Every day more than 73,000 people travel into Bath by car*. This figure is predicted to rise to 96,000 people a day by 2029. This is part of plans for the Bath Enterprise Zone, which is expected to grow the local economy by £1.2bn by 2030.
Most congested to the east of the city
As part of a package of measures, including improvements to the road network, cycle-ways and public transport, the Council has a long-established policy to create a new Park & Ride to the east of Bath. This is the busiest, most congested approach to the city – with over 23,000 vehicles using London Road daily – and the east does not have a Park & Ride.
Roads are at capacity at peak times and, with the expected increase in traffic, congestion will worsen significantly unless action is taken. Given the constrained nature of the road network within the city, public transport improvements, including Park & Ride, will be key to keeping traffic moving and ensuring the success of the city and surrounding area in the years ahead.
Taking a long, hard look at the solution
For over a decade, a long list of reports have been produced assessing the need for an eastern Park & Ride – including traffic modelling, expert reports and analysis of economic and population growth; as well as public consultations.
The ‘Getting Around Bath’ Transport Strategy, adopted by the Council in November 2014, promoted a series of transport policies to manage the growth of jobs and homes in the city. It looked at how a combination of better rail services, new and expanded Park & Ride sites and improved bus services will be key to helping those from further afield get into and out of the city. The decision to construct a Park and Ride to the East of the City was taken by Council in November 2015.
Most recently, extensive consideration has been given to a range of options by the Council’s cross-party Local Development Framework (LDF) Steering Group, and the Communities, Transport and Environment Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel. The LDF Steering Group visited multiple sites. It considered the responses received to the east of Bath Park & Ride consultation, as well as the feasibility, costs, transport benefits and visual impact of 21 different site options.
Planning and engineering advice has been sought for a variety of suggested Park & Ride sites. The conclusions of this extensive analysis are that:
- The sites further along the A4 on the Box Road are within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), would attract fewer users, be more costly to build and operate and would largely only capture traffic from the A4, with only limited traffic from the A46 and A363. A number of the sites on the Box Road also posed significant engineering challenges due to their topography, shape and access from the highway.
- The site at Charmy Down is remote from the city, within the AONB and an Area of Special Scientific Interest, and would be difficult to access from the highway due to safety concerns.
- Sites F and B are located within close proximity to the City, would attract the largest number of potential users from the A4, A46 and A363, are outside the AONB and not within the floodplain. Site B also has the potential for a future rail link.
The Cabinet report outlines the work undertaken since May 2016 and recommends which sites should be promoted as a Park & Ride to the east of Bath to cater for traffic from the A46, A4 and A363
Time to make a decision
The Cabinet will consider its options at a public meeting on 25 January, 2017. This meeting will be streamed live via webcast: http://bathnes.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/263459.
The full report to be considered by the Cabinet can be found on the Council’s website (https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=4962), but in summary, the recommendations presented to the Cabinet are:
Cabinet notes that both sites F and B could deliver the required outcomes for a P&R site to the east of Bath.
- That site F with 800 or 1,200 spaces should be promoted as the preferred site for a new Park and Ride east of Bath due to the considerations set out in the report, or
- That site B with 800 spaces should be promoted as the preferred site for a new Park and Ride east of Bath based on the advice in the report, but subject to satisfactory arrangements for the purchase of the site and agreement from Highways England on access.
- If site B is not deliverable for the above reasons, within a reasonable timescale, then site F should be progressed.
Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Delivering a new Park & Ride to the east of Bath is a crucial part of the Council’s wider plans to improve transport, tackle congestion and support the growth of our local economy.
“Bath’s economy is set to grow significantly in the coming years, with hundreds of new homes and thousands of jobs being created at the city’s Riverside Enterprise Zone. We therefore have to plan now for how people will get into the city in future without causing gridlock on Bath’s already congested roads. This means we need a modern and accessible transport system that offers commuters and visitors attractive alternatives to using their cars to drive into the city.
“The debate we need to have is therefore not about whether Bath needs new infrastructure. It’s about how we can deliver new infrastructure in a way that protects Bath’s heritage and is sensitive to its surroundings, whilst at the same time meets the needs of a growing, thriving city.”
Usage of Bath’s three existing Park & Rides has grown by 16% since 2009, carrying more than 2 million passengers in the past year. Having been recently expanded, they reach an average of 63% capacity and reach full capacity during busy periods. Even with a new Park & Ride to the east of Bath, the existing Park & Rides will reach full capacity over the coming years as demand for access into the city centre increases with the development of new jobs in the city and new homes in the surrounding area.
Cllr Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “More than 2 million passengers use Bath’s current Park & Rides, and demand for our Park & Ride services continues to grow as more and more people want to get into Bath to work and visit.
“Addressing the notorious transport issues to the east of Bath is therefore critical to supporting the long-term growth of the city as a whole. This is also part of our wider strategy to improve transport in and around Bath that includes greater provision for cycling and walking, better rail services through the MetroWest project, improving traffic flow and bringing forward plans for an A36/A46 link road to reduce through-traffic in Bath.
“If we do not take the action needed now, and provide alternative ways for people to get into and out of Bath without using a car, then traffic congestion will only become even worse in the years ahead.
“The Cabinet will be considering the options carefully at the meeting on 25 January.”
Subject to the Cabinet’s authorisation, the intention is for new Park & Ride on the eastern side of Bath to be sensitive to the local environment with minimal visual impact, utilising the latest technology to deliver Bath’s greenest Park & Ride ever.
More information is available via the Council’s website at: www.bathnes.gov.uk/East-of-Bath-Park-and-Ride.
For details of the Cabinet papers, please visit: https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=4962
* Traffic count in accordance with Department for Transport guidelines. Figure includes people who have destinations within Bath and excludes those travelling through Bath.