BRISTOL: Park Street closure plans criticised
Image: Bristol City Council
An opposition group leader has criticised the mayor of Bristol’s plans to shut Park Street to private cars.
Conservative Cllr Mark Weston has tabled a motion to full council expressing disappointment over the “potentially damaging transport proposals” announced in Marvin Rees’s annual State of the City address last month.
Henbury & Brentry ward Cllr Weston says restricting vehicle access to the city centre will harm both passing trade and Broadmead shopping centre.
He has also accused Mr Rees of trying to “provoke a hostile political reaction” instead of fostering cooperation by the way he is unveiling controversial policies.
The mayor’s office has been contacted for comment.
In his speech last month, Mr Rees unexpectedly announced Park Street had been earmarked for closure to through traffic and that the public would be asked for their views on this idea and wider measures along the Number 2 bus route.
He said: “We are about to launch a consultation on the introduction of bus prioritisation for the Wells Road, to the city centre, over the Downs and the whole length of the A4018.
“We will ask you to comment on proposals to remove parking that causes congestion on key routes and the closure of Park Street to private cars.
“This has the potential to reinvent public realm up to the Triangle and remove rat-runs from the Downs.”
Speaking on Monday, November 8, Cllr Weston said: “Sadly, the radical transport proposals outlined by the mayor in his recent annual address filled me with foreboding.
“The idea of closing off Park Street to private vehicles not only removes passing trade from dependent businesses along that route, it further harms Broadmead.
“In addition, as things stand, this change would disproportionately impact upon or disadvantage the elderly, infirm and disabled who often cannot use public transport.
“Similarly, whilst well-intentioned, the planned bus prioritisation schemes along the A4018 are likely to act as a strong disincentive for many people to travel into Bristol for shopping when they have the convenience of plenty of free parking and an attractive retail offering at The Mall.”
Mr Rees’s unexpected Park Street announcement comes as other north Bristol Tory councillors are opposing transport plans by the West of England Combined Authority to install a bus gate at the entrance to North View from the A4018 and also close part of Queens Road to general traffic.
Cllr Weston said his colleagues had been getting a “very angry response” from residents concerned that restrictions could stop them accessing local shops.
He said: “These plans come at a particularly bad time for traders who are already struggling to rebuild following the economic shock brought about by the Covid lockdown.
“Consequently, I shall be urging the mayor to genuinely try to modify his reimagining of the public realm in the wake of the public consultation responses this generates.”
The Conservative group leader’s motion has been submitted to a full council meeting of Bristol City Council on Tuesday evening (November 9) but is unlikely to be heard because of time constraints.
It says: “Council is disappointed by the way the mayor is choosing to unveil controversial and potentially damaging transport proposals.
“The current administration seems intent on provoking a hostile political reaction rather than seeking to engage constructively with opposition parties to achieve consensus and positive change.
“Council is particularly concerned at the radical plan to close off Park Street (a major thoroughfare) to private vehicles, Queens Road (at the Victoria Rooms) and North View (at White Tree roundabout).
“Such a move would inevitably harm the various remaining businesses on each of those roads.
“Making access to the city centre and North View much more difficult for shoppers will continue to reduce the attractiveness of Broadmead as a retail destination and thereby accelerate its continuing economic decline and will also jeopardise the businesses in Westbury Park.
“Council fully understands that changes need to be made to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions but following a unilaterally determined policy that puts many more jobs at risk without proper consideration of alternative strategies is not acceptable.
“Accordingly, Council asks for the mayor to give a commitment that there will be a genuine chance of changing any finalised scheme when the formal public consultation is launched.
“Of course, this flexibility in design must also apply to his promised opportunity ‘to comment on proposals’ in relation to the planned bus prioritisation measures along the entire length of the A4018 and the No 2 bus route.
“For consultation to be meaningful, the mayor and his transport planners should be prepared to take notice of the public’s views and act on them.”
Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter
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