Major Tony Crombie
Most of you will have heard of the death of Tony Crombie, stalwart of Bath conservation, on 19th Sept, and many will have read his obituary in the 5th Oct Chronicle. Chairman of the Sion Hill Place Residents' Association, he was a longstanding attender at FoBRA meetings, and, for a short time, its Chairman. When I became Secretary in 2008, Tony was our Planning Lead, known for his defence of the Rec and his scorn for the 'East European barrack blocks proposed for Western Riverside'. As Planning matters expanded, he loyally became part of the new Planning Sub Committee, hosting its meetings in the Bath Society rooms at Green Park station. Never an enthusiast for modern technology, he used to refer to laptops as 'magic lantern machines', but he understood the need take part in the email revolution, so he did this by employing an agency to handle his traffic! He was one of a kind, and will be missed by all who love Bath. I attended his funeral on your behalf.
Henrietta Park Residents' Association
Everyone will be sad to hear that the Henrietta Park Residents' Association has been dissolved due to lack of interest by members in joining its Committee, and has merged with PERA. I wrote to Ceris Humphreys and Ian Herve on 22nd Oct to commiserate and to express the hope that we might, perhaps, continue to hear their wise counsel from their new home.
Meeting with Wera Hobhouse MP
Nick and I held a second meeting with our MP on 27th Oct. We principally discussed: the Foxhill Estate outline planning application; Party Houses; and Transport and pollution.
Nick and I will be holding another of our routine meetings with the Leader of the Council on 22nd Nov.
Bath City Conference (BCC)
This year's Bath City Conference, sponsored by the Bath City Forum, was held on 13th Oct. FoBRA took one of the trade stands in the Banqueting Room this year, and I shall bring to the Committee on Tuesday the banner which we displayed, with information on it about the work of the Federation. We published a flyer, showing much the same information, and this can be found on our website. I should like to thank Nick Tobin, Kirstie Rowlandson, Jeremy Boss, Diana Lockwood, Neil Barnes and Barry Henderson for helping to set up and man the stand. There were several engagement sessions during the afternoon, one on availability of Affordable Housing, and another on Air Quality & Transport in Bath, followed by the usual "Ask the Panel" in the evening. This was chaired by Richard Wyatt of Bath Newseum, and featured Cllr Tim Warren, Sue Porter of St John's Foundation, Ben Palmer from the UoB Students' Union, and Tarquin MacDonald of Bath Rugby.
Library and One-Stop Shop
I predicted in my last Report that we had not heard the last of this subject.
The result of the Council's consultation on Library siting is that it will stay in its present place but be joined by a new One-Stop Shop, to be moved from Lewis House in Manvers Street. This has led to further outcry and a full Council Scrutiny meeting to be held on 13th Nov.
Bath City Forum (BCF)
At the last BCF meeting, on 20th Sept, I gave a statement on Party Houses which can be found on our website. This was followed by one on Short Term Unregulated Holiday Lets by Harry Tedstone of Bath Independent Guest Houses Association. My nominee as the new BCF Chairman, Cllr Colin Blackburn (Ind), was duly elected. The next BCF will be held on 27th Nov, including a presentation on the Council's Budget.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
a. DCLG Talks: I took part in NORA's annual talks on 27th Sept with Tony Thomson from the Chief Planner's team at the Department for Communities and Local Government. I led on the subject of Party Houses and Short Term Unregulated Holiday Lets (again). While Mr Thomson was not minded to agree with our request to establish a separate Use Class for Party Houses, he did point out that Councils already had the power to stop such activities taking place in private houses, where evidence could be provided (see below); and agreed to issue a memorandum to that effect to all Local Authorities in England & Wales. The remainder of the agenda was:
• Housing (Calculation of need, Affordable housing and loopholes, Article 4(1) land protection, and Sustainability).
• Licensing (Conflict between licensing and planning)
• Neighbourhood Plans (Neighbourhood plan vulnerability)
• Compensation for Student Council Tax Exemption.
b. Licensing: The House of Lords has been conducting an enquiry into the Licensing Act 2003, to which NORA submitted evidence, and its Chairman appeared in person. The subsequent report concludes that the Act is fundamentally flawed, and needs radical overhaul, including the abolition of Local Authority licensing committees (with their duties being taken over by planning committees). I consulted Ian Perkins of TARA about this, because of his expertise in the subject, and he agrees.
More on Party Houses
Capitalising on the advice of DCLG (see above), a "Nuisance Log" was drafted by Patrick Rotheram, Barry Gilbertson and Nick Tobin, cleared with Council Planners, and issued to members on 25th Oct so that Party Houses which were causing hardship to neighbours could be correctly reported to the Council Enforcement authorities. This, of course, depends on prompt and regular action by members and neighbours, or else nothing will happen.
