Campaigners against an East of Bath Park and Ride scheme on Bathampton Meadows have fired off another ‘salvo’ with an open letter to Bath and North East Somerset Council’s leader. Cllr Tim Warren.
And while he’s replied – saying the Council has ‘always been open and upfront’ – seems that’s not satisfied the person who sent that opening letter to him.
That was written by Sian James – the person who raised the Freedom of Information request on discussion between the Council and the Highways Agency.
The letter is address to the Council Leader, Cllr TimWarren, and l quote it in full.
“For the attention of Tim Warren, leader of B&NES Council:
Dear Mr Warren,
I raised an FOI on the East of Bath P&R discussions between B&NES and Highways England (HE) on March 1st 2017 with both B&NES and HE. Highways England has responded – B&NES has not.
The council’s press release that was issued last night says that the email of “February 10th was an initial response and work and discussions are on-going”. This may be the case. However, HE has verbally confirmed to me that there was no further correspondence documented after February 10th – which leads me to assume that any further conversations must have been off the record – which is convenient as B&NES was aware on March 1st of my FOI request.
The council also suggests that February 10th was the first that it knew of HE’s concerns. However the FOI emails suggest otherwise:
On November 28th, B&NES was told by HE that the modelling performed by Mott MacDonald was ‘not as robust as it could be’. On December 1st, , B&NES was told by HE that ‘general concerns are being articulated by our operational people’. On January 13th, B&NES was told by HE that ‘there are still some issues on approach’ and that ‘there are more hazard/risks than those included’. These emails culminate in the email on Feb 10th which states: ‘I am unable to support the proposed access’ due to ‘concerns in operational and safety terms’.
However, given these HE safety concerns (that the new junction on the bypass will have a much increased risk of accidents in particular side swipes and shunts during peak times), I am shocked to see a statement, in an email from Mott MacDonald on January 31st that requested a face-to-face meeting or telephone conference, that ‘x suggested that HE may well accept broader economic benefits as a trade-off for the safety case’.
Can this be true? That having parking for a few more shoppers is worth the risk of people losing their lives on a poor junction?
It is at least positive that there is no pretence that the proposed P&R has any benefit of reduced pollution and congestion on London Road – it is about ‘wider economic benefit’.
Cllr Clarke is quoted today on Twitter as saying that the February 10th email is from a junior member of HE staff and so is not final. It is true that the email is labelled as DRAFT. However, it appears to have come from B&NES’ working contact that B&NES was chasing for a response. This also does not explain why, throughout the email exchanges since November 28th, HE has been telling you that they have concerns. It is also deeply shocking that Cllr Clarke appears to believe that HE can be leaned on until someone somewhere is willing to trade political gain for driver safety.
We have seen the lack of respect shown to residents over the library debacle, with the Council saying ‘we have not said the library is moving’ when there has been a huge sign in the library saying ‘ the library is moving’. Now B&NES is telling us that it is continuing to progress with Site B – when Highways England say that the junction is dangerous and they cannot support it.
This is why Bath Deserves Better organised a march on April Fools’ Day – to say to the council that enough is enough – stop treating us like idiots – we do Deserve Better.
Now – this afternoon – comes a reply from Cllr Warren – which l give in full.
Thank you for your letter.
The Council has always been open and upfront about the fact that access into site B would be challenging due to its proximity to the curve of the bypass.
In the report considered by Cabinet on 25th January 2017, paragraph 6.29 specifically spells out the difficulties in achieving the minimum desirable weaving length and the need for additional technical work in order to reassure Highways England (HE) that safety would not be compromised. This report went onto reaffirm the need for HE to be reassured about safety at the junction. The report also recognises that ‘final approval will be needed from HE for this access’ so Cabinet were well aware that the final decision on the deliverability of Site B is dependent upon confirmation from HE that they are satisfied that access to the site meets their safety requirements.
As stated, the letter received from HE on the 10th February was an initial draft response to preliminary access proposals to Site B. Discussions have remained ongoing between the Council and HE since this time over the potential options for access into Site B that would satisfy HE’s requirements.
Obviously, it is normal practice for officers to have conversations, informal meetings and discussions with partner organisations over such matters as work progresses.
As conversations are still ongoing and technical work is being undertaken with HE, the Council’s position remains unchanged. Clearly it is not appropriate for the Council to give a running commentary on all the ongoing discussions it has with stakeholders over projects such as these, but once there are final proposals to publish these would be made fully available.
Ultimately, if the discussions relating to Site B cannot be concluded satisfactorily, the Cabinet has agreed to hold Site F in reserve, which is within the Council’s ownership and gained previous planning permission in 2009.
Cllr Tim Warren”
Meanwhile, Sian James has replied as follows:
Thank you for your response to my letter – however it misses the point that I have still not had a response to my FOI request of 1 March 2017 which is well overdue from the 20 day statutory limit for responses. Why have I not had a response?
If I recall correctly, the access for B was known to be a challenge during the consultation 18 months ago. However B has always been positioned as your favoured site so I find it incredible that it gets to this late stage that it is not resolved. Surely it has been RED on your Risk Register for all of the last 18 months?
For all of those 18 months you have caused untold harm to the Horler family – and for what – if Highways says no?
At the Cabinet meeting it was stated that a decision on B would be weeks not months – I think you owe it to the Horler family to come clean and make a decision to move to F.
If after 18 months the access has not been resolved, after spending how much money on designing it, it’s time to say enough is enough and listen to Highways and move on.
If it is true that discussions are taking place over a trade off of safety versus ‘wider economic benefits’ I find that totally shocking – and of course you will appreciate that there are ZERO wider economic benefits of a junction at B – as in fact you can move to Site F.
Please Tim, stop the spin that is coming from B&NES at the moment (whether on P&R or moving the library) – it really is very unbecoming and even life long Conservatives are seeing through it.