Chairman's Report for meeting 10th July 14
Representatives, Posts, Subject Leads & Sub-Committees
Annexed to the Agenda was version 4 of the table of Representatives, Posts, Subject Leads & Sub-Committees. It shows how many people work for FoBRA, in one capacity or another, additional to those in the Executive. Please check it for accuracy, and let me have any comments (or names of fresh volunteers).
Location and Start Times for Committee Meetings
After a deal of research and a test of all the practical meeting venues (seven), I think the best compromise is Widcombe Junior School and so Committee meetings will, in future, be arranged there unless circumstances make this impossible. When we used the Green Park Meeting Rooms, start time was fixed at 1915, to fit in with the free parking period at Sainsbury's. Some representatives have asked whether an earlier start time might be possible at Widcombe Junior. I have inquired, and the earliest permissible by the school would be 1745 (allowing a period for furniture arrangement). I should be grateful for representatives' views on a change, and, if so, what start time would please the majority.
As the Calling Notice says, FoBRA still lacks a Secretary. It cannot operate without a Secretary, so, with the next Committee meeting almost upon us, when she or he will be vital, I appeal to all FoBRA members to look even harder in their Associations for a willing volunteer. It is fascinating work and I think of great importance to the Community. If you believe FoBRA, and FoBRA's work, is useful, now is the time to act. The roles which I undertook are being reduced: Chairman of the Planning Sub-Committee is now transferring to Nick Tobin, in addition to his Vice-Chairmanship; and I propose that the job of Social Secretary is done by another volunteer, so I am looking for a name there as well. However, a Secretary is needed, and needed very soon (ie before 10th July).
FoBRA Website Name
FoBRA's current website address is www.bathresidents.org.uk . For some years we have also owned www.bathresidents.co.uk but have kept it dormant to prevent its being hijacked and used by others. Domain names ending in ".uk" have recently become available and so we have bought www.bathresidents.uk Please tell me whether you think we should switch over to the new version (obviously we would run old and new domain names in parallel for (say) a year).
Consultation of Members In the past, FoBRA's aim has been to write to Member Associations as little as possible between Committee meetings (apart from issuing minutes and calling notices, of course). In an experimental change of policy, I have written to you six times on various subjects since the last meeting on 1st May, either to give you information or to say what FoBRA proposed to do about some issue, giving you an opportunity to comment on this course of action. I should like to know if this new, more communicative, way is preferable or merely a nuisance. Henry's Gong I wrote to all members on 15th June to tell you that Henry Brown, our recently retired Chairman, had been selected by the Queen in her Birthday Honours list the previous day to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for "services to the community" (in his role as Chairman of FoBRA). I felt this was not only a wonderful and long overdue reward for Henry's untiring work for all the citizens of Bath, but also a compliment to, and recognition of, FoBRA itself, and of the importance of Community Service. I wrote to him about it on behalf of members to congratulate him: I think he has been very touched by it all. Meetings with Paul Crossley On 30th May I had a meeting with the Council Leader, principally to talk about the Governance of Bath (see below). We spoke also about gulls, public lavatories in parks, flooding risk upstream of Pulteney Bridge, Bath's transport strategy and Steve Bradley, the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate. Most of these subjects are covered elsewhere in the agenda or the associated reports. He asked me to meet him on 2nd July, when we covered the Governance of Bath again, the Transport Strategy consultation and recent workshop (see below), the Core Strategy (see Planning Brief), and Queen Square rejuvenation (see below). Bath Governance
We discussed the Governance of Bath at our 11th March and 31st July Committee meetings last year. In my meetings with Paul Crossley (see above), he told me how Council discussions were proceeding to try to address the democratic deficit in Bath1. He has created a cross-party working group to look at options, including various forms of parishing and of committees of Bath Councillors, with some financial powers2, and possibly inclusion of representatives from residents' groups. In parallel, a petition is being raised to seek a referendum to create an Executive Mayor in B&NES. The law requires 5% of the electorate (6900 people) to sign such a petition, in which case the referendum would be held next May (with the General Election) and, if this decided in favour, we would vote on choice
1 Radstock and Keynsham have Town Councils with the powers of a parish, but Bath has nothing. 2 Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) could be one source, and could be increased, with this formula.
of Mayor in the Autumn of 2015. I attended a meeting about this on 26th June to discover more, and I have invited an expert to address our 10th July Committee, as a short addition to the published agenda, to tell us the implications.
