Meeting with Council Leader
Nick and I held our first meeting with Cllr Tim Warren, the new Council Leader, on 11th June. The following subjects were covered: Air Pollution and creation of a Low Emission Zone, Transport Strategy and project incoherence, Parking (particularly control of visitor parking), Upstream Flooding concerns, the Placemaking Plan (see below), Planning (need for discipline and the adoption of conservation area documents), a new joint project (called a "Task & Finish Group" in Council-speak), for example on Enforcement, and the City Centre Action Group.
Transport and Pollution
On 9th July I was invited to take part in a discussion on Radio Bristol with Cllr Tim Warren about Transport problems in Bath. This revolved around the usual aspects (see below).
At the Bath City Conference, Peter Dawson (Head of Transport Policy) led a lively discussion of the Bath Transport Strategy recommendations, supported by Cllr Tony Clark, Cabinet member for Transport. Dawson reiterated a commitment to the Strategy's basic principles, such as an early Eastern Park & Ride (for which it was said the Cabinet had already earmarked sufficient funding), consequential reduction of all but essential and residents' vehicles in the centre, an A36/46 link (for which central Govt finance and approval would be needed), a Low Emission Zone (for which central Govt approval would be needed), etc. These were supported by most speakers, but rather less so by the Cabinet member.
In parallel, Patrick Rotheram and I held a meeting with our MP, Ben Howlett, at his request. Discussion focused on the A36/46 link, a Low Emission Zone, (and Ben's part in getting both of these created), and prosecution of Moving Traffic Offences by B&NES. In the meeting's margins I raised with him the continued plague of gulls in Bath and whether a change in the 1981 law to permit their reclassification as "pests" in towns/cities with such a problem (and hence their direct elimination) would be a task he could contemplate.
Patrick Rotheram subsequently wrote to the Chronicle, on our behalf, reiterating many of the Transport Strategy's principles, as a recent article in it had cast doubt on the extent of air pollution in the city (copy attached).
Invitation from Ben Howlett MP
At my meeting with Ben (see above), he invited FoBRA to organize a visit to him at the Houses of Parliament in (say) the Autumn. I have asked the Secretary to make the arrangements, so please let him know if you are interested.
Nick and I revisited the Placemaking Plan, on 9th July, with the Officers who are writing it. The next stage will be a 6-week consultation starting in October. We repeated our concerns: that central Bath needed to be treated as a "Place" in its own right (about which FoBRA had submitted much excellent material), the need for a Student Housing Policy (especially in view of the cascade of planning applications for student housing blocks recently), space standards for housing, correlation with Bath's Transport Strategy, and the desirability for building on brownfield before greenfield sites.
Bath City Conference (BCC) – 10th July
The BCC followed its established "trade show" pattern, but with enhanced debates/discussions in the Council Chamber. I thought both aspects were useful and all parts seemed well attended. Discussion sessions covered Transport Strategy (see item above), Getting started in the Community, Bath Governance, and the usual Q&A with the Leader/Chief Executive (joined by his whole cabinet, Network Rail and the police). On your behalf I submitted 8 questions, of which 3 were chosen by the Chairman, Don Chambers (on rail electrification, upstream flooding and Bath governance).
Bath City Forum
At the 16th July Council meeting an advisory "Connecting Communities" committee was approved for Bath, to address its 'democratic deficit', following 1½ years of cross-party discussion. Consisting of (some) Bath Councillors and appropriate co-optees, it will meet 3 times a year, to discuss matters of relevance to Bath, but will have no specific powers, nor has a path to greater usefulness been included in its terms of reference. Ways to rectify this were proposed but defeated. In view of all the prior work on this, its importance when it begins, and the dismal record of earlier initiatives without power, I view this as a missed opportunity and wrote, with your permission, to the Chronicle about it (letter attached). This was published on the Chronicle website and was followed by a full page about the subject on 23rd July, including a response to all the criticisms from Council Leader, Tim Warren.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
1. Japanese knotweed: NORA consulted members on this problem in June. Their conclusion is that, although DEFRA has wailed against this foreign invader, it seems that Councils can still avoid having to deal with the problem except when it affects Council property.
2. Magistrates' Court Closure: In a Justice Department consultation, either Bath Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court or North Avon (Yate) Magistrates' Court is proposed to be closed. The rationale is that money must be saved; but also that modern IT allows quite a lot of procedures which normally go through these courts to be done remotely. I have asked members either to take action themselves or to ask me to deal with it jointly (and, if so, to tell me what answers to the consultation questions members want: in particular why should Bath be favoured over Yate?).
