Bath backs controversial Park & Ride project

Bath & North East Somerset Council has given its backing to an 800-space park and ride to the east of the city to handle growing congestion.

During a four hour cabinet meeting, the council decided the site at Bathampton Meadows was the best option, despite opposition campaigners claiming that the project would put its world heritage status at risk.

With an increase in homes and jobs, plus a rise in tourism to the city, the council argues that more than 73,000 people travelled into the city by car every day, with that figure expected to rise to 96,000 by 2029, meaning that the city ‘will not last very much longer’ without becoming gridlocked unless positive measures were introduced to deal with the ‘significant growth’.

The location and landscape of the city, nestled in a valley surrounded by hills with the Avon river running through, makes parking problematic, with the council having tried to tackle the congestion problem many times.

Councillor Tim Warren, leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Over the past year, the council has undertaken an exhaustive process looking at all the potential locations for the long-discussed eastern Park & Ride. The conclusions of this analysis were that both sites B and F are suitable to meet the established needs for an east of Bath Park & Ride.

“However, after careful consideration, the cabinet has decided to select site B as our preferred location because it offers the greatest potential for a future link to the local railway line and is less visible to those living closest. It is near to the city and well-located for cars coming from the A4, A46 and A363.

“However, whilst site B is our preferred location, its use is subject to the purchase of the land and securing agreement from Highways England over access from the bypass. As site F would also offer a suitable alternative, if these outstanding matters cannot be agreed the cabinet has agreed to revert to site F, which is within the council’s ownership.”

Councillor Anthony Clarke, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “The east of Bath is the most congested part of our road network, and is the only side of the city which does not currently benefit from a Park & Ride. Without intervention, including a Park & Ride, this will only get worse as the city continues to grow with more jobs and housing.

“Our current three Park & Rides are used by more than two million passengers a year, a figure which has grown by sixteen per cent since 2009, and their usage will continue to grow as more and more people travel into Bath to work and visit. The need for an eastern Park & Ride is therefore well-established, and has the support of local business organisations, residents associations and transport lobby groups.

“Building the long-discussed eastern Park & Ride is therefore an important part of our wider plan to keep Bath moving, which also includes greater provision for cycling and walking, better rail services through the MetroWest project, and bringing forward plans for an A36-A46 link road to reduce through-traffic in Bath.”

Dine Romero, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Bath, described the scheme as a ‘costly white elephant, warning the council that its is ‘going up against a community that is organised, resourceful and stubborn’. Additionally, Caroline Kay, the chief executive of the Bath Preservation Trust, urged the council to think again as the move could damage the city’s Unesco world heritage status.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to continue to put forward their views as part of the formal planning process.