Transport and Air Quality Consultations
Patrick Rotheram will speak at the Committee meeting about three recent Consultations: Parking, Coaches and Air Quality. A related letter by me was published in the Chronicle on 19th Oct. FoBRA's responses to all three consultations, and my letter, can be found on our website.
Visit by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)
Our PCC, Sue Mountstevens, and the Chief Constable, held a routine public meeting in Bath on 28th Sept. I asked a question about the need to obtain power over Moving Traffic Offences for Councils outside London so that flagrant contraventions (such as lorries passing through Bath along George Street) could be pursued. The Chief Constable recommended solutions which did not involve manpower, as this was in short supply both for police and for Councils. I am investigating this with the local Police Commander.
National Trust (NT)
At the NT Discussion Forum on 21st Sept the local Director, Tom Boden, gave an overview to 2025 and highlighted its Bath portfolio (Little Solsbury Hill, Assembly Rooms, Dyrham Park and Prior Park Landscape Garden). The strategy includes:
• Looking after what NT's got
• Playing NT's part in restoring a healthy, beautiful, natural environment.
• Offering experiences that move, teach and inspire.
• Helping to look after the places where people live.
Rainbow Farm has lost 8 ewes and lambs in 6 months, possibly through careless dog handling by owners. It is exploring parking facilities with partner organisations while encouraging use of public transport when visiting Trust sites. NT's website shows its Conservation Plan including woodland thinning to open up key points, treating signs of Ash die-back and planting ferns and theatrical shrubberies. They have had to reduce water levels in the dam at Prior Park with repairs due in Sept 2018 or March 2019, subject to funding.
Mark O'Sullivan reports a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) review of the ways by which people (a) get mental health treatment and (b) can improve their chances of successful hip or knee replacements by losing weight and reducing smoking before surgery.
Age UK has sent the CCG a leaflet about their Home from Hospital service, which provides the elderly with transport home from hospital, and, for up to four weeks afterwards, with help to settle-in including shopping, heating, medicines, arrangements for meals, and light cleaning.
Mark attended the Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES), Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW) Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) meeting on 20th Oct and I have asked him to report on this at the Committee.
Mark O'Sullivan has been investigating use of the Community Empowerment Fund and Community Infrastructure Levy to pay for Green Infrastructure improvements, such as tree screening at Mulberry Park.
Local Government Boundary Review
The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is conducting an electoral review of Bath and North East Somerset Council. The review has two aims, which are to identify:
• The correct number of councillors - The LGBCE have met and determined that this should be 59 (instead of the present 75).
• Where the boundaries should be set for this number. The consultation on the shape of these boundaries closed on 2nd Oct.
Active Travel and Accessibility Forum – 24th Oct
Nigel Sherwen attends this on our behalf. He reports that Cllr Mark Shelford has taken over its Chairmanship. Mark started by setting out his ambition for blue-sky thinking through the forum. He wanted objectives such as a quadrupling of cycling to be achieved through small scale intervention and asked for focus on safe routes to school. Members insisted that cycle routes must have connectivity end to end, and recommended visiting examples of best practice. Nigel took the opportunity to raise several matters, including the London Road Gateway scheme (no changes yet), lack of maintenance on the shared cycle paths and safety on the Paragon zebra crossing. Also discussed were: the Weston to Julian Road route; Local Walking and Walking Infrastructure Plan; Kingsmead Square; Locksbrook Bridge; and the Two Tunnels signage.
Bath City Football Club
The Twerton Park site is to be developed, and needs to fit the requirements of the local community: (a) to provide facilities of value to those in the area; and (b) to develop part of the site in a commercial manner – so as to provide the income to secure the financial future of Bath City FC and cover the costs of building community facilities. The project team is holding a 'listening session' on 21st Nov (17.30-19.00), in Charlie's at Twerton Park to determine:
• The type of facilities and services which will be of most relevance
• The way the commercial element of the site is developed
It is hoped to hold repeat events according to local demand.
Julian House Vigil
Julian House is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in Bath Abbey, by holding a Vigil and overnight Sleep-in starting at 21.30 on Friday 17th Nov, with the sponsored Sleep-in starting at Midnight and ending at 08.00 the following morning. It will be led by Stephen Girling, Abbey Missioner, and will include music, readings, hymns, voices form the street, prayers and poems. A special guest will recite stories before people staying for the sleep-in settle down for the night. To register visit https://www.julianhouse.org.uk/support-us/fundraising-event/vigil-and-sleep-in.htm . For further information email Stephen Chesworth, Community & Events Fundraiser at Julian House: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01225 354788 or 07939 055432.
Bath Preservation Trust has announced a new Emma Bridgewater mug in the "Illustrating Bath Cities of Dreams" series to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of Royal Crescent being built. Until January these are available only at their museums and the first 500 mugs are stamped underneath.
Robin Kerr, final, 11th Nov 17