Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Re-think ‘harmful’ traffic schemes, council urged

BATH Council’s Liberal Democrats must re-think their plans for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), Conservative councillors say. Their call comes ahead of a Cabinet meeting next week (June 23) at which proposals to introduce LTNs will be taken forward.

LTNs are a key part of the Lib Dem administration’s Liveable Neighbourhoods policy. The aim, they say, is to reduce overall traffic on the roads of Bath and North East Somerset. But Conservative councillors say the measures will lead to higher levels of congestion and pollution and will result in residents with mobility problems being disproportionally affected.

Coun. Vic Pritchard (pictured), Leader of the Conservative Group on the council says: ‘Although we sympathize with the principle of LTNs, we are concerned that problems that have been reported with them in other parts of the country will also emerge here. These include higher levels of pollution and congestion caused by displaced traffic, unfair restrictions on peoples’ freedom of movement, and delays to emergency service vehicles.

‘Residents and businesses across the district have serious concerns about the consequences of these schemes, and the Conservative Group is calling on the Lib Dem Cabinet to heed these concerns and re-think what could be extremely harmful policies.’

In September last year, a protest against LTNs was attended by 2,500 people in the London borough of Ealing, with more than 10,000 people having signed a petition objecting to them. In October, Harrow Council introduced four LTNs. Six months later, all of them were removed.

Decisions, decisions!

BATH COUNCIL’S cabinet meets next week (June 23) to make – or defer – decisions on Liveable Neighbourhood schemes, Active Travel proposals, and the Xmas Market

Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes, also known as  Liveable Neighbourhood schemes, involve ‘re-considering’ road space to create what their advocates say will be ‘pleasant outdoor spaces where people can relax and want to spend time’. Measures including vehicle restrictions, traffic calming, residents’ parking zones, and electric vehicle charging, will be used to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles in residential areas, although people will still be able to access their homes by car.

The council has so far received 48 applications for LTNs across the district. These have been assessed and proposals that include LTNs and school streets/safe routes to school have been prioritized for provisional funding and delivery.

The council’s cabinet is recommended to approve an initial 15 schemes and provisionally allocate £2.2 million funding for their development and delivery over the next two financial years. Phase One schemes to be considered are:

•          Mount Road (Southdown);

•          Great Pulteney Street/St Johns Road area (Bathwick);

•          Whitchurch & Queen Charlton (Publow with Whitchurch and Saltford);

•          Circus/Lower Lansdown/Marlborough Building/Royal Victoria Park/Cork Street area (Kingsmead & Lansdown);

•          Oldfield Lane & First/Second/Third Avenues;

•          Walcot Phase 1: London Road, Snow Hill, Kensington Gardens and adjacent roads (Walcot);

•          Church St & Prior Park Rd (Widcombe & Lyncombe);

•          Chelsea Road (Newbridge);

•          Entry Hill (Widcombe & Lyncombe);

•          Southlands (Weston);

•          Morris Lane/Bannerdown (Bathavon North);

•          New Sydney Place (Bathwick);

•          Edgerton Road/Cotswold Road (Moorlands);

•          Temple Cloud; and

•          Lyme Road/Charmouth Road (Newbridge)

 Walking and cycling routes in Bath … Following a consultation on the council’s active travel schemes carried out between February and March this year, a report to cabinet recommends the A4 Upper Bristol Road, A36 Beckford Road, and Combe Down to University of Bath schemes proceed to the Traffic Regulation Order stage of consultation. Designs, the council says, have been ‘substantially revised’ to take into account the consultation feedback which totalled 2,380 completed questionnaires, as well as e-mails and letters. More than 90% of responses were from residents or business owners in Bath.

The city centre to university scheme is being split into parts. As there was strong support for the Beckford Road proposals, they will go on to the next stage. The proposed North Road changes are not being taken forward at the moment.

Bath’s Christmas Market … The Xmas Market is in its 20th year, having been cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is ranked in the top 10 in Europe and attracts 400,000 visitors with an estimated spend in the city of £32.5 million in 2019.

