BCRNP statement to Sustainable Devt and Transport Scrutiny commission.

BCR NP chairman is presenting the statement below at the Scrutiny commission meeting tomorrow at City Hall.

To read the Transport report which is being presented to Scrutiny at the meeting as Agenda item 5 see link here.

Watch the webcast here (select Sustainable Development and Scrutiny Commission on the right) from 2 pm. The agenda item is timed for 3pm

Public Statement to Sustainable Development and Transport Scrutiny Commission for 20th June 2013 From Bishopston, Cotham and Redland (BCR) Neighbourhood Partnership – Chair, Clive Stevens Dear Chair and Committee,

I have digested the 18 page report (for cabinet) which was posted on the Scrutiny webpage at approx. 4pm on Tuesday. This is written Wednesday morning to hit the deadline. I plan to attend and make a short verbal statement as well.

Here are our points:

1) BCR NP supports the idea of residents’ parking in principle. We think the current scheme (even as outlined in this Cabinet report) is unworkable for some of our residents and businesses. We would like it noted that the whole process as to how the city has got to where it is on this topic has been unbelievably poor and started to go wrong well before the Mayor was elected. It has sped up since and is still poor but going faster. This has caused much distress to many businesses and residents and consequently our councillors who do their job because they care.

So one question we would like you to work out please: The Mayor publicly tells us one thing, but Highway’s officers tell us many things are not negotiable. Either the Mayor is briefing his officers differently to his public statements or the officers are not carrying out his directions?

2) The definition of car commuters has been discussed in length in our NP. We see two types:

Firstly people driving in from further out, parking in Cotham and Redland and then making their way by foot, bike or bus to the centre. This is to be actively discouraged. There are other modes of transport and plans to introduce more. Their parked cars clog up our area and reduce its vitality.

The second type of commuters, are people from outside our area who come in to our neighbourhood to do activities here like working and/or shopping. We welcome them, they are part of our community, they bring in wealth, skills and supply us with services. Of course we would prefer if more of them used other modes of transport instead of the car and welcome a gradual encouragement for them to do that. We know the bus connections to us are poor and some of the people have heavy loads to carry in e.g. teachers. We don’t want these people or their businesses to be penalised but encouraged. We see the current scheme as proposed to cabinet as treating both types of commuters as the same and that is wrong.

3) Now to the report you have in front of you and areas we would like you to question Highways Officers (direct ideally please rather than via the Mayor). We refer you to the clause (paragraph) in the Cabinet report at each case. If you think the point is relevant please ask it.

3.1) Cabinet report para. 2 – Kingsdown. Have the 10 negative responses been analysed? What has been learned and applied Bristolwide? We would expect all residents (except a couple we know of) to like it, there are few shops, no schools and it is not representative of other areas. Cotham South is having its 6 month review now. BCR NP raised £150 of private money to leaflet every house, flat, shop and business in the zone on June 1st asking them to reply to the Council’s questionnaire (and to copy Councillors in). Feedback from Cotham S is overwhelmingly positive but we know there are some major problems mainly around some businesses, schools and nurseries. So a massive approval doesn’t mean it is working for everyone and especially for that second group of commuters who we regard as part of our community. Highway’s officers have told us that Cotham South feedback is just for fine tuning Cotham S and won’t be considered as setting the context for the wider roll out. If this is still the case then that thinking is plainly irrational.

3.2) para 10 – air quality. Lack of evidence. Buses when full are 6 times less polluting than a car. When a third full and the car has 2 people in the amount of pollutant per passenger mile is equal. What studies have been done to show which bus routes actually reduce pollution. Obviously some do and some don’t. The point here is about lack of evidence driving decisions. Improving the air quality by running cleaner buses is the answer but doesn’t appear in the paper.

3.3) para 11 – for us, this benefit is self-evident and can be seen in Cotham S and Kingsdown schemes. We do query the benefit of reducing circulating traffic as it is ill defined. Do the officers mean people circulating to park at peak times or throughout the day. If the latter we would question this and ask for evidence that it is a problem. It might be in shopping areas? Or outside schools in the afternoon but where is the evidence?

3.4) para 12 – our point is not about Blue badge holders but about parking outside our houses. In the future more of us will have electric cars and the ability to park them outside the house to charge them cheaply will be a benefit. This is not considered in the paper. Maybe it won’t be allowed? We think it is important that provision for electric cars is considered?

3.5) paras 15 to 19 – This presents part of the “bigger picture”. Please note most of this improves transport for people from the outskirts to the centre. It doesn’t improve so much the ability for teachers for example to get into Redland or Cotham. This will require other solutions. That is why we think local school, nurseries and businesses should be encouraged gradually to reduce car use. Not threatened with closure which is what the current allowance (2 permits) is tantamount to.

