Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A Summary of TARA’s positioning on Pollution and Traffic

Politicians don’t like dealing with traffic management issues because they always find themselves between a rock and a hard place because they must try to balance the desire to reduce traffic with the fact that the economic vitality of their constituency is linked to people coming to the area. This is particularly true of Bath as a major tourism and shopping destination.

In practice, there are only really two strategies for reducing the number of vehicles coming to the area:

·         creating a barrier to entry either physical or economic and/or

·         creating a public transport system that people prefer to cars.

From a political perspective, the former is a problem because it creates howls of protest and threats from the business community and commuters and can rapidly create real economic harm if managed badly. The latter is difficult, expensive and takes a very long time to implement. Both these strategies, but particularly the public transport option, are hampered by considerable legislative confusion.

For these reasons politicians tend to do nothing, or relatively pain free things like P&R, until the business community starts to complain about congestion which gives them some, usually short term, leverage to implement some traffic reduction measures.

TARA’s priority has always been the reduction of pollution not because we are entirely indifferent to congestion but because we are much more concerned about damage to peoples’ health.

Unfortunately, because their advisors have always had to tell them that the only way to reduce pollution is to reduce traffic politicians have been as reluctant to deal with pollution as they have with congestion.

Over the last few years this has begun to change. It is now possible, in policy terms, to see pollution and congestion as two separate problems. Euro emissions standards and the recognition of the disproportionate contribution of diesel engines means it is now possible to conceive of relatively low pollution levels from large numbers of vehicles in relatively short timescales. So, for instance, if you banned diesel cars from George Street and forced the bus companies to upgrade their fleet you would more than halve the pollution levels. Banning diesel cars would be relatively pain free politically, legislation is already been discussed, and BANEs are already moving to implement a CAZ which would force an upgrade in the bus fleet.

TARA is therefore focussing on getting BANES to do things to reduce pollution in the short term and are seeking to get the business lobby to support our campaign. This means that we are not pushing to arbitrarily ban traffic from the city but are pushing for measures which will encourage the adoption of new low pollution technologies and discourage older more polluting technologies.

There is one other area of vehicle generated pollution which needs to be addressed and minimised and that is braking. This is particularly important for the very dangerous 2.5 particulates. Clearly this can be addressed by reducing congestion but in lieu of any political enthusiasm for doing this the next best thing to do is manage the vehicles coming into the city to reduce the amount of driving and in particular stop-start driving they do in the city centre. We are therefore campaigning to have better coordinated and fewer traffic lights and better signposted off street car parking with a more realistic assessment of the amount of off street planning required.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Response to the Parking Consultation

Headline issues for Bath

Which elements of parking supply and management do you think currently work well?

The roll out of residents' parking spaces in the city centre

The Park and Ride Service

Charlotte Street Car Park

What do you see as the main problems and issues?

A failure of current policy to either reduce traffic coming into the city centre or provide adequate parking to get it off the streets

Poor signage to off street facilities

The use of parking spaces by motorcycles

Parking on pavements

Building new hotels and offices without proper consideration of the implications for parking provision

The early closure of Park and Ride car parks

Lack of capacity in P&R east of Bath

What one issue would you consider it most important for the Parking Strategy to address for Bath?

Getting cars coming to the city parked off street as soon as possible in their journey i.e. minimising low speed stop start driving in the city centre and minimising on street parking by visitors and commuters and where possible parking them outside the city.

Detailed issues for Bath

The development of the Enterprise Area sites in the City Centre (at Bath Quays/Manvers Street and Cattle Market) will affect existing public off-street parking (836 spaces).  The Transport Strategy (Getting Around Bath) requires retention of at least 500 of these public parking spaces when these areas are built-out.

What role do you see these retained and improved parking spaces having/who do you think should be the priority users?

Firstly, we think there should be much more careful analysis of the likely short term impact of any reduction in public parking spaces particularly in the planning phase of new development proposals. There should be a less formulaic approach to considering the parking implications of particular development proposals.