Several UK Christmas Markets have started their planning for 2021, with York and Liverpool opening applications for stall holders. Edinburgh Christmas Market has had council approval for two thirds of its plans.

A report for the council’s cabinet recommends that the Bath Market runs from November 25 to December 12, with an agreement about gateway decision dates.

These dates at key intervals in the planning will give the council time to review current COVID-19 cases, pressures on NHS services, and future modelling, to determine whether the market needs to be scaled back or cancelled in line with national guidance on Covid-19 restrictions.

The recommended dates would honour the ongoing covenant with the city that the market does not operate or cause disruption to residents in the week leading up to December 25. A residents’ evening would be held on Wednesday 24th November.

The number of stalls would be cut from 205 to 161. The proposed site would have a similar footprint to 2018/19, with the re-introduction of the areas around Bath Abbey. Mobility Helpers would be available to provide assistance to shoppers with accessibility requirements.

Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture has rejected a proposal to have the market moved from the centre to the Royal Victoria Park. ‘While there have been recent suggestions to locate it in Royal Victoria Park, moving the market there or to the edges of the centre could spell economic disaster for businesses that have managed to survive till now.’

Rivers in crisis!

RIVER ACTION is targeting food production companies whose supply chains are complicit in the increasing volume of river pollution caused by the run-off of nutrient rich agricultural waste. It says the onus of responsibility lies with the corporations which dominate the UK’s food production and retail sectors. Its first campaign began in February with the focus on the pollution of the Wye by the intensive poultry industry. 

It’s also working to promote the restoration of funding of the government agencies responsible for the environmental protection of rivers, to ensure that the monitoring of water quality and the inspection and prosecution of polluting industries can be significantly increased.

The campaigners say that the environmental protection of rivers has ‘effectively collapsed’.

‘Over the last decade the respective government agencies in England and Wales tasked with monitoring the quality of our rivers and enforcing environmental regulations have had their funding by government slashed … by 75% in the case of the Environment Agency.  Accordingly, their effectiveness has been hugely impaired and polluters can continue to pour filth into our riverssecure in the knowledge that they are unlikely to ever face penalty.’

River Action says that:

  • Every single river in England, and the majority in Wales, is polluted beyond legal limits.
  • England’s rivers are now some of the worst polluted in Europe, with just one officially designated safe for bathing versus more than 570 in France.
  • Our rivers are flooded repeatedly with human sewage. In England, water companies released untreated human waste for over three million hours in 2020 alone.
  • Agricultural pollution is rampant: vast quantities of animal slurry and precious and irreplaceable topsoil are washed into rivers each year. Wales alone averages three reported incidents each week.

Meanwhile:

  • In England, court action over the last decade against polluters fell by 98% and prosecutions of polluting businesses have fallen by 88%.
  • Not one penalty has been enforced against agricultural polluters since the introduction of the 2018 Farming Rules for Water, despite hundreds of proven cases.
  • Only 3.6% of pollution complaints to the Environment Agency’s public hotline result in penalties for those responsible.

River Action has launched a campaign targeted at the UK and Welsh governments to secure an immediate doubling of the Environmental Protection budgets of their respective environment agencies. It estimates that the total annual cost of doing this equates to the cost of the construction of less than 820ft of the HS2 rail project.

For more info, go to … https://riveractionuk.com/Campaigns/give-us-back-our-rivers

Do we need a Minister for Men?

IN an age when the Chattering Classes and their lawyers are seemingly obsessed – almost to the point of madness – with gender, race, and identity politics, and when Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the post-Covid world must be ‘more feminine’, Bath has been chosen for an event its organizers hope will draw attention to the plight of a group whose interests and wellbeing have been overlooked. The Society To Establish A Minister For Men is hosting a one-day symposium in the town on July 17.

The aims are to raise public awareness, and increase the number of ‘men and women’ prepared to work to ‘take male issues’ to the general public, ‘95% of whom are ignorant of these’. But, the organizers warn, ‘ideological and conspiracy theories will not be on the Minister for Men agenda’.

But isn’t it still very much a bloke’s world?