3. Chairman: NORA is looking for a new Chairman. Any volunteers?
Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
Colin Skellett, Wessex Water's Chief Executive, continues as the LEP Chairman, but has recently appointed 8 new business leaders to its board. Colin Clark keeps an eye on this for us.
A Council consultation on its Gambling policy is underway, ending on 11th Sept. The Executive has looked at this but so far feels it has nothing to add to the Council's current procedures, but it would be good to know if any members are participating in the consultation.
Bath Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG)
I have agreed to join this new group, which is one of many set up at the behest of the Chief Constable to act as "critical friends" of local police across the Force. As part of this, I have visited the new charging and custody centre at Keynsham, and have taken part in a Saturday night patrol in Bath. In due course, I shall let you know how effective I feel the role is, and whether I should continue with it.
Updates to reflect the new FoBRA Priorities have been posted. Please tell me what you think of them (and if you can suggest better, please do so).
Burlington Street Wall
I last wrote about this in my 12th May Report. St Mary's church state that they have applied (a) to register their right to suppress the 3 windows in the side of the adjoining building above their car park, and (b) to fell the chestnut tree, so it looks as though they are progressing towards building on the car park (and thereby solving the wall problem).
FoBRA's Summer Party
The summer party took place on 23rd July in the garden of Richard and Sue Wales, on Widcombe Hill. Some 40 of us were blessed by a dry evening, beautiful views and great hospitality.
Robin Kerr, final, 24th July 15
Attachments: Rotheram Chronicle letter on Transport Strategy and Kerr Chronicle letter on Bath City Forum.
Chronicle Letter on Bath Transport Strategy
The Federation of Bath Residents Associations (FOBRA) welcomes the news that the Council is making a start toward the construction of a park-and-ride to the east of Bath (Report, 9 July). An eastern park-and-ride is much needed and has been delayed far too long.
The article states that Bath's levels of air pollution 'are said to be' above EU guidelines. There is no hearsay about this. According to B&NES monitoring data, nitrogen dioxide levels along most of the main road network in Bath and in the city centre are well above the limit set by British and EU law (not 'guidelines'). Along the London Road and parts of the city centre, pollution levels are 50% over the legal limit. Pollution has remained at these high levels for more than ten years and shows no sign of reducing. The data can be seen on the FOBRA website http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/ at the 'Papers' tab.
There are well-established links between nitrogen dioxide pollution and respiratory and other diseases. Particulates from diesel vehicles are linked to both lung and heart disease. Some ten thousand people live within the worst affected areas, and their health is daily being put at risk. This is a serious public health issue, and the Council must take action to reduce air pollution. As 92% of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the city comes from motor vehicles, this means reducing the amount of traffic.
The Bath Transport Strategy was approved last November by the Council with all-party support. Its aim is to promote sustainable transport and reduce the intrusion of traffic in the city, particularly the historic core. We urge the Council to press on urgently with the implementation of the transport strategy. The eastern park-and-ride is one part of the strategy. Action is also needed in accordance with the strategy to reduce traffic volumes in the city by reducing visitor parking in the centre as park-and-ride capacity expands, and by traffic management. A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) should be created covering the whole central area to deter the most polluting vehicles.
Federation of Bath Residents' Associations
12th July 15
Bath City Forum - letter to the Chronicle
At last Thursday's full Council meeting an important opportunity was missed, and the people of Bath are the poorer for it. Bath is the largest city in UK without its own separate legal existence or governance. Keynsham and Radstock have Town Councils, but Bath has nothing of its own: residents are represented only through their ward councillors at the level of the Local Authority, B&NES. For the last year and a half, a cross-party working group of Councillors has been meeting, joined sometimes by other stakeholders, to investigate ways to provide Bath with a useful form of its own governance so that the people of Bath can have an effect on the issues which beset it. Many of these are collective, City of Bath, urban matters that require special expertise and focus.
A consultation last year considered either parishing Bath (which could include a single City Council with parish council powers) or a "Voice for Bath" area committee of Bath Councillors (and possibly co-opted stakeholders), which would exercise some of the B&NES Council functions which are currently carried out in other ways. Such a committee could, for example, have delegated responsibility for matters vitally affecting the city, such as the Bath Transport Strategy or the World Heritage Site Management Plan.