The priority use for this off-street public parking should be visitors to the city particularly those requiring long term parking.

Should the pricing strategy for this retained and improved parking be altered in any way to target different users?

Pricing should encourage overnight visitors to the city in preference to day trippers

There is already considerable congestion on radial routes into Bath and within the City Centre and work undertaken by the Council has shown that the ability to accommodate further traffic growth is very limited. Mindful of the development aspirations within the Enterprise Area to bring more investment and jobs into Bath, what is your view on the degree to which measures in the Parking Strategy should look to control car use for journeys into the City Centre for employment, shopping and other purposes? In particular:

The emerging Placemaking Plan, Districtwide, page 225, includes more restrictive parking standards for new non-residential development in Bath.  In addition to these new standards, what other measures would you consider necessary or desirable to help support these?

The policy of having hotel developments in the city centre with no parking provision is based on the demonstrably false hypothesis that hotel guest will therefore not use their cars when travelling to this city. The standard proposed in the placemaking plan is an improvement on this but we think that a much less formulaic approach is required. The realistic parking implications of individual development proposal need to be analysed and addressed properly.

The emerging Placemaking Plan makes provision for the potential future expansion of existing Park and Ride sites and the creation of a new Park and Ride site to the East of Bath.  What other measures, would you consider necessary or desirable to greater encourage use of Park and Ride?

The P&Rs should operate later, 7 days a week, and with secure overnight parking.  That would enable their use by evening visitors and those staying overnight, who cannot currently use them.

Pricing should be reviewed to ensure that under most circumstances it will be cheaper to use the P&R than come into the city centre.

Use of P&Rs could be further diversified and expanded to mean new demands created by developments and implement best practice for around the UK.

Do you support the principle of higher charges for central area parking as part of a package of measures to help manage traffic within Bath?

Yes, providing that:

·         P&R facilities and prices are adjusted to make them as attractive as possible

·         That pricing encourages off street over on street parking

·         That there is better enforcement of illegal parking

·         That resident only parking on-street parking continues to be expanded

Do you support the principle of further reducing off-street public parking (beyond that envisaged in the Placemaking Plan) to help manage traffic within Bath?

No, our concern is pollution, particularly small particulates, and its reduction in the short term. Pollution is damaging people health now and we need to be implementing changes to traffic management without further delay.

One of the factors that increase pollution in the city centre is people driving around the city seeking somewhere to park. While we applaud the plans to build more out of town parking, we also recognise that people will still need drive their cars into the city for the foreseeable future. Indeed, local businesses have repeatedly said that Baths economic viability requires vehicular access to the commercial heart of the city.

We, therefore, believe that it is important to have better planning for what to do with vehicles coming into the city that need to park. We would, therefore, like to see:

·         A more realistic assessment of parking capacity needed in the city centre.  Off street parking standards proposed in the Placemaking Plan are highly restrictive and should only be implemented if public transport is adequately expanded and developed to provide a satisfactory alternative to the use of the car.

·         An end to granting planning consent to hotel developments which have no parking provision

·         A proper strategy for managing coaches visiting the city

·         A firm principle that residential parking spaces cannot be removed without a plan to provide additional capacity elsewhere

·         That on street parking should be primarily for residents' use but with clear allocation of bays that businesses can use for their customer loading and collecting

Could the level of parking retained within the Enterprise Area be reduced from 500 in order to support the overarching policy of reducing traffic within the city centre?

No. it will just lead to more pollution, congestion and illegal parking because the public transport infrastructure is not and a far as we can see cannot be in place to reduce the traffic sufficiently in the timeframe being set for development of the Enterprise Area.

Do you think further expansion of the controlled parking zones will be necessary to discourage commuter on-street parking in areas surrounding the City Centre?

No comment

How well do you think the City currently caters for parking demands associated with major events such as the Christmas Market, Bath RFC matches etc. How could this be improved?

