Chairman's Report for FoBRA Committee 17th May 16
Following news of the demise of Bill Bloomfield in my last report, members will be sad to hear of the death of another FoBRA stalwart, Francis Holtam, some weeks ago, after a short illness. He leaves a wife, Francine, and two children one of whom is in her final school year. Francis was a Chartered Surveyor in private practice, and a devout Catholic. He was FoBRA Chairman before Henry Brown, my predecessor, and also a founder member of Henrietta Park Residents' Association, serving as its Chairman for many years.
Nick and I met the Council Leader, Cllr Tim Warren, on 19th Apr 16. He was accompanied by Cllrs Tony Clarke (Cabinet Member for Transport) and Patrick Anketell-Jones (Major Projects). We spoke about:
• Bath Transport Strategy implementation plan (including reductions in city parking) and the Bath Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm (see items below)
• City centre visitor permits for hotels.
• The Placemaking Plan (see item in agenda)
• The Rec and the Rec Trust (see item below)
• Planning – the Christmas Market Extension proposal (see Planning Report) and control of A-boards.
• The West of England (WoE) Economic Devolution (see item below)
Meeting with Ben Howlett MP
Nick and I met Ben on 16th Apr 16. We spoke about:
• Bath Transport Strategy implementation (members will have noted that Ben managed to ask a PMQ about an A36/46 linkage on 27th Apr, and received a favourable answer).
• WoE Devolved Authority.
• Student Housing.
• Rec Trust.
• Christmas Market Extension proposal.
Bath City Conference – Friday 1st July
I hope everyone will attend the Bath City Conference, which, this year, will be on 1st July, and, for the first time, will be under the aegis of the Bath City Forum. As well as the usual panel Q&A in the evening, it is hoped to feature debates on Bath Transport Policy, WoE Devolution, Student accommodation and the Rec Trust.
Bath Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm
Members will recall a report at the last Committee, in particular noting that Bath Bridge was now leading this, and that progress was being made in signing up prominent stakeholders who support this initiative. It continues, and I expect it to "go public" shortly.
Cabinet meeting to discuss Transport Scrutiny day
This took place on 4th May. The Secretary attended on our behalf – see his report (annexed).
The Rec and the Rec Trust
I posted the following on our website in early April: "News on the Rec situation has been sparse recently, but the following has come from PERA, and is of Bath-wide importance - hence its publication here. In PERA's current newsletter the following is written about the Rec and the Rec Trust:
Following the Trustees' successful appeal that the Rec does not have to be kept as open space, and can be sold, PERA representatives (excluding N Websper) have met with the Trustees to agree certain measures. At present the Trustees will not agree to anything that restricts their ability to hold any number of events, use the whole of the Rec for a stadium, with no limit on height or size, and no minimum amount of open space for amateur sport. They will also not agree to anything that restricts their ability to sell the Rec in whole or in part.
By way of clarification:
• Nigel Websper (PERA Chairman) did not take part in the above meeting with the Rec Trustees simply because he is still involved in the Lower (Charity) Tribunal legal negotiations about the precise clauses and wording by which the Rec Trust will be bound in the future (the higher (appeal) court having returned the case to the lower tribunal for decision by negotiation).
• The statement "....use the whole of the Rec for a stadium, with no limit on height or size....." would, of course, be subject to planning permission, which is exclusively the territory of the Local Planning Authority and the Planning Inspectorate, not the Trust.
It is significant that little, if any, of this has appeared recently in the Press."
I feel it is time for the Rec Trust to tell us, Bath's citizens, what is going on.
Sydney Gardens Stakeholder Meeting
I attended, on your behalf, the first Sydney Gardens Stakeholder Meeting on 4th May, intended to support a major HLF "Parks for People" bid later this year. I emphasised the FoBRA view (supported by the Bath Preservation Trust) that Sydney Gardens are special, and belong to all citizens, not just those who live locally. Public onsite consultation on the plans will take place on 2nd June, and the next stakeholder meeting will be on 24th May.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
NORA is considering a campaign on abuse of the planning regime, based on a Times letter dated 26th Apr 16, with a view to securing a meeting with one of the DCLG Ministers about it.
