City centre security scheme goes ahead

The closure of York Street for security reasons can go ahead following a decision by a transport inspector – after a public inquiry – to recommend plans to close it for anti-terrorism purposes.

Work on the whole city centre scheme will get underway this summer with access measures for Blue Badge holders in place.

Mr Rory Cridland, the inspector appointed to conduct the inquiry, said he found a clear and compelling case for the making of the traffic order and considered it to be a proportionate response.

He also found that the council had carried out an extensive consultation exercise and that all those who should have been consulted had been given an adequate opportunity to make their views known.

And he concluded that not proceeding with the traffic order would, in his view, “materially undermine the council’s overall approach to security in this part of the city.”

The public inquiry was held after one objector upheld their right to object, triggering the inquiry into the council’s Traffic Regulation Order for anti-terrorism purposes to close York Street, as part of a city centre security scheme for Bath.

The inspector noted there were initially 111 objections to the Order, all but one of which was subsequently withdrawn before the inquiry.  

Councillor Manda Rigby, cabinet member for Transport, said: “I am very, very pleased at the decision reached by the inspector which upholds our decision to close York Street and which also acknowledges this as a proportionate response. I am also delighted that the inspector acknowledged the council’s extensive consultation, particularly on the work to balance the needs of disabled users with the need to protect the city centre from terrorist attack.

“I was very pleased to see the high level of support this scheme received from the police, residents, and businesses and am delighted that their views were given weight against the individual requests of one objector. This has been a costly inquiry however we will now follow the process of closing York Street and work to install protective measures to reduce risks associated with vehicle-borne threats posed by terrorists and criminals.

Work on the city centre scheme will get underway this summer with access measures for Blue Badge holders in place. And we will continue to work with businesses, residents and disability groups as we implement the scheme.”

The inspector’s report noted that no disability groups maintained a statutory objection to the Order and that evidence indicated that the council was able to address and or resolve the majority of the concerns raised regarding access for disabled groups and users.

It said that it was suggested during the inquiry that the council had sought to keep disabled people out of the centre of Bath. However, the inspector stated that, “no evidence was offered to back up this assertion and on the evidence before me it appears that the council has gone to great lengths to seek to address the concerns raised. Indeed, it seems that a considerable amount of thought has gone into how to balance the needs of disabled users with the need to protect the city centre from terrorist attack.”

He also noted: ”Overall, I consider the proposals to be fair and equitable and any disadvantages to persons with disabilities, including BB holders, have been minimised. Having considered the matter in the round, I am satisfied that the public sector equality duty has been adequately met.”

The security proposals include vehicle access restrictions on streets defined as crowded places in and around Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths while maintaining managed access to the city centre for residents, businesses and blue badge holders.

They were initially based on a counter-terrorism security survey on Bath city centre in September 2016 which identified the areas as being vulnerable to a potential hostile vehicle attack.

In February 2020 Avon & Somerset Police Chief Constable asked Bath & North East Somerset Council to consider an ATTRO covering the wider city centre of Bath which would be used in the event of a heightened threat, specific intelligence, as a result of an incident or if there are events taking place that create crowded places.

Following consultation with Counter Terrorism security advisors and the council, which centred around the crowded places indicated within the National Counter Terrorism Security Office report, it was considered proportionate to introduce permanent restrictions covering a smaller area in the city centre resulting in the current measures, which the Chief Constable supported.

The council has continued to work alongside the Counter Terrorism advisors to protect these areas, through both physical measures and training for front line staff, both from public and private sector.

Under the scheme Blue badge holders are permitted to park on Cheap Street, Westgate Street and Upper Borough Walls on double yellow lines for a period of three hours, subject to space being available, via controlled access.

Details about the inquiry and the inspector’s report are on our website  https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/york-street-bath-public-inquiry

The scheme:    

  • Cheap Street, Westgate Street, Saw Close and Upper Borough Walls: vehicle access restrictions from 10am to 6pm, with controlled access permitted for Blue Badge holders and carers, or taxis carrying Blue Badge holders as a passenger.
  • Lower Borough Walls, Stall Street, Abbeygate St, Abbey Green, Swallow Street (south), Bath Street, and Hot Bath Street; vehicle access restrictions from 10am- 6pm
  •  York Street: extend restricted access operating hours to 10am to 10pm, to support the increased footfall which is anticipated from Terrace Walk to the new Clore Learning Centre and World Heritage Centre
  • Extra Blue Badge and resident permit parking and loading spaces nearby, but outside of the restricted area.

To implement or enforce parking restrictions of any kind on a public road, a Traffic Regulation Order first needs to be introduced. The city centre security scheme proposed uses a combination of TROs and Traffic Regulation Orders for anti-terrorism purposes.  

The proposed orders were amended from the proposals first laid out by the council after listening to feedback from residents in its previous consultation, which ran from November 2020 to January 2021. They have also been informed by an independent Accessibility Study.