An important meeting is taking place in the Guildhall on Monday when the West of England Combined Authority will discuss a range of projects which could have a real impact on the local economy, though none of them will apply directly to central Bath.
Instead the conversations will be about potential improvements to the roads around Hicks Gate, within the Somer Valley and a link road to the East of Bath. They are all important projects because they will make it easier to get into and out of the City and also stimulate more economic activity around Radstock and Midsomer Norton.
If the investments are made, the money will flow from the Combined Authority, overseen by the office of the Mayor, which attracted much derision during the election campaign earlier this year. It is true to say that some members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Initiative were distinctly cool about the prospect of having another layer of bureaucracy but we took the pragmatic view that said if this was the only way we could get a devolution deal and the funding that went along with it, then we would accept it.
But our support came with the caveat that we would want to see solid achievements and it could be that process is about to get underway. These projects would make a real difference to how we do business in Bath and they are real evidence that there are benefits to our relatively small City from working collaboratively with our neighbours and so making us part of a much bigger community.
It’s also encouraging to hear that the Council is in active discussions with Wiltshire and Dorset about joint lobbying of Government for improvements to the road links from the southern ports. They generate an enormous amount of lorry traffic, much of which currently has no option but to come our way en route to their final destinations in the midlands and north.
That is a big issue and it will need a large investment and significant political will. It would be impossible for us to solve the problem on our own, but if we form informal federations of interest we can present a coherent and noisy case which will match the efforts of other areas of the country to achieve improvements and ensure our economic development can continue at the pace we would like.