Chairman's Report to FoBRA AGM 9th May 2017
This is the report on my third year as FoBRA Chairman.
We have heard and questioned, for the second time, Victor da Cunha, Chief Executive of Curo, Bath's principal social housing landlord (while also having a division building market houses). He spoke in Sept on the Mulberry Park skyline; Curo's responsiveness to tenants; and the concerns of the Foxhill RA over Curo's plans to redevelop the Foxhill Estate. Also in Sept, Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of the Bath Preservation Trust, reported on the July National Conference on Student Housing in Durham, where she had represented FoBRA.
Membership has remained broadly level, at 32 organisations (27 full members and 5 affiliates), with some leaving but others joining. Full membership is, however, shortly to rise to 29.
The tangled politics of Transport policy in Bath have progressed during the year, and this is now at the top of the local agenda. Our MP, Ben Howlett, has been pressing for the removal of A36-A46 through traffic, submitting his petition about it to Parliament in Feb. The Chronicle has been full of reports and letters about the need for action to tackle traffic congestion, and particularly pollution, following the revelations about particulates from Diesel cars. In Nov the Bath Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm (of which FoBRA is a founder member) was launched in Abbey Chambers, with 15 members, representing all shades of opinion and interest, to a stellar audience from the Council; its aim being to have the Council transform its Transport Strategy (approved at a full Council meeting in Nov 14) into a fully workable, approved and funded Plan. Alliance membership has now risen to 18 and its aims are being taken seriously by the Council. Meanwhile, positive progress has been observed in the meetings of the Bath Transport Commission.
FoBRA wrote to Ben Howlett MP twice in Nov (on air pollution and on an A36/46 link); to the Council Leader in Dec about pollution; and to the Chronicle in Dec about freight consolidation. We also responded to consultations: in Dec about the West of England Joint Transport Plan; and in Jan about the Council's parking strategy.
National Organisation of Residents' Associations (NORA)
FoBRA continues to be an active member of NORA: in Aug, I again joined the NORA team to quiz the Chief Planner on current problems – space standards, improper behaviour by developers; shortage of housing; brownfield vs greenfield; and the national population explosion. In June, at NORA's suggestion, I wrote to Ben Howlett MP about abuses of the planning regime; and in March to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (and others) asking that owners of student HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) be made liable for business rates.
We have continued to monitor Planning, publishing a report on relevant activity prior to every Committee meeting. Notable work has included the following:
• Continuing work on the Placemaking Plan, where I attended and spoke at six sessions of the September Examination in Public.
• Rejection of the proposal to extend the Christmas market.
• CURO's continuing proposals to redevelop the Foxhill estate, coordinated with the building of Mulberry Park.
• A plethora of proposals for student accommodation.
• The Bath Quays South office development.
• Traffic experiment in Queen Square.
• Party Houses
• Flooding risk upstream of Churchill Bridge.
I have continued to serve as Chairman of the Lansdown Crescent Association; on NORA's Committee; on the steering committee for the Bath City Conference; on the Police Independent Advisory Group; and on the Bath City Forum as a co-opted member. I have taken an active part in its meetings, including co-chairing (with Cllr Dine Romero, leader of the LibDems) its Environment Group, encompassing Refuse and Flooding Policies.
Work by FoBRA has been successful in mitigating the worst effects of the Council's Refuse Strategy (especially in flatted terraces), and in bringing to the Council's attention the scandalous state of some streets, where bags and recycling boxes are left outside entrances permanently, for scavengers to attack and strew rubbish without control or clearance. This is a work in progress, clearly.
The simplified FoBRA Constitution, resolving several anomalies in the existing one, has finally been negotiated and was approved at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 15th Nov 17.
Lastly, we held two popular parties: the winter reception took place in the Victoria Art Gallery, as usual, with guests of importance to FoBRA members, and the summer party was in the garden of Lyncombe Court, Widcombe. Both of these were very successful, and were achieved at the low ticket price of £10, which has been the same since FoBRA started holding parties in 2010. However, the economics require us to raise it this summer, to £12.50.
Robin Kerr, 17th April 17