Here are six points that refute the Conservative motion (scroll down to Agenda Item 10, first motion) at last week’s Full Council meeting. Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all voted for this motion in its amended form. (The amendment did little to change the Tories’ intentions.)
1. The Arena is situated directly next to Bristol Temple Meads, the main public transport hub for the West of England and also the South West region as a whole. The vast majority of people who use the Arena will be able to make use of public transport – buses and trains – to the site, without needing to drive a car into the centre of Bristol. Residents of Bristol will be able to walk and cycle to the Arena.
2. Commercial viability is not measured by how close you are able to get in a motor vehicle to something. It is measured by many factors: the attractiveness of the facility and the freedom for pedestrians to easily move around in outside spaces, that could be used for local street markets, which would pay back into Bristol’s ultra-local economy. These would be directly compromised by a whopping stretch of asphalt dedicated to private vehicles being placed anywhere near this facility. (For my own understanding of commercial viability, it is the quality of the acts that will be booked for the Arena that will be the determining factor in whether I regularly pay into paying back our Arena debts.)
3. Traffic congestion is caused by the number of vehicles that are on the road, not by the lack of car parking space. The simple, and most root cause solution, is to encourage and/or limit the number of cars that are able to access the centre of the city. While the Mayor has made noises about a Low Emissions Zone for Bristol, we would like to see this moved forward to stop and/or limit vehicles, and the attendant air pollution and congestion, before such draconian measures as giving yet MORE land over to motor vehicles.
4. Air pollution killed 196 people in Bristol in 2012. That pollution isn’t coming from nowhere. Some of it is coming from vehicle movements, yet the Conservatives are attempting to the reverse the trend of encouraging people out of their cars.
5. The Conservatives are arguing for us to stop building in the centre of Bristol. This is a completely wrongheaded approach to city planning, as there are more services in the centre of cities, and you can build on brownfield sites here, without having to build on what Tories USED to consider the precious greenbelt. As a council, we need to hugely up our game on building genuinely affordable and high energy performance homes on city centre and suburban brownfield sites.
6. I am not interested in simply finding “a fairer deal for the motorist”. I am interested in finding a safer and more livable environment for the people of Bristol. That would be for the common good of all.