Bath and NE Somerset Council Leaves Residents to Choke on Even More Traffic and Fumes… Again

11 April 2024

Bath and NE Somerset Council leaders have again failed to win a single penny in government funding despite their rhetoric on the transport, nature, and climate emergencies, and their costly consultations and stunts like their £30,000 ‘Citizens Panel’.

At a time when the Department for Transport and the medical profession are calling for urgent action to avert the public health and climate crises, BathNES continues to fail its residents and businesses.

Georgia Statham, representing MEDACT, a charity of medical workers advocating for health justice across the West of England, underscored the urgency of these investments to March’s WECA committee: "In the West of England, 47% of young people suffer from asthma, far surpassing the national average of 10%. Furthermore, on days with high pollution levels, there is a notable increase in cardiac arrests, stroke admissions, and hospitalisations for asthma symptoms in children."

Green Party councillor Joanna Wright emphasises the increasing urgency and vital importance of investment in sustainable transport, noting: “A lack of investment in sustainable transport denies people a choice, deepening dependence on private vehicles across BaNES, leading to worse air quality and dangerous health issues. According to The Guardian, BaNES has experienced a surge in vehicle emissions and pollution from a failure to provide good infrastructure for alternative travel modes. The inevitable result is more respiratory and cardiovascular illness for residents, as highlighted by MEDACT.”

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health echoes a warning from the World Health Organisation: “Air pollution is the single greatest environmental threat to public health. Many of the causes of air pollution are major contributors to climate change, which also impacts on the population’s health.”

It also advises health professionals in the UK to inform patients to: “Choose to walk or cycle short journeys instead of taking the car. Not only will this reduce emissions, but air pollution is frequently higher inside a vehicle than outside it. Active travel also has the added benefits of improving mental and physical health through increased physical activity.”

In 2021, in the hands of the, then, Cabinet Member for Transport Cllr Joanna Wright, BaNES secured funding to transform the city of Bath for tens of thousands of residents and workers. The scheme was lauded across the country for its bold, and equitable, vision and immediate relief to public health, the decades of traffic misery, and urgent action on climate change.

That plan was approved by the Department for Transport and laid out a clear plan to:

  1. enable around 20,000 young people and children to safely walk or cycle to the University of Bath or schools along North Road.
  2. give over 4,800 staff, a safe, clean, and healthy cycle route up to the Royal United Hospital.
  3. drastically reduce the pollution and traffic that blights residents, businesses, and visitors to the UNESCO city.

Unfortunately in 2021 the Lib Dems chose to “lose the battle to win the war”. Cllr Warren and Cllr Guy scrapped the schemes, seemingly to gain support for an internal coup, despite advice from experts and campaigners. They implemented only a portion of the schemes, including along Upper Bristol Road, which extends only halfway to the RUH and ends at a dangerous location, and Beckford Road.

Cllr Warren told the scrutiny panel that the council will create a link to Calverton Down which is safe for children and young people knowing full well that:

  1. as Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Deputy Leader she refused to allocate the funds in hand for the approved North Road scheme in 2021.
  2. Cllr Rigby, who then became the Cabinet Member for Transport, insisted upon a Citizen’s Panel and refused to sign-off secured funding from the Department of Transport. This now jeopardises BaNES bids.
  3. Lib Dem cabinet members are failing to deliver what was already secured and funded by Cllr Wright in 2021. They have submitted weak proposals that fail to meet minimum funding criteria or public benefit outcomes and consistently disregard notices and warnings from WECA, experts, and Active Travel England about the inadequacy of what they propose. None of their submissions address the crucial North Road or the completion of the RUH route.

The Greens call for BaNES Council to put political intrigue aside for the sake of residents, businesses, and our environment, to listen to the experts, and start delivering the promises they made for a cleaner, safer, and healthier Bath. We note that Green Party councillors have repeatedly called for a comprehensive circulation plan, which is essential for planning and implementing infrastructure changes. A circulation plan would demonstrate the importance of Liveable Neighbourhoods, such as Sydney Road, and a safe transport route that is LTN1/20 compliant from the city centre to Claverton Down.

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