Nick and I met the Council Leader, Dine Romero, accompanied by Cllrs Butters (Transport) and Crossley (Leisure) on 9th Sept. We discussed the following. I shall be happy to expand on any item at our Committee on 19th Sept:
• Housing: Social; Short Term letting (including Party Houses); Student Housing & policy
• Council's financial plans (press release – 4th Sept)
• Stadium on the Rec: Scoping report for Environmental Impact Statement; Plastic pitches
• Transport: CAZ (press release – 4th Sept); Bath Transport Strategy; Coach strategy
• Local plan revision
• Governance review (such as revision of the BCF and 'Citizens' Juries')
We had already met Cllr Ball (Planning and Housing) on 3rd Sept, where we covered the items under bullets 1&5 in greater detail. Lastly, Cllr Romero has asked to come to talk at a forthcoming FoBRA Committee about their plans, and to answer questions. Kirstie is negotiating a date.
Nick and I met our MP on 6th Sept, with the following agenda. I shall again be happy to expand on any item at our Committee on 19th Sept:
• Housing (Social, Student, Short Term Lets (AirBnB), Party Houses)
• Rec (Stadium Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Report)
• Governance of Bath – The current study being conducted by the Leader into the BCF and what might succeed it, such as Parishing.
• Transport (Electrical Charging stations)
• National Organization of Residents' Associations – (NORA is trying to persuade MHCLG to address the Airbnb problem)
• Environmental pollution
Bath City Forum (BCF):
The most recent BCF was held on 28th Jan, since when it has not met. Cllr Dine Romero, the new Council Leader, wrote to all BCF members on 9th July about a review, followed by an email on 6th Sept announcing the setting up of the temporary 'Involve Bath Group', the first meeting of which will take place on 24th Sept, to map the way ahead. I have been invited to join it.
One of the tasks of the BCF which cannot be deferred is the discussion of applications for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) awards. The CIL sub-committee, on which I serve, met on 29th July and discussed the following applications:
• Bath City FC – 3G pitch
• Highland Terrace solar lighting
• Widcombe Parade handrail
• Rosewarn Park redevelopment
• Ralph Allen Drive - pillars
The Council is currently reviewing its Statement of Licensing Policy and Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) in Bath City Centre under the Licensing Act 2003. FoBRA's response, drafted with advice from TARA and PERA, was submitted by the deadline, and can be seen on our website.
Repeating my statement at the AGM and the last Committee, I invite anyone interested in standing for the Chairmanship or Vice Chairmanship of FoBRA next year to make this known to our Secretary. At least two people have already approached me.
I attended (as did local Councillors and several members of PERA and TARA, including their Chairmen) the Rec Trust Annual meeting on 11th Sept. I was keen to ask a question about the Scoping Report for the Environmental Impact Assessment referring to a stadium possibly to be built on the Rec, as PERA had earlier produced a damning critique of it (circulated to members on 16th Aug: you can read FoBRA's comments as submitted to the Council about this on our website, dated 18th Aug). I warned the Chief Executive of my wish beforehand. He replied that there would be no opportunity to ask questions in public, and that their AGM (where questions can, theoretically, be asked) is private. My wish was mirrored by many other attenders, so, after a robust exchange, ½ hour was allocated to questions! I think they got the message: that some form of Public Accountability (whether required by law or not) is necessary, however unpleasant and inconvenient, particularly as the Trust owns one of the most important and prominent bits of open land in Bath. My view is that they have serious need to revise their Public Relations, Governance and Diversity policies, and, if I were one of the Trustees, I should do something about it. What I could now do is to apply to speak at the next Council meeting (10th Oct).
On 8th Aug The Times had as its front page news of the latest data from the Office of National Statistics on housing, and deeply worrying observations. It deduced that the aim must be to produce more affordable dwellings for sale rather than rent. It pointed specifically to the fact that those under 35 cannot afford to buy or rent from the private sector but fails utterly to draw the conclusion that the solution lies in promoting new public sector rented dwellings at social rents. It fails to explain that the private sector will not build dwellings at a loss and it doesn't build houses for rent but sells them to landlords, with two lots of profit, one for developers and another for landlords. Nick and I raised this with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning at our meeting with him on 3rd Sept (see above).
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA):
At the last Committee meeting it was reported that several Associations had joined NORA. PERA, the Widcombe Association and Lansdown Crescent Association are now listed as members on NORA's website, and there may be others. All this helps with NORA's need to expand membership, to match increasing interest and recognition by Government.
NORA will be holding renewed talks with Govt (MHCLG) on housing (and particularly on Short Term Letting and Party Houses – see below) in the Autumn. With NORA's Chair, I shall be attending a conference in London on 29th Oct, entitled "Next steps for house building in England – planning, investment and innovation".
