Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Public Forum Party Games
Over the years, I've used the public forum part of council meetings to ask many questions and make a few statements too. For the most part, it hasn't changed anything, except to put put things 'on record' that would be otherwise hidden. Statements are politely received then forgotten. Answers are carefully crafted to give nothing away.
It was a bit different at last week's Cabinet. The topic was the bid for the South Bristol Link (Road + BRT), which they were about to nod through. Knowing that nothing I said about the rationale for the project would change anything at this late stage, I simply pointed out that new road building is contrary to Lib-Dem national policy.
For once, they seemed to listen, and I got an animated response.
Jon Rogers (who, I suspect, is quite embarrassed by having to push this particular project through) floundered a bit: "This is not road building, it is a link route, it is a Greater Bristol Bus link route, and although there is a road element within, it is clearly not just a road"
Hmmm... yes, a new road predicted to carry 1070 vehicles in the morning peak hour, compared with 200 passengers on the parallel bus rapid transit. If it looks like a road and it smells like a road.....
Jon went on to claim the 5-page 'eco-checklist' prepared for the meeting was enough to satisfy his party's expectation of environmental protection (although there are not yet any clear predictions of the wider traffic impacts of the scheme, )
We also got the repeated mantra that "This is not a Ring Road, absolutely fundamentally, it's not". Tell that to Steve Comer, who has told his Lib Dem colleagues how much easier it will be for him to drive from East Bristol to the Airport and beyond.
Mark Wright then weighed in, undermining Jon's case with a paean of praise for the road, and the traffic it would bring to South Bristol. Somewhat obscurely, he told us that you can't have new homes without new roads (possibly a coded reference to his ambitions for green belt development?) and that you can't take a six-ton sack of sand on a bus. Thanks, Mark.
No-one bothered to refute the case put in another statement from Mike Landen of the Alliance Against the Ring Road. But then Mike wasn't being 'political', he was just stating the reasons why the Link is a bad thing.
Then, of course, they voted to put in the bid.
Ironically, given the claims that the BRT element will provide access to the city centre and beyond for S. Bristol Residents, albeit by way of Ashton Gate (the scenic route?), the next item nodded through was the Hengrove to North Fringe bus rapid transit; which provides a far more direct and fast public transport link, making the South Bristol Link BRT redundant within minutes of being approved!