Chairman's Report to FoBRA AGM 12th May 2015
After 5 years as your Secretary, I succeeded Henry Brown BEM as your Chairman a year ago. Our current Secretary, whom we recruited during the year, insists this must not be regarded as a precedent! Stephen Little now stands down as our Treasurer, having faithfully and splendidly fulfilled this office for the maximum of six years allowed by our constitution.
We have heard and questioned the Lib Dem, Conservative, Labour and Ukip Parliamentary candidates; and the leaders of the Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour groups in Council. We have also heard from the Chief Executive of Curo, the Project Manager for the Enterprise zone, the promoters of an Executive Mayor for B&NES and from Network Rail about electrification.
Membership has remained steady, at 33 organisations (28 full members and 5 affiliates). One seems likely not to renew its membership (moribund) but a couple of new ones are nibbling!
As a member of the Council's Transport Commission, FoBRA representatives took part in the development of the Transport Strategy for Bath "Improving Access to Bath", which was adopted at a full Council meeting in November. A delivery plan will be negotiated by the new Council.
A more focused FoBRA initiative last October was to propose creation of a Low Emission Zone covering the centre of Bath, Great Pulteney Street and the Henrietta area: this will be pursued with the new Council.
On FoBRA's behalf I wrote to our MP in February, supporting the Council's request for transfer of several extra powers, including imposition of weight limits on streets (such as Bathwick Street), and Moving Traffic Offences (which would permit the Council to enforce the lorry ban on George Street and Queen Square). In parallel, we have raised this omission with the police.
Members have raised with FoBRA the inadequacy of the Council's current visitor parking policy. Future action has yet to be discussed in Committee.
Following a briefing on flood risk upstream of Pulteney Bridge by Henrietta Park Association, I raised the matter on FoBRA's behalf in meetings with the Council Leader. This led to a proposal for a session of the Council's appropriate Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel devoted to the problem. However, this will now have to wait until the Panel is reconstituted after the Council elections.
National Organisation of Residents' Associations (NORA)
FoBRA is an active member of NORA: I have agreed to chair a working group to redefine its Chairman's role and to find a successor to the current one, Alan Shrank. FoBRA took part in several NORA consultations, including the Govt's proposal to deregulate amplified noise (about which we also wrote to our MP). Last August, I joined a team for NORA's annual meeting with the Ministry's Chief Planner, at which I was able to brief him on "party houses", following a session on this at a recent FoBRA Committee, led by CARA.
We have continued to labour in the Planning trenches, publishing a report on relevant Planning activity prior to every Committee meeting. Notable work has included the following:
After last year's efforts on approval of the Core Strategy and conservation of the Green Belt, we have this year concentrated on the associated Placemaking Plan, and particularly on persuading the Council:
(a) to treat central Bath as a "place",
(b) to adopt a policy for student housing,
(c) to define space standards for new housing,
(d) to build on brownfield before greenfield sites, and
(e) to incorporate elements of the new Transport Strategy into the Plan.
All this is ongoing.
For the Council's programme of public lavatory upgrades in parks and gardens, we stressed that they should not reduce the number of WCs below two. This advice seems to have been followed.
On FoBRA's behalf I approached the local Party leaders during the run-up to the Council elections to ask for commitment to certain conservation policies (Building Heights, Pattern Book and Character Appraisal). An outcome to this will have to await the elections.
FoBRA representatives have continued to serve on the steering committee for the Bath City Conference. During last summer, we responded to the Council's consultation on the governance of Bath, as a result of which the Council Leader thanked us and invited us to take part, last November, in a debate about options.
Lastly, we held two popular Receptions: the winter one in the Victoria Art Gallery, with guests of importance to FoBRA members, and the summer one in the garden of 20 Lansdown Crescent. Both of these were very successful.
Robin Kerr, 7th May 15