by Gavin Haines, The Daily Telegraph, January 27, 2017
Perennially one of England’s most popular destinations, Bath is lauded for its fine Georgian architecture, natural hot springs and bucolic backdrop, which together have earned the city a place on Unesco’s world heritage list.
However, campaigners warn that Bath’s Unesco status could be at risk if a controversial park and ride development is given the go-ahead on Wednesdsay.
The city’s Conservative-led cabinet will meet this evening to discuss the proposed scheme, which has been earmarked for one of two sites in Bathampton Meadows, to the east of the city.
Protesters will march through the city from 4.30pm today in a last ditch attempt to see off the development, which critics claim will ruin the views from Solsbury Hill, a scenic spot that inspired the lyrics of Peter Gabriel.
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“People are outraged about this and we’re expecting a big rally this evening,” said Christine Boyd, a leading campaigner for Bathampton Meadows Alliance . “Bathampton Meadows is part of Bath, it’s important to our world heritage city.”
Believing the development is a direct threat to Bath’s world heritage status, campaigners have sent an appeal to Unesco to intervene in the matter. The organisation has yet to respond.
Bath and North East Somerset Council declined to comment to Telegraph Travel ahead of tonight’s meeting. However, a report produced by the council suggests that the proposed park and ride scheme could cost "in the region" of £17.5 million.
That figure is particularly galling for campaigners given the recent cuts to public services in the city.
“That’s part of the fury,” said Boyd. “At a time when the council is cutting services and the arts budget, they then propose to build this expensive park and ride.”
The council has long claimed the development would improve local transport, tackle congestion and support the growth of the local economy. However, according to the consultancy firm, CH2M, the city’s three existing park and ride schemes have plenty of spare capacity.
“At present, the average overall utilisation of the three park and ride sites is circa 63 per cent with usage on Sundays excluded,” the agency said in a report commissioned by the council titled Bath: Park and Ride Expansion . “This equates to existing spare capacity of some 1,020 spaces.”
According to the council’s website, the proposed park and ride scheme at Bathampton Meadows would create a maximum of 1,200 new spaces.
Bathampton Meadows was recently featured in a Sunday Telegraph article that identified 10 British beauty spots under threat from development.
The article was pegged on the release of a new book, The Fight For Beauty, which was written by former head of the National Trust, Dame Fiona Reynolds. The book sets out the case for preserving vulnerable beauty spots such as Bathampton Meadows.
“We need a big fight about this,” Dame Reynolds told the newspaper. “We are not seeing beauty as a prime objective. We should strive for quality of life, things that money can't buy. If that makes us happier, even if not richer, that is a prize worth seeking.”
This article was written by Gavin Haines from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.