Bath and North East Somerset Council today welcomed a decision by a transport inspector, following a public inquiry, to recommend its plans to close York Street for anti-terrorism purposes.
Mr Rory Cridland, the inspector appointed to conduct the inquiry, said he found a clear and compelling case for the making of the traffic order and considered it to be a proportionate response.
He also found that the council had carried out an extensive consultation exercise and that all those who should have been consulted had been given an adequate opportunity to make their views known.
And he concluded that not proceeding with the traffic order would, in his view, “materially undermine the council’s overall approach to security in this part of the city.”
The public inquiry was held after one objector upheld their right to object, triggering the inquiry into the council’s Traffic Regulation Order for anti-terrorism purposes to close York Street, as part of a city centre security scheme for Bath.
The inspector noted there were initially 111 objections to the Order, all but one of which was subsequently withdrawn before the inquiry.
The inspector’s report noted that no disability groups maintained a statutory objection to the Order and that evidence indicated that the council was able to address and or resolve the majority of the concerns raised regarding access for disabled groups and users.
It said that it was suggested during the inquiry that the council had sought to keep disabled people out of the centre of Bath. However, the inspector stated that, “no evidence was offered to back up this assertion and on the evidence before me it appears that the council has gone to great lengths to seek to address the concerns raised. Indeed, it seems that a considerable amount of thought has gone into how to balance the needs of disabled users with the need to protect the city centre from terrorist attack.”
He also noted” Overall, I consider the proposals to be fair and equitable and any disadvantages to persons with disabilities, including BB holders, have been minimised. Having considered the matter in the round, I am satisfied that the public sector equality duty has been adequately met.”
The security proposals include vehicle access restrictions on streets defined as crowded places in and around Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths while maintaining managed access to the city centre for residents, businesses and blue badge holders.
They were initially based on a counter-terrorism security survey on Bath city centre in September 2016 which identified the areas as being vulnerable to a potential hostile vehicle attack.
In February 2020 Avon & Somerset Police Chief Constable asked Bath & North East Somerset Council to consider an ATTRO covering the wider city centre of Bath which would be used in the event of a heightened threat, specific intelligence, as a result of an incident or if there are events taking place that create crowded places.
Following consultation with Counter Terrorism security advisors and the council, which centred around the crowded places indicated within the National Counter Terrorism Security Office report, it was considered proportionate to introduce permanent restrictions covering a smaller area in the city centre resulting in the current measures, which the Chief Constable supported.
The council has continued to work alongside the Counter Terrorism advisors to protect these areas, through both physical measures and training for front line staff, both from public and private sector.
Under the scheme Blue badge holders are permitted to park on Cheap Street, Westgate Street and Upper Borough Walls on double yellow lines for a period of three hours, subject to space being available, via controlled access.