Chairman's Report for FoBRA Committee 15th Nov 16
Members will be saddened to hear of the death of Gerald Chown on 21st Sept. Henry Brown has provided me with the following tribute:
"Gerald was chairman of the Macaulay Buildings & Prospect RA when I started going to FoBRA (c 2006) and I think must have been in that role for some time beforehand. He handed over before I left, so I guess he would have done the job for about 8-10 years. His roots were in Cornwall. He started his career in business, I think in the building products sector, was chairman of an NHS trust, and also served on the Council of the University of Bath.
"Within FoBRA he was quietly effective, never raising his voice, but always getting his point over in a patient and diplomatic manner. When we set up the FoBRA/B&NES initiative on street cleaning, Gerald was the perfect chairman: interested in all aspects of the work, friendly to everyone involved at all levels, on both sides, and by the end universally respected. The Council took quite a lot of persuading that one of us should take the lead, but welcomed the findings of the report. This was very largely due to Gerald's tact and savoir faire.
"He and his wife Ann lived in a lovely house on Widcombe Hill and took an interest in collecting antique clocks. Every hour discussion was interrupted by an absolute cacophony of chiming!
"Gerald was a great believer in FoBRA, and a huge support to me as incoming chairman. I'm sure his death will be mourned by everyone who knew him."
More recently, his Association asked him to resume the role of FoBRA representative at our meetings, so I was looking forward to rekindling our friendship and to his wise words, but sadly no more!
Meeting with Council Leader 19th Oct
Nick and I again met Cllr Tim Warren on 19th Oct. It was also attended by Cabinet members Tony Clarke, Patrick Anketell-Jones and Martin Veal. We covered the following subjects:
• Bath Transport Strategy & Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm, including: Eastern Park and Ride; City centre parking; City centre visitor permits for hotels; Air Quality.
• Refuse collection policy
• Placemaking Plan - Examination in Public
• Student Housing
• Upstream flooding risk
• Planning, including: Queen Square experiments; NORA and Space Standards for housing; Use of brownfield city sites for residential housing, rather than for students; change to LED lampposts in Listed streets.
• Curo visit to FoBRA, and FRA questionins.
• Bath City Forum.
I shall be happy to expand on any of these subjects at the Committee meeting.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
Hot on the heels of my report on the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, is disturbing news of the overthrow of, or challenge to, adopted Neighbourhood Plans in two parts of the country: Exeter and Henfield, Sussex. In the St James district of Exeter, the City Council decided to override the Neighbourhood Plan and permit a football stadium to be built. The St James Forum took it to judicial review, but lost, incurring significant costs. While in Henfield (near Horsham) a developer applied to the High Court to have their Plan overturned so that it could build 40 homes on a field (Sandgate Nurseries) to one side of the village, the judge finding that "there was insufficient information to show how the land at Sandgate Nurseries had been addressed in the preparation of the plan and that more detail was needed on how built-up area boundaries had been considered". These two examples appear to undermine a pillar of the Localism Act (2011), and are certain (a) to dishearten communities trying to develop their neighbourhood in the way they want, and often to save beautiful places, and (b) to dissuade them from going through the significant toil of plan preparation, referendum, etc. Over 250 of these plans have already been adopted, and 2000 more are in progress, so, one might ask, what's the point? NORA has raised these examples with the Department, and has received a rather pusillanimous reply from the Official in charge of Neighbourhood Planning.
The Government is consulting on a tightening of the policy for control of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation), deadline being 13th Dec. Its proposals are very much along the lines that residents would approve of, with two interesting aspects: (a) the first appearance of compulsory space standards (something for which FoBRA and NORA have long been campaigning), but (b) no progress yet over imposing penalties on unscrupulous landlords, for breach of licensing or overcrowding, until the breach has been declared a crime, by which time huge profits have been made, much greater than any fine imposed. I shall be attending a Council seminar on student housing and HMOs on 14th Nov, so I can report further at our Committee the next day.
Patrick Rotheram will update us on the air pollution situation, and the Council's associated policies. Members will wish to know that I have written, on your behalf to our MP about this, and you can find this letter on our website (under 'Papers' http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/papers.php ), together with the latest Air Quality figures, published by the Council.
