1. Transport issues have been very much to the fore since the last meeting. B&NES's proposals for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) have attracted vigorous public comment and put the spotlight on transport. The Bath Alliance for Transport and Public Realm held a conference on the Future of Transport in Bath, as did Bath Trams on ...trams.
2. I submitted the FoBRA response to the CAZ consultation on 16 November following our internal deadline for comments. I am grateful to members who commented. Some members commented after the deadline, so I was not able to take their views into account. In general, they leaned more towards a Class D CAZ (including cars). Robin Kerr and I took part in consultation sessions on 24 and 26 November with B&NES and their consultants Jacobs, at which they produced graphs – not included in the consultation papers – which showed a higher chance of compliance with a Class D CAZ, which is hardly surprising. The graphs focused on a very narrow band around the legal limit of 40 μg/m3 of NO2, which emphasised what is a small absolute difference (of about 1 μg/m3) between the impact of a Class C and Class D CAZ. It was confirmed that the results in the AQ3 Modelling Report on which our response was based were valid.
3. The key point is that neither a Class C nor Class D CAZ will by itself achieve compliance. A Class D CAZ is forecast to have exceedances at two central locations, while the Class C CAZ is forecast to have slightly greater (by 1 μg/m3) exceedances there. That is even before any exemptions for taxis, Blue Badge holders, or school coaches. Therefore B&NES needs to complement a CAZ with measures to reduce traffic volumes. This could include more stringent parking control in the centre to encourage the use of P&R, or measures to restrict city centre through traffic. A comprehensive city traffic management plan would obviously be required to deter rat-running in residential areas. We hope that our views on the need for additional measures to achieve compliance will be reflected in the next stage of the Council's work. In the light of these developments we submitted a rather more nuanced revised response. Robin also wrote to the Chronicle. These papers will be placed on the FoBRA website.
4. The introduction of the CAZ has highlighted transport issues in Bath. Already concerns have been publicised by the haulage industry. Concerns have been expressed about the impact of a Class D CAZ, particularly on low-income households and on businesses. The introduction of the CAZ will bring into sharp relief issues such as the need to provide viable alternative means of access to the city, improved public transport, the improvement of park-and-ride provision, freight consolidation and the provision of an alternative route for through traffic, particularly HGVs, that currently uses the A36-A46 route through the city. B&NES may finally recognise the need to develop a comprehensive transport plan for Bath. Bath's transport needs must also be included in the WECA JLTP4, particularly in view of WECA's responsibilities for public transport.
5. The Bath Alliance for Transport and Public Realm held a successful conference on transport in Bath on 16 November, attended by some 180 people. There was general consensus that traffic congestion as well as air quality needs to be tackled urgently. Among a range of excellent outside speakers, Sir Peter Hendy observed that there was a perfectly good transport strategy in place for Bath, but that the city lacked the political will to implement it. The political parties set out their ideas.
6. On 24 November Bath Trams held a conference on 'Trams as a solution to Bath's Transport Problems?' FOBRA had been invited to speak but in the event there were so many speakers that there was no room for Robin's speech. There were a number of excellent speakers, who made a good case for the engineering viability of trams in Bath. However, there remains a need to establish the business case and sources of funding, as well as to address the special planning and heritage issues in Bath.
7. B&NES issued a consultation draft of the new Local Plan to replace the current Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Planning-and-Building-Control/Planning-Policy/LP20162036/local_plan_2018_final_website.pdf
So far as transport is concerned, the draft Plan fails to reflect the current policy for transport in Bath, as set out in the Core Strategy and supporting documents, which call for a city centre free of all but essential traffic; instead the emphasis is on simply reducing traffic growth. If confirmed, that would represent a major change to the current adopted Core Strategy, which the Council should be challenged to explain and justify. We will submit amendments to bring the draft into line with current adopted policy.
8. B&NES has announced the opening of the Odd Down long-term coach park, with 29 coach parking spaces and toilet facilities within the Park & Ride site. This is welcome, as coaches staying for more than two hours will be able to park there rather than on roads around the city. It remains to be seen how many choose to do so. Coaches will still drop off and pick up in the city centre, and coaches on shorter visits will continue to seek parking in the central area. We await the revision of B&NES's totally flawed coach strategy to deal with those issues.
9. Following a campaign by Bath University students, Beech Avenue Association and others, First Bus announced that in January 2019 the U1 bus will revert to its original route around the city centre including Dorchester Street and the Guildhall. A small number of buses – the U1X service – will travel direct from Oldfield Park to the University of Bath. While this will be welcome to some, it is a retrograde move for the city centre, which witnessed a major reduction in traffic congestion when the service moved. Air pollution almost certainly reduced, although the change has not lasted long enough to verify this.
Patrick Rotheram, Transport Lead November 2018