To which the Society says: ‘A great deal of attention has been paid on men being disproportionately represented at what is often perceived as the top of society, in politics, big business, and in the corridors of power everywhere. However, there has been very little focus on men and boys being massively over-represented at the bottom of society, too. It is certainly true that there are more male than female MPs (although this gap is narrowing), but it is hard to argue that issues affecting women are not well addressed in Parliament by this preponderance of male MPs. There has been a Minister for Women since 1997, and that is a great thing! Issues that exclusively or disproportionately affect women and girls absolutely need to be identified and addressed. This is exactly what is happening and so much the better. Unfortunately, there is no political representation whatsoever for the issues that exclusively or disproportionately affect men and boys. In fact, men and boys are the only group that do not have political representation of any kind and this needs to change.

‘This is in no way an attempt to take funding or moral support from the organizations that work to help women and girls. We are only asking that the issues that affect men and boys are also part of that conversation and for them to be treated with the same degree of seriousness and compassion.’

These are some of the ‘male issues’ highlighted by the campaigners:

• Education is failing boys and young men. Boys have been under-performing compared to girls at school for decades.  Boys are four times more likely than girls to be excluded from schools. There are 35% more female than male graduates from our universities and this gap is widening. The prospects for boys leaving school without a decent education are often very grim.

• Men are massively disadvantaged by the Family courts: mothers are given custody 90% of the time and can ignore court orders to provide the father with access to his children with impunity. Fatherlessness has an extremely negative impact on outcomes for both girls and boys, including a much higher risk of mental health disorders, suicide, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, educational under attainment, school exclusion, violence (as both victims and perpetrators), criminal behaviour, gang membership, prison, teenage pregnancy.

• Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

• Men and boys are far more likely to be the victims of violence, yet this elicits very little sympathy from the public. There are campaigns to end violence towards women and girls, but nothing at all for men and boys, even though they make up, the majority of victims.

 •Disproportionate sentencing due to gender means that three out of four male prisoners would not be in prison if they were treated the same as women.

• 90% of homeless sleeping on the streets are men.

• Men have a shorter life expectancy, yet there is minimal investment or research on male specific health issues.

•Prostate cancer kills as many people as breast cancer, but receives 1/3 of the funding.

‘To summarize, addressing gender inequalities is not a zero-sum game where helping men and boys address the issues that are specific to them will take anything away from the efforts to help women and girls. Quite the opposite: tackling the injustices faced by men and boys will have only a mutually beneficial effect on women, men, boys, and girls.

That is why we need a Minister for Men.’

Symposium tickets cost £25, which includes lunch. For more info, send an e-mail to …

ministerformen@gmail.com

Bath gets new 5G mast application

BATH has form in getting into a tizz over 5G masts, with objectors – supported by the town’s MP – citing elf-an-safety concerns and councillors rejecting an application because of its proximity to an area of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt, and the threat they thought it posed to bees and bats.

An application to Bath and North East Somerset Council for a 65.6ft 5G mast on Locksbrook Road – opposite the Bath Spa University campus – gives them all an opportunity to do it again.  

In a planning statement, CK Hutchison Networks said: ‘In these unprecedented times of the Covid19 pandemic, it is recognized that high-speed mobile connectivity is the lifeblood of a community’. Faster buffering, they add, could benefit education,   businesses, home-working, and access to leisure activities.’

The application included a note by Mobile UK which said: ‘In May 2011, a working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified RF electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that this is a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias, or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence. It is important to note that following the classification, the WHO has not recommended any changes to the exposure limits applicable to wireless networks and devices.’

Full Fact, an independent UK fact checking organization, said: ‘Radio waves cannot damage the DNA inside cells, which is how waves with higher frequencies (such as x-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet light) are thought to cause cancer. 5G uses a higher frequency of radio waves compared to its older generations. The frequency of this new wireless technology remains very low: the maximum levels of electromagnetic radiation measured by Ofcom were about 66 times smaller than the safety limits set by international guidelines.’

July 1 is the deadline for comment on the Locksbrook Road mast application.

