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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

What would you do to reduce congestion and air pollution in Bath?

FOBRA recently posed this question to the three main political parties

The Labour Group said:

“The Group supports any move to reduce transport pollution and also carbon emissions . In the case of private car transport the problem can only be relieved by a more effective provision of public transport. Up to now this has been proposed to be met by the Bath Package funding offered by the previous government .However the reduction in the funding and alterations to the package proposed by the present Government make this, in our view, a much less attractive solution. We would wish to see instead of a total reliance on Park and Ride solutions better and cheaper bus services and investigation of the options for greater use of rail e.g at Keynsham and Oldfield Park. The Transport Commission chaired by Peter Hendy will presumably be working on some innovative solutions but unfortunately our Group have not been offered a place on the Commission”

The Lib Dems said:

“Sustainable transport is the key to reducing congestion and air pollution in the city. We need real alternatives to private car travel, not a tarmac bus road through back gardens in Newbridge that won‟t make any difference. We need to improve public transport, through real time information and on street ticketing for example, and we need to do more locally to encourage walking and cycling. In addition, we need to work to get HGVs out of Bath city centre.”

The Conservatives said:

“This is perhaps the most pressing issue facing Bath. Parts of the city have some of the worst pollution levels in the country, and congestion is set to become increasingly worse over the coming years if nothing is done to address it. Furthermore, Bath‟s congestion is cited time and again by businesses as the number one reason why more companies do not establish themselves and grow here, holding back our local economy and stifling jobs creation.
I believe that we are the only Party with a credible plan to tackle congestion in the city. We have remained committed to the Bath Transport Package and Greater Bristol Bus Network project, we have established a new independent Transport Commission for Bath to oversee transport improvements, and we are taking action to cut the city‟s HGVs by creating a consolidation depot for those making deliveries into Bath and proposing an 18 tonne weight limit for Cleveland Bridge.

The Bath Transport Package is the only viable option if we are to be serious about improving Bath‟s transport infrastructure. It has received the backing of many local businesses, the Bath Chamber of Commerce, both the city‟s Universities and organisations such as Travelwatch South West. Expanding our already successful and overcrowded Park and Rides will significantly cut the number of cars entering the city. The East of Bath Park and Ride will finally address the appalling congestion on the London Road, taking thousands of cars off it every day. And the Rapid Transit route will provide a fast and reliable public transport spine into the city to open up the second phase of Western Riverside and encourage more commuters out of their cars.

We will therefore remain committed to the Bath Transport Package and to securing Government funding for the scheme. We will also invest in local bus services, delivering Real-Time information displays at bus stops along key routes and continuing to subsidise threatened bus routes, as well as liaise closely with the new Transport Commission on any other innovative proposals they may have for improving Bath‟s transport.”

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Comments on applications under the Gambling Act 2005

TARA has no wish to re-visit arguments for and against the city’s decision to host one of the mini casinos permitted under the 2005 Act. Stage 1 applications for Provisional Statements currently under consideration are concerned largely with the applicants’ background and credentials and their willingness to meet standards and objectives set by the legislation and the Council. We do not feel competent to assess the four competing bids against these criteria and have elected to confine our comments to matters of most concern to our members, namely the possible impact of the mix of uses proposed on the immediate area in the case of the four selected sites and the quality of the schematic building concepts put forward.

The mix of uses suggested by the applicants includes, in addition to the casino, ‘leisure and entertainment,’ hotels and ‘commercial development,’ shops restaurants and bars, retail, a conference/auditorium facility and apartments.

Residents will expect that premises which sell alcohol to the public will be subject to the usual requirements of the Council’s Licensing Policy under the Licensing Act 2003 including the Cumulative Impact Policy.

Some uses such as ‘leisure and entertainment’ and ‘commercial development’ are not defined in sufficient detail to allow comment.

Residents will have no objection to the provision of further shops, hotels and apartments in the city centre if there is a demand for them and there will be support for the much needed auditorium, though whether Bath citizens will wish to see this combined in a single building with a casino as one applicant proposes must be open to question.

The casino should not be sited close to residential neighbourhoods particularly where homes are, or are likely to be, occupied by families with children. This will be particularly important where, as appears to be the intention in some cases, 24 hour a day operations are proposed. Residents must not be disturbed late into the night by smokers, arriving and departing customers and the slamming of car and taxi doors. Sites close to schools, churches and other places of worship should also be avoided. This would seem to preclude the Manvers Street site which, as well as being a part residential area, is close to St John’s Catholic Church and the Bath Islamic Centre at 8 Pierrepont Street. The Cattle Market car park is also close to residential areas including The Tramshed where there are families with small children. On this basis Saw Close, already home to the Theatre Royal and Komedia and where there are relatively few occupied homes, would seem to be the most appropriate location.

So far as the schematic building concepts are concerned, with the exception of the proposal for Saw Close which largely makes use of existing buildings much in need of renovation, none of the schemes submitted would, in our view and on the basis of the limited information available at this early stage, come anywhere close to offering the potential that ought to be required of such a key leisure facility in a city of Bath’s international standing. There is no mention, in any of the submissions, of the city’s aspirations for development in the city centre as a whole, or of the constraints and opportunities provided at each of the three selected sites. All three sites are of major importance to the city’s future development and character and none of the practical or visual issues relating to their development has been addressed.

We recognise, of course, that this is an early stage in the evaluation process and that detailed licensing, let alone planning, submissions have yet to be made. We do not feel, however, that even the limited information available at this stage should pass without comment and trust that the concerns of city centre residents, both as to content and quality, will be fully taken into account as the project proceeds.