Chairman's Report for meeting 9th Sept 14
Council Group Leaders and FoBRA:
At the last four Committee meetings we have seen and heard from our main Parliamentary candidates in the run-up to the General Election in May. Starting on 4th Nov we shall see and hear from the principal party group leaders for the Council elections (also in May), starting with Cllr Paul Crossley of the Lib Dems.
Meeting with Ministry Planners
On 12th Aug I was asked to join a NORA team for their annual meeting with the Chief Planner and his staff at the Dept for Communities and Local Government. We covered: the Ministry's method of calculating "five years' supply of housing" (as required in all Local Plans by the NPPF); the apparent unaffordability of housing across nearly all England; the low house-building rate; the lack of strategic planning; "party houses"1; the muddle over the use of pavements; Art 4 Direction for HMOs; and the absence of enforcement. My expenses were met by NORA.
Student Housing Policy
As part of the move to develop a Student Housing Policy and to have it adopted by the Council (in the Placemaking Plan), Chris Beezley and I met the University of Bath's Director of Policy and Planning, Dr Nicky Kemp, on 13th Aug to try to refine the student number estimate over the next decade or so, and particularly to derive the number expected to need housing in the city. This is not an exact science, as you may suspect. In parallel, Council planners have been doing the same thing, noting with some concern the number of student housing blocks for which commercial developers are seeking planning permission.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) consultation
CIL is a new system of planning charges for developers to fund a wide range of infrastructure needed to support new land and property developments throughout Local Authority areas (in our case, in B&NES). The levy would largely replace the existing system of Section 106 obligations and would come into force in the spring. Some of the CIL funds collected would be available for parish and town councils to spend on infrastructure in their own communities where development is taking place2. Unlike with Section 106 money, CIL does not just go to the Council, but also to the communities the development is going to serve, giving communities access to, and control over, quite substantial funds. Details can be found at www.bathnes.gov.uk/CIL. Most new development, including housing (with the exception of self-build housing and affordable housing), supermarkets and retail warehouses, high street retail development in Bath city centre, hotels and student housing, would be affected by the proposed new levy. The consultation runs until 18th Sept, so please respond to it, and please send any comments you wish to be considered by FoBRA to me by Friday 12th Sept.
Bath Riverside Energy Centre
On 10th Sept I shall be attending the opening ceremony for the new Biomass District Heating plant at the Bath Riverside housing complex. This will help to burnish the scheme's "green credentials" and to provide economical heating and hot water to residents there.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded the Cleveland Pool refurbishment campaign a development grant of £366,200 with earmarked further funding of £4.1m. I have no doubt the Trustees will be seeking additional contributions as some of this is certain to be subject to match-funding.
No volunteers for the post of Secretary have come forward yet so I have written to the Chronicle to widen the net (as suggested by Julie Trollope).
Keo films are making four programmes for BBC2 about female pest controllers and are seeking residents with a pest problem. Details are at: http://www.keofilms.com/pests , and eradication could be free – but contact them by 15th Sept.
St James's Dispensary
For those who have been following this saga (see News from Associations dated 1st May 14), the Development Control Committee has refused the application by St James's medical centre to open a dispensary there, despite a recommendation by Officers to approve it. This shows the power of residents when they feel strongly about a subject.
Robin Kerr, 7th Sept 14