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Friday, 18 July 2014

GETTING AROUND BATH


In general TARA supports the principals outlined in the report 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 support constraints on long term parking in the city centre in favour of external park and ride.  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 in passing, 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 include the enforcement of standards in the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), serious constraints on through traffic especially heavy goods vehicles which have no business on Bath streets, a fourth park and ride facility east of the city and the quality of environmental design and management, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, on city centre streets.  In the latter case the Public Realm and Movement Strategy, which was well received by our members and others and  made a promising start seems to have run out of steam so that our city centre still fails to  meet standards which are commonplace among European peer cities.  It is unfortunate, in this context, that Section 3 of the report, Delivering the Strategy, contains no detailed proposals covering costs, staging or timing, for delivering the strategy.

At TARA we are concerned primarily with the potential impact of the 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 two respects in which we believe transport policy in the city centre should more closely reflect the needs and interests of city centre residents.

Parking.  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.

Air Quality.  Perhaps more than any other group city centre residents suffer from unacceptably high levels of nitrogen dioxide on our streets.  The report indicates clearly that NO2 levels have consistently exceeded legal levels for almost twenty years and are not declining.  TARA has made representations to the European Commission through Julie Girling MEP and we 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.  

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