Chairman's Report to FoBRA AGM 17th May 2016
This is the report on my second year as FoBRA Chairman.
We have heard and questioned: Peter Metcalfe, Chairman of the World Heritage Site Steering Group, on its Management Plan proposals; Tracey Cox, Chief Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group, on their Your Care – Your Way proposals; Stephen Taylor and Cllr Paul Crossley on the Directly Elected Mayor choices; and Rev Martin Broadbent on the Bath-Alkmaar twinning celebrations.
Membership remains broadly level, at 32 organisations (26 full members and 6 affiliates), with some leaving but others joining.
There was a good presentation and debate on Bath Transport Strategy at the City Conference in July. The major transport event of the year has revolved around an Eastern Park and Ride (EPR), starting in Sept with publication of the Council's proposed sites, and followed by a full Council meeting in November, with 86 public speakers, 80 of them against it, mostly from the eastern parishes. To help in promoting the opposite view, and to persuade the Council to implement its transport policy in full, the Bath Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm was formed in February, with FoBRA as its first member, and this has grown significantly, now led by Bath Bridge. In March the Council held a Scrutiny Day on the subject, and the Bath Transport Commission was reconvened as well. The Cabinet considered the report from the Scrutiny Day in May and claims it will announce its decision in July. We shall see – a warm embrace by the Bath Alliance may help. FoBRA has taken part actively in all the above activities, of course.
National Organisation of Residents' Associations (NORA)
FoBRA continues to be an active member of NORA: in November, I again joined the NORA team to quiz Department Officials on current problems – mostly about planning and housing. In March I reported to NORA's AGM with proposals for its Chairman's succession, and NORA adopted my constitutional revisions. In addition, I was elected to NORA's Committee.
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:
• Continuing work on the Placemaking Plan, which has been largely successful in persuading the Council (a) to treat central Bath as a "place", and (b) to incorporate elements of the new Transport Strategy into the Plan. However, little progress has yet been achieved in the areas of Student Housing or Flooding Policy, so it seems that further battles on these will have to wait until the Examination in Public in September.
• CURO's proposal to redevelop all of the Foxhill estate, coordinated with the building of Mulberry Park, ignoring the fact that ~100 of the homes there are owner-occupied. This has led to the creation of the Foxhill Residents' Association, encouraged by our MP and our Council Leader, and its joining FoBRA. CURO's plans for Mulberry Park have been criticised for excessive height and inadequate screening on the edge overlooking the city.
• I have continued to serve on the steering committee for the Bath City Conference.
• The Bath City Forum was formed last November, in response to pressure for some separate legal existence for the city. At its January meeting, I was selected as a co-opted member, along with three other Residents' Association representatives. I have taken an active part at its meetings already, including chairing a sub-committee on Community Infrastructure Levy, in the absence of its elected Chairman.
• The Government's West of England Economic Devolution proposals look likely to be the next target for argument.
A simplified FoBRA Constitution, resolving several anomalies in the existing one, has been negotiated during the year and will be put to the AGM.
A FoBRA team visited Parliament on 29th October, at our MP's invitation.
Lastly, we held two popular Receptions: the winter one in the Victoria Art Gallery, as usual, with guests of importance to FoBRA members, and the summer one in the garden of Violet Bank Farm, Widcombe. Both of these were very successful.
Robin Kerr, 15th May 16