningful action to improve traffic and transport in the city. So it’s a shame that, alongside Labour and Green Councillors, the Lib Dems are now trying to block any attempts to deliver much-needed improvements to Bath’s transport infrastructure.
“For too long, Bath has been let down by stop-start projects and a lack of investment in its transport infrastructure.
“That’s why, in 2014, councillors from all political parties came together and agreed upon a comprehensive Transport Strategy for Bath that included new and expanded Park & Ride provision. It’s therefore disappointing that Labour and the Lib Dems have decided to abandon working cross-party for the long-term good of the city and have instead returned to opposing much-needed investment in Bath’s transport infrastructure.
“The Lib Dems’ latest stance is particularly surprising given the significant amount of time and money they spent on the project when they were running the Council.”
Commenting on the need for an East of Bath Park & Ride, Councillor Tim Warren added:
“A new eastern Park & Ride is an important part of our wider plan to improve transport, tackle congestion and support the growth of our local economy.
“We have followed a robust process to assess the need and demand for an eastern Park & Ride, and looked exhaustively at all the various site options in deciding upon our preferred site. We have taken on board all the comments received, and will go to great lengths to ensure the Park & Ride is sensitive to its surroundings and screened from view.
“Bath is set to see significant economic growth in the coming years, but with these new jobs will come increased traffic unless action is taken now. Alongside other measures such as improved rail services, more cycling provision, and an A36-A46 link road, an eastern Park & Ride will play an important role in helping address Bath’s well-known transport issues.
“It’s for these reasons the Park & Ride has received wide support from local business organisations, residents associations and transport groups.”
Background to the East of Bath Park & Ride:
The need for an East of Bath Park & Ride has been identified for over twenty years, with numerous reports, studies and consultations undertaken over this time.
Prior to the local elections in May 2015, the Council’s then Liberal Democrat administration actively promoted the building of a ‘rail-based’ Park & Ride on the Bathampton Meadows (Site H) – and even spent taxpayer’s money purchasing a property on the land, despite this site being judged unfeasible due to costs, engineering and its location within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
(Site ‘H’ – p.31-41 http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Planning-and-Building-Control/Planning-Policy/Evidence-Base/Transport/bath_eastern_pr_sites_options_2013.pdf)
In November 2014 all parties on the Council voted to approve the ‘Getting Around Bath Transport Strategy’, which included new and expanded Park & Ride provision as one of the key measures to manage traffic growth.
In March 2016 the Council’s Communities, Transport & Environment PD&S panel held a ‘Scrutiny Inquiry Day’ to look at the issue of transport to the east of Bath, with the Cabinet accepting all except one of the panel’s six recommendations.
A total of 21 potential sites for the Park & Ride were investigated by the Council’s cross-party Local Development Framework (LDF) Steering Group – work which formed the basis for the final officer recommendation of either Site B or F.
Evidence on the need for an East of Bath Park & Ride:
Exhaustive studies and consultant reports have been undertaken on the need and demand for an East of Bath Park & Ride – all of which conclude that a new Park & Ride would be well-used and needed to support the economic growth of the city. They also conclude that without a new Park & Ride traffic congestion in Bath will be worse in the years ahead.
11,000 new jobs are set to be created in Bath by 2035, with the number of people coming in and out of Bath set to rise from 73,000 a day to 96,000 a day by 2029.
Despite being recently expanded, Bath’s three existing Park & Rides reach an average of 63% full Monday-Saturday, and are predicted to reach capacity in the years ahead as traffic continues to grow.
A 2016 report for B&NES Council by transport consultants Mott Macdonald on the proposals for an East of Bath Park & Ride stated that:
‘It can be concluded that in the context of Bath, Park and Ride intercepts motorists, many of whom would otherwise drive into the central area in search of a parking space and adding to congestion. Hence Park and Ride reduces car kilometres travelled and the vehicle emissions associated with those journeys.’
Based upon detailed modelling of future traffic movements within Bath, a further report by Mott Macdonald also concludes that, in relation to building an East of Bath Park & Ride:
‘Both DS [Do Something] scenarios are also predicted to have some significant impact in reducing traffic on London Road west, the reduction ranges between 5% and 10% across different time periods.’
And Mott also state that: ‘…reducing peak traffic by a relatively small amount will be effective in addressing congestion.’
Another traffic modelling report undertaken in November 2014 by transport consultants CH2M on the measures proposed within the Getting Around Bath Transport Strategy concluded:
‘Whilst modest expansions assumed to the existing capacities at the Odd Down and Lansdown sites will clearly contribute, the largest potential for car trip abstraction will be a site to the ‘East of Bath’. In all the EA tests undertaken the potential reductions to existing traffic achievable on the A4 London Road and Bathwick Street with this proposed facility in place gives positive decongestion benefits to this part of the network. This is because the existing traffic reduction effect is likely to outweigh any increased traffic impact on this corridor due to the EA developments. The results suggest that the operation of the highway network is likely to be severely compromised if development in the EA proceeds apace, but the implementation of a new P&R site on the east site of Bath is unavoidably delayed due to continuing uncertainty over the actual location, or as a result of this not built at all.’
(Page 7.2 http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Planning-and-Building-Control/Planning-Policy/Evidence-Base/Transport/bath_ea_transport_strategy_technical_report.pdf)
On the issue of ‘suppressed demand’, Mott Macdonald conclude:
‘It is acknowledged that the road capacity freed up by motorists using Park and Ride could be filled over time. However, Park and Ride functions best in combination with other measures designed to reduce the attraction of driving into the city centre to park.’
Political Assistant, Conservative Group
Bath and North East Somerset Council
There has been much opposition to the proposals – including a major demo outside the Guildhall while Cabinet made its decision.