Email sent to to Cllr Warren , Deputy Leader: Climate Emergency and sustainable travel on the need for the Active Travel and Accessibility forum (ATAF)
Dear Cllr Warren
Thank you for your response to Cllr Player about why the ATAF has been cancelled, which appears to me to be that “you are too busy”. It would also seem that the present Cabinet are quite unaware of the important role of the ATAF and the large number of groups who already are members and regularly sit at this forum. They are:
- Living Streets
- Transition Bath (Transport Group)
- Cycle Bath
- Deaf/Vision Plus
- Federation of Bath Residents Association
- Canal & Rivers Trust
- Bath Access Group
- Bath Bus Users Group
- Age UK Bath
- Transition Keynsham
- Transition Larkhall
- Widcombe Association Cycling Group
- Two Tunnels Group
- Sustrans Volunteer Group
- Bathwick Estates Resident Association
- Bath Ramblers
- Bath Access Group
- University of Bath
- Bath Spa University
- Beech Avenue Residents Association
This forum’s purpose has been to engage in constructive debate with the Council on how it can improve the ease for non-motorised users to get around the Authority. Working collaboratively with organisations with a rich knowledge about the issues for proposed schemes has over the years delivered on projects such as the Quays bridge, the Two Tunnels, Scholars Way.
On one of my first outings with an Officer looking at a scheme it was obvious that they had not ever been to the location or understood the issues, so therefore the importance that this forum offers is real life experience and locality at a time when it is clear that Officers are pressed for time and resources.
This successful cross organisational forum is probably the only one of its kind in B&NES apart form 3SG. Clearly its value is that it is keen to deliver better public health, social justice and the climate emergency and over its many years has probably saved the Council thousands in pre-consultation knowledge. The engagement with communities through this forum always attracts a wide range of expertise at no cost to the Council.
I am very aware in my previous role how certain Ward Cllrs were not supportive of this forum and it would seem to me that their influence is creating a hostile atmosphere in the most needed role of community engagement on active travel. This forum should be meeting quarterly and consistently and in fact an ATAF should be part of all Forums in B&NES from Bath, to Keynsham to Chew Valley. If this Cabinet really believes in change then the ATAF should continue but also expand as part of each community forum to create a collaborative approach between the council, community groups, national organisations and residents.
You have just been quoted in the Game Changing WECA Prospectus on Sustainable Travel “Councillor Sarah Warren, Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Climate and Sustainable Travel said: “Bath & North East Somerset Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has championed sustainable travel including introducing the first charging Clean Air Zone outside of London and the development of our Liveable Neighbourhoods programme. But if we are to achieve net zero by 2030 we must work with our WECA partners to secure the scale of investment we need in walking, cycling and public transport across our sub-region to deliver a step change. If we don’t it’s predicted CO2 emissions from transport will rise by an astonishing 22% across the West of England by 2036. We must act now.”
I am assuming acting “now” is working with the likes of Sustrans, the RUH, The Universities as well as WECA, as clearly WECA is its residents who are made up of community groups and national organisations. To enable a step change will require a collaborative approach with a constructive space to discuss ways forward. It would seem to me to be foolish to throw this forum out at a time when discussion is needed more than ever. I look forward to knowing the next date of the ATAF as I am sure the many Cllrs and organisations involved in, do too.
Best wishes Cllr Wright
From: Sarah Warren (Cllr) <Sarah_Warren@Bathnes.gov.uk>
Date: 2 October 2021 at 22:12:20 BST
To: June Player (Cllr) <June_Player@BATHNES.GOV.UK>, Joanna Wright (Cllr) <Joanna_Wright@BATHNES.GOV.UK>
Subject: Re: Active Travel and Accessibility Forum ATAF
Dear June and Joanna – As you rightly point out, there is a very substantial work programme around active travel at present, and as a result, officers have been under significant pressure of workload. On top of the work of actually finalising and preparing to implement the schemes which have already been identified, we are met with continual requests from government to provide detailed bids for substantial and tightly constrained new pots of money, to a very rapid turnaround.
Of course, we are always keen to engage with members of the public with specific expertise or experience in active travel, who would like to provide advice to us in the capacity of a “critical friend”. We also receive many requests to meet with other groups to discuss transport matters of all types on a regular basis. For this reason we are now considering whether the present arrangements continue to provide the most useful and productive form of engagement, especially if extended to other interested groups, without creating too great an administrative burden on top of officers’ already-substantial workload. Cabinet members and officers therefore met this week to discuss the future role of the Active Travel and Accessibility Forum. Changes were proposed and these are now being worked up by officers. We will share further information with you when available.