Bath City Forum (BCF)
The last BCF was held on 24th July, with an emphasis on Health provision. Under the item on the Council's new Refuse policy, I quizzed the speaker about the inevitable problem of 'side waste'. His response was not encouraging. Under the Fire and Rescue item, I queried the non-appearance of a representative from the Service, and asked that they come to the next meeting, on 20th Sept, ready to answer questions about the fire dangers of Party Houses. As noted in my last Report, a new Chairman will be required. Accordingly, I have nominated Cllr Colin Blackburn (Ind), and Cllr Bob Goodman (previous Chairman) has seconded him.
More details have appeared about this year's Bath City Conference, sponsored by the BCF, on Friday 13th Oct 17. The theme will be "Building a Stronger Bath" and, besides the usual trade stands in the Banqueting Room, there will be two engagement sessions during the afternoon, one of which will be on Bath Transport Policy, followed by the usual "Ask the Panel" in the evening.
As noted in my last Report, I spoke at the 13th July Council meeting where adoption of the Placemaking Plan was proposed. My statement is on our website, but not the associated Council minute. In abbreviated form, it reads:
"Robin Kerr, FoBRA Chairman, made a statement regarding student housing and transport. Cllr Goodman (Con) asked if he considered the proposed reduction in HMOs from 25% to 10% to be the right decision to rebalance the effects of student housing on the community, to which Robin responded that he did, and that it was in line with the HMO lobby [recommendations]. However, it didn't address purpose built student accommodation, which they had asked to be included. He added that Universities needed to be asked to stop increasing student numbers. Cllr Ball (LD) asked if Robin considered the Plan fit for purpose, in the light of the criticisms he had raised. Robin responded that he had no wish to delay adoption of the Plan, but that a rapid Core Strategy review was needed."
Library and One Stop Shop
The Council has been consulting (until 15th Sept) about the integration of the Library and the One-stop-shop; and also where to put them (Podium or Lewis House). I attended an informative briefing about this, held by the Widcombe Association on 12th Sept and featuring leading campaigner, Caroline Ambrose; and a bad-tempered Council debate about it on 14th Sept, as a result of which the consultation continues. Our very own Richard Samuel was the leading speaker for the LibDems. I doubt if we have heard the last of this subject.
Police and Crime Commissioner visit
Sue Mountstephens, our Police and Crime Commissioner, will be holding another public forum in the Guildhall at 6.45pm on Thursday 28th Sept. Tickets for this are required (but are free): visit http://www.avonandsomersetpcc.gov.uk/Official-site.aspx .
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
As usual, I shall be taking part in NORA's annual talks on 27th Sept with the Chief Planner at the Department for Communities and Local Government. I shall be leading on the subject of Party Houses (again). The complete agenda looks like this:
• Housing (Party houses, Calculation of need, Affordable housing and loopholes, Article 4 land protection, Sustainability, and Student rebate). • Licensing (Conflict between licensing and planning) • Neighbourhood Plans (Neighbourhood plan vulnerability)
Student Council Tax Exemption
Student Council Tax exemption results in a huge loss of revenue to our Council. Until now there has been some compensation from the Ministry, but this is due to stop in 2020, so where is this cash to come from? Our Universities lead, Chris Beezley, has investigated, and he has come up with:
• An email which he sent to our MP seeking better visibility of the reduction in Revenue Support Grant (RSG) to B&NES and also much helpful background, including a suggestion that our universities must curb their expansion – something I have myself brought up with her in person, for a multitude of reasons. • A paper with some of these figures, showing how very high is the amount which B&NES must bridge (and hence which becomes a burden on the constituents who do actually pay Council tax). He quotes from a Freedom of Information request, asking "how many houses in Bath are exempt from paying council tax because they are occupied by students?" The response was:
2012-3, 1670 Households, discounts -£1,984,233.67 2013-4, 2043 Households, discounts -£2,379,035.76 2014-5, 2825 Households, discounts -£3,129,042.36
This is an enormous reduction in Council Tax income over a period of just three years, and it will be even greater for the periods 2015/6 and 2016/71.
FoBRA Leads, Representatives and Sub-Committees
At the last Committee we discussed updating the table of FoBRA Leads, Representatives and Sub-Committees. Despite contributions from many of you, I regret this is not yet ready.
Rugby and the Rec Trust
I attended the Rec Trust AGM on 13th Sept where it was made clear that there are now no legal obstacles preventing the Trust from renting more land to Bath Rugby. We therefore await a Planning Application for consideration from Bath Rugby for a larger stadium. With that in mind, retired Surveyor and Planning Inspector, Stephen Marks, has published a notable paper about the subject which I have circulated to our Rec Contact Group.
Patrick Rotheram will be telling us about B&NES' current consultation on air pollution at the Committee on 19th Sept, and outlining FoBRA's proposed response.