These events, which are increasingly frequent, further reinforce the need not think much more carefully about plans to reduce off street parking provision in the city. All these events create problems for residents seeking to park, leads to a huge increase in illegal parking and we suspect a spike in small particulate pollution.

Many of these events play an important role in the economic vitality of the city and poor parking provision and strategy are constantly limiting their success.

What are your views on the current provision for disabled parking, taxis or cycle parking within the City Centre?

Disabled parking provision does not seem to have a clear strategy. There are very under used dedicated spaces around the city and disabled badge holders parking on double yellow lines sometimes in very dangerous or disruptive places.

Taxis appear to park wherever they like without restriction. They often at night create unofficial taxi ranks at night which can be a source of considerable disturbance to local residents.

We have no particular observations about parking for pedal cycles. There are dedicated parking spaces for motorcycles in the city centre. Despite this more and more spaces designed for motor cars are now taken up by motor cyclists. We have even observed motorcycles parked on pavements which on Bath's busy streets seems to be inviting accidents. The situation is made worse by the fact that as we understand it, and the BANEs website confirms, there is NO CHARGE levied on motorcycles occupying on street parking slots. Why not? Not only do motorcyclist use their privileged position to occupy more and more of the city's limited on street parking places, often taking up a space designed to accommodate a car or van with just one motorcycle, but some of them put covers on their bikes and leave them for days, weeks and even months.

What role do you see for new technology in helping to manage parking within Bath?

New technology could play a role in reducing delays in leaving and entering parking facilities, directing people to the most appropriate parking quickly and efficiently and allowing more innovative charging strategies including higher charges for diesel engine cars.

Are there any other comments you would like to make about parking in Bath?

There is a real problem about the way parking permits are distributed and priced for non-residents. The limited on-street parking provision in the city should primarily be for permanent residents of the city with planned allocations for customer collections at local business. The practice of largely unregulated handing out of permits to B&B’s, holiday lets and student HMO’s and halls of residence should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

There needs to be a better system for allowing people working at residential properties to be able to have appropriate parking accommodation.

There should be some provision for city centre residents to get preferential access to parking for visitors.

On street coach parking continues to be an issue which requires better planning and better enforcement.

Plan to severely reduce waste collection services in the City Centre

We have just received notice that from November 6th households across Bath and North East Somerset will be changing to every other week collection for their rubbish. They will be providing every household with either a wheeled bin or a re-useable rubbish bag for the storage and collection of rubbish. We are told this will apply in the city centre.

This flies in the face of representations made on behalf of city centre residents and commitments from the council that they would not go for a "one size fits all solution".

The majority of city centre properties are divided into flats which do not have external storage, and very limited little internal storage. That any communal hallways must be kept clear due to fire safety. This limited storage capacity means fortnightly collection is not viable and indeed weekly collection may not be adequate.

City centre properties co-exist alongside businesses and tourist attractions. These streets are different to other areas of BANES and therefore need a different strategy.

That many properties are using gull sacks and other recycling boxes as permanent external “refuse bins”. Thus they are becoming permanent street furniture on Bath’s heritage streets.

Additional refuse is often left by the side of full, overflowing, soiled, filthy sacks. Many of the current Gull sacks are not taken back inside properties because passers by have filled them with organic matter, often fast food, which makes them unhygienic and unsanitary.

Discussion showed that there is no clear BANEs view of whether the priority is the recycling targets or clean vermin free streets this initiative seems likely to achieve neither.

The trials conducted with gull proof bags in the city have demonstrated that the system does not work well. Our visit to the BNES “flagship” pilot street – New King street showed the pilot to be an unmitigated disaster despite the resources that have been devoted to making it a "proof of concept".

We have be led to understand that the new proposals mean that rubbish left outside properties in containers other than gull proof bags or recycling boxes will not be collected by the waste collection contractors. We are unclear what happens to waste, which may have nothing to do with the occupants of the property involved, that isn’t placed in a gull sack. Does it just get left indefinitely?