It’s an emergency - or is it?
Updated: Jun 12, 2021
BANES Council has declared a Climate and Ecological emergency, saying that they will lead the BANES area to be carbon neutral by 2030. Their Strategy for 2020-24 describes their core policies of tackling the climate and nature emergency; and giving people a bigger say in decision making. This sounds good.
But, at the same time they are planning to develop a mountain bike park on the Entry Hill Golf Course which is likely to have significant negative environmental impacts. The project seems to be in direct opposition to the Council’s commitments to addressing the Climate and Ecological emergency.
The new Council leader, Kevin Guy has said that “only by reducing the impact of transport on our environment will we hit our target to be carbon neutral in Bath and North East Somerset by 2030”. Yet the business plan for the Bath Bike Park is based on large scale construction and capital investment (at least £500k) and will need significant revenue coming in to be viable. The preferred bidders (Pedal Progression Ltd) who hope to operate the bike park, are gearing up to attract visitors in large numbers – starting with 25,000 per year and rising over time to 50,000. And they estimate that 75% of these will travel by car to use the facility.
Just in Year 1 of the operation of the Bike Park, up to 20,000 additional car journeys will be generated – many from outside of BANES area. Even assuming an average round trip of just 6 miles per car journey, this would generate 60 tonnes of additional CO2, possibly doubling over time. There has been talk of ‘offsetting’ this by planting trees on the site, but to offset the annual emissions of 60 -120 tonnes of CO2 caused by car travel to the site would require planting of between 6,000 and 12,000 trees (source: Grantham Institute, Imperial College).
And this is just the transport impact. There will be a significant carbon footprint from all the construction works and materials:
The proposal for a pay-to-ride facility with approximately 8 downhill trails, across the full width of the site will require significant excavation and/or import of aggregate to create the gradients needed.
There will be 2/3 kilometres of fencing around the perimeter of the trails, which will have significant environmental impact through the materials needed for its construction, concrete footings etc. There will also be ecological impacts, such as disruption of free movement of existing wildlife on the site which currently includes owls, deer, bats, badgers and buzzards.
A number of new buildings and features are planned, including a bike shop, bike rental and repair centre and café (to replace the existing golfers’ café). An asphalt pump track, dirt jump area and skills track are all listed on the concept plan.
The Lifetime Carbon Footprint of the project has not been fully assessed. The carbon footprint of all construction works and materials needs to be calculated and included in the impact assessment.
The bid from Pedal Progression Ltd (the preferred bidders) says lots of the right things about their environmental intentions and their plans to mitigate/offset the impact. But these don’t stand up to detailed examination - measures mentioned such as re-wilding, recycling, tree-planting etc are not quantified and not nearly enough to compensate for the harm caused to the ecology of the site or wider environment. Their statements around “increasing biodiversity”, “encouraging sustainable transport”, and “preserving the local environment” are empty words and do not add up to a credible plan to offset the total lifetime carbon footprint of such a large scale and destructive project.
The plans for the dealing with the contamination on this former landfill site are not yet fully developed, as the site surveys are only just beginning. But we know that the site is located on contaminated land and that the project requires a significant amount of groundwork / excavation, so the risk of release of contaminants is high.
Finally, we can't find any examples of a mountain bike park located in a similar residential area with limited access – parking, road safety and pollution will be a real problem. If the business fails to make enough money to keep the whole site going, the work necessary to restore the site will be extremely expensive and onerous.
We don’t think this is an appropriate response to the Climate and Ecological emergency!
PS On 10 June, after we wrote this blog, BANES councillors scrutinising progress on the council's climate action plan reported work was moving 'at a snail's pace' and that lack of data had made progress hard to track. This project will certainly not help, in spite of the commitment in their action plan that they will 'Review the carbon emissions from all future council capital projects and programmes'.