Post Office Relocation Consultation
You may be aware of a proposal by Royal Mail to relocate Bath's main post office from the bottom of Broad Street to WH Smith's shop in Union Street. The consultation on this closed on 19th Dec, but, just before it did, I wrote in response to urgent representations made to me by some members, as follows:
Dear Mr Gale,
I am responding on behalf of the Federation of Bath Residents' Associations (FoBRA) to your current consultation about the proposed relocation of the Crown Post Office in Northgate Street, Bath (to WH Smith in Union Street). The main point which my members have asked me to raise is that the new location will be much further than the present one from both the nearest car-park and the closest bus stop. Moreover, it will be set in a pedestrian precinct and on the first floor of the building. In all these respects it will be less accessible to people with restricted mobility. This new location will be a serious reduction in convenience for many people (despite the accessibility features inside the shop which are described in your consultation letter). Could you please explain why this downgrading should be proposed, or indeed accepted, for such a vital public facility?
In addition, the vehicular access to the rear of the new premises is poor with its single lane road and tortuous route to get there through the centre of Bath (much of which is due to be pedestrianised in accordance with the Council's adopted Bath Transport, and Bath Public Realm and Movement, Strategies).
I should be grateful for an early reply.
No such reply has been received yet, but I'll let you know if it is.
Transport Conference 4th April 19
As stated in the last minutes, the conference on 16th Nov about Bath's Transport woes, staged by the Bath Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm, was successful and well attended. FoBRA sponsored £200 towards its costs. The Alliance is going to hold another conference on 4th April, concentrating on political parties' transport proposals prior to the elections, and publishing a "model answer" against which to compare their offers. The WECA Mayor, Tim Bowles, has also agreed to speak, in view of his important role in this. The Alliance has asked this time for a contribution of £50, which I propose FoBRA provides.
Bath City Forum (BCF)
The most recent BCF was held on 10th Dec, largely devoted to a presentation on the Council's Budget. Cllr Charles Gerrish (Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency) reminded us that the overriding majority of Council expenditure had to be spent on Adult Social Care and Children's Services (75% last year, rising to over 80% next). Council income has increased, but they have also made proposals to Govt for new sources (such as a tourist tax), as stated in my last Report. Savings through recycling rubbish has helped (60% and rising). £10M further budget savings have been identified but £6M still to be found in the coming year (and a further £50M over the next five years unless there are new income sources), so there will be greater dependence on volunteering, community and charity help. Questions ranged over: creation of jobs, empty shops, affordable homes, the Council's Housing Company, cycling & walking, student Council Tax "losses", the "Wigan (volunteering) Deal", treatment of refugees and the Govt's Fair Funding Review*. The relevant Scrutiny Panel will be examining the proposed budget on 4th Feb, and the full Council will be invited to vote on it 19th Feb.
As you know, I serve on the BCF's Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) sub-committee. I attended a CIL Training seminar on 6th Dec, which showed that the BCF (and hence Bath) is way ahead of the parishes elsewhere (in B&NES) in considering CIL candidate projects and in disbursing money. The most recent meeting of the sub-committee was held on 14th Jan, when the Bathwick towpath, an Active Health scheme, new park benches and a skills & training project were considered.
The next BCF meeting will take place on 28th Jan 19. Regrettably, I shall be abroad.
*Note: The Council announced on 8th Jan "Plans to meet future challenges", which sounds ominous. Though few details have yet been published, it presumably refers to the Council's parlous financial position, and ways to address it, as outlined above. The Cabinet is due to consider this on 6th Feb, so more information will be issued in time for that. I shall keep you informed and may attend the Cabinet meeting.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
NORA's Chairman has been asked to speak in February at a national conference in London on Higher Education: specifically on "the place of student accommodation within communities: improving community cohesion, creating a positive local experience and addressing concerns regarding the impact of students." I have drafted her speech and shall be accompanying her.
Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG):
The most recent IAG was on 16th Jan, where we discussed 'County Lines' drug networks; a multi-agency approach to tackling homelessness; immigrants; upgrades to Officers' equipment, including body-worn cameras and laptops; restarting of Officer recruitment; 'Tri-force approaches, with Wiltshire and Gloucestershire; and recent crime statistics.
You may remember in my last Report that I mentioned my having raised at the 23rd Oct IAG the effect homeless drug users are having on Bath's parks, and particularly Henrietta. I added that I had written to the Council Leader, the PCC and our MP supporting a letter from Henry Ford, Chairman of the Friends of Henrietta Park, complaining about this. You will be glad to know that I received a most helpful email from Wera Hobhouse MP, expressing her great concern, and stating:
"The use of drugs in public is a growing and increasingly worrying issue in Bath. I of course would want this to be dealt with appropriately by the authorities. I will make sure that I keep this in mind for any meetings I have with the relevant bodies. Please keep me posted on this and any other concerns that you and FoBRA members have and let me know how I can be of assistance."
Bath Preservation Trust
The Trust will be holding a drop-in open day for potential volunteers at their museums (or indeed, with their campaigning and conservation work) on Monday 28th January, 10am – 1pm at No. 1 Royal Crescent. More details at: https://no1royalcrescent.org.uk/get-involved/
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Additional Licensing
I have asked Kirstie to circulate to you all the Council's recent announcement about HMO Additional Licensing. This is a vital tool in the Council's housing armoury, both to protect & enhance student living conditions, and to force all landlords to meet standards. Moreover, it's part of the Council's developing Student Housing Policy, even if they refuse to name it as such, nor coordinate all its elements!
Local Plan Consultation
See Planning Report and website posting of FoBRA's submission.
Home Care Services
As requested by our lead on medical matters, Mark O'Sullivan, Kirstie circulated to you on 22nd Dec calls for responses to various joint Council/Clinical Commissioning Group consultations about (a) home care services, (b) community equipment and (c) community mental health services. I hope you received them in time to meet the rather short deadlines.
Widcombe Hill Danger
Kirstie recently circulated a call to support a petition about traffic calming on Widcombe Hill, following serious injury to a cyclist there on New Year's Day.
FoBRA Executive Meeting
The next meeting of the Executive will be on 14th Feb, to consider, inter alia, preparations for the AGM.
Robin Kerr, final, 17th Jan 19