Nick, Ceris Humphreys and I met with Cllr Dine Romero, the Council Leader, Cllr Neil Butters (Transport), Cllr Jo Wright (Transport) and Cllr Dave Wood (Neighbourhood services & Climate Emergency) on 2nd December for the first of the 'new style' Leader meetings (the next one being on 3rd March). The following subjects were discussed: Corporate Peer Review (see minutes of 7th Nov Committee); Plans for the Rec (including stadium and parking); Climate Emergency; Transport (including CAZ, Cleveland Bridge, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Parking); and Housing (both short term letting and student housing). I shall be happy to expand on any of these at the Committee meeting on 21st Jan.
Bath City Forum (BCF):
The BCF remains suspended, and there have been no further meetings of the Involve Bath group, which is rather worrying, so I can only refer you to the note in my last report. One has to speculate whether this Council is serious about addressing Bath's democratic deficit.
However, 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 13th Jan and discussed the following applications:
• Rotunda Wellbeing space at Newbridge School
• Student Community Wardens
• Electric Transport
• Glasshouse Pavilion/sports field (again)
• Ensleigh pedestrian crossings (again)
Hustings - Housing:
I attended a Parliamentary Hustings on 20th Nov where I asked all candidates if they would pledge to lobby Government to introduce (a) regulation of the Short Term Letting trade and (b) a separate Use Category for such properties so that the owner would have to apply for planning permission to switch from long term residential status. All agreed to this except the Brexit candidate, who clearly didn't understand Bath's problem in finding places to build.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA):
With NORA's Chair, I am due to attend meetings with senior Officials of the Housing Ministry (MHCLG) in London on 16th Jan, to pursue subjects and contacts made at the conference which I attended last October . I shall report on this at the Committee on 21st Jan, if there is anything worthwhile to say.
The NORA AGM will be held on Friday 29th May, in London. I hope that all its new members from Bath will attend!
Council's Financial Plans:
The Council's annual budget presentation took place in the Guildhall Banqueting Room on 17th Dec, addressed by Cllrs Richard Samuel (finance) and Jo Wright (transport); and by the Chief Executive. I saw several of you there. A consultation about its content and conclusions is taking place, for which I am coordinating FoBRA's response, so please let me know if you have anything to add. The deadline for submission is 24th Jan. The charts can be seen at https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2019-12/Budget%20and%20Corporate%20Plan%20December%202019.pdf .
Housing Position Paper:
In my last report I wrote about the updating of FoBRA's position papers. Transport & Air Pollution; Planning; and Environmental Pollution have been approved and now appear on our website. However, Housing was delayed while we found a Subject Lead, following the stepping down of Barry Gilbertson last year. Graham Feltham (Lower Oldfield Park) has agreed to fill the gap, as he has expertise in this field, and has drafted a new version. This is annexed to my report and I welcome comments.
Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG):
The IAG last met on 3rd Dec, when we discussed: Hate Crime, Crime statistics, Homelessness & rough sleepers and Xmas market & demonstrations. I raised the need for rapid conclusion to crimes, citing a drug bust in the city last summer for which so far no one has been charged, causing distress to the neighbours and bringing the criminal justice system into disrepute. I have written to our Police and Crime Commissioner about this.
In a recent article in The Times on 24th Dec, both Barry Gilbertson (CARA) and I were interviewed on residents' concerns about coaches visiting Bath, and measures being taken to reduce them. You will find the text on our website. There was a similar article in the Daily Telegraph. Caroline Kay (CE Bath Preservation Trust) wrote to the Chronicle about these interviews on 30th Dec.