The Secretary wrote to all members on 9th May with details from NORA of the National Student Housing Conference to be held in Durham on 20th July. This is of desperate importance, particularly to Bath, and yet neither our Executive members nor our subject expert can make the date. Can anyone help? FoBRA would be happy to pay expenses.
West of England Devolution
I wrote in my last Report about this. The Council held a debate about it on 12th May, to help the Cabinet to decide whether to support the Chancellor's proposals. The Bath City Forum will be briefed about it on 1st June.
Penny Ford, of the Alzheimer's Society, is keen to meet organizations in Bath to brief them on how to become "Dementia Friendly". See me for details.
Festival of Nature
This takes place, largely in Bristol, from 11th to 25th June. However, there is a big Bath day on 25th June – visit www.bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature/
The Lansdown Bomb!
Members will be pleased to hear that your Chairman survived the unexploded bomb found on the Hope House site by evacuating himself and his wife to Edinburgh, which seemed far enough to be safe (no house being closer to the bombsite than his own).
Robin Kerr, draft 1, 14th May 16
Annex A – Report on B&NES Cabinet meeting on Wed 4 May 2016 on an Eastern P & R
To consider reports (meeting recorded and filmed) outlining the findings and conclusions from:
- The Communities, Transport and Environment Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel - Inquiry Day;
- The Local Development Framework Steering Group - Sites Review:
To determine a recommended solution for the transport issues to the east of Bath.
The Secretary spoke for FoBRA: "We urge you to keep in mind that it isn't only about flora, fauna and
views around Bathampton and Batheaston. It is also about the health and life expectancy of people
from there - and others - living, working in and visiting Bath. A responsible balance must be struck.
"The so-called 'corridor of death' caused by traffic pollution in and through the City has been declared
an 'Air Quality Management Area' because the levels of pollution are over (in some places 50% over)
the legal limit - which the World Health Organisation considers a serious health threat. There could
hardly be a more urgent issue.
"We welcomed the integrated transport solution achieved in the Bath Transport Strategy, agreed by
all parties on the Council in November 2014 and endorsed by the results of the general and local
elections a year ago.
"Fourteen thousand cars a day enter or leave the city at Walcot that could potentially be using an
eastern park-and-ride. Currently they have no alternative to driving right into the city centre to park.
During the years of debate, this traffic has increased by 20%.
"Traffic in Bath urgently needs to be reduced now and the Bath Transport Strategy implemented with
a comprehensive transport plan. Established park and rides to the north, west and south are successful
and popular. We need an eastern park and ride. It may not be the most important part but is an
essential part of the overall Strategy, and we urge you determine to press ahead with it."
David Redgwell: Argued that the Council's proposals were all based on flawed data.
Fiona Powell, represented by Andrew Lea, said people had been badly let down by the transport
department's 'inadequacy of evidence'.
Annie Kilvington maintained the Conservatives were always anti-health.
Tim Williams believed a P & R was irrelevant.
Christine Boyd: Displayed posters against the meadows sites.
Nicolette Boater complained of a flawed consultation – no P & R needed.
Cllr Dine Romero deplored the scheme "supported by the last Tory administration and the current
Tory MP". She said a sustainable long term solution was needed by a process to join up all solutions.
Cllr John Bull spoke to the Scrutiny Committee report, a summary of which had been published. He
seemed to feel an A36/A46 link would be a preferable alternative to a P & R. He confirmed the
Committee had used Alliance data.
Cllr Geoff Ward was concerned that an E P & R would spoil the 'beautiful jewel' of Bathampton
Meadows and urged against any decision which might be regretted by too mean a financial view.
Cllr Liz Richardson spoke to the report of the all-party sites review steering group, a summary of which
had been published.
The cabinet noted the two reports.
Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of the Council, said the final decision, which had been scheduled for 18th May
would be postponed until 13th July to allow completion of all reports; "we need to make a decision -
and not a wrong one – and put in place an E P & R to which we are committed".