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Air Quality Plans suppressed by B&NES

by Richard Samuel on 18 March, 2018

Walcott residents, especially those along London Road and Bathwick St have a strong interest in the Council finding solutions to the high levels of pollution along the A4. Levels of Nitrogen Dioxide are well in excess of the legal limits. As a result the Council has been ordered by the Government to clean up the air along these roads. This can only be done by reducing the numbers of diesel vehicles using the roads and/or by only allowing the cleanest vehicles to use these roads. The Council was ordered to file a plan with the government by 31st March 2018 last July. This plan is an outline of how the Council intendeds to deal with the pollution and must be followed by a more detailed plan by the end of the year.

Imagine my shock last week when I found that the Council is intending to suppress this initial report and avoid its examination by the Council’s Communities, Transport and Environment Panel ahead of its publication. The given reason was that there was not enough time to follow the usual democratic processes. Really I can’t buy that, the Council has ‘only’ had eight and half months notice of the deadline! So councillors on the panel, of which I am one, have been denied the right to examine the Council’s proposals in public.

The Council’s system of governance is supposed to balance the decisions the Executive – Cabinet and Management make, with the examination of those decisions by scrutiny panels. Well, if you can’t see the decisions because they have been hidden, then it’s a bit difficult to challenge them. A bit like Parliament trying to examine Brexit after we’ve left the EU and we all know what we think of that.

Protests I and others have made have fallen on deaf ears and councillors are now to be briefed on 3rd April after the plans have been submitted or in other words so that we can’t say anything nasty about them. On a subject as important as this to so many people whose health is being compromised by Bath’s unmanaged traffic you would think the Council could at least realise that the public and councillors who represent them have a right to know and comment on what is being done in their name. It seems not.

I am going to make a statement at the Council meeting next week highlighting this shocking state of affairs and calling for it never to happen again. I will be asking publicly for the Leader of the Council and Chief Executive to ensure that full transparency is in place when the final plan comes before Council in December and to ensure that Christmas and New Year is not used as another excuse for “urgent” decision making.

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