Unfortunately, as you perceptively pointed out in your editorial, none of these options has been chosen. Instead the Cabinet decided to create a talking shop called the Bath City Forum with no defined delegated powers, tasks or resources: not even those which a Parish or Town Council has. South Stoke Council has more powers and responsibilities than this paper tiger. There were positive suggestions at the Council meeting of tasks which might be delegated to it, such as oversight of the Community Infrastructure Levy, the World Heritage Site Management Plan, implementation of Bath's Transport Strategy, Parks and Open spaces, and Tourism, but all were ignored.
We have experience of talking shops like this: the Conservatives created one called the Bath City Liaison Forum seven years ago and, worthy though it was, it died from lack of interest in a few years. These animals have to be given purpose and roles or they are pointless, but this new Forum doesn't even have a mechanism by which its mission and objectives can be developed. Bath deserves better than this, especially after a year and a half of study. FoBRA calls on the new Cabinet to think again, try harder and come up with a viable solution to the problem of Bath's democratic deficit.
Robin Kerr, Chairman FoBRA
20th Jul 15 - final
Chairman's Report 23 Feb 17Chairman’s Report for FoBRA Committee 23rd Feb 17 Leader Meeting 13th Jan 17 Nick and I held another meeting with the Council Leader, Cllr Tim Warren, on 13th Jan. It was also attended by Cabinet members Patrick Anketell-Jones and Martin Veal. We covered the following subjects: 1. Usefulness of these “Leader meetings”. 2. Bath Transport Strategy & Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm, including: a. Alliance presentation 22nd Nov 16 b. Eastern Park and Ride (Cabinet meeting 25th Jan) c. Air Quality (Kerr/Warren letter dated 15th Dec) d. FoBRA letter in Chronicle 22nd Dec on Better Freight delivery. e. FoBRA’s responses to the WoE spatial and transport consultations. f. Council Parking survey. g. City centre visitor permits for hotels, etc., 3. Refuse policy (on agenda for BCF priority setting meeting 12th Jan) 4. Outcomes from Placemaking Plan Examination in Public: a. Student Housing b. Upstream flooding risk 5. Planning a. Upper Oldfield Park. b. “Party Houses”, and FoBRA’s role in campaign. c. Curo’s outline planning application for Foxhill Estate (and FoBRA’s objection and 22nd Dec letter in Chronicle). d. Use of brownfield city sites for housing, rather than students. 6. FoBRA winter reception 17th Jan 17 I shall be happy to expand on any of these subjects at the Committee meeting. National Organization of Residents’ Associations (NORA) Neighbourhood Planning Members will remember that I wrote in my last Report about the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, and the disturbing news of the overthrow of, or challenge to, adopted Neighbourhood Plans in several parts of the country. This will be a principal subject on the agenda of the NORA AGM, to take place on 2nd March, where we shall be represented by our Secretary, Barry Henderson. The guest speaker will be Michael Salmon, Head of Neighbourhood Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Housing White Paper The Government (DCLG) has published for consultation its White paper on Housing, proposing far-reaching changes to the planning system and housing funding. The link to find it is: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/590043/Fixing_our_broken_housing_market_-_housing_white_paper.pdf . It's a weighty tome, at 104 pages, but it’s important, and there’s a good Executive Summary. Its treatment by the Press so far hasn’t been ecstatic, but it's a major step away from the current appalling housing situation. For example, I have noted the following statement: "For housing associations and other not-for-profit developers, the Government has already announced funding worth a total of £7.1 billion through an expanded and more flexible Affordable Homes Programme. We will provide clarity over future rent levels. In return, we expect them to build significantly more affordable homes over the current Parliament." so we shall be quizzing Curo about this, as they have always claimed that there are no longer any subsidies. FoBRA’s Planning Sub Committee will be studying it and recommending comments to members and to NORA before the 2nd May deadline. Placemaking Plan Members will have seen the comments which FoBRA has made to the Council’s proposals for Main Modifications to the Placemaking Plan, following the Inspector’s conclusions – mainly on Parking and Student Housing. These have now been posted on our website and a meeting has been sought with Officers to hear their reaction to suggestions for amendment. Combined Authority Mayoral Election 4th May The candidates have been chosen for the West of England Combined Authority Mayoral Election, which will take place on 4th May. They are: • Conservative Party: Tim Bowles, South Gloucestershire councillor • Labour Party: Lesley Mansell, NHS manager, Westfield parish councillor and former Peasedown St John parish councillor. • Liberal Democrats: Stephen Williams, former MP for Bristol West and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. • Green