The Green Party is aware of the ongoing conversation between Bath Rugby and Bath and NE Somerset's Planning Department concerning the request to build a rugby stadium on the site of the existing ground.
It is true that many residents enjoy the rugby. It is an asset to the city and brings many visitors who contribute to the local economy on match days. Bath Rugby have played in the city centre for many years and the area surrounding the ground is iconic, especially compared to other teams playing in ‘out of town’ venues.
Unfortunately, it is also true that the current facilities do not meet the requirements of a premiership rugby team. We recognise that some of these requirements are imposed by the sport’s governing body rather than Bath Rugby itself, so in many ways the need to change the facilities are out of their hands. However, much as there are strong supporters of Bath Rugby everywhere, including in the Green Party, the priority must be the wellbeing of the city and it’s people, as well as the wider area, and the viability of the proposals when it comes to access by tens of thousands of spectators on match days, and how this can be done with the least disruption and lowest environmental impact.
The development is in the centre of a UNESCO World Heritage site, so we must at all times be cognisant that the need to keep our world heritage status overrides any application that could impact it.
In the previous application it was clear that the planned stadium looked to include underground parking. The site is an identified air pollution hot spot, and the impact of bringing more car journeys into a Clean Air Zone would be of further detriment to the air quality for residents and visitors.
The Green Party does not support developments that would encourage substantial increases to private vehicles journeys or parking of private vehicles as it would increase the impact private car journey and the impact on this would be.
The Green Party has a clear vision for transport which supports journeys using public transport, walking and cycling. Presently the travel plan for those using this stadium appears to be based on the majority using private car journeys which impacts upon the environment and fails to address the climate emergency.
The present proposal fails to give an indication of the height of the buildings which would impact the sightline across the city of Bath, which could impact the UNESCO status.
The application is also focused on further retail space to finance the development. It fails to identify the impact it would have on the already saturated retail market in the centre of Bath, which presently has a plethora of empty shops.
The Green Party is also aware that the land for the Recreation Ground was given in Trust for the people of Bath to play in and are unsure how a private owner, with assets offshore, is now able to make a profit from this bequest.
With the present owner of Bath Rugby holding their assets “offshore” any decisions made on this stadium could result in the Council becoming liable for a “white elephant” should rugby and its clubs fail to provide a business framework for rugby matches. The Green Party would insist that the Council at all times ensures that an indemnity is agreed to for this build, so that the local tax payers would not become responsible for a building with no or little use.
Ultimately the Green Party cannot support any development that would see a substantial increase in private car journeys when those generated already are too high to be sustainable. All sports grounds must be planned to ensure that the large majority of spectators can make the entire journey by public transport. For Bath this means that the sustainable solution is likely to be a ground-sharing arrangement with Bath City (football) and a new station in Twerton.