Chairman's Report for FoBRA Meeting 13th Jan 2015
Bath Transport Strategy
As reported on our website, the Bath Transport Strategy was adopted by the full Council unanimously on 13th Nov. FoBRA and several Member Associations attended1 and spoke in support of it at this Council meeting and at the preparatory Scrutiny and Cabinet meetings beforehand. This is a key opportunity to begin tackling the serious problems of traffic congestion and air pollution in the city. Importantly, the following form part of the Strategy: an Eastern P&R, an Eastern bypass, the need to develop a traffic management plan, reducing traffic and visitor parking in the centre, and tackling the illegal pollution. The next stage will be to see the Delivery Plan, but this will probably have to wait until after the elections. Following Council approval, FoBRA met the Conservative Leader and his Traffic spokesman on 26th Nov to discuss any lingering reservations they might have.
1 FoBRA, CARA, TARA, St James's Square, BERA, Greenway, Widcombe and probably several others.
Air Quality Measurement – downgrading?
A story in the Sunday Times of 28th Dec (and elsewhere) indicated that Councils might no longer be required to conduct Air Quality measurement, if a DEFRA consultation showed lack of interest (https://consult.defra.gov.uk/communications/laqm-review-next-steps/ ). It seemed as though this could undermine FoBRA's campaign to clean up our air by reducing traffic in pollution hotspots, as it would no longer be possible to prove where these were (or how pollution was improving as traffic was reducing). Patrick Rotheram is investigating this, but initial reaction from the Council experts indicates that it is only measurement of relatively unimportant pollutants that is proposed.
Clarification of Accounts
Representatives will have participated in the discussion on this at the last meeting on 4th Nov, and will have seen the minute on the subject issued on 20th Nov. This subject is now closed.
B&NES' Budget Fair
The Council held several sessions of its usual Budget Fair between 4th and 6th Nov, and I wrote to all representatives on 18th Nov with my views on it.
Bath Governance Debate
I attended2 a seminar on Bath Governance on 18th Nov, organized by the Council, led by Cllr Paul Crossley. This is part of a series to explore better governance for Bath, about which I have written before, but this particular session was to compare two different approaches: a Town Council (with Parish powers), about which a presentation was made by Cllr Malcolm Nicholson of Weston super Mare Town Council; and a Town Forum (or Committee), described by Winchester City Council's Corporate Director, Steve Tilbury. Both options were interesting, but, after deep questioning had taken place, I concluded that either would work here, and that both had advantages (and disadvantages).
2 Also Greenway, TARA and the Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Tim Warren.
Lib Dem Approach
FoBRA was approached on 23rd Nov by Cllr Ben Stevens (Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development) to help the Lib Dems in preparing their manifesto for the elections in May. I replied that we were pleased to be approached, but our non-political Constitutional stance meant we could not and must not help. I added that, in the run-up to Council elections, our policy was to invite the leaders of all the main political groupings to address one of our meetings, and that his leader, Cllr Paul Crossley, had already attended on 4th Nov, so he might be able to get some hints there. More than that, I suggested that he visited our website, as it had recently been updated – particularly the position papers accessible under "FoBRA Priorities" on the Home page.
State of Roads in Bath
Representatives will remember BERA's item at the 9th Sep Committee about the state of roads around their part of Bath. I wrote to the appropriate Officer, Peter Dawson, on 24th Sep about the examples which were of Bath-wide significance. Finally, Traffic Officer, Peter Bailey, contacted BERA about this in late Nov and inspected the sites with Ken Ayers. Actual repairs might take a bit longer, though!
Advice on Organizing Events
The Council has advice to give to those organizing events. Council Officer Elspeth Hinde is recommended as a contact, and two weblinks could be useful: the Council's event toolkit at www.bathnes.gov.uk/eventstoolkit , and its Frequently Asked Questions page at www.bathnes.gov.uk/eventsFAQs .
Upstream Flooding Risk
Representatives will remember Henrietta's presentation on Upstream Flooding Risk at the 9th Sep Committee, and further mention of FoBRA's subsequent actions at the last meeting. Cllr Lisa Brett (Vice Chairman of the Planning,
Transport and Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel) wrote to me on 30th Nov to say she had met Louise Fradd (Strategic Director of Place) and agreed that the Panel should have an informed debate, with the Environment Agency present, about upstream flooding issues. This is planned to take place early in the New Year, and will be open to the public.
Police Station Changes
B&NES' Economic & Community Development Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel will meet on 20th Jan at 1100 in The Guildhall to discuss the new police operating model, including the proposed changes to police stations. Chief Supt Caroline Peters, Area Commander for B&NES and South Gloucestershire, will speak. The meeting, which will also be webcast, will be held in a 'Question Time' format, with the public able to submit questions in advance, or at the meeting.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
1. Right to Light: The Law Commission has proposed (in 243 pages!) a revision and rationalisation of the Right to Light, and NORA has asked for our comments. I have asked our Planning Sub-Committee to look at this.
2. Noisy Neighbours: NORA sent us a disturbing email about rowdy students and noisy "Party Houses", which I passed on to relevant Member Associations. The former showed (in Manchester) what can happen when the Authorities lose control of a "student district" but, in the latter, there was better news, as a legal precedent has been established (in Poole), making the landlord of a Party House responsible for the behaviour of his or her tenants.
3. Entertainment Licensing Deregulation: This is wending its way through Parliament (encouraged by our own MP!), the particular concern being deregulation of amplified music to audiences of up to 600. Most venues where this might happen will still require additional approval, but not the gardens or yards of pubs. I had a spirited discussion with NORA's Chairman about this. He has raised the issue with the Department and with the Parliamentary Committee secretary, but don't hold your breath.
Consultation on Amplified Busking near the Abbey
On a subject related to (3) above (but under different laws), the Council is consulting about a ban on amplified busking around the Abbey, following complaints about recent disturbance of Evensong Services there. The consultation runs until 29th March and details can be found at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/consultations/196642/webform .
As promised in my last report, the minutes of Committee meetings are now being posted, and a video of me now welcomes visitors to our website (instead of Henry!).
Out of our 33 members, no fewer than 10 Associations have still not paid their annual subscriptions, due at the AGM last May, amounting to over £400. This is neither fair to FoBRA, which needs the income to operate, nor to the other 22 members which have paid, nor to our long suffering Treasurer, who has spent much time and effort cajoling Treasurers and Chairmen to pay. In parallel, we need an accurate total of households in membership of each, in order to levy the right subscription and also to be able to tell those with whom we do business how many people we speak for. If this money is not collected by our March meeting, I may be forced to name names!
Robin Kerr, 9th Jan 15