Chairman's Report for FoBRA Meeting 24th Mar 15
Bath Transport Strategy
Further to this, the Council Leader, Cllr Paul Crossley, wrote to both the B&NES MPs on 21st Jan 15, quoting a motion passed by the full Council last July, in which he drew attention to Bath's serious traffic and pollution problems, and sought transfer of various powers from the police to B&NES Council, such as the right to investigate and prosecute Moving Traffic Offences (currently, only London Councils can do this). If this were to be granted, for example, action against HGVs driving through George Street and Queen Square could be taken; infringements which the police largely ignore. I wrote to Don Foster MP on 7th Feb 15, on behalf of FoBRA, supporting the Council's move (posted on our website).
Upstream Flooding Risk
I wrote in my last Report that the Planning, Transport and Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel would be holding a debate on the Upstream Flooding Risk early in the New Year. It is becoming clear that this will not now happen until after the Council elections, but we shall not allow it to be forgotten!
Local Flood Representatives
The Secretary forwarded a Council note to all on 6th Mar 15 about Local Flood Representatives, describing what these were intended to do, and asking for nominees by 30th Apr 15. I propose that Ian Herve (Henrietta, and a volunteer) investigates this further, on our behalf, in particular to discover whether one Representative is expected from FoBRA and its members, or several.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
I have written before about the development of CIL, as an alternative to Section 106 Agreements, and the rate at which it is to be charged. Following Examination in Public, this was approved by the Council on 17th Feb 15, and will come into force on 6th Apr 15.
'Your Care, Your Way'
The Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council in B&NES are consulting about their project 'Your care, your way', which aims to deliver truly integrated health and care services for healthier and more independent lives. Useful background information is available at:
Any member interested in taking part please contact the Secretary.
Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG)
I have agreed, on FoBRA's behalf, to join a new body in Bath, the Police IAG. Groups like this are being established all over the country, apparently, in response to charges that the Police are out of touch with the public. Their intention is to act as a "critical friend". I shall let you know how it progresses.
The Vice Chairman and I held a routine meeting with the senior Police officer in Bath, CI Norman Pascal, on 19th Mar 15. We discussed the future of Bath policing, homeless people, Neighbourhood Watch, river safety, the deaths in Lansdown Lane, and the effectiveness of the new ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Bath City Conference
This year's Bath City Conference will take place in the Guildhall on Friday 10th July 15, from 1200 noon to 1800, with the usual mixture of trade fair, information booths, and debates. This should be an ideal way to meet and question the new Council administration, so stick the date in your diary.
Chamber of Commerce Meeting
The Vice Chairman and I held a routine meeting with the Chief Executive of the Bath Chamber of Commerce, Ian Bell, on 17th Mar 15. This confirmed that many of their views are similar to those of FoBRA, but he stressed (a) the need for B&NES to support the Joint Strategic Planning Authority (4 Councils - Bristol, N.Somerset, B&NES and S.Glos).as this is where much Govt funding is being channelled, and (b) that, in a battle between city centre parking and modern office space, the Chamber opts for the latter, in the near future.
The Vice Chairman and I met Lisa Bartlett, Divisional Director of Development, and Simon De Beer, Head of Planning Policy, on 6th Feb 15 to discuss FoBRA's comments on the Placemaking Plan (now available on our website) and the way forward for this important document. She noted and discussed all our major recommendations (see previous Chairman's Report).
We shared our comments with the Bath Preservation Trust. It is noteworthy that they have followed us in calling for (a) a policy for central Bath as a place, and (b) the Bath Transport Strategy to be reflected in the Placemaking Plan. 3
There cannot be anyone who does not know about, and admire, the Footprint Project to upgrade the Abbey. The Vice Chairman and I were asked by the heritage consultancy Lemon Drizzle to take part in an interview about how FoBRA and its members would impact with the project.
Local Green Space Designation
The Secretary circulated information from the Council on designation of Local Green Spaces on 21st Jan 15. Several members have taken this further and have designated green spaces near them, in some cases including public parks. The deadline for doing this has now passed, but it will be interesting to hear if anything comes of this effort.
Rossiter Road Project
At the request of the Widcombe Association (WA), I wrote on 16th Mar 15 to the Council Leader, and to his Cabinet Member for Transport, about endless delays in the Rossiter Road scheme, poor project management and consequent effect on the residents, traders, and the whole community there. I asked them to tell me what has gone wrong, what they are doing to rectify this, and how the people who live and work there are to be placated or compensated. I received a prompt reply that a report is in preparation, so WA and I hope to be able to share this with you by the date of the FoBRA Committee.
