Chairman's Report for FoBRA Committee 7th Apr 16
Members will be sad to hear of the death of Bill Bloomfield in early February. Bill was one of the founders of FoBRA, acting as both its Chairman and Secretary at one stage, when no one else could be found.
West of England Devolution
The Chancellor announced in the Budget that economic support of up to £1B (£30M per year for 30 years) for certain districts in England would be devolved to groupings of Local Authorities; one of these being the West of England's Bristol, B&NES, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. This is the group which is already supported by our Local Enterprise Partnership, chaired by Colin Skelton (Chairman of Wessex Water). The proposal has been welcomed by B&NES Council, and will, in due course, be accompanied by introduction of a directly elected executive Mayor for the region (but only for those powers, such as a consolidated local transport budget, franchise bus services, key route networks, strategic planning, adult education budget, and a National Work & Health Programme). More information at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/west-of-england-devolution-deal .
In my role as Chairman of the Lansdown Crescent Association (LCA) I have become involved recently in Enforcement of Planning regulations and decisions. It appears these have changed markedly since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework by the last Government. Attached you will find a useful introduction recently published by B&NES Planners (Planning Enforcement Key Facts and FAQs – Jan 16).
While on the subject of the LCA, some of you may have seen a piece in the Chronicle dated 31st March about restoration of over a thousand finials on the railings of Lansdown Crescent and its two wings. There were also articles in The Times and the Western Daily Press, as well as pieces on local TV and radio. This project has taken about four years and has been managed throughout by the LCA. Please ask me or Rachael Hushon if you want to know more, or have a similar wheeze in your district.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
At NORA's 2015 AGM, the need for a Chairman's succession plan was discussed, on which I volunteered to lead a working group. This led, eventually, to my proposing extensive revision of NORA's Constitution, all of
which was approved at this year's AGM on 3rd March, in London, which Barry and I attended, on your behalf. In the course of this, I was elected to join NORA's Committee. The other important and major item discussed was Student Housing, taking Durham as the (awful) example, addressed by a Pro Vice Chancellor who heads the University-residents' liaison committee and by the head of one of the residents' associations principally affected. While it is clear that the situation in Durham is much worse than Bath's, and has been allowed to get out of hand, there are plenty of lessons, and Bath has no reason to be smug. There is to be a "National Student Housing Conference" there on 20th July, in which members may be interested – details to follow.
Members will be aware that the gulls have resumed residence. The Council:
(a) Plans to work with two universities on an 18-month, £60K research project into gull behaviour. Behavioural ecology and psychology students from the Universities of the West of England and Middlesex will map and track gulls as they interact with their food sources and nesting sites.
(b) Is offering assistance with treatment of nests on roofs in affected wards. More information at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/environment/pests-and-infestation/gulls.
Burlington Street Wall
I last wrote about this in my 30th July Report, in which I stated that St Mary's church had applied (a) to register their right to suppress the windows in the side of the adjoining building above their car park, and (b) to fell the chestnut tree. They were successful in registering 3 of the 4 windows for suppression, but the fourth one has been there too long; and the planners refused to permit felling of the tree. The church's ardour for this scheme was somewhat dimmed by a nasty case of arson, but, now that this is almost repaired, the Wall is back on target, with a renewed effort to fell the tree, and some kind of compromise about the "difficult" window, before they can bring in developers to complete the street, thereby solving the "wall problem".
Dr Jo Farrar, B&NES Chief Executive
After 4 years as Chief Executive of B&NES Council, Dr Jo Farrar has decided to accept a senior post as Director General, Local Government and Public Services, in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). She will leave her current post in September.
Robin Kerr, final, 4th Apr 16