The new stadium for Bath Rugby

TARA as been actively engaged in consultation on the new stadium for Bath Rugby from the start.  We have consistently supported the proposals in principle, we appreciate the efforts of the club to consult locally over past months and several of a committee members were able to visit the presentation of outline proposals at the Ricoh Suite. Our view of the current proposals is summarised below;

1.   It is proposed to raise the playing surface by 3.8 m for flood control purposes bringing the higher tier of seats on the west side roughly level with Grand Parade.  This gives rise to two potential difficulties.  First, it has been an important principle for residents during the consultation stage that sight lines to the east from Grand Parade, and from the city centre generally, should be maintained.  It is hard to see how this can be achieved once the height of the roof is added to the raised pitch and seating levels and no indication of a solution to this problem is given in the material presented.  Second, it is proposed that the undercroft created by the raised playing surface should be partly used for 600-800 parking spaces.  It has from the start been an important principle in planning for the new stadium, and one which we at TARA have supported, that minimal parking would be provided and virtually none for fans.  The provision of a substantial new off-street parking resource on the stadium site looks, at first sight, like an expedient resulting from the creation of an undercroft space for other purposes which will simply add to already serious congestion and air quality problems on approach roads to the heart of the city, and on city centre streets.  For a proper evaluation, we would have appreciated more details on the purpose of this parking resource, who its intended users are and how its provision is seen in the context of council policy.  This, in broad terms, seeks to replace any provision lost through the development of existing sites, for example in Enterprise Areas such as Avon Street, and to emphasise short stay rather than long stay parking.  There could, in addition, be a case for additional off street parking given the failure of the council to implement a key part of its policy, namely the eastern park and ride facility.  But the case needs to be made.  If the stadium parking provision can be justified against this background, is for short term use only, closed on match days and even, for example, available for use under contract to city centre residents thus lifting the pressure on on-street parking, then it could receive the support of TARA members.

2.   The proposal for a new pedestrian footbridge across the river is welcome; the idea has been consistently supported by TARA as providing a direct link between the city centre and the stadium complex thus helping to reduce the serious overcrowding of streets by pedestrians around the stadium on match days. This is caused largely by the inadequacy of existing access points for fans almost all of whom arrive at the stadium itself on foot.  However, the proposal has been mishandled.  First, it should have been considered as fundamental to access arrangements for the stadium rather than a potential add-on and should in our view form a part of any planning application.  Second, it connects the stadium, not to major city centre pedestrian routes, but to Parade Gardens which itself has limited pedestrian access under current arrangements.

3.   We have no objection in principle to the proposed commercial frontage along the river on the west side of the stadium.  From the standpoint of local residents however, the uses applied for which should exclude pubs, clubs and all establishments where sale of alcohol predominates will be critical, as will management issues such as hours of operation, prevention of excessive outside drinking, sound mitigation and security.

4.   The elimination of coach parking from Bog Island and the removal of the radial gate would both be welcomed in principle by residents.  The inclusion of a coach park within the stadium complex could make sense subject to local traffic circulation issues and improved pedestrian links to the city as discussed in para. 2 above.