Transport Report for FOBRA Committee Meeting 20 March 2018
1. B&NES Cabinet on 7 February approved some modest measures on parking, following the Parking Strategy consultation. My speaking notes are on the FOBRA website. The main change was that charges for longer stays in off-street car parks will increase, with the aim of encouraging more people (mainly commuters) to use the P&R instead of driving in. On the other hand, there will be a parking discount for B&NES residents, which could encourage more people to drive in. On balance, these changes are unlikely to make much difference to traffic levels, and could actually increase them.
2. The Council announced that resident vehicle permits would remain the same price, and that it would not introduce Sunday parking control. This was disappointing as FOBRA had supported Sunday parking control in our response to the consultation. Sundays in the centre of the city are now as busy as any other day, certainly as busy as Saturdays, and vehicles create just as much congestion and pollution on Sundays. Sunday is a difficult day for city centre residents to find parking if they have to move. B&NES have also foregone the chance to raise their revenue by 15% or so. The Council's stated rationale was that the majority of a focus group of 35 people preferred Sunday parking to remain uncontrolled.
3. The Cabinet approved the creation of a coach park at Odd Down. It is good that a permanent coach park has been found, although the problem will be making the coach operators use it rather than hanging round streets closer to the centre. The remainder of the coach parking strategy, which is deeply flawed, is apparently to be revisited. The issue of coach drop-off points remains undetermined.
4. Wera Hobhouse MP has been getting engaged in Bath transport issues, and organised a 'briefing seminar' at BRLSI on 23 February and an event with Transition Larkhall on 3 March. FOBRA attended both. We were not invited to speak, but the Chairman was invited to sum up at the BRLSI event (text on the website). A further meeting is planned in May.
5. At both events there was broad support for less traffic and pollution, more pedestrianisation, more P&R and better public transport. While this is welcome, it takes us no further than the Bath Transport Strategy, which was approved in 2014 with the support of 63 out of 64 Councillors. The problem is lack of any actual implementation of the strategy. I believe there are two main problems: the fear among politicians (of all parties) about motorists' reaction to restricting car access to the city, despite this being agreed Council policy in the Core Strategy, PRMS and Transport Strategy; and the current lack of good public transport as an alternative to private car use (although there are the three P&R which currently have spare capacity). On the first, our MP's engagement is welcome, and it was good that Cabinet transport lead Mark Shelford was present on both occasions to hear the demands for action. On the latter, WECA's new powers offer the potential for improved public transport. And trams may come to the rescue!
6. Against this background, the fact that the High Court has forced the Government to take action on air quality, and the Government in turn has mandated B&NES to bring down pollution after years of inaction by successive Council administrations, is crucial. That must involve measures to reduce traffic, since 92% of the air pollution in Bath is caused by traffic. Congestion is also an issue, blighting what is supposed to be a World Heritage Site.
7. B&NES has launched a series of drop-in events on the next Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), under the title Bath Breathes 2021. The first was at Widcombe on 21 February. Their 'Strategic Outline Business Case' will be published next month. We will be meeting officers to discuss this. B&NES announced that buses on Service 3, X39 and 17 will be upgraded to Euro VI emission standard, which will lead to a welcome reduction in air pollution along those routes.
8. Following a number of letters from residents expressing strong support for the continuation of financial support for bus Services 20A/C, FOBRA also wrote in support.
Patrick Rotheram, Transport Lead
5 March 2018