Saturday, 3 January 2009
Engineering consent (and congestion, and pollution)
Tim Kent complains in the Post today, that his Whitchurch constituents are excluded from the consultation on the South Bristol Link (aka Ring Road).
That's less than half the real story. It's not just Whitchurch, everyone's being excluded - including those who get as far as filling in the West of England's questionnaires, guiding them carefully to deliver just the opinions the roadbuilders want.
Reason is that vital information's being withheld, so no-one can give a properly informed comment. And without that, the consultation is meaningless.
The proposed Link is supposed to be about different options to 'improve connectivity' within South Bristol. But they haven't told us just what the options are, and they haven't told us what the effects of the road will be. They're even too shy to tell us quite where it will go. That's some consultation!
Glenn Vowles and I have been trying to worm some of this information out of Mark Bradshaw. At the first attempt (Cabinet, November) he confirmed that
"a shorter list of the more promising options is being taken forward for more detailed study..... This shorter list includes alternative rapid transit options"
He went on to confirm that studies of a link road have also given
"an initial indication of likely impacts (on congestion and air quality) but more detailed transport modelling is now being progressed to give a clearer picture."
BUT he didn't volunteer to release any of this to the public.
You might think congestion and air quality are quite important before you comment on the plans - you might even make an informed guess that places like King Georges Road and Wootton Park would lose a considerable chunk of their attractiveness, or that the Wells Road/Airport Road junction might become the new Cumberland Basin Crawl. But that's not on the consultation agenda.
We've tabled further questions for the next council meeting on January 13th. Will these crucial studies - which might well give cause to support the non-road options - still be kept hidden from the consultees?
Is it possible that the West of England just wants to tick the boxes that say they've consulted, and they've looked at alternatives, when it puts in its (already scheduled) bid for road construction? Surely not!