Cold comfort for LTN critics

CRITICS of the plethora of traffic control proposals – Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), cycle lanes et al – tabled by Bath Council will have found scant comfort in the comments made by the council’s Sustainable Transport manager Nick Helps at a scrutiny panel meeting this week.

He told councillors that the roll-out of LTNs will not ‘cause chaos’ and that, anyway, drivers would adapt quickly to changes designed to end rat runs. He said LTNs would not be axed even if they were initially ‘disastrous’.

The council has had 28 requests for LTNs, which are typically considered in predominantly residential areas, where several streets are grouped and organised in a way to discourage rat-running.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of the £2.2m budget for liveable neighbourhoods will be spent on communications, Mr Helps confirmed.

Asked by a councillor to say what the council would do if it was found that an unintended consequence of an LTN was to generate more pollution on main roads, Mr Helps said there would be monitoring before and during a scheme. ‘If a scheme was an absolute disaster you could on day one cancel it, but I think it’s best to wait, because these things will settle down. Travel behaviour changes to adapt. The benefits are just huge. We should be forcing down the total level of vehicles – getting through-traffic down but also reducing residents’ dependency on cars for trips by improving options for walking, cycling, and public transport.’

A consultation on the broader liveable neighbourhoods strategy, he said, showed ‘massive support’ among 1,900 respondents for encouraging active travel, reducing the dominance of cars in busy residential areas, and reclaiming road space for public realm improvements. But, he added, there was concern that proposals could negatively impact disabled people and older people.’

‘People were worried about the effect of topography and how this could limit walking and cycling in Bath. People were concerned about families with young children and how the proposals would affect their daily travel needs. They were concerned about the cost of residents’ parking permits on low-income households. They were concerned about dedicated parking for electric vehicles reducing the availability of general parking. People were concerned about decanting traffic onto major roads, potential increases in congestion, and overall parking availability. It’s understandable that people have these concerns and we will seek to mitigate any adverse effects working with communities.’

Councillor Lisa O’Brien said that in some parts of the country, LTNs had obstructed emergency service vehicles and cost home carers valuable time, adding: ‘I’m at a loss to understand how you can eliminate these impacts on those groups of people who do need a car.’ Poorer residents living on London Road in Bath could get more traffic pushed off other roads.

Mr Helps replied: ‘Low traffic neighbourhoods aren’t about decanting traffic from one street to another – that wouldn’t that wouldn’t be a success. We want to take out through-traffic from residential areas and reduce the total number of vehicles.’ Schemes could use number plate recognition rather than bollards to control traffic flow, similar to a bus gate, allowing access for ambulances, bin collections, and disabled transport vehicles.

Shake-up planned for Bath and NE Somerset seats

UNDER proposals from the Boundary Commission for England, the size of the Bath parliamentary constituency could be increased at the next general election while the North-East East Somerset one is reduced.

The expanded Bath constituency would include the wards of Bathavon North, which the Lib Dems claimed from the Conservatives at the 2019 council elections.

The North-East Somerset constituency currently held by Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg might be redrawn, with its western part being renamed Keynsham and North-East Somerset and taking in the firmly Conservative South Gloucestershire wards of Hanham, Longwell Green, Parkwall & Warmley, and Bitton & Oldland Common.

Commission secretary Tim Bowden said: ‘We consider all feedback received during the consultation process, and it is your local knowledge that helps us to shape constituencies that best reflect your local area. It is easy to get involved – view our proposals and have your say through our online consultation portal – www.bcereviews.org.uk.’

Council considers responses to parking consultation

MORE than a thousand people have responded to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s consultation on proposed changes to on-street parking.

The proposals to base residents’ parking permit charges on vehicles emissions and move long-stay visitor parking to off-street car parks are designed to improve air quality while also meeting the council’s wider transport policy aims.

The results of the four-week consultation and the Equalities Impact Statement will be published on the council’s website and considered before the council’s cabinet makes a final decision later this summer. Residents, businesses, and visitors will then have a further opportunity to comment on the proposals when Traffic Regulation Orders are advertized ahead of the introduction of the on-street parking changes in January next years.