Climate Emergency – Listed Property Insulation:
In my last Report, I expanded on our wish to explore the practicality of double or secondary glazing in Listed properties, as our contribution to the Council's declaration of a Climate Emergency. I wrote that I had asked a double glazing company (Ventrolla) and a secondary equivalent (Mitchell and Dickinson), how they would each solve this problem in Bath, and to quote for doing so in the dormers of my own house. Moving on, you will be interested to know that my wife and I have focused on double glazing, and have recently submitted a Listed Building Application. We would be happy to share all information on this, and ask members to support this Application, to increase its chance of being approved, and thus oiling the wheels of the procedure for us all, by visiting the Council's website at: https://isharemaps.bathnes.gov.uk/data.aspx?requesttype=parsetemplate&template=DevelopmentControlSearchSimple.tmplt , inserting the reference number (20/00024/LBA) and following the links.
Bath Trams Conference - Saturday 8th Feb:
Another trams conference is coming. For more information, visit: https://bathtrams.uk/saturday-8th-february-2020-bath-area-trams-association-national-conference-and-get-together/
Shared Future seminar:
The Council and the University of Bath have agreed to engage in several joint projects. These were explained at a well-attended seminar in the Guildhall on 13th Jan: firstly, Climate Change, with focus on the heating of buildings, especially historic ones; secondly, the city infrastructure, and particularly the vaults under the roads, with a view to preserving them and finding new uses for them. Lastly, the studies will look at a vision for Bath, its democratic deficit, and the great behavioural changes necessary to cope with climate change and a ⅓ reduction in traffic.
Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) - The Herschel Museum:
BPT's Herschel Museum won two awards in November – one for Tourism and the other for Business – to add to the Museums & Heritage Award which it won earlier in 2019.
The October edition of Nationwide's House Price Index announced that "Annual house price growth remained subdued at 0.4%, and there was a modest 0.2% rise month on month, after taking into account seasonal factors."
Robin Kerr, draft 3 and final, 14 Jan 20
FoBRA – Housing Position Paper
Nationally the main issues might be seen as:
Cost & Availability: Young people, i.e. under 35s, are being priced out of the housing market in the areas that are most desirable and convenient for the workplace. A million more young adults are living with their parents than 15 years ago, official statistics show.
Supply: Building more homes does not necessarily reduce house pricing, and developers generally build according to demand. In 2017/18 the housing industry built almost 218,000 homes which should be viewed against the newest government target of 300,000 homes per annum. The gap between market housing and government target could be filled by Housing Associations and/or Local Authorities building more affordable homes, of which there should be a high percentage of social homes for rent.
Households v Dwellings: The number of new homes being built has failed to keep pace with population growth and the growing trend of more people living alone, coupled with the problem of affordability i.e average house prices in Britain increased by more than 75% between 2003 and 2018 to £223,612. The average weekly rent in England has risen from £153 to £193 in the last decade.
Particular local issues in Bath include:
Student housing: Large-scale provision of student housing across Bath, including Purpose Built Student Accommodation, which has pre-empted the provision of housing for local people.
Short term rentals: These are displacing long-term housing at an increasing rate. Currently it is estimated that there are some 1500 short-term rental properties in Bath, including about 70 'party houses' (short term rental of large properties for 7 or more people) which can be a source of nuisance to neighbours.
What should FOBRA do?
Encourage B&NES Council in the following:
1. Procurement and erection of high spec modular houses on derelict Council land. The Council's initial target is 200 dwellings ( 50 in the next 4 years), but this needs to be substantially increased.
2.Publishing a revised WECA Joint Spatial Plan in good time. This includes the robust identification of 105,000 new homes in Strategic Development Locations (SDLs).
3.Bringing empty homes in Bath into the public realm.
4.Proposing a comprehensive student housing policy in conjunction with the universities, including (a) the amendment of the current A4D SPD in relation to HMOs, (b) regulation of Purpose Built Student Accommodation as well as HMOs and (c) introduction of the 'Oxford Model' whereby universities must propose building of accommodation on campus to match any increase of students inherent in any Planning Application proposing additional teaching space.
5.Regulation of short term lets, Airbnb, party Houses etc... These need regulation by Government to create a fair and level playing field, perhaps with a new use category in planning terms, or, if this is not successful, the same regulations as now apply to HMOs. Lobbying our local MP to bring pressure on use of Government time for this.
Graham Feltham, draft 3 dated 12th Jan 20