WoE Joint Plans
FoBRA's Executive and subject leads have spent much time already on the West of England's Joint Spatial and Transport Plans. I refer members to the minutes of our 13th July meeting and to the response made by FoBRA then. Those plans have been maturing, and another consultation is running from 7th Nov to 19th Dec to which we are all encouraged to contribute. Latest details are at www.jointplanningwofe.org.uk . This next step is to seek feedback on outline proposals that address the following priorities:
• Respond to the housing shortage – both now and in the future, building on feedback from the first consultation, ensuring we can house future generations in their region
• Invest in new infrastructure – to support increased demand from growing communities such as integrating housing and employment with transport to reduce the length and numbers of journeys to work
• Support economic growth and improve levels of prosperity – creating new jobs
• Prioritising development on brownfield sites – rejuvenating existing derelict land and protecting the green belt
• Any new development must take account of the need to protect a high-quality environment
• Help fulfil the councils' legal duty to cooperate under the National Planning Policy Framework.
We shall endeavour to provide members with some thoughts on how to respond, if at all, before the December deadline.
Bath Abbey's Footprint Project
There are two opportunities to hear about progress on the Abbey's Footprint project: Monday 14th Nov 1500-1600 in the South Transept, and Monday 21st Nov 1830-1930, in the same place.
Guidance for Owners of Listed Buildings
The Bath Preservation Trust is drafting a new publication called 'Making Changes – Guidance for Owners of Listed Buildings' which they intend to provide free to building owners and prospective owners. This is designed to be an accessible, friendly leaflet that covers in just enough detail the planning and conservation considerations for owners of old buildings. It will not be highbrow or in any way dictatorial, but instead provide useful and straightforward Bath-specific information on all aspects of owning and restoring/changing an old building in Bath and where to go for more detailed advice.
FoBRA has been asked for its views, and we have encouraged the project, pointing out that these wonderful Georgian buildings, which constitute a large part of the WHS, are privately owned and maintained. The owners need to be encouraged, nurtured, advised and supported, therefore, rather than punished. They can spend their money on the houses only once, and hence could benefit from being pointed in the right direction. We also cited guidance which is already available to the owners of such properties in Edinburgh, indicating what can be done, but which would have to be adapted, of course.
One of our members (Bathwick Hill) has asked me to draw attention to the plight of the Citizens' Advice here. CA has had its funding cut, so has a shortfall in funding for this year, and is looking for further support. On its website http://www.cab-banes.org./ there is a brief overview of what it does. It is asking local businesses and individuals if they will consider a small donation. Also its fundraising is done through Local Giving who are matching funding from 18th Oct to 17th Nov, or until the pot for matched funding runs out, so a donation of £10 will give it at least £20.
The Lansdown Crescent Association (LCA) tells me it has recently completed a worthy project, to replace more than 1000 finials on the top of the metal railings there, missing for the last 74 years, having been sawn off in WWII to aid the war effort. This type of restoration can usually be tackled only as an overall project, with group planning approval and with funding assistance, so, in 2012, the LCA investigated. The World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund provided seed corn funding, and Rhys Brookes became the architect. Listed Building consent was granted in May 2013, including an approved method of replacement, and all affected owners were contacted (both to seek their agreement and to warn that a contribution from owners would be needed). Ex-LCA Chairman, Beccy Derry-Evans, took on project management.
Funding sources were pursued, with increasingly disappointing results. Three frustrating years passed before a route was found, approved at the Association's AGM in Feb 2016, which allowed the project to proceed (helped by a leading article in The Times on 26th March 2016). Ultimately, all affected owners agreed to take part, and thus, when completed, all missing finials will have been replaced. The principal benefactor was Dr Marianna Clark, a local resident, with significant contributions from the owners, the Ward Councillors' Initiative Funds and the Association.
The Chapel Forge, who had undertaken the Association's successful handrail project, undertook the work and the project was "declared complete" by The Mayor of Bath, Cllr Paul Crossley, at a celebration on 16th Oct, in Lansdown Crescent, where Mr Mayor referred to this as a great example of community initiative, responsibility and awareness of our World Heritage City status.
Please don't forget to book your places for our Winter Reception on Tuesday 17th Jan 17, and publicise this amongst all the members of your own Associations. It is always a good party, to which we invite your Ward Councillors, a slice of the Cabinet and senior Council Officers, and leaders of Bath in other fields. However, it also depends on all of us being there too! We discussed in Committee the slightly low turnout at the last one and have deliberately made the date later in January this year, to avoid a clash with clearing up after Christmas and New Year, so I hope you will find this convenient.
Robin Kerr, final, 12th Nov 16