Party: Darren Hall, former Parliamentary candidate in Bristol West. I should be interested to know if you would like me to try to arrange an extra Committee meeting at which we would ask them to come and introduce themselves to us. Council Refuse Policy Further to Rachael’s report on Refuse Policy in Nov 16 (see minutes), the Council issued new instructions to households on 2nd Feb (attached below), so the great roll-out of wheelie bins or gull-sacks seems to be going ahead from 6th Nov. As Rachael points out, this could be disastrous for flatted, Georgian terraces, particularly if accompanied by a shift from weekly to fortnightly black-bag collections. All is not necessarily lost on that front, however, as the Council’s ‘recycle’ webpage, says: “There may be areas in central Bath that are not suitable for every other week collections of rubbish and the Council is working with Ward Councillors, Residents’ Associations and other groups to come up with the right solution”. The Bath City Forum (BCF) was briefed on this by Cllr Martin Veal (Cabinet Member for Community Services) on 2nd Feb, and the BCF’s Environment Group, which I co-chair, with Cllr Dine Romero (LibDem Group Leader), is entering discussions with him, not only to ensure weekly collections remain (in those vulnerable streets), but also greatly to improve their cleanliness and discipline. This has been discussed with the BCF Chairman too. Flooding Risk above Churchill Bridge The present arrangement (whereby 105 homes which happen to lie between Churchill and Midland Bridges are getting flood protection through the Bath Quays Waterside Project, but ~2000 homes further upstream (but still within Bath) are not, is grossly unfair. There have been two meetings of the Abbey Ward Flood Group since my briefing of the last Committee on this Flooding Risk (see minutes). Despite high level representation at it, no solution has been offered by the Council or the Environment Agency, so Cllr Romero (see above) has agreed with me that this should be taken up by the BCF’s Environment Group, and I have discussed it with the BCF Chairman. Without letting the Council off the hook, solutions are not thick on the ground and the costs are very high. Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG) I serve on the Police IAG, and have attended two of its meetings since my last report, the second of which was attended by Sue Mountstevens, our Police and Crime Commissioner. We discussed: conclusions from the closure of the Manvers Police Station; rough sleepers; public lavatories; the recent large drugs operation in Bath; hate crime; and use of Tasers. I can expand on these items at the Committee meeting if members wish. Modern Tram and Cable Car Systems for Bath? As members may know, separate groups are advocating a cable car connecting Foxhill to the city centre, and reintroduction of trams, both of them as part of a modern transport mix here. Patrick will expand on these at the Committee meeting. World Heritage Site Steering Group Nick has been our representative on the World Heritage Site Steering Group since he became our Vice Chairman, and, during that time, Peter Metcalfe has chaired the Group. Peter has now come to the end of his period of office, and the Council is advertising for a replacement. If anyone is interested, please speak to our Secretary, Barry Henderson. Sydney Gardens Upgrade The team which manages Sydney Gardens (B&NES, the Friends of Sydney Gardens, local Residents’ Associations and the Holburne Museum) has successfully bid for a £332K grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of a £3.6M refurbishment. Buses in Upper Oldfield Park Members will remember an impassioned plea at the November Committee from the representatives of Upper Oldfield Park RA, as they sought to join FoBRA, for help in persuading the Authorities to divert double decker buses away from their street, as they were causing great congestion. You will be glad to hear that their campaign has been successful, aided to a small extent by FoBRA. Streetlife Members may be familiar with Streetlife, the internet based UK local community networks. There are at least seven such groupings in Bath. They aim to help people make connections with their neighbours, to share local news, recommendations and resources. Earlier this month Streetlife was acquired by its US equivalent, Nextdoor, and so this will be its name from now on. The web link at the time of writing is www.streetlife.com/Bath Shrub Attack? One of our members tells me that shrubs in our parks and green spaces are being chopped to the ground and many trees seem to be cut down at random. This has been carried out on the banks below Camden Crescent; despite the trees having been planted there to stop soil erosion. The shrubs absorb traffic fumes, reduce traffic noise and provide food and cover for wildlife, including birds. They also look attractive! This is happening in Hedgemead Park, the Botanic Gardens in Victoria Park, and Sydney Gardens too. Robin Kerr, draft 2, 20th Feb 17 Changes to your rubbish collection service from 6 November 2017 What is changing? Most households across Bath and North East Somerset will be changing to every other week collection for