Want to know how many Bath Spa undergraduates cycle to classes or how many people crammed into Bath last year for the Christmas Market?
Then you should have been amongst the audience at yesterday’s Transport and Pollution briefing organised by the city’s MP Wera Hobhouse.
Organised at the BRSLI on Friday afternoon, Mrs Hobhouse had invited various representatives from local institutions and transport services to address ways in which they might contribute to easing some of this World Heritage city’s environmental issues.
She made it clear she was not looking for ‘quick fixes’ but a long-term solution – focused on the future well-being of Bath. This meeting was just an opener to a series of district get-togethers of residents and groupings – leading to a big city conference at the end of May.
Though she was happy to hear the views of everyone from our universities, traders, tourism chiefs and transport officials – she wanted the ‘big debate’ to be ‘citizen-led’.
But let’s not keep you waiting any longer for some facts and figures on cyclists and fans of our Christmas market.
According to Neil Latham – Chief Operating Officer of Bath Spa University – 32,126 cycle journeys were made each year and 62,572 journeys on foot.
The University was not now planning enormous growth and – though a third of its students were in rented accommodation – that number was falling as more student residencies were built.
The University of Bath also confirmed that it was not looking to increase its undergraduate population. Vice President, Professor Steve Egan said they were developing a new Masterplan and wanted the public to come along to a ‘consultation’ being held at Carpenter House – near Churchill Bridge – on March 15th between 12 and 7pm.
Here’s some more university facts and figures for you. According to Professor Eagen, 1 in 17 working people in Bath are employed by the University and – while students might have the best bus service in Bath – at least 59% of them use it!
Moving the bus service ‘stops’ away from the city centre might ease congestion – suggested one member of the audience? There was no answer! The question of peppercorn rent was also raised but not really pursued. This was a meeting about transport and pollution after all!!
David James – Chief Executive of Visit Bath – is always a cheerful chappie. Managing to put a brave face on things – despite the fact his tourist and booking office has been moved out of its salubrious Abbey Courtyard suite to a rather smaller – tucked away shop at the Terrace Walk end of York Street.
Last year’s Christmas Market had attracted 410,000 people over 18 days – he said – and they were planning to build on its success this year – maybe even moving up into Milsom Street which would be closed for the duration. It was a big money earner for the city – even if – according to a taxi driver in the audience – many of his and his fellow drivers customers – moaned about it.
Overall, the city gets around six million visitors a year but 83% of those are day visitors and the majority come by car.
Mr James wants to encourage more people to stay longer and would like to see better car parking facilities to encourage that!
He reminded those present of how we all benefit from our tourism – however tiresome it might get in high summer. There are ten thousand jobs on the tourism payroll – that’s ten percent of employment – and without the visitors, our council tax bills would increase by £80 a year!
Ian Plain – from Bath Federation of Small Businesses – told us there were 8,210 businesses in B&NES and the majority were small affairs employing a handful of staff. The High Street was changing with retail outlets falling from 585 in 2011 to 560 in 217.
The ‘big boys’ from First Bus, Network Rail and GWR rounded off the afternoon with reassuring ‘noises’ about investing in new less-polluting vehicles and bigger trains.
Apparently – when it comes to buses – we make 270,000 customer journeys a week!
Meanwhile, seventeen and a half thousand of us pass through Bath Spa Station every day and – although electrification of the line to London has slowed to a government-induced halt – we are still ‘benefitting’ from new rolling stock which is allowing greater capacity and a faster service.
This coming Easter the regional network grinds to a halt for major signalling work which will increase capacity even more in the future!
l left at that point. I didn’t hear our MP sum up the afternoon’s presentations. It wasn’t a bad turn out for a time when the majority of Bathonians were at work and students at their studies.
A well-meaning gathering of carefully-crafted presentations. l noticed several contributors leaving as soon as they had stated their case!
Though there were questions this was not the place for debate. We have smaller discussion group gatherings to come – starting in Larkhall on March 3rd – and then the big city conference at the end of May.
‘Talking is good but it’s time for action’ – said Cllr Dine Romero – leader of the Lib Dem B&NES Group. Whether anything actually happens to deal with Bath’s environmental issues at the end of this new initiative remains to be seen.