Tessa Coombes, until recently the Director of Marketing, Membership and Policy at Business West, has started her own blog, subtitled "policy & politics blog with a focus on place".
She kicks off with a nicely balanced piece "The South Bristol Link – A Road to Nowhere?", about a project that, on behalf of her employers, she used to champion.
In fact the name 'South Bristol Link' is attributable to Tessa, who advised in an internal 2006 briefing (now sadly removed from the Business West website) about what was then called the South Bristol Ring Road:
"Think about a new name for the road – it has a serious image problem! South Bristol Link Road, Bedminster Bypass – anything to get away from the idea of a ring road – “ring roads take people through places, not to them”.
The advice was heeded; even the word 'road' was removed from the project. On the ground, though, the road signs weren't changed. Now, the new road is even named in the North Somerset / Bristol joint working agreement as the 'SOUTH BRISTOL BUS LINK', although well under 1% of its users will be using buses or more sustainable transport.
On its present course, the Ring Road follows a circuitous line by way of the Parson Street gyratory and Winterstoke Road before it releases its load onto the A370, north towards the Portway or southwest into Somerset. At its eastern end, the options are east on the A4 to Bath or continuing round the Avon Ring Road, or north to the St Philips Causeway for the M32 and the M4.
If the SBL is built, ring road traffic might get through South Bristol a few seconds quicker, and there'll be more of it. But it will still be a Ring Road.
The same Business West briefing acknowledged the lack of evidence for a new road doing anything to improve business development in South Bristol:
"The argument for the ring road suggests it will have a beneficial impact in access to existing employment sites (and may even open up new). If this is the case then these need to be clearly identified. If Cater Road and Hawkfield Business Parks will benefit, where is the evidence? Need facts and figures to support the economic development arguments particularly as more recent evidence on new road provision would not support this case.”
7 years later, and free to express a view outside Business West, Tessa still has doubts on this score:
“Only time will tell whether or not such a road will create jobs and encourage business to locate in the area, but all my instincts tell me that providing improved road access to South Bristol is only a very minor part of the problem. Businesses will still not locate there if the office/business space is not attractive, the right skills are not available locally and the local environment doesn’t provide what their staff need. “
Surely, the business lobby should be making that case – the new road is an expensive, damaging, irrelevancy.