The B&NES Conservative Cabinet will decide today (25 January 2017) whether to build an East of Bath park and ride on the Bathampton water meadows. Lib Dem opposition Councillors are attending the crunch Cabinet meeting to speak out against the plans.
Those speaking at Council:
- Councillor Alison Millar (representing Bathavon North ward, Alison is the only non-Conservative Councillor in the ward in which the park and ride would be built).
- Councillor Dine Romero (representing Southdown ward, Dine is the Leader of the Lib Dems on B&NES Council).
- Councillor Neil Butters (representing Bathavon South, Neil the Lib Dem Council Group’s transport spokesperson).
The proceedings of the Cabinet meeting can be viewed online: webcast; and the Cabinet decision papers can be seen on the Council's website: papers. The Lib Dem Councillors' speeches can be viewed below.
Speech to B&NES Special Cabinet meeting on the East of Bath park and ride by Councillor Alison Millar:
I have no words to express my disappointment today. I really thought that, after the findings of the scrutiny panel and with all the evidence produced by the incredibly motivated people of Bathavon North, that common sense would dictate that this project would never see the light of day. That the cabinet would acknowledge that it will not work, that is it so environmentally destructive of the green valley approaches to our World Heritage City that it would be beyond contemplation to pursue it. That the land would be given to residents to save it from any future development, to show this Council’s commitment to the principles behind the idea of the greenbelt. Then I woke up.
So what is there left for me to say to you? I have been wracking my brains, for a new train of thought, for new ideas, for more clearly enunciated reasoning to show you the folly of this project.
The only thing I can truthfully say is that this is a terrible, terrible decision. You do have the power to take this council in whichever direction you lead it. If I were in your position I couldn’t inflict something of this magnitude on a whole section of the community who are so vehemently opposed. IF a solid business case had been presented with indisputable facts, then there would be nowhere near this level of opposition and residents would have had no choice but to accept it for the good of the whole community.
But to come up with the same project as before and then present it with the same low level of justification– that is unforgiveable. To end up with senior officers having to come up with every trick in the book to FORCE it through - is wrong. What’s worse is that up to £21 million of public funds is going to be wasted yet it will, as all the Council’s reports agree, lead to hardly any impact on congestion and pollution levels. Don’t the people of Bath deserve a scheme which will fully address their public health and transport concerns? Vague justification of it being required for the “future economic development of Bath” doesn’t cut the mustard. Many residents feel strongly that future economic development is simply not worth it if projects as devastatingly harmful as this are the price we have to pay. We could lose our City’s World heritage status and that is unthinkable.
I can’t finish today without reiterating my key concerns:
As long as there are car parking spaces in central Bath people will drive in. You can build all the Park & Rides you like – but you can’t make people use them!
Ask anyone and they will tell you that access to Bath in the school holidays is bliss. This project does not address that issue. Any Councillors in touch with the real world would tackle the school run as a priority. The HGV traffic also is not dealt with by the scheme and simply to say that a link road is coming in 10 – 20 years – well that won’t help now.
What will happen when drivers park at the new Park & Ride, get on a bus and almost instantaneously hit congestion on the London Road? They might do that for a couple of days perhaps – but not long term. People will realise that Lansdown park and ride has none of these issues as the bus route is unimpeded and it’s the most timely bus route in Bath (according to the MD of First Bus.)
A fully integrated transport policy for the 21st century is what is required for this City and this Tory Council has failed to produce it. Instead, purely for short term political reasons, it has come up with a rehashed version of an utterly discredited scheme that has huge drawbacks and nothing going for it.
You have said that you have no choice. I stand here now and say you have every choice. Please do not do this.
Speech to B&NES Special Cabinet meeting on the East of Bath park and ride by Councillor Dine Romero:
Cabinet, you cannot be under any illusion as to the strength of feeling provoked by these proposals.
You have heard, time and again, that this park and ride plan is not wanted, that it won’t work, and that it will damage the community and the environment.
You have heard from local people, from colleagues, from your own Group, and from experts.
I hope you have listened.
You have decided that now is the time to make a decision. This is your decision and your responsibility. The results cannot be blamed on officers, or the government, or the previous administration, or on sub regional policy processes.
Delegating the choice of two options to the strategic director of place is an attempt to distance yourselves from what is a truly bad decision and to deny accountability.
This is unfair to officers and to residents. Where is the transparency? How will residents find out what is going to happen – will they now need to wait for a press release or for a digger to turn up on their doorstep?
Neither site B nor site F is a good enough option.
You do not have to adopt the recommendations before you. If all the options are bad options then the work on alternatives must continue until a better solution is found.
Bath deserves better. And so does North East Somerset.
These current proposals would lead to a costly white elephant, if it ever even came to be built. You are going up against a community that is organised, resourceful and stubborn.
I do not believe this project is deliverable and in pursuing it, you continue to throw good money after bad. You will cost the council – the taxpayers – a huge sum of money. And for what?
Just to tick something off an ill-conceived manifesto?
Speech to B&NES Special Cabinet meeting on the East of Bath park and ride by Councillor Neil Butters:
As the Liberal Democrats Transport spokesman I would like to offer a way forward that does not involve building on the Meadows. The nature of the problem has changed over the last few years and we need to look at it with fresh eyes.
Two immediate new positives are: first the current drive to upgrade the A350 through the western outskirts of Chippenham, including improving Junction 17 on the motorway and a bypass for Westbury. I know Cllr Tony Clarke has been avidly pursuing this and I thank him for it. That should take some of the north-south traffic away.
But also, a new Junction 18A is to be built ‒ which will take some of the east-west traffic away. That too is good news.
We can make a further dent in the traffic coming down the A46 by greatly improving the signage to Lansdown Park & Ride ‒ with repeater signs leading up to the roundabout at Cold Ashton, and perhaps providing a further roundabout at Tog Hill.
However, my main suggestion comes in the wake of Bristol City’s recent announcement for a major rail inquiry ‒ officially known as the ‘Bristol Rail Enhancements Feasibility Study’ ‒ to examine the potential for extending MetroWest; as far as we are concerned currently due to run from Bath Spa station empty to, and terminate in, the freight loop at Bathampton.
Up until very recently, the main problem with expanding rail provision has been an acute shortage of rolling stock. With the Crossrail project and GWR electrification however that is set to change radically.
Large numbers of Turbo diesel multiple units for example will become available from the Thames Valley.
We need to be looking seriously at reopening not only Corsham station but perhaps also one of the former stations at Box, and running MetroWest on at least to Chippenham ‒ where there is an unused main platform; but probably further to Oxford.
On the Trowbridge line, there should be longer, faster trains ‒ some perhaps running non-stop to Westbury, on to Frome ‒ and indeed Radstock via the new, private North Somerset Railway.
In short, rail travel could easily become a great deal more attractive locally, and in a fairly short space of time. We need to seize the opportunities in front of us.
I am therefore calling for a moratorium on the East of Bath Park & Ride issue until such time as a thorough rail inquiry is held within Bath & North East Somerset and neighbouring areas ‒ to run concurrently with the inquiry in Bristol.
It could be concluded by the end of the year and we could move on from there.
A final thought: just two of the new 10-car InterCity trains will hold some 1,400 passengers. About the same capacity, you will note, as the whole of the envisaged Meadows Park & Ride.
Your local Liberal Democrats rely on the help of supporters to deliver for residents in Bath and North East Somerset. Select one of the tiles below to find out how you could help