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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Rugby Club proposed new stadium


The efforts of the rugby club to reach out to the community at the earliest possible stage are appreciated.  Moreover, TARA has consistently supported the development of a new stadium at the Rec.  We believe that the presence of the stadium adds an essential element to the character of the city as well as contributing to the health of the city centre economy on which we depend and to which we also contribute.


Given the high proportion of Bath residents who have chosen to live in the centre of the city however, about twice that of comparable cities, there is obviously the potential for a serious clash of interests.  It will be our purpose as proposals for the new stadium develop to ensure, so far as we can, that the rugby club and the people living around it emerge from the process as good neighbours.  As the residents association for the city centre we will be particularly focused on the following


Planning and Design



Our members are clear that only a design of the highest international standards in planning and design will be good enough for Bath.  We endorse the suggestion made elsewhere that an international design competition would be appropriate.


The height of the building should be carefully considered.  The preservation of sight lines from various locations around the city should be a priority; for city centre residents the view east over the stadium roof to the hills is of particular importance.


A stadium is an inherently inwardly focused structure with a serious security issue at the perimeter.  In a city centre location, however, these two factors should not combine to produce a ‘defensive’ structure which fails to offer an open and inviting face to the surrounding area.


Treatment of the river bank where the needs and expectations of rugby fans,  residents and visitors to the city must be reconciled is a key issue.  Activities which increase the noise and disturbance already associated in the city centre with the consumption of alcohol should be avoided and any attempt to treat the riverside as an extension of the night time economy will be resisted.



Capacity and Use



City centre residents are accustomed to the occasional use of the stadium for purposes other than rugby football.  But they are alert to the risk that the club will seek to extend the type and frequency of alternative uses to the point where disturbances become intolerable.  A regular view of the evolving business plan for the new stadium would do much to mitigate these concerns.


Traffic and Access



One of the reasons the rugby club is able to thrive in its city centre location is because the city as a whole, and the city centre in particular, are important regional transportation hubs. Consultants working on earlier proposals were thus able to conclude, plausibly in our view, that the main effect of the additional 4,300 supporters likely to converge on the stadium on busy match days would be felt, not in the form of increased traffic congestion on city centre streets, but in a marked increase in the use of existing public transport systems and in increased pedestrian traffic in areas around the stadium.  ‘Mitigations’ proposed therefor focused almost entirely on improvements to public transport, trains, buses and park and ride.


These are needed without doubt, but there are other actions that in our view the club will need to consider


While it may be true that the number of supporters arriving in the city by car but not using park and ride is unlikely to increase significantly we have anecdotal evidence of large numbers of cars on match days unused to the city centre road layout adding to congestion and harmful emissions by circling in search of parking space as well as an increase in illegal parking particularly in residential areas around the city centre such as Henrietta Park.  In addition to providing zero parking space for its supporters at the stadium the club should work with the city to increase deterrents to car usage by supporters on match days and crack down on illegal parking in areas where enforcement patrols are currently relatively inactive.


Of course, almost all supporters arrive at and depart from the stadium itself on foot.  The number of pedestrians crowding streets around the stadium on match days is excessive to the point of being a nuisance bordering on a danger to the public.  Earlier analyses failed to address this problem which impacts residents, visitors and supporters alike. Unfortunately, links to the stadium for pedestrians are poor, relying too heavily on flights of narrow, twisting stone steps leading to the river bank stadium entrances from Argyle Street and North Parade.  The planning and design team should use currently available software to model the circulation patterns of fans approaching and leaving the stadium just as they do with vehicles. Layout of pedestrian entrances to the stadium and improvements to pedestrian routes should be planned accordingly.  In particular the council and Bath Rugby should work together on planning a new pedestrian bridge across the river linking the stadium with the commercial heart of the city to which many supporters are drawn during their stay.  A new footbridge will benefit visitors, residents and businesses as well as rugby supporters and will greatly enhance our city centre. 








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