There is no doubt that coaches filled with visitors make a significant contribution to the economy of Bath, with up to 72 per day going to the Roman baths alone. But it comes at price and as city centre development work gets underway where to put those vehicles will potentially pose more of a headache.
Members of the Chamber and Initiative are delighted that the scheme to widen the river and so reduce the risk of flooding and allow development at Avon Street Car Park is due to start later this year. This will mean eventually closing a section of Green Park Road, re-routing traffic and creating a new link across the existing coach park back to re-join the old road. Whilst the work is carried out the 42 bays in the coach park will be reduced to 18 and those just for pick up and drop off, with the coaches parking up at Weston Island.
However, in the long term we need to solve the condundrum of how to handle coaches and consultants are already hard at work trying to come up with an answer.
The problem they are grappling with is the coaches need to get close to the historic centre for drop off and pick up, especially those with passengers who have mobility needs.
It would be disastrous if any of the existing city centre car parking was taken over by coaches. For example, you could imagine operators making a case for Kingsmead Square to be used for coaches as it is so convenient for the city centre. But that would mean the loss of 88 valuable car parking spaces. We are already facing at least a temporary loss of spaces whilst Avon Street goes through its vital re-development, we cannot allow coaches to elbow cars out just in order to attract more day visitors.
It seems to me as though this is yet another reason to press ahead with an eastern park and ride with sufficient space to accommodate coaches and provide the facilities the drivers require. In that way we will not be using up valuable city centre space but will continue to make Bath an attractive venue for coaches to visit.