It’s the first time in eight years that the council has reviewed the price of residents’ parking permits. Vehicles would be placed in a charging band according to their recorded CO2 emissions with the DVLA. Residents can check DVLA records to confirm their emissions, or engine capacity, online at https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla

Under the proposal the base price of a residents’ parking permit would remain at £100 a year with a second permit costing £160 where the most polluting vehicle on the permit emits less than 131g/km of CO2. Charges for higher polluting vehicles would increase by 5% for each subsequent emissions band. Diesel vehicles would be subject to an additional 25% surcharge in order to reduce NO2 emissions in the shortest possible time.

Other proposed changes include:

• Residents’ parking visitor permit charges to be increased by 50p a day in year one with subsequent rises of 25p a day in years two and three.

• A review of hotel, guest house, and holiday let permits – to reallocate the parking to car parks and to include the introduction of digitised permits

• A review of medical permits – to include the introduction of digitized permits to counter misuse and an increase to bring the charge in-line with residents’ permits

• An increase in trade permit charges

• The introduction of half-day paper visitor permits to support vulnerable residents unable to access the financial savings offered by digital permits.

Revenue from the proposals would pay for their implementation and running costs with any surplus used to support the development of sustainable transport schemes across Bath and North East Somerset.

Full details of the proposals can be viewed here: https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/parking-permits-consultation-april-2021/project-timeline

Bath a step closer to 2nd World Heritage listing

BATH is in line to receive a second UNESCO World Heritage inscription for its international importance to spa culture and architecture. The town is part of Great Spas of Europe, a group of eleven spa towns across seven countries that have been nominated to UNESCO for inscription on the World Heritage List. The 44th UNESCO World Heritage Committee is meeting in Fuzhou, China in July to make a decision on the Great Spas of Europe‘s bid to join the list.

The nomination highlights the importance of spa culture and architecture as a European phenomenon from 1700 to the 1930’s. Among hundreds of spas, a handful of these, including Bath, remain in a good state of conservation.

The other historic spa towns are Baden bei Wien (Austria), Spa (Belgium), Františkovy Lázně, Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně (Czech Republic), Vichy (France), Bad Ems, Bad Kissingen, Baden-Baden (Germany), and Montecatini Terme (Italy).

If the bid is successful, Bath’s second inscription would come in addition to the first inscription gained in 1987.

Councillor Ruth Malloy, the council’s representative for the Great Spas of Europe project, said: ‘To be inscribed once as a World Heritage Site is very special but twice is exceptional. Bath has always been an international city and this project is an exemplar of successful European collaboration. With the new Bath World Heritage Centre due to open in September, the timing of this news is excellent.’

E-scooters are ‘death traps’, says the Met

SOME hail them as answers to traffic pollution and sustainable travel, but the Met police in London see e-scooters as ‘death traps’.

A year-long trial beginning in London today (June 7) will let residents and visitors hire them for use at a top speed of 12.5mph.

Simon Ovens, from the Metropolitan Police’s road and transport command, has warned that e-scooters are ‘absolute death traps’, and has revealed that officers have seized approximately 800 this year alone. Concerns include riders travelling too fast, ignoring red lights, and riding while drunk. In 2018, there were four recorded collisions in London, which rose to 32 in 2019, when a television presenter, Emily Hartridge, became the first person in Britain to die in an accident involving an e-scooter. She hit a lorry while riding in Battersea. A coroner concluded that the ‘the scooter was being unsuitably driven, too fast and with an under-inflated tyre and this caused the loss of control and her death’. Conservative peer Lord Blencathra, a former Home Office minister, described them as ‘silent killing machines’.

The Met, however, supports the trial and has promised to increase enforcement. The trial scooters will cost £1 to unlock and 16p per minute thereafter. They are classed as motor vehicles, so require insurance, which is being provided by the three trial operators in London. Customers must be aged over 18 and have valid driver’s licences. The trial scooters will come to an automatic halt if the rider strays into an area of the capital not participating in the trial. They also have bigger wheels and suspension compared with private e-scooters, so are able to better absorb potholes. Their stopping distance is 6.5 ft.