NHS Sustainability & Transformation Partnership
The NHS's Sustainability & Transformation Partnership for B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire will hold its next meeting on 20th Oct in the Bailbrook Hotel. Anyone interested in attending on behalf of FoBRA, please see me.
Short Term Holiday Lettings
In view of nationwide concerns about the 'hollowing out' of resident accommodation in attractive towns and cities because of short term holiday letting arrangements such as Airbnb (mostly unregulated), Planning Policy have been asked what they are doing about it. Their response is that "the Council has commenced work on preparing a New Local Plan for B&NES. Through its preparation the Council will be assessing the extent of short term holiday lets/Airbnb properties within the city and the implications this has in terms of residential amenity, pressure on the housing stock and the need for additional hotel bed spaces. From this assessment and dependent on what the evidence shows, the Council will consider various policy options to address the several implications. These policy options may include similar approaches to those employed in other parts of the country." As you will perceive, this is neither illuminating, nor very remarkable, nor does it sound rapid, but I shall keep you informed.
As a rather crude illustration, in London short term holiday rentals increased from 30,000 to 53,000 last year, and this is in a city which requires a further 22,000 homes to be built for its own population!
Coach Parking Strategy
As part of the Bath Transport Strategy and Bath's Destination Management Plan, the Council has been working on a new Parking Strategy for Coaches. FoBRA has been invited to a meeting of stakeholders to hear about and discuss it on 28th Sept, after which public consultation will begin. Patrick Rotheram will speak about it at the Committee on 19th Sept.
In my last report I mentioned the BID's intention to sponsor some 'Home' retail events for residents in the evenings of 23rd to 27th Oct, featuring perhaps OKA and Rossiters. Progress is being made, apparently, and an announcement will appear soon.
'Country Living' Festival
On 13th Sept I attended the launch event for a new festival to be held 10th to 13th May 2018 by the magazine 'Country Living', using venues across the city, including Parade Gardens, Queen Square, Milsom Street, Stall Street, and Orange Grove, with stages for bands, food vans and stalls, play areas, etc. Some of you may have been to 'Country Living' tents at Badminton Horse Trials or the Bath and West Show, so you will already know what to expect.
Bathscape Walking Routes
According to Mark O'Sullivan, our Bathscape lead, one of the first fruits of this project is a series of walking routes around Bath. These are described in the annex and feedback is requested by 29th Sept. Anyone interested in providing this, please see me, and I can give you access to the associated maps. Cabinet Portfolios In addition to the recent B&NES Cabinet reshuffle there has been a reordering of responsibilities within the Cabinet. Anyone interested in this, please see me.
Robin Kerr, final, 16th Sept 17
Bathscape Walking routes
The routes have been designed to take in the best views and points of interest along the way.
All the radial routes start from the city centre at Bath Abbey and head out to the circular path. They are designed to be circular routes, but walkers have the option of walking part and then getting a bus back to the city centre. They could, of course, also choose to walk part of the circular route and so extend their walk.
Overview In total there will be 60 miles of waymarked route developed through the project, including the 2.5 miles of path highlighted as shortcuts for those wanting shorter circular walks.
Due to the topography of Bath, it is challenging to develop routes that are fully accessible. However, the canal towpath and riverside walk are surfaced and level, so would be suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Route Destination Distance Notes 1 Whiteway and Englishcombe 8.5 miles (circular) Could link to Newbridge Park & Ride
2 Weston and Prospect Stile
10 miles (circular) Could link to Landsdown Park & Ride
3 Walcot to Batheaston 3 miles (linear) or 6.2 miles circuit
Links to bus route 3 from bus station. Option to return via Bathampton Meadows 4 Bathampton Meadows 5.7 miles (circular) Links to bus route 3 from bus station
5 Bathampton Down 4.7 miles (circular) Could link to University bus service (U1 and U2) 6 Widcombe and Combe Down 5.2 miles (circular) Links to bus route 2 from bus station Circuit 22 miles (circular) Links to Park & Rides at Newbridge and Odd Down.
Circular route This 22mile route allows walkers to appreciate the city within its rural setting and take in the views out to the surrounding countryside of Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire. It is designed so it can be done in sections using public transport, or completed in one day for the keener walker. The route is similar to that of the annual Julian House charity walk that takes place each September. The circular path also links to other long-distance routes, such as the Limestone Link and Kennet & Avon Canal towpath.