Representatives may remember meetings about the refurbishment of Sydney Gardens and possible linkage with the grounds of the Holburne Museum which took place last April, but which ended inconclusively, due partly to the failure of an HLF grant application by the Council. A new approach has been pioneered, with the inaugural meeting of the "Sydney Gardens Steering Group" in Jan 15, and some new money found by the Council for initial work on the gardens (£250K). Colin Clark is attending the Steering Group meetings on behalf of FoBRA, and will report.
Burlington Street Wall
I last wrote about this in my 4th Nov Report. St Mary's Church have now received the report from consultants, Jones Lang, recommending redevelopment of part or all of the car park site for housing, which would, inter alia, solve the wall problem. They have now submitted this to their diocesan authorities for approval before acting.
Hope House Site
The developers, Square Bay, are still addressing Planning Conditions, and so have not yet started the 58 homes for which they now have full planning 4
permission, following their Appeal which was recently allowed. Alternatively, they have confirmed that they may sell the site to another developer, with the planning permission.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
I attended the NORA AGM on 12th Mar 15. There was no political speaker because of the proximity of the General Election, so some time was spent discussing NORA's structure and role. I accepted the task of leading a working group to redefine the job of the Chairman and find a successor to saintly Alan Shrank, the current incumbent. Other subjects covered included: subscription rates, priorities, HMO Art 4 Direction and the banning of estate agents' "To Let" boards, expanding universities, Local Government finance, householder appeals, housing pressures and the Green Belt, noise nuisance, and moving traffic offences.
Entertainment Licensing Deregulation
Representatives will remember the note about this in my last Report. It seems that all our and NORA's efforts to curb this legislation have been ignored, and that it will become law from April. Standby for complaints about amplified noise, principally about noisy pubs! I fear that, in these cases, the new ASB legislation will not help.
Consultation on Amplified Busking near the Abbey
On the related subject of a ban on amplified busking around the Abbey, about which the Council is presently consulting (Following complaints about recent disturbance of Evensong Services there). The consultation runs until 29th March and details can be found at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/consultations/196642/webform .2, TARA has been helpful, pointing out that B&NES receives large numbers of complaints about amplified music, of which only a few are about buskers or relate to the areas mentioned in this consultation. The Council held a workshop on this at BRLSI on 25th Feb. Unfortunately I was unable to attend this, but I have written to the organisers to question the subsequently published notes; in particular their balance between the busking community's views, and those of established commercial and cultural activities in the city centre, through lack of recognition of the disturbance and nuisance which the buskers cause by amplification of their efforts.
FoBRA Elections 12th May 15 – Treasurer Needed!
At the AGM on 12th May, I shall be seeking another year as your Chairman, and Nick Tobin will similarly be standing again as Vice Chairman. Joy Bowker has decided not to seek a further term as Examiner of Accounts, after three years of faithful service, as she will be standing down from the Chairmanship of MLBRA. John Rushton (Sydney Buildings) has offered himself for election in her place. Next, Stephen Little is coming to the end of his six years as Treasurer, for which I thank him enormously, and so we need a replacement. I therefore ask everyone to think deeply whether they might be able to 5
volunteer, as FoBRA cannot operate without a Treasurer. That said, it is not an over-arduous task: anyone interested can call him on 01225 310180, to confirm this. Nominations for election close on 31st Mar 15, and any member's member can be proposed for these elective posts. Lastly, as for Secretary, Barry Henderson is happy to continue with this for the moment, for which we should all be deeply grateful: it is not an elective office.
Two Bath groups which may be forming Residents' Associations have been in touch with me about possibly applying to join FoBRA – one in Oldfield Park and the other in Weston – and I have encouraged them. I have also received a request from a new Association, Batheaston Forward, to join, but have had to explain that our Constitution precludes their full membership – maybe Affiliates though?
Council Election Presentations
We are having our usual programme of presentations by party group leaders prior to the Council elections in May (Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour). I was approached by a candidate for the Green Party in February to be allowed to speak to a FoBRA meeting. Having consulted the rest of the Executive, I have refused, with regret, as (a) the request was very late, (b) there are no remaining meeting spots, (c) there are no Green Party Councillors at the moment and (d) the candidates have no leader as such.
Thank you from me and the Treasurer to those who responded to the plea in my last Report about prompt payment of subscriptions. Please may we hope it is even more prompt next year? The Treasurer will be making a proposal at the AGM about the subscription rate for the following year, when he will be suggesting, I understand, a small reduction.
Robin Kerr, 20th Mar 15