their rubbish from 6 November. We will be providing a 140 litre wheeled bin for the storage and collection of rubbish. We realise that one size does not fit all, so in a small number of cases where a 140 litre wheeled bin is not suitable for your property, or family situation, we may provide a larger bin or a re-useable rubbish bag to contain rubbish for collection. Recycling collections, including food waste will remain weekly and our emphasis will be on encouraging you to use this weekly service to its full potential. Over 70%of UK councils including all our neighbours in Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire, are already running every other week collections for rubbish (in wheeled bins) and weekly recycling collections. They are seeing the benefits including reduced street mess, cost efficiencies and collecting more recycling (instead of rubbish). Collection days and times may change as we will need to redesign the routes so that they are as efficient as possible. Look out for your letter in March From 9-13 March all households will be sent a personalised letter informing them how the changes will affect them. To reduce postage costs, most letters will be included in the envelope with your Council Tax Bill. This letter will let you know whether we have allocated your property a wheeled bin or re-useable rubbish bag for rubbish collection, and the frequency of your rubbish collection. The letter is for information and no response is needed. If you are concerned that the container we have allocated is not appropriate for your specific property, or if despite recycling all you can, you feel that your household will not manage with the allocated container you can complete an online query form. We will write separately to residents who • live in a registered House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) • are currently registered for an Assisted Collection (those who require the help of our crews to carry their rubbish and/or recycling to an agreed collection point). You will be asked to complete a form to update your details to re-apply for an assisted collection if you still need help. For some residents wheeled bins will be much easier to manage. Why are we introducing the changes? 1. To keep our streets cleaner Containing rubbish in a bin or bag will prevent animals and birds ripping open bags and making a mess which is unpleasant for everyone and costs us to clear up. 2. To recycle more We have a very comprehensive recycling collection where you can already recycle 17 different types of household waste every week. We know that some residents can recycle more than they are currently doing – about 75% of a household’s waste can be recycled using the current collections, but we still find that over half of an average rubbish bag consists of items that could have been recycled. Our local research shows that if you recycle all you can you will still have space left in your rubbish bin when collected every other week. The change will help to encourage everyone to use their food recycling collection – only about 50% of households currently use this. About a third of the waste in black sacks currently is food. 3. To save money Every lorry load of waste costs £1000 to dispose of whilst every lorry load of recycling earns an income of £100, so reducing the amount put out as rubbish is essential. Find out more www.bathnes.gov.uk/recycle Our website is being updated as details are confirmed and more FAQs added so please check back here www.bathnes.gov.uk/recycle for updates. • Like our facebook page www.facebook.com/recyleforbathnes to receive updates and tips to recycle more. • Get ready for the change – you can order extra free recycling containers online www.bathnes.gov.uk/orderacontainer • View the bins and re-useable rubbish bags and get advice and tips from our Waste Campaigns Team to help you recycle all you can to get ready for the change at our community roadshows www.bathnes.gov.uk/roadshows • Book a free talk for your community group - contact email@example.com to show you how to make the best use of the recycling service, including practical tips to help your get ready for the change. • We need residents to star in our social media campaign to to encourage others to recycle more. We want your stories, photos, videos and recycling tips to share with others and are keen to hear from individuals and groups – including schools, families, housemates, work groups – how do you do it in your home/school/workplace? Find out more http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/bins-rubbish-and-recycling/recycling-and-rubbish-collections/latest-recycling-updates
Chairman's Report 15th Nov 2016
Chairman's Report 20th Sept 16
Chairman's Report 13 July 16
Chairman's AGM Report 17th May 16
Chairman's Report 17th May 16
Chairman's Report 7th April 2016
Chairman's Report 4th Feb 2016
12th November 2015
Chairman's Report 10th Sept 15
Chairman's Report 30 July 15
AGM Report May 15
Chairman's Report - Mar 15
Chairman's Report Jan 15
Chairman's Report Nov 2014
Chairman's Report Sept 2014
Chairman's Report July 2014
Chairman's Report May 2014
Chairman's Report Mar 2014
Chairman's Report Jan 2014
Chairman's Report November 2013
Chairman's Report October 2013