Dear Mr Warren,
This Sunday, the 25th, it will be five months to the day since your cabinet formally decided that Bathampton Meadows will be the site of your new Park & Ride. The only decision still to take was: would it be Site B, which you said was your favoured site, or Site F?
You said there should be a decision in about four weeks. But five months on, there has still been no announcement. All we’ve heard is Highways England saying it can’t support Site B because access from the Batheaston bypass would be too dangerous.
During those five months, however, the political landscape has changed, nationally and locally. Here in Bath we have a new MP, one who has very publicly opposed the Park & Ride.
Of course national policies and their own campaigns played a part in Wera Hobhouse’s victory and Ben Howlett’s defeat. But, as Alex Brown wrote so eloquently last week in the Bath Chronicle, there’s also “no doubt the decisions the Tories made locally were a huge factor at polling stations” and that the fierce anger in the city about the Park & Ride plans, the library, the arts cuts, came “crashing down on Ben Howlett’.
That’s why Bath bucked the national trend, and there was a 17.5% swing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats.
And, as Alex Brown also wrote, this public anger is not going to go away.
So please, we ask again, let’s have a conversation about the way forward. Let’s have a proper debate. Your party, the Conservatives, said in their manifesto in 2015, not that you would build an east of Bath Park & Ride, but that you would consult on one. You did that in autumn 2015, and 51% of people said they didn’t want one; however, you have pressed ahead regardless.
More than £3mn of public money has now been spent on this project before a single brick or inch of tarmac has been laid. To be fair, a third of that was under the previous administration and includes the purchase in 2013 of Bathampton Farmhouse at a cost of £971,577, a decision that you personally supported. We’ve only just been given access to these figures under a Freedom of Information request after months of asking. But this is an outrageous sum to have spent on a project that may or may not come to pass. And this January, at that same cabinet meeting, you asked for and were given another £500k.
Now is the time to explain clearly and honestly what this money has been spent on, and and what the purpose of this Park & Ride will be.
Will it solve our traffic and pollution problems? No. You yourselves acknowledge this. You say it’s for the future, to cope with the 23,000 new cars that by 2029 will be entering Bath. But even if this Park & Ride did work (which we dispute), what about the other 22,000 new cars? How will you stop them clogging our roads? You say this Park & Ride is part of a wider plan. But what is this plan? How will it work? How much will it cost, in addition to the £17.5mn you’re planning to spend on this Park & Ride?
It is time to tell us, Mr Warren, and to be willing to publicly defend your choice. In two years time, this council will also be facing re-election. Can you stop this wave of anger ‘crashing down’ on your head?
The Bathampton Meadows Alliance