3.6.) para 26 – we see that the new “concessions” are seen as a minimum operating criteria. There are other points we raised in our 10 point plan we presented to Highways Officers on June 4th to which we have had no reply (except that the date of the Cotham S feedback is 2 weeks late). These are (8 points as we see 2 are being implemented):

i) Some businesses require more than 5 permits for customers. Take a car repair garage without a forecourt for example. There are 2 garages in Cotham S both have forecourts. The two in Cotham N don’t and have about 10 customers each day who drop their cars off and collect at night. They would need 10 permits and additionally a more practical system as people are likely to accidentally drive off with the customer permit still in their cars. We have suggested a “day ticket” scheme. Hairdressers (yes some hairdos take over 3 hours – we have checked) need the same. What about hotels and parking for their guests as they walk or take the bus around our city?

ii) Business permits for employees, already stated this needs to be more flexible and an encouragement to less car use but not a threat.

iii) Start time flexibility. 9.30 or 10.00am have both been suggested. We are told this is non-negotiable and must stay at 9am. Why? No adequate reason has been given. iv) Local amenities (parks, bowls clubs allotments). Old persons may need to drive their grand- children to the park or mums taking with twins. If they live in another zone they will now have to pay to use a free facility. This hasn’t been addressed in the equalities report (see later) v) Charities and community organisations are neither businesses nor residents. We are told they get no permits. This is plainly ridiculous but typical of the nonsense from Highways officers that we are having to batter down? We need help from the Scrutiny Committee and Mayor please to get things like this properly considered.

vi) We understand that people living in private roads or having driveways will be able to apply for one permit per household. This seems appropriate but is not in the paper before you today.

vii) Consideration of the parking needs of temporary residents like students (or trainee doctors or young professionals on a secondment). A practical solution needs to be worked out as all three groups exist in Cotham and Redland. Currently they are coping because they can park in Cotham North or Redland (outside the zones they live in)! viii) Clarity on future costs and increases. We see the proposed charges in Appendix 2, will these be increased over time and by how much, what is the strategy? It is too tempting for officers to see this as a revenue earner and thus reduce pressures on their budget without controls.

3.7) paras 27 to 30 – we approve of these amendments but as you can see from above, we need more please.

3.8) paras 29 to 35 – we approve of the reduced prices for businesses. Please note at #31 the officers talk about pricing by value. That’s a business approach and is valid, but when a monopoly provider like a council starts talking about pricing by value it rings alarm bells. If unchecked it allows monopoly type high pricing and the need for regulation as per the water and energy companies. One control would be to set up an independent (of Highways at least) review of prices each year to ensure the power is not being abused.

3.9) para 39 – our councillors welcome the ability to consider the process for Cotham and Redland and await contact.

3.10) para 40 to 42 – whilst this is progress we submit that this is a flawed consultation process because (as we discovered at recent meetings) having residents and businesses come to meetings to discuss the actual facts (and not the fiction) and to work together to find a local solution is highly constructive. This could occur after writing to every property to invite them to such meetings to understand the scheme and debate solutions. More could be said on this if Scrutiny Committee you agree.

3.11) para 47 – whilst we appreciate the effort of an individually tailored incentive package, the current scheme offers 2 parking permits (and 5 for customers) for some businesses, schools, nurseries etc that is equivalent to threatening to shut them down; hardly a good start to bringing the people with you?

3.12) risk management box. On the very first box it states “Initial design will take local needs into account”. As this is not happening we submit the current risk is not low, it is high. For example with the current allowance some nurseries may have to move out of our area and then we will get in our cars with our kids, drive out to Henleaze drop them off and come home confident that we can find a parking space!

3.13). Equalities Act – there are issues we are sure around indirect discrimination of old people and young people and pregnant mothers. Until we have seen the assessment we can’t comment further. Indeed the report says “it is acknowledged that we have limited information about the potential equalities impacts of the scheme”. We argue that some of the impact will be on people that live outside Redland and Cotham and thus won’t be able to comment in the statutory consultation.

3.14) Eco impact – we would like to see the evidence especially regarding circulating traffic during the day (as mentioned earlier at 3.3)

3.15) Finance – it is acknowledged that the pre-stat consultation will delay the schemes by 4 months to finish May 2015. Yet the broad brush revenue still shows £1,734k in 2014/15. Most schemes will have been in for 6 months and some not at all. Although not directly affecting BCR residents we are tax payers too and would regret having to pay more on Council Tax to fund this gap.

3.16) Later on (the page before the end) there is guidance about consultation in general. This hasn’t been followed.

Well its 11.15 am and this has to be in by midday so you will be pleased to know we have to stop here. We hope you can see there is still a great deal that Scrutiny can help to improve this currently unworkable scheme.

I listened to the debate at full Council the other night and three of our Councillors spoke passionately about outstanding issues. Amazingly, after all this, we still support the principle, it’s just the operation and the ‘not being listened to’ that has driven our Councillors mad and hence this NP statement.

So, Scrutiny Commission, our residents, businesses and thus our community depend on you doing a good job on Thursday. Please, we beseech you, do leave no stone unturned. Thank you and yours faithfully – Clive Stevens, Chair BCR NP

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