NORA has drawn my attention to the Hansard Society's 2019 'Audit of Political Engagement' (54 pages). It's fascinating stuff, if in a rather niche area. If anyone wants to read it, please see me.
Council's Priorities and Financial Plans:
Kirstie circulated a Press Statement on this on 7th Sept. I draw your attention to the references in it to the building of social housing, to the implementation of traffic management (over and above that intended as part of the Clean Air Zone); and to adaptation or replacement of the Bath City Forum.
Short Term Letting and Party Houses:
Since our last Committee there has been a blizzard of media attention on this (See BBC Radio Bristol interview with Kerr 19 July; FoBRA letter on 3 Greenway in Chron 25 July; Article on Airbnb in Sunday Times 4 Aug; Airbnb article about Edinburgh in The Times 6 Aug; BBC News video 9 Aug "Locals kicked out of their homes for tourists"; Party Houses article in Daily Telegraph 17 Aug; Party Houses article in The Times 31 Aug, including proposed way ahead by Kerr; Airbnb & Party Houses article in The Times 2 Sept; Party House in Bath, Daily Mail 7 Sept; and piece on 'You and Yours' (BBC R4) 9 Sept.). The gathering momentum is most heartening. If you want my personal recommendation from amongst that list, I'd go for the Party Houses article in The Times 31 Aug, including proposed way ahead by me (see: http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/cms/uploads/party-house-article-in-times-31-aug-19.pdf); and the Airbnb & Party Houses article in The Times 2 Sept, splendidly written by Libby Purves. Much of Nick's and my recent discussions with our MP and with Cllrs Ball and Romero (see above) revolved around this subject.
The latest news on the Party House at 3 Greenway Lane, where its appeal against closure had been refused, is that it is no longer advertised or operating. Neighbours are much relieved.
Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG):
The next Police IAG is due to meet on 18th Sept, so I shall be able to report to our Committee the following day. Kirstie wrote to you on 27th Aug inviting B&NES citizens to attend a 'Police Academy' being run in Saltford on five Wednesday evenings from 11th Sept – 9th Oct. I have suggested that the IAG should 'visit' this Police Academy on 18th Sept, so I may see some of you there!
Bristol Airport Expansion:
Bristol Airport is planning for 4000 night flights a year between 23:30 and 0600, an average of 11 flights every night. Is this something we want to support or object to?
Membership and Joining Advice:
In discussion of our Priorities at the last Committee, we agreed to drop 'Engagement' as a separate one, subsuming it into general administration. This has resulted in expansion and redrafting of our advice on the website for organizations thinking about joining. See: http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/joining-fobra.php . Please tell me if you have any comments.
Therapeuticity Festival 20-27 Sept:
On 7th Sept, Kirstie circulated details of this new festival, sponsored by the Bath Preservation Trust (BPT). I shall be attending the first event. You can find out more at: www.therapeuticity.org
Listed Building Advice:
You may remember my plugging BPT's useful pamphlets "Warmer Bath" and "Making Changes". Now, Edinburgh World Heritage has published something similar: "Guide to Building Maintenance in a Changing Climate". I shall bring copies to the next Committee.
The Listed Property Show South West will be held in the Passenger Shed, Bristol, on Saturday 21st Sept. I shall be attending it. See: https://www.lpoc.co.uk/the-listed-property-show-south-west/ .
FoBRA has recently commented to BPT about their Summer and September Newsletters; in particular on plans for the Rec. Our views are not always identical, so a lively dialogue took place.
Climate Change Advice:
B&NES, in association with 3SG, is holding an event at Bath FC on 18th Sept to provide advice on Climate Change: https://www.3sg.org.uk/events/funding-workshop-for-environmental-projects-in-b-nes . Kirstie circulated details on 7th Sept. I am due to attend and can report at our Committee.
If you did not see Tim Newark's article on seagull nuisance in the Chronicle on 29th Aug, you will certainly have noticed the 'pesky critters' in the city centre. Tim wrote to me, seeking FoBRA's vocal support, so I thought we ought to discuss this. At Nick's and my meeting with the Council Leader on 9th Sept, Cllr Crossley, whose portfolio includes 'seagulls', said the numbers were slowly falling, thanks to the Council's egg oiling and replacement programme, to the increasing elimination of food from refuse bags, to the flying of the Council's Harris Hawk, and to campaigns to cease feeding the birds. However, one had to recognize that this was an international problem (even in Paris!) and that seagulls are prepared to fly up to 50 miles for food. Cllr Crossley's next target is the commercial waste bags put out in the city centre every evening.
Robin Kerr, draft 2 and final, 14th Sept 19