By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter
RESIDENTS and traders in Fishponds claim Bristol City Council is determined to force through plans for a showcase bus route in the area, despite fierce local opposition.
The council wants to make changes to Fishponds Road as one of ten routes in the £70 million Greater Bristol Bus Network.
The authority believes the changes – which includes a priority lane for buses – will improve congestion in the area but businesses are concerned their trade will be effected by the loss of parking spaces.
Opponents are also angry that the council has not shown them a “justification document” which supports the argument for a route.
The council has refused to make the information available because it contains “commercially sensitive” information about First bus.
Residents say that is not good enough and have collected around 1,900 signatures opposing the route.
Local resident David Mockney said: “We think it’s outrageous.
“We’ve had two public meetings that were well supported but no one stood up saying this is great. Everyone has been saying ‘I don’t think this is necessary’.
“I’m concerned that the GBBN team is keeping the justification data document secret.
“They came to a meeting and Mr Mockney argued that for the council to ‘push the proposals through’ regardless of opposition makes a mockery of the whole consultation process.” The council says it has listened though and has changed the details of the plan accordingly.
Leigh Cooper, who runs Nature’s Genius shop in Fishponds Road, said: “We’re upset they’re trying to shove this lane through.
“They’re taking out the parking facilities and putting in traffic lights where they’re not needed.
“They’re just doing it because they’ve got money from the government.
“Why is it being hammered through when they could take a light touch?
“I don’t care if it’s Tory, Labour or Lib Dem – is that the way an authority should be run?”
The council is hoping to resolve the outstanding issues and advertise the plans for final, formal consultation later this month.
Subject to the outcome, work could begin in August.
Council spokeswoman Kate Hartas said: “The council has held numerous meetings in the area attended by between ten and 100 people.
“As the council has been careful to listen to residents and has made changes to the scheme to address their concerns wherever possible, the meetings have been attended by fewer people as the process has gone on.
“The existing traffic lights will be replaced at the junction of Manor Road and Fishponds Road.
“They will be linked to reduce congestion through Fishponds and the council expects to see significant improvements in traffic flow.
“A small number of residents will lose parking spaces immediately outside their houses during the hours of bus land operation and will need to walk a short distance to their cars.
“Traders will benefit from more short stay parking for shoppers.
“Ultimately GBBN is a city-wide scheme with city-wide benefits, and though the project enhances local destinations as a priority, it also has to deliver public transport benefits for the whole city.
“The council has sight of confidential data about passenger numbers but it is owned by the various bus companies.
“We are not permitted to share it without permission for reasons of commercial confidentiality but the council uses it to assess infrastructure improvements it needs to make to improve local access and journey times.”