A very timely question has been raised about Plot 6 - the wasted space alongside Temple Meads station. "Is this a suitable moment to renew the pressure on using Plot 6 for a more convenient Coach Station and Transport Hub? "
Good point. Plot 6 is in the joint ownership of Network Rail and development agency SWRDA - but their plans to cover this key site with another uninspiring development of offices, flats, and retail have stagnated - and now SWRDA is to close its doors, and its wallet, by March 2012.
Meanwhile Network Rail's future is little more secure, facing (as Christian Wolmar puts it) "something between dismemberment and death"
So what happens to their (ie our) Plot 6 asset? SWRDA says " the rules by which we are governed require that any disposals must be at open market value", though they also hint that councils or the new Local Enterprise Partnership could inherit land assets like Plot 6. An Evening Post report
is less optimistic: "The RDA has also been told it will not be allowed to hand on any properties or assets and they will have to be sold on the open market". In short, the whole deal's being rushed through on ideological grounds without much thought about how it's done or what will be lost, and no-one has much idea what's going to happen. Brilliant.
So is the Plot 6 opportunity be lost to Bristol for ever, thanks to gross political ineptitude?
There's certainly been plenty of public pressure put on both the city council and the West of England Partnership to make sure that this chance isn't lost - but there's been precious little response from them so far.
Bristol is now considering its long term plans for the Central Area, including Temple Meads, as part of the evolving Bristol Development Strategy. On the way, it's seen repeated demands to list Plot 6 for the road/tram component of a multimodal city transport interchange (using the adjacent, and equally underused, Digby Wyatt Shed as the passenger concourse); you'd be hard put to find an event or consultation where the topic hasn't been raised.
Questions to the Cabinet, though, suggest that there is no great ambition to do more than 'improve' the interchange facilities that already exist at Temple Meads - effectively providing a marginally better quality of bus stop. The council's own scrutiny commission was due to get a progress report on Plot 6 on September 23rd; but that seems to have got lost somewhere along the line. [*updated - see footnote]
As for the West of England Partnership, they too make a great thing of seeking out the public's views on their plans, and they too have been told very clearly that Plot 6 could provide the smooth, comfortable interchange that could make public transport in the city an attractive option that could really be preferred to travelling by car. So you might think Plot 6 would merit a mention in the latest Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP3) covering the next fifteen years of transport development in Bristol and the surrounding authorities.
As luck would have it, the 'final draft' (isn't that a contradiction?) has just been published
And Plot 6 really does get a mention in it! JLTP3 puts on record that Plot 6 was among the big issues raised by consultees, and adds encouragingly that "we have been able to take most of these on board". But - that's the only mention - in 150 pages of detailed proposals to take us through to 2026.
In a further 275 pages of strategic environmental assessment, and in the supplementary papers on cycling, network management(!), public transport(!), parking, road safety, rural transport, smarter choices, and walking - likewise, Plot 6 is totally absent. It's not part of the plans.
So it's pretty clear that the local authories are sitting on their hands while the coalition government prepares a fire sale that will to kill off the sole opportunity to use this unique piece of land to help solve the city's biggest problem.
"Is this a suitable moment to renew the pressure on using Plot 6 for a more convenient Coach Station and Transport Hub?"
I think the answer's pretty obvious....
[*Updated 5th Jan]
I've just acquired a copy of the officers' scrutiny report, which should be added to the web records of the Sept 23 meeting soon. It shows a clear effort to defuse any attempt by rank and file members to get Plot 6 designated as a transport interchange...
- Although initially the site looks ideal for a multi-modal interchange, and there have been representations suggesting this, the case for a multimodal interchange is not clear. It may be that improving links to existing public transport and proposed future Bus Rapid Transit is better than diverting a large number of services on to this site.
- For this reason the prudent approach will be to seek that any development at the site is as permeable as possible, improves interchange and provides car parking for the station, without prescribing that it must solely be a multi-modal interchange."