While we were not consulted in its development, in general we support the principles of the proposed transport strategy together with the recommendations that flow from them. We support, in particular, a reduction in the use of cars for commuter trips in favour of modes such as walking and cycling which improve air quality and the health of individuals.
We strongly support the creation of an eastern park and ride and in principle we also support some well thought through constraints on long term parking in the city centre. However, such constraints should not be imposed until such time as adequate park-and-ride facilities are in place on the entire city periphery.
We agree that conditions for pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre should be improved and we support the reduction of extraneous through traffic especially on city centre streets.
We note however, that many of these principles and recommendations have been the subject of previous reports, have been the policy of successive councils for many years, sometimes for decades, but have been implemented only partially, haphazardly or not at all.Examples of this include:
· the enforcement of standards in the Air Quality Management Area
· serious constraints on through traffic and especially heavy goods vehicles which have no business on Bath streets
· a park and ride facility east of the city
· the quality of environmental design and management, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, on city centre streets.
The Public Realm and Movement Strategy, which was designed to address this latter issue, was generally well received and made a promising start but seems to have run out of money and political support. In consequence our city centre still fails to meet standards which are commonplace among European peer cities. It is unfortunate, in this context, that the strategy contains no detailed proposals covering costs, staging or timing, for its implementation.
TARA and the City Centre Action Group are primarily concerned with the potential impact of these proposals on city centre residents. Our estimates suggest that, at about 6%, the proportion of Bath residents living in the historic core wards of the city is about twice comparable figures for UK peer cities such as York and Chester. City centre residents are the eyes and ears of the community at all hours of the day and night; we support the city centre economy throughout the year and few of us commute by car or use our cars for shopping trips. There are a number respects in which we believe transport policy in the city centre should more closely and more urgently reflect the needs and concerns of city centre residents. In our view the most important of these issues is:
Perhaps more than any other group city centre residents suffer from unacceptably high levels of nitrogen dioxide on our streets. Reports indicates clearly that NO2 levels have consistently exceeded legal levels for almost twenty years and are not declining.
The Action Group has made representations to the European Commission through Julie Girling MEP and we understand the UK government faces legal action for failing to take steps to reach mandatory air quality standards in urban centres including Bath. It is galling, to say the least, that there is a prospect that Bath citizens may see their taxes being used to pay fines imposed on their government and local authority for consistently failing to protect them from poor air quality.
It seems to us extraordinary that Bath only has a coach management plan at Christmas, that existing restrictions on coaches in Brock Street are not enforced and that coaches that do not intend to stop in Bath have unrestricted access to the major historic sites.
The council should consider allocating a higher proportion of the dwindling number of on-street parking spaces available in the city centre to residents. Increasingly residents are finding that they are unable to use the permits they have paid for because available spaces are occupied, often by commuters or shoppers. Moreover it is for the most part impractical for residents to use the park and ride facilities available to others. Implementing the modal shift proposals outlined in the report should include an increase in parking provision for residents at the expense of other users even as the overall supply of spaces declines.