'Filton Keynes' will choke our city

November 03 2014

'Filton Keynes’, the Post called it – the massive development of a new town on the old Filton Airfield (which should never have closed), and the surrounding area.

'Filton Keynes’, the Post called it – the massive development of a new town on the old Filton Airfield (which should never have closed), and the surrounding area. But there’s a huge difference between ‘Filton Keynes’ and its pun-namesake, Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes boasts that it is ‘designed for growth’. This mega-scheme is certainly not. If anything, it’s designed for gridlock and economic stagnation of itself and its surrounding areas as it currently stands.
Why? Because yet again we are not learning from the repeated mistakes of the past and are building a new town without any of the transport infrastructure needed to make it work. You know the story; highly paid men in glossy suits with power-point presentations and clip-boards and some graphs tell those of us who are worried about those common sense things (like how the roads are going to take all the extra cars) that we needn’t worry our little public heads about this, it will all be fine. And then lo and behold it isn’t fine at all and we have traffic gridlock and chaos.
We saw this with the Southmead hospital development. There were those of us turning up to those meetings back in 2006, who pointed out that the Emperor had no clothes – that is that building a brand new hospital with fewer beds, in a growing city, with an aging and expanding population, with no proper integrated community care yet in place was a monumentally bad plan. Oh, and that there was nowhere near like enough parking. For eight years – eight years – we were told not to be so parochial and silly, it was all fine. They had some spreadsheets and graphs to prove it. And then lo and behold, it is really not fine at all. And it is NHS staff, patients, their families and the tax-payer who suffers, as well as local residents, choked with parked cars.
The idea that building a new town before the Henbury Loop Line is in place in the North of our city is the same short sighted lunacy as we saw from those suits who told us there was enough parking and beds at Southmead Hospital. They are building a traffic disaster.
And what the planners never seem to clock is that nothing ever stays the same. We have a choice. We can either do the common sense thing and build the Henbury Loop Line before the main development of commerce and housing, in which case we are likely to see a great economic hub develop, with benefits for the whole city. Or we sit about on our hands, say it’s all too difficult to even attempt, take the easy route for now and create a stagnating traffic chaos where people will not want to live and business will not want to operate because their staff and haulage can’t get in and out because no one bothered to build in a railway line.
As you might be able to tell from the tone of this article, I am fed up with feeling like I have to frog-march officials to do the right thing; to draw up terms of reference for business cases that display any commercial understanding; to broker meetings between those who have concerns and those who can alleviate them. This should be proactively happening without me – it would be in the North. We talk about being a great city. We talk about being Europe’s Green Capital. That very idea will be a sick joke, turning people green for the wrong reasons, if the Green Capital Year passes without us pressing the red button on getting the Henbury Loop Line in place before Filton Keynes chokes our City.