Crucial proposals for improving air quality in Bath will not be made public before they are signed off by the Cabinet members and submitted to government later this month, it has emerged.
B&NES has been given a 31 March deadline to submit its plans for bringing nitrogen dioxide levels in Bath below legal limits. The Council is claiming that this short timescale means the ‘Strategic Outline Business Case’, which sets out the options under consideration, cannot be published and that normal decision-making procedures cannot be followed.
Speaking at a meeting of the Communities, Transport and Environment panel this week, Walcot Councillor, Richard Samuel, raised concerns about this lack of transparency and due process and called for panel members to be given the chance to scrutinise the proposals.
Councillor Samuel commented:
“Tackling Bath’s terrible air quality is one of the most important challenges facing B&NES Council. The negative impacts of air pollution on residents’ health, on the environment and the local economy are well known. We want to see the Council taking concerted action to improve air quality; that’s why we proposed a Clean Air Zone for Bath.
“It’s disgraceful that the Conservative Cabinet appears to be trying to avoid scrutiny of the options for cutting nitrogen dioxide emissions. The deadline has been known since last July, so time for a proper democratic process should have been built in. Yesterday’s Communities, Transport and Environment panel meeting would have been a timely and appropriate moment for the Cabinet’s proposals to be shared with Councillors and the public.
“Instead, the decision report has been brought out at the last possible moment, the options paper has been kept secret and the usual democratic process has been suspended, meaning that this decision cannot be challenged. Why should this be the case? One might think that the Cabinet has something to hide.
“We had no clear answer from the Cabinet member yesterday, who was unable to say why the report was not yet available. Bristol City Council is on the same schedule and their outline business case has already been published and approved.
“There is no reason that the Cabinet members couldn’t publish at least some high-level information about the options being considered and I call on them to do so without delay.”
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