Confusion is surrounding the building of the ‘Park & Rail’ facility at Bathampton, after the Council granted permission for a housing estate to be built at the site of the proposed train station.
In order to accommodate the Park & Rail at the proposed site, the railway track at the Bathampton junction would need to be realigned and straightened to meet with the health and safety requirements for new train stations.
However, it has now emerged that in September the Council granted planning permission for the construction of fifteen new properties at the Old Timber Yard on Tyning Road in Bathampton, with the developer hoping to start work on the new homes next year.
The new homes will be built directly in the path of the railway line which would serve the proposed Park & Rail station, raising renewed questions over the feasibility of the project.
Conservative councillors have demanded answers from the Lib Dem-run Council over what this means for the future of the Park & Rail proposal.
Opposition transport spokesman Cllr Anthony Clarke said: “Conservatives are happy to give our wholehearted support to any proposal which could help resolve the chronic traffic problems on the east of Bath.
“But the news that B&NES has granted planning permission for fifteen houses to be built at the proposed Park & Rail site has to raise new questions over the viability of this particular project. These are questions which B&NES is yet to answer.”
The proposed Park & Rail has already come under scrutiny over its cost and feasibility, with a report commissioned by the Highways Agency putting the price tag for the project at anywhere between £46 million and £58 million – above even the Council’s own estimate of £34 million.
A report for the Council by transport consultants Halcrow concluded that the extensive highway and rail engineering works required to build the station ‘will make this site very expensive to deliver’ and that it is ‘considered doubtful that a good business case with a sound Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) could be achieved.’
Councillor Anthony Clarke added: “The Liberal Democrats have completely failed to get a grip of Bath’s transport problems, and over the past four years have made no progress whatsoever in finding a site for the long-discussed new Park & Ride to the east of the city.
“We’ve had too many failed transport projects in Bath, we simply can’t afford for there to be any more confusion and delay over this issue.”
Paul Crossley, LibDem Leader of B&NES Council released a statement explaining how the Park & Rail project will tackle Bath’s decades old problem of traffic jams and resulting pollution and said that “local Conservatives seem unable to decide whether to support this scheme or oppose it”.
He continued: “The Conservatives voted for the Transport Strategy, including the Park & Rail, only last month, since then they have done nothing but complain about it, presumably because there are elections on the way.
“This includes their Parliamentary candidate who claims to support the scheme but loses no opportunity to fund fault with it.
“The LibDems were hopeful that the Conservatives would work with us to turn these great ideas into reality, but sadly it looks as if we are going to have to to do it without them – which we will.
“The new Bathampton Parkway station and car park will be at Bathampton railway junction but the precise location is not yet fixed, specialist consultants are evaluation several options right now.
“If the best option turns out to be some or all of the Old Timber Yard, then the Council will buy the land,
“Whichever option is recommended there will, of course, be a full consultation exercise with local residents.
“Outline planning permission was granted for a small housing development last July with five Tories on the committee which approved it. The Committee could not take account of the Council’s Transport Strategy because is was not agreed until four months later.
“If the Tories thought the existing planning permission was a problem, which it is not, they should have mentioned it before voting for Park & Rail.
“The LibDems will press on with these and other great plans to make Bath and the surrounding areas even better.”