Bath Rugby Club’s grand proposals for its future development fail on one very important environmental and health issue – according to Bath Newseum regular Ian Herve.
He is very concerned about the impact of both an underground car park and a raised and artificial turf pitch.
Ian has let me print in full a letter he sent to the Bath Chronicle.
‘On the 11th of July the developers who, for the moment, own the Bath Rugby franchise and call themselves Arena 1865 Ltd., published their Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report.
The public are not allowed to comment on this document on the planning portal, which would be the sensible place to do so, so I am forced to write to you in the hope of reaching a wider audience.
There are several things, which I list below, that should be considered by the developers and their environmental advisers and included in their final report.
- 1) The most pressing and of greatest environmental and health impact is the combination of a car park and a hybrid, artificial turf pitch.
It is now well known that the dispersal of Microplastic particles and Nano-particles is worldwide. They have been recorded from the highest mountains to the deepest oceans. Last week a report in the journal, Environmental Research, reported that the hearts of young city dwellers contain billions of toxic air pollution particles.
An EU scientific report of April of this year entitled Environmental and Health Risks of Microplastic Pollution puts the case for a grand policy change to stop a potential environmental disaster. They specifically mention both transport, through tyre and brake pad erosion, and artificial turf. They are known to be carried by drainage waters and picked up by wind currents.
There is no requirement for the natural turf of the Recreation Ground to be substituted with concrete and plastic, inviting significant pollution into a place where nothing of the sort exists now.
We are told it will stand for 100 years. The developers will be long gone to their country estates and offshore accounts whilst our great-grandchildren, as yet unborn, will be left ingesting and suffering the consequences.
- 2) The developers say that there is no need to discuss demolition effects of the stadium because it will last so long. This is not true of an artificial pitch which has environmental costs on both installation and end of life disposal and replacement.
3. 3) The developers make play of raising the pitch above the I:100 annual flood return level plus 20% to allow for climate change. This, of course, then makes room for a carpark to raise income.
This is not a requirement of the Environment Agency. As convener of the Abbey Ward Flood Group (now Bathwick Flood Group) I have had many cordial and informative meetings with the EA engineers over the years. The last was in March of this year at their request. It was categorically confirmed by the EA that their only concern is that flood risk is not increased elsewhere by any construction. They are quite happy with the pitch as it now is and would not object to it remaining as it is and has been since 1865 of course. It is the developer’s choice to install an artificial turf pitch that causes them to plan the 4.2 meter platform on which to play. All of the social benefits they promote could be done just as easily from ground level, indeed now in fact. No large arena required.
- 4) The £1 million offered by the developers towards the removal of the Radial gate at Pulteney is not a benign social conscience at work. The EA, although very keen to remove the Radial Gate, have a right of access for a 100 tonne crane in case of emergency work at the gate. This will be blocked by a permanent stadium so it is a necessary part of any massive development that blocks access to the river across the Recreation Ground.
5) In our various discussions about flooding with the EA and B&NES Drainage andFlooding officials, a fear of the gates at Twerton and Pulteney failing, not closed but open has been commonly mentioned. This is because, we are told, of the “uncertain effects” on the historic buildings of Bath should the river drain and the groundwater flows be disturbed. A grand excavation and development at the Recreation Ground will undoubtedly disturb groundwater flowing through the site. Can the developers give a guarantee, a real guarantee and not just a best guess assurance, that this grand structure will not affect the stability and damp in Great Pulteney Street?
This is probably enough to be going on with for the moment but I think it highlights the insufficiencies of the scoping report as published.
This might sound like a groan from a NIMBY standing in the way of change. Not so, I don’t live in Great Pulteney Street and the development doesn’t threaten my house as it will some of the grand historic houses there.
I am a long term player and fan of rugby and I have supported Bath’s Rugby Team for all of those years. Finally moving to Bath I had the extra joy of becoming a season ticket holder. I love rugby but I treasure Bath much, much more. As a Mayor’s Guide, I can tell you that you would be hard pushed to find a tourist who has ever heard of Bath Rugby.
Bath is unique in the world; rugby stadiums are not.
Ian Herve Bath.’
What do others think? Let me know.