Bath Transport Strategy
Issued with the Calling Notice was a media release by the Council on its Transport Policy consultation. The closing date for views on this is 25th July, and all members are encouraged to respond. On 26th June, I attended a workshop on this, with an inspirational intro by Sir Peter Hendy, a resumé of the draft Transport Strategy and of the Riverside Enterprise Masterplan, with Q&As by a stellar cast. FoBRA's response is being considered by our Transport Group and I hope to be able to share a draft of it with you at the 10th July Committee meeting.
Bus Price Petition
In the 12th June Chronicle was a story about reduction in First Bus ticket prices, following a 6-week consultation earlier this year. Meanwhile, Melanie Delargy has launched her "Fare Deal" petition to seek a bus fare reduction. Details can be found at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/fare-deal-for-bath-families . BBUG supports this petition and FoBRA has signed it.
Shared Transport Seminar
I attended a Shared Transport conference in the Guildhall on 17th June to mark the launch of the new rentable bikes "Nextbike". Nextbikes seem a great improvement on the previous type, particularly in the way one pays for them, and there were good presentations on similar experiences from the Continent & London; the concept of sharing transport; car clubs; and the relationship between shared and public transport.
Noise Pollution and the Deregulation of Amplified Noise
Nigel Websper, PERA, raised with me on 2nd June a statement by the owner of Moles nightclub who thought that local residents had too much power over the level of noise acceptable from clubs, festival, etc. I replied that we should bear this in mind. In parallel, I wrote to members on 19th June with a draft of an email to our MP, Don Foster, asking him to oppose the deregulation of amplified noise, and in particular through the Legislative Reform Order process. All those who responded were in favour of my writing and so the email was sent on 22nd June. Don called me on 27th June about this, discussed the issues in detail, and promised to take account of our concerns. At his request, I also forwarded to him FoBRA's original response to the consultation, for which he has thanked me.
Student Housing Policy
On 3rd June, I attended, with Chris Beezley, a meeting of the University of Bath/Local Residents Forum. Chris and I spoke about (a) FoBRA's aim to help to create a student housing policy in Bath and to persuade the Council to adopt appropriate wording in its Placemaking Plan (see minutes of FoBRA Committee dated 30th Jan), and (b) differences, possibly large, between the Council's and FoBRA's forecast of the number of students likely to require accommodation in the city over the next decade or two. We were well received, and, as a consequence, a draft FoBRA paper on forecast numbers has been prepared and sent to the University of Bath for its comments. The outcomes of such a discussion are the tricky questions: (c) where would all these extra students live and (d) what effect would large commercial student housing blocks in the city have on the Council's housing plans as defined in the Core Strategy and/or on the Council's Enterprise Zone and its proposals for job and wealth creation?
Greenway, supported by Widcombe and Bear Flat Associations, is considering use of the National Planning Policy Framework (paras 76/77) in protecting local green space near them, at Beechen Cliff school and in Alexandra Park. They have asked for FoBRA's support for this and I am inclined to give it. This may have applicability for other members.
Queen Square Rejuvenation
I attended the launch reception about rejuvenating Queen Square on 19th June. This was first mooted two years ago, when FoBRA was a principal driver of the notion. £100K is to be invested in it, starting after the summer break, to:
Restore the internal paths and landscape
Refurbish the benches
Reinstate the East and West gateways
Enhance the boules squares
Enable temporary road closures for events
Further improvements are envisaged and could be made in the future.
The Friends of Smallcombe Cemetery are seeking funds to save it from the depredations of nature and will be holding the launch of a photographic competition about it (but at the same time as our Committee meeting). This bid is supported by the NT, the Council and the Royal Photographic Society, as well as several neighbouring Member RAs. Details at: www.smallcombegardencemetery.org
B&NES' Economic & Community Development Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel met on 16th June to discuss Avon & Somerset Police Force's new operating model. The Vice Chairman attended and will brief us on it.
Street Trading Policy
The Council's Street Trading Policy is being refreshed and the draft can be seen at www.bathnes.gov.uk/street-trading-consultation . Consultation runs until 30th July. Ian Perkins, FoBRA's licensing subject lead, will brief us about it.
NHS Walk-in Centre
The NHS Walk-in Centre in James Street West closed in April, as a cost-saving measure, with alternative urgent-care services being provided on the RUH site. What are members' feelings about this? I understand the view of the NHS is that, though it is regrettable, savings have to be found and not enough use is being made of it to justify its retention.
Robin Kerr, 4th July 14