Cllr Romero, the Council Leader, has agreed to come to the FoBRA Committee on Tuesday 21st January, to talk about the Council's plans, and to answer questions. She has also introduced a more formal and regular programme of quarterly meetings with Nick and me, the first being on 2nd December.
Bath City Forum (BCF):
Further to the note in my last Report, I have now attended two meetings of the temporary 'Involve Bath Group', to discuss BCF reforms, on 24th Sept and 17th Oct. Options being considered are parishing of Bath, the Winchester Committee model and a revised Community Forum. Involvement by a wider spectrum of stakeholders is being sought with a view to issue of ideas for consultation in the Spring.
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 28th Oct and discussed the following applications:
• Bath Gateway 'Out and About'
• Julian House Bike Workshop
• Glasshouse pavilion
• Ensleigh crossing
• CCTV for Norfolk Crescent
• Therapy shed for Julian House
As agreed at the last Committee, I attended the 10th Oct Council Meeting and spoke about the Rec Trust (see: http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/cms/uploads/rec-trust-statement-to-council-10-oct-19-draft-2-and-final.pdf ). The Council Leader asked me what she could do about this, bearing in mind that B&NES no longer had a trustee on the board. I answered that a letter from her to the Charity Commissioners would probably get attention. She subsequently held a meeting with the Rec Trust Chief Executive on 1st Nov, for which I provided a briefing paper. I hope to hear how that went, and shall report if I do.
Stadium on the Rec:
As you will have read in the Transport Report, Stadium for Bath issued a press statement on 22nd Oct with some further details, including plans for a 550-place under-pitch car park which "will not increase parking spaces in the city". On 1st Nov, I wrote on your behalf to the Council Leader, asking that the principle (of whether such a car park should be built there) be determined before any stadium planning application, now expected in the New Year, is submitted: and asked for an urgent meeting.
Nick, Patrick and I met Cllr Sarah Warren, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, on 22nd Oct. As this is effectively a new portfolio, we were keen to know what this involved. Its aim is 'Zero Carbon by 2030' within B&NES, with 3 implications: energy improvement of existing homes and zero carbon for new build; a major shift to mass transport, cycling and walking; and a rapid increase in local renewable energy. We discussed: Bristol Airport expansion, upgrade of buildings to improve energy saving, refuse policy, and vehicle transport generally (as this is a major carbon contributor).
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA):
With NORA's Chair, I attending a conference in London on 29th Oct, entitled "Next steps for house building in England – planning, investment and innovation".
Council's Financial Plans:
The Council's annual budget presentation will take place on Tuesday 17th December, and it's open to the public. Further details later.
Following completion of our biennial Priorities updating exercise, some revision of FoBRA's position papers has taken place; as follows. Please take a look to check that you are happy with them:
• Transport & Air Pollution: the June 19 version appears on the website, but the proposed update was annexed to the Transport Report issued 28th Oct 19
• Planning: updated 3rd Oct 19
• Housing: the version which appears on the website is the original, dated 14th Dec 17, but a revised one is in preparation.
• Environmental Pollution: original, dated 1st Oct 19
Short Term Letting and Party Houses:
The blizzard of media attention continues. Of these, the most important are:
• "BBC Points West Sunday Politics Show, 29 Sept, on Party Houses", as this included an interview with an affected resident, and a supportive discussion with our MP.
• "Party House letter in Chronicle, 17 Oct" as this letter was from Alison Curran, Chair of the Bath Area Self Catering Association (BASCA), criticising my own letter of the previous week. This led to our meeting on 22nd Oct, and to substantial agreement. Nick has now invited senior Council Officers to discuss and plan a way ahead.
• "Bath Newseum 23 Oct - Oxford showing the way on short term letting?" as Oxford seems to be more brave than most cities.
A cautionary tale: last month I was contacted by the tenant of a one-bedroom flat in a block largely owned by Curo, complaining about unbearable noise from the flat above, which had become a short term let, and asking for help. I spoke to Curo through its MD. Initially Curo said the flat above had changed ownership under 'right to buy' and hence it was powerless, but, under pressure, it admitted that Curo was the freeholder, and was able to tackle the owner through the lease conditions. I have just heard from the tenant that our intervention has been successful, quietness having been restored!
Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG):
I attended the last session of the 'Police Academy' in Saltford on 9th Oct, where I spoke on the role of IAGs, and the merit of 'volunteering'.
The latest revision of the 'FoBRA Representatives, Subject Leads and Sub-Committees' list is being issued with this report: any questions please ask me.
Listed Building Advice:
As I mentioned in my last report, I attended the South West Show of the Listed Property Owner's Club (LPOC) in Bristol, 21st Sept. While there:
• I attended (or dipped into) several lectures/panels by experts, amongst which were:
o Historic England, with advice on regular maintenance and on keeping homes warm and dry.
o ISO Energy (the people who are engineering the underfloor heating in Bath Abbey) on energy efficiency
• I toured many of the individual stands, including:
o Historic England, where I explored the issue of double glazing in listed properties. They were unhelpful.
o Tywi (the Welsh equivalent) where they were much more helpful and progressive, though this doesn't help Bath much!
o A double glazing company (Ventrolla) and a secondary equivalent (Mitchell and Dickinson), to ask how they would each solve this problem in Bath.
o LPOC, where I had a discussion with their Political Officer about 'hollowing out' of cities like ours through short term letting, HMOs and party houses. I shall be attending their event in Parliament on 5th Nov which will include the Chairman and staff of the All Party Group on Listed Properties and a Minister from DCMS. I shall report on this at the 7th Nov Committee.
Bath Preservation Trust (BPT):
Members will have seen the £3m appeal, launched by BPT, for restoration of Beckford's Tower: https://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/at-risk-beckfords-tower-announces-3m-fundraising-challenge/ . Historic England has placed the tower on its 2019 Heritage At Risk Register. The Trust awaits the decision of a National Lottery Heritage Fund bid (expected this month), but will certainly need help from elsewhere too.
While on conservation subjects, I applaud the two winners of the Georgian Group Architectural Awards:
• Historic Street signs (led by the Bath Preservation Trust), and
• Overthrows in Great Pulteney Street (led by PERA)
We recently helped a prospective buyer in Great Pulteney Street, as she was worried that the leasehold deeds of the basement flat did not match the freehold details (in that the latter ignored the vaults). She and her solicitor are happy with this assistance, and I have encouraged her to join PERA if the purchase goes through!
I was contacted by TrueSpeed, a broadband provider based in Keynsham and Bath. Their network delivers gigabit fibre broadband directly into every property, giving access to faster speeds, separate from other providers. A number of Residents' Associations across Bath have contacted them recently about this. As a bonus, they offer free broadband for life to any state funded school in the neighbourhood and also a free connection to a community hub. Details from www.truespeed.com
The next update on the Abbey's Footprint project will take place at 1300 on Monday 18th Nov at the east end of the Abbey. There is no need to book.
Further to the piece on seagulls in my last Report, and our discussion during the 19th Sept Committee, Worcester City Council has apparently decided to apply to Natural England to be allowed to cull seagulls by shooting, having tried every other method. If successful, this would be the first time since 1975 that this has been done in England, when dozens were shot in Torquay.