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Monday, 30 November 2020

Bath City Centre Security Proposals

The council intends to create a security cordon excluding vehicles from the entire commercial core of the city between Southgate and Upper Borough Walls (Milson, Green and Broad Streets are excluded). This will be done using existing fixed bollards plus five new moveable bollards controlling entrances to York Street, Upper Borough Walls, Cheap Street and Lower Borough Walls.

Within this area, access will be controlled by CCTV twenty-four seven. There will be a daytime and night regime allowing access for emergency vehicles, waste collection, commercial deliveries, etc. All residential vehicles, all parking including Blue Badge parking, parcel and package deliveries and taxis are banned twenty-four hours a day. You can get special access permits but it will take twenty working days.

Anyone living in this area will be essentially trapped unless they are able to walk, cycle or use mobility vehicles to reach shops and other facilities including Blue Badge and general-purpose parking areas. It is admitted that there are as yet no detailed plans for how to deal with taxis and for mobility-impaired residents. Emergency vehicles have five entrances to the area controlled by CCTV and will radio ahead to ensure access. Residents will be expected to book any vehicular deliveries or access by tradesmen several days if not weeks in advance when after a complex bureaucratic review which will require information about things like the vehicle identification numbers and the name of the driver they may be issued with a tightly restricted pass. The area contains St Johns Hospital, Arlington House and the Min Building.

The will be no parking in this area at any time.

The justification for all these draconian restrictions is vague but appears to be that in the past terrorists have used vehicles as weapons in crowded areas. This begs several questions:

  • Why this crowed area? There are many other city centres which attract crowds is the intention to lock them all down? There are other areas of Bath and BANES which attract crowds can we expect these restrictions to spread?
  • Why focus on this particular type of attack? Recent attacks have, for instance, been carried our by pedestrians with knives and rucksacks full of explosives. Does this mean we can shortly anticipate metal detectors and baggage searches before you can enter this part of Bath?
However, even if we concede the justification for these restrictions the plans seem to be designed to bear down on residents far more that is justified or equitable to such an extent that it almost seems aimed at deterring people from living in this area altogether.

The council seems to have given no consideration to helping or compensating residents at all and have only recently started to look at ways of helping even severely disabled residents. The current proposal leave disabled visitors a long way from the most popular shops.

Some example of where we believe BANES should be looking to support residents include:

  • Turning the proposed system for booking deliveries and trade visits on its head. Rather than leaving residents between the rock of an opaque bureaucratic permit process and the notoriously inflexible booking processes of major companies and harrassed small traders, residents should be able to contact council officers explain what they need and why they need it and have the council contact the companies concerned gather the information they need and make the arrangements for access.
  • Given the consistent failure of both central government and BANES to provide adequate affordable public transport a car is still essential for many city centre residents. We have already seen a considerable reduction in parking provision and these proposals will add to that. It is time that BANES acknowledged this reality and allocated "residents only" all-day parking in city centre car parks for residents in the area covered by these and other proposals to remove parking spaces.
  • We are advised that these proposals are likely to have an impact on property values in this area and we think that resident thus affected are entitled to get compensated
However, we would propose that BANES scrap this scheme in its current form and rethink city centre security when they have:

1. Identified a way that taxis can operate freely in the security zone. Many residents, particularly the elderly, depend on taxis for hospital, care home and shopping visits. Hotels with no on-site parking cannot operate without a taxi service.

2. Identified a way of allowing small package and food deliveries without twenty-day advanced consent. Many residents, particularly the elderly, depend on deliveries for food and online purchases.

3. Agreed to allow residents who drive cars to freely enter and leave the security zone even if they have to park elsewhere. Many residents depend on their cars for non-local shopping for themselves and their friends and neighbours.

4. Agreed to allow Blue Badge holders to park within the security zone as they do at present.

5. Demonstrated that the proposals have been successfully implemented elsewhere under similar circumstances.

BANEs should recognise that the city centre is at risk from more than just terrorism. The economy of the area is under threat from online retailing combined with the effects of Covid19 and new planning regulations can be expected to erode the council's long-standing, and wise, policy of maintaining retail frontages. At present, a much higher proportion of Bath residents live in city centre wards than in comparable cities (6% as compared with 3-4%) and they do much to support commerce there. To make the city centre a considerably less attractive place to live can only add to the challenges.

2 comments:

  1. I think the context of these changes are not completely understood here. Counter Terrorism Police instructs the council to jump. The council asks "How high?". The council does not question it and I suspect could be held legally liable if these measures were not in place should an attack occur.

    All of the scenarios you are presenting are about circumventing that instruction not to let vehicles into this space when busy with people shopping and on a night out because "hey what's the worst that can happen when we let vehicles in?".

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  2. Adam you are incorrect. According to the gov.uk "CTSAs also work with local authorities and businesses to identify and assess sites that may be vulnerable to terrorist attack. They advise them, and organisations and professional bodies, about counter terrorism protective security guidance that should be incorporated into their general crime prevention plans, advice and guidance." It is very clear from everything that is said that they act as advisors when asked, they do not tell local authorities what to do.

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