Meeting with Cllr Paul Crossley
Nick and I met Cllr Paul Crossley, Leader of the Council, on 9th Oct. Subjects covered were: Transport Strategy Progress and the LEZ letter, Governance of Bath Consultation, Upstream Flooding Risk, Space Standards, Student Housing Policy, Party Houses and a new T&F Group ("Enforcement" suggested). Some of these are covered elsewhere in my report, or will be covered in the meeting, but Flooding Risk is not. This arose out of the presentation by Henrietta at the last Committee. We asked Paul (a) to take the subject seriously and to consider, as a matter of Council policy and funding, the protection of dwellings within the city upstream of Pulteney Bridge to the same standard as the Quays Riverside project will do below it, and (b) to ensure that fully worked-up emergency evacuation plans exist for the dwellings there (particularly as many contain old and infirm people). He agreed to do so.
A Low Emission Zone for Bath?
FoBRA wrote to the Council Leader, proposing a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) for Bath (FoBRA letter "A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) for Bath" dated 28 Sept 14 – posted on FoBRA website.), covering the whole of the centre plus Great Pulteney Street and the Henrietta area. At our 9th Oct meeting, he agreed with the principle, adding that he certainly wanted the area covered by it to be "more ambitious" than Dorchester Street, currently proposed by Council officers.
"Improving Access to Bath"
Patrick Rotheram and I took part in a workshop on 9th Oct about the emerging transport strategy and improvements to Bath from the eastern side of the city; and was a foretaste of what can be expected when the Cabinet and the full Council consider the Bath Transport Strategy on 12th and 13th Nov respectively. FOBRA will of course speak at these meetings, but there is likely to be a large contingent from the eastern parishes who will oppose anything that affects their area. To counter this it is important that FOBRA members, particularly those from areas of high air pollution, attend the meetings and demand action from the Council, as well as lobbying their Ward Councillors (see Annex A).
Placemaking Plan (part of the Core Strategy)
Following our meeting with the Council Leader, I spoke to Stephen George, the lead Officer for the Placemaking Plan about our ambitions for it. These are:
The best estimate of students who will need to live in city accommodation (as distinct from the Universities' accommodation) in the future, and a Council policy for how to deal with this.
Minimum space standards for house building in B&NES, noting that the Govt is presently consulting on a figure which we think is acceptable, but which would have to be "adopted" by the Council.
Stephen noted all this (none of which is a surprise, as we have had earlier, similar conversations), and said the way ahead was through publication of a Placemaking Plan Options document for consultation on 24th Nov.
The Council Leader thanked FoBRA on 2nd Oct for its contribution to the consultation on Bath‟ Governance. FoBRA has now been invited to take part in a Council debate on options, to be held on 20th Nov.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – response to consultation
FoBRA responded on 18th Sept, largely agreeing with the new scheme.
Public Health to be a Licensing Object
The Local Govt Association has recommended that Public Health should be an "Object" in Local Authorities‟Licensing Policies, and our Council supports this. FoBRA made an oblique reference to this in its comments on the Licensing Policy review last July.
Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
The Home Office‟ "Statutory guidance for frontline professionals" on this Act is available. Parts of the Act may be useful for curbing the worst excesses of Party Houses, such as the new "Community Protection Notice". Sally Rothwell and her two colleagues, our experts on this, will tell us more. The Council hopes to use another provision of the Act to create a zone around the Abbey where amplification of buskers‟music will be banned, so that services there are not disturbed.
NHS Walk-in Centre
I reported to the last meeting that the Bath CCG had asked for a FoI request before it would reveal anything about the closure of the NHS Walk-in Centre. The response finally arrived on 9th Oct and was quite useless, having largely been assembled from what was already available on their own website, but containing several errors! However, I propose to take this subject no further as the decision to close the Centre was made a long time ago (Oct 2012).
Bath Riverside Energy Centre
On 10th Sept I attended the opening ceremony for the new Biomass District Heating plant at the Bath Riverside housing complex. This helps to burnish the scheme‟ "green credentials" and to provide economical heating and hot water to 500 dwellings there. It is housed in a converted Wessex Water building in the middle of the site and is impressive. To heat water it has:
1. Two very large conventional gas-fired boilers
2. Two large Combined Heat and Power Plants running on gas, which generate electricity for the grid and which use waste heat to heat water
3. One large wood-pellet boiler
So, where do the savings arise, bearing in mind that the gas it uses comes straight from the mains? Obviously, nothing is run as long as there is enough hot water in the reservoirs, and items 2&3 are used in preference to item 1. Item 2 provides savings through the use of the waste heat, which is a beneficial by-product of the electricity generation. Item 3 provides carbon saving (as use of wood is considered to be carbon-neutral). Lastly, the scale of the system provides saving in efficiency, though, obviously, there are some losses in the very long pipework.
Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel
The Gainsborough Hotel have told me that "the construction of the hotel has taken longer than expected due to the challenges of working within a listed building". They add that the opening date will not now be until early 2015.
Burlington Street Wall
I reported to the January meeting about the collapsed wall in Burlington Street (Listed Grade II), which belongs to St Mary's church, Julian Road, as follows:
Discussion with St Mary's Church Buildings Committee reveal that (a) the wall collapsed 8 years ago, (b) it is their wall, (c) they are determined to do something about it – either rebuild it or develop the site, (d) the foundations are insecure, including timber, which rotted, but below that are vaults which seem stable. Structural engineers have been involved and prices obtained.
The whole situation, and its management, is clearly disgraceful, and their quoted ambition to "do something about it" has got nowhere in 9 months. They now tell me that the tree on site has roots which are enmeshed in the wall's foundations and would be damaged, perhaps fatally, if the wall were rebuilt. As the tree has a preservation order (TPO) on it, they feel that this precludes further work. I answered that about 35 trees are due to be felled on the Hope House site, nearby, when it is developed, some of which have TPOs, and so the Planning Dept are clearly open to proposals for overturning such orders. Another approach could be to seek permission to build more of the street on St Mary's car park, presumably in replica, as has been done in Northampton Street and Bathwick Street, thereby also solving the wall problem. St Mary's have commissioned a report from Jones Lang, and this is awaited.
Finally, with the help of Morny Davison, a volunteer to be our Secretary has emerged. His name is Barry Henderson, and he will introduce himself on 4th Nov.
We have been approached by WebCollect, who have developed Membership Software for clubs and societies which allows one to:
Manage all membership data securely
Handle subscriptions, including joint memberships
Run bookings for events, conferences or courses
Collect payments from members by Direct Debit, Paypal, bank transfer and cards
Create email or text messaging lists and communicate with members
Reduce admin costs
Increase membership and member participation rates
The service costs from £60 annually. FoBRA has decided not to take this further but Member Associations may be interested.
We review our "Priorities" every two years, and so it‟ time to do it again. They currently are: Governance, Planning, Public Realm and Traffic & Pollution. We have position statements about all four on our website. Accordingly, there will be an agenda item for our January meeting to start this review (so get your thinking caps on, please!). At the same time I shall ask for a discussion on the periodicity of our Committee meetings and the timing of these.
Firstly, I propose to start posting the one-page summaries of the minutes of our Committee meetings on the website. Secondly, several pages of the website Home page have been refreshed, notably the "News" entries, and the descriptions of our "Priorities". Please take a look at them and let me know what you think. Lastly, some of you must be wondering when Henry‟ welcome video on our Home page will feature your new Chairman. I have been putting this off until we had a Secretary, but must now visit Hollywood!
[Robin Kerr, final, 31st Oct 14]
"Improving Access to Bath"
Further to the above item, city residents were heavily outnumbered by representatives from the parishes to the east of Bath, who of course are statutory consultees, while the city, being unparished, has none. Representatives from Wiltshire were also present. Besides FOBRA there was one city representative, from the Widcombe Association. No one had been invited from London Road.
FoBRA argued strongly that the main problem was excessive traffic and air pollution, which would have a serious impact on those living and working in the affected areas. The whole of the main road network in Bath was affected, but the problem was especially severe along the London Road and Bathwick Street, so there was a specific issue on the eastern side of the city. 93% of air pollution in Bath was due to traffic, we said, and of that the greatest source was HGVs. We needed an eastern park-and-ride to provide an alternative to driving into Bath from the east, and an A36-A46 link road to remove through traffic from the city, especially HGVs. These measures would also have the effect of allowing improved bus services into the city from the villages to the east.
As expected, the parishes made the point that these changes would have an adverse effect on the communities to the east of Bath, and would affect the 'setting' of the World Heritage Site. While we recognised that what we were proposing would have an impact on the environment to the east of Bath, this could not be considered in isolation. There was a balance to be struck between the needs of the area to the east of Bath and the needs the city itself. The 'setting' cannot be more important than the „jewel‟. The situation in Bath, with unhealthy and unlawful levels of air pollution throughout the city, and pollution degrading the historic built environment of the WHS, was close to intolerable.
[Patrick Rotheram, 17th Oct 14]