PR: Press statement from Bathampton Meadows Alliance in response to publication of Scrutiny and LDF reports

 The Bathampton Meadows Alliance (BMA) has expressed grave concern about “serious omissions and shortcomings” in two reports that are due to be presented to the council’s cabinet next week, and that are supposed to help it come to a decision about the controversial park & ride proposed for the east of Bath. The council’s cross-party Scrutiny committee held a public inquiry day in March into how to ease congestion to the east of Bath. During the day the committee heard a range of evidence from transport and academic experts, as well as from council officials and campaigners against the Park and Ride.
 Most of that evidence directly contradicted council officials’ claims that a Park & Ride will ease congestion and pollution. However, the BMA says the report that the committee has now produced fails to reflect this important new evidence strongly enough. And that as a result, the cabinet will not have the full facts when they evaluate the options in the coming weeks. A spokesperson for the BMA, Batheaston parish councillor, Emma Adams said: “These serious omissions and shortcomings in the information that the Cabinet has been given will seriously undermine public confidence in whatever decision the Cabinet makes.
 No evidence was presented at the Scrutiny Day that this Park & Ride would make any real difference to pollution or congestion in Bath, and in fact the evidence that was given instead showed that a Park & Ride would make pollution on the eastern London Road significantly worse.” The BMA said that the second report, by the Local Development Framework Steering group (or LDF), also failed to take into account the clear evidence that Bath’s three existing P&Rs are underused,* and that a fourth P&R would follow a similar pattern, failing to attract commuters or ease congestion.
 Councillors and members of the public attending the public inquiry day were visibly shocked when BANES’ own consultants, Mott MacDonald, said the proposed £10 million Park & Ride would at most remove 5% of cars on the London Road during the morning peak, and even that wouldn’t be achieved until 2029. As stated by Ms Adams: “This is a shockingly poor return on taxpayers’ money. Councillors are in danger of approving a costly white elephant because they have not been provided with the evidence that we all heard at the Scrutiny day that this Park & Ride will not achieve their stated objectives.”
 The BMA says it is particularly disappointed that the Scrutiny report continued to peddle the myth that Bath’s Transport Strategy commits it to a further Park & Ride. Ms Adams said: “Bath’s transport strategy only requires the Council to ‘establish the need for increased Park and Ride capacity’, and this is something that council transport officials have failed to do.”
 The BMA said council officials were instead relying on theoretical models that would require a huge shift in people’s behaviour to make a reality, and were using survey data from 2009 (which says 43% of users are commuters when new data available since 2014 makes clear that only 24% are commuters). The BMA said officials had also not done a proper evaluation of where traffic is coming from and why, and who will use a Park & Ride.
Ms Adams said: “This is despite the fact that they are required by their own transport policy to establish there is a need. Instead the body of evidence which does exist, and has been analysed, leads to the inescapable conclusion that a P&R to the east will not meaningfully contribute to reducing congestion and air pollution.”
 “Even the Conservative party manifesto only promised to consult on a Park and Ride, not to deliver one, and it is deeply concerning that a political agenda continues to dominate these discussions.” The BMA welcomed the fact that a number of its own recommendations were adopted by the Scrutiny panel, in particular the importance of the impact of air quality. However, as stated by Ms Adams: “This makes it even more surprising that Bath MP Ben Howlett has today again called for a Park & Ride on Bathampton Meadows when we know that building it will push toxic NO2 levels on the eastern London Road over the legal limit.
 The government’s own policy guidelines no longer recommend Park & Rides**. And all this comes on the day that a cross-party committee of MPs is declaring a national health emergency because of air pollution in this country. It is time that BANES and Mr Howlett listened.” The BMA will produce a full formal response to the Scrutiny report ahead of the May 4th meeting.
 * In the last year, on an average day only 38% of spaces at Bath’s P&Rs were used, and usage was lowest during peak congestion, at 24%
 ** Defra Local Air Quality Management PG16, 2016