This week Cabinet Members and I were briefed on the Draft South East Dorset Transport Study. The draft study has far reaching implications for transport in the conurbation over the next 25 years.
See our story on the transport study
The work was commissioned by the last Government’s Quangos - the Regional Development Agency and Government Office South West – together with the Borough of Poole, Dorset County Council and Bournemouth Borough Council to review the potential growth in traffic levels and outline options for managing this growth.
The recommendations contained in the draft study are currently out for consultation and I’d encourage all residents to go to the website and comment on the proposals.
Whilst there are a number of policies in the draft that we were pleased to see recommended – including the upgrading of the road from Blackwater junction on the A338 to the airport, and support for our proposal to improve bus routes in Bournemouth, there are a number of recommendations in the draft that we find either unacceptable or which have failed to demonstrate that there has been sufficient analysis of the issue or wider public consultation, particularly in Bournemouth.
These recommendations include:
• Significant increases in car parking charges in the Town Centre - as a Council we have sought to maintain or reduce car park charges in order to promote local economic growth and assist the town centre retail and tourist sectors. We are totally opposed to any policy that proposes significant increases in town centre parking charges.
• A park and ride scheme on Wessex Fields, Riverside Avenue near the hospital, has been approved by a Government Inspector on appeal.
However the proposal to build a park and ride scheme in north Bournemouth on land adjacent to Northbourne Roundabout in such an environmentally sensitive area next to Cherry Tree Nursery - needs to be completely rethought.
This proposal reflects the fact that there has been insufficient consultation with local residents and thus as a Cabinet we will not be able to support this proposal.
• The proposal of a relief road from the Airport going west to Milhams along the flood plain in north Kinson is not supported either.
Whilst this proposal is not scheduled for consideration for the next 15 years, we feel substantially more technical work and local consultation will be necessary to prove the need for such a road in this environmentally sensitive area.
We understand why the study has also considered proposals for congestion charging and workplace charging for car spaces and toll roads.
The previous government were anxious to promote such schemes in response to traffic volumes in the inner cities, but we do not believe these measures are required in Bournemouth.
Such policies would have a negative impact on economic growth and the local tourist economy and therefore we are clear that no further action should be taken on these issues.
In summary, we believe that the Council’s policies of reducing congestion via the improvements to highway junctions, improved cycle lanes, investment in real time bus information and bus controlled traffic lights has worked well and needs to continue.
We have developed better relations with the bus operators under the Bus Quality Partnership – which has resulted in a significant increase in bus use over the last few years - and we will continue to support these policies.
Our commitment to promoting improved town centre access for both cars and buses will remain as will our policy of working with the business community to seek to reduce car park charges and to look for alternative ways of generating income e.g. via advertising.
The draft study needs to be subject to much wider public review and extensive debate, both by residents and the business community before we can take these issues further.
As a Cabinet we will certainly be opposing the recommendations outlined above.
Councillor Michael Filer, the Council lead on the project, and I will be taking a report to Cabinet in March to outline our position on these proposals and to ensure that residents are consulted and able to influence or reject the recommendations.
It is not entirely clear to me from the document I have seen whether Bournemouth residents have been encouraged to participate in the consultation in the same way as our neighbours in Poole and indeed throughout Dorset.
In order to ensure local residents are far more widely consulted I have asked officers of the Council to consider how best we can achieve that far wider consultation that colleagues and I believe is required.
The public consultation concludes at the end of February 2011. You can have your say by downloading the leaflet using the link below or visiting www.sedorsetmms.com
Yesterday, 27 January, marked Holocaust Memorial Day. This international event is dedicated to the remembrance of victims of the Holocaust and other genocides, including those in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. 27 January is the chosen date since this is the day the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Union in 1945.
This year’s theme is ‘Untold Stories’, and yesterday I attended a presentation at Pavilion Dance on the ‘Righteous Muslims’. The story chronicles the role played by Muslims who defended Jews during World War Two. The event was exceptionally well-attended by people of all ages, and I was pleased to see such a turnout.
We also heard very moving memories from Frank Miller, who shared his story about how the wartime situation in Holland affected his family.
Until next week.