Claverton Pumping Station, Kelston Round Hill, Dundas Aquaduct, Beckford's Tower,
Route 1 – Whiteway and Englishcombe. 8.5 mile circuit This walk heads out through the city centre to Green Park and then picks up the riverside path out to Twerton. Crossing the river, it heads up through Innox Park to Bath City Farm. From here, the route heads up through Whiteway to cross the road at Haycombe, at which point the views open up to the south and west across to the Mendip Hills. The walk becomes
very rural in character, heading through quiet lanes and footpaths to Englishcombe. The village lies on the Wansdyke, is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and is now owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. The path continues down the hill from Englishcombe, before picking its way back up hill alongside the Newton Brook and then heads back towards the cemetery where you retrace your steps back to the city centre.
There is an optional diversion to Twerton Round Hill, which offers great views over the city and has a fascinating history.
Route 2 – Weston and Prospect Stile. 10 mile circuit This routes follows the Cotswold Way National Trail from outside Bath Abbey gradually uphill to the outskirts of the city. In addition to seeing the Abbey, walkers will pass along the lower edge of the circus once they leave Victoria Park. The route winds its way along the edge of the city to Weston, where it climbs steadily up to Prospect Stile. This is one of the best viewpoints around Bath, where on clear day it's possible to see 50 miles to Salisbury Plain, Brecon Beacons and the Mendip Hills. Having taken in the views, the route heads away from the escarpment to cross the race course and heads for Landsdown. It is possible to get a bus back to city from here, or continue on towards Wooley, before heading back down the hill, through Primrose Hill community woodland to pick up the Cotswold Way back to the Abbey.
There is an optional diversion to Kelston Round Hill, which is a short (uphill) walk from the Cotswold Way.
Route 3 – Walcot to Batheaston 3 mile linear or 6 mile circuit The route heads out from the city centre along Walcot Street, which offers a diverse range of local shops. It then climbs up through Hedgemead Park, heading north east through quiet streets to Rivers Road Woodland. The path continues towards Larkhall recreation ground before crossing the bridge over the A46. It now leaves the city, heading through quiet countryside, to Batheaston. Here walkers can either catch a bus back, or pick up Route 4 to return via Bathampton Meadows and the canal tow path.
There is an optional diversion to Solsbury Hill, managed by the National Trust and offering great views back towards the city centre.
Route 4 – Bathampton Meadows 5.7 mile circuit From the Abbey, the route heads across Pultney Bridge and along Great Pultney Street to Sydney Gardens. Walkers can enjoy the splendour of Georgian Bath at its finest. The path heads through Sydney Gardens to pick up the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath heading for Bathampton Mill. Here the route goes along Mill Lane and then across the meadows to Batheaston Gardens. Walkers have the option to get a bus back to the City, or head back to the Meadows, following the Limestone Link alongside the river, before crossing Mill Lane. From here the route passes under the A46 and heads up Meadow Lane to the pick up the towpath back towards the city centre.
Route 5 – Bathampton Down 4.7 mile circuit This route starts off as per Route 4, heading down Great Pultney Street and through Sydney Gardens. On reaching the canal, walkers turn right to head towards Bathwick. After a short distance, the path leaves the canal and heads up Sham Castle Lane, climbing uphill to reveal extensive views of the city. Crossing Cleveland Walk, walkers leave the houses behind, to walk through meadows and eventually up to the golf course. The route then circuits the golf course, passing Sham Castle – a structure built by Ralph Allen and visible from most of Bath. There are extensive views over the city and out over the surrounding countryside.
There is an optional route extension to drop down in to the valley beyond Bathampton Down, to pick up the canal towpath back to Bathampton or on to Limpley Stoke.
Route 6 – Widcombe and Combe Down
This route leaves the Abbey Courtyard and heads down to the station, where there is a pedestrian footbridge crossing the river. Cross the A36 and head up St Mark's Road, which leads in to the Holloway. Where this comes out on the Wellsway, head past the pub and fork right in to Bloomfield Road. Head along here until reaching Bloomfield Park on your right. At this point, there are several options. For a short loop, follow path through Linear Park back to the A36, where you can pick up the riverside path back to the city centre. Turning left, you can go through Devonshire Tunnel to come out in Lyncombe Vale. If you turn left and carry on through the first tunnel, you can walk straight on through a second tunnel to eventually pick up the circular route at Midford.
If you choose to arrive in Lyncombe Vale, head north to pick up Lyncombe Vale Road and follow this to Ralph Allen Drive. Head a short distance up hill and turn in to Perrymead, following this up the hill forking left for Pope's Drive until you arrive at the top of Ralph Allen Drive. Head along North Road, turning left at the first break in the wall to pick up a footpath through the woods. You will then pick up the National Trust's family trail which will bring you out on the edge of the meadows with spectacular views over Bath. Head downhill through the meadows, keeping Prior Park on your left to arrive in Church Lane. Follow this to the end, forking right and then crossing Widcombe Hill. Head down The Tyning to reach the canal and turn right on the towpath. York Street and along North Parade. Take the first left from the towpath, following this route under the railway bridge and proceed along North Parade to the city centre.