Tory controlled Bath & North East Somerset Council has shelved making a decision on their acrimonious proposal to introduce road charges for a ‘clean air zone’ in Bath.The proposal was open to public consultation until 26 November 2018 and a final report and decision by cabinet was due on 18 December. Bath & North East Somerset asked the public to comment on their proposal to introduce a daily charge from the end of next year for driving through the centre of Bath to help meet a Government target to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air by 2021.
Charges would apply to vehicles that do not meet the Government’s minimum emission standards – £9 a day for cars, taxis and LGVs/vans and £100 a day for buses, coaches and HGVs. The cabinet has postponed a decision until March 2019 due to the massive number of objections they received during the consultation. No doubt, they are aware of the local council elections coming up in May.
Bath & North East Somerset UKIP considers the proposal unacceptable.
So, let’s clear up one point. Whose fault is it we have got into this mess?
In broad terms, we consider the present position to have arisen solely due to over 50 years of neglect for our local road system by successive Conservative and Liberal Democrat councils who have never carried out any meaningful road improvements in or around Bath. So; while the faces have changed over the years, the problem has occurred due to years of negligence by our elected Tory and Lib Dem councils. Now they have the effrontery to want to charge us to clear up their own mess.
Bath City Council’s (now Bath and North East Somerset Council) policy has apparently been to snarl-up traffic deliberately in a futile attempt to pretend it is not there or make it go away. (As if by magic). The predictable outcome of this ostrich like policy is the situation we now face, i.e an unacceptable build-up of pollutants emitted by slow or stationary traffic queuing to get into and around Bath, rather than freely moving in or around the city as traffic does in virtually every other similar sized UK city.
- UKIP believe it is economic suicide to punish petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles until there is a viable alternative in place, which there is not at the moment. None of the other parties will admit this.
- UKIP considers the clean air zone to be an instrument through which the council (on behalf of the government) is attempting to achieve the target of banning new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.
- UKIP considers the proposed clean air zone to be a “sin tax” and we expect the council to use it to draw more and more vehicles into the charge once the infrastructure exists.
UKIP BATH & NORTH EAST SOMERSET BRANCH RESPONSE TO THE COUNCIL’S PROPOSALS
- UKIP would adopt a “local people and local economy first” approach.
- UKIP would call for the council to present more than one option to the public.
- UKIP would call for a binding local referendum on more than one option. A “consultation” is not binding.
- In any road-charging scheme, UKIP would exempt Bath & North East Somerset residents who need to travel during evenings and weekends (such as for social, domestic and pleasure purposes or churchgoers). Similar to London congestion charge.
- In any road-charging scheme, UKIP would fully exempt all poorer local residents on low incomes, state benefits and state pensioners who are unable to afford to replace their non-compliant cars.
BATH & NORTH EAST SOMERSET UKIP’S LONGER TERM LOCAL POLICY
- Polluting HGVs mainly need to travel through Bath & North East Somerset only because there is no direct motorway between the South Coast ports and the motorway network to the North.
- UKIP believe it is essential to improve inferior West Country trunk roads to allow traffic (particularly HGVs) to pass freely through our area and to transfer pollutants as far away as possible from the city, towns and villages.
- UKIP recognises that this aim is difficult to achieve at a local level due to the many hills, rivers, and conservation areas etc. throughout Bath & North East Somerset and adjoining areas.
- UKIP believes that it is possible to achieve a significant reduction of NO2 pollution on the entire Bath & North East Somerset road network by removing most long-distance through traffic, including high polluting HGVs from our local roads.
- UKIP would complete the M4/A46 to A36 Batheaston by-pass dual carriageway connection east of Bath to take polluting “through traffic” away from the London Road; Bathwick; Lower Bristol Road and Widcombe areas. This would reduce traffic levels (and NO2 pollution) on the inner “ring road” so that local people can navigate around Bath quickly, without charge.
- Some studies show the need for a link road from the M4 near Junction 19 (M32) through to a new connection to the Radstock area, and hence southwards from the M4 avoiding Bath. UKIP does not support this, as it would increase the already high volume of heavy traffic on the substandard A37. UKIP believes this is the wrong answer.
- As an alternative to item 6, a local UKIP MP would lobby the government to build a good fast motorway standard road from Wincanton to take HGVs from the south coast ports directly up to the M4 via Chippenham. This would mean high polluting log-distance traffic would by-pass Bath & North East Somerset (and the Bristol area) altogether.
- There have been cuts in public bus services and rail investment has been slow and behind the curve. As a priority, a local UKIP MP would lobby the government to reverse bus service cuts and lobby the Transport Minister regarding rail service investment. UKIP opposes the council using taxation as the solution.
- UKIP would consider the feasibility of a “park and rail” service to the East and West of the charging zone area.
- UKIP would gradually develop a viable outer Ring Road system to take traffic around Bath and not through it.
- UKIP would re-visit the provision of a commuter tram service to and from Bath to Batheaston.
- UKIP would consider the viability of road tunnels (although recognising these are likely to prove difficult due to the potential effects on the hot springs, etc.)
- UKIP would build an additional Park and Ride on the eastern side of Bath (the only side without one). However, UKIP would respect the World Heritage City and its surrounding conservation area to the East and would not build on Bathampton Water Meadows or a similar site. UKIP would use a brown-field or comparable site.