Nick and I held another of our routine meetings with the Leader of the Council on 22nd Nov 17. After reviewing the actions from the previous one in July, we discussed the following:
• Transport: Alliance; Plan for Transport Strategy; Parking, Coach and Air Quality consultations.
• New Refuse procedure.
• Events in Royal Victoria Park.
• Planning: Foxhill; Party Houses.
• Student Housing
If anyone would like me to expand on these at the Committee, please ask.
Bath City Forum (BCF)
The most recent BCF was held on 27th Nov, including a presentation on the Council's Budget. Other items on the agenda were:
• Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) grant recommendations.
• BCF way ahead.
The next BCF will take place the day before the Committee meeting, on 17th Jan, so I shall be able to report on it. Amongst other subjects, its future will be discussed.
The Funding Bulletin
B&NES issues a Funding Bulletin periodically. The latest can be found at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/funding_journal_december_17.pdf . This gives news and suggestions about grants for worthy causes (in addition to CEF and CIL). I shall try to circulate the link whenever I receive one.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
A meeting of the NORA Committee will take place on 31st Jan, in Bath. If anyone has a burning desire to observe it, please ask me.
Special Meeting with our MP – Monday 12th Feb
As you know, there is to be a special, extra meeting of the FoBRA Committee on Monday 12th Feb to which our MP, Mrs Wera Hobhouse, has been invited. I shall ask her to address us about her role and current issues, after which I shall open the floor to questions. Because of its importance, not only should all FoBRA Representatives attend, but I hope Member Associations will ask their own members to come along. I shall ask the Secretary to issue a flyer about this which I urge you to circulate to your members. To accommodate the mighty crowd, we shall set out the Widcombe Junior Hall in 'lecture-style'.
Local Government Boundary Review
I wrote about the Local Government Boundary review in my last report. We shall receive a short presentation about this at the Committee on 18th Jan, and I shall be able to report on the discussion about it which will have taken place at the BCF the previous evening.
FoBRA Position Papers
Once every two years FoBRA examines its priorities and afterwards develops a 'Position Paper' on the top four, all of which are then posted on our website home page and periodically updated. These can be found at http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/ on the left hand side of the page. May I please ask you to have a glance at these, and come to the Committee on 18th Jan prepared to discuss them, as they are important, because they are used by your Executive and Subject Leads in steering discussions with the Council and other Authorities?
The FoBRA Executive consists of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary; and meets only occasionally. It held a couple of meetings last year, most recently to give the new Secretary (Kirstie) the opportunity to ask questions about procedure and to suggest different ways of working. In addition to the Executive, there is a broad range of experts and 'Leads', addressing particular subjects.
Without these, FoBRA could not operate. Patrick Rotheram and Barry Gilbertson are the most prolific, active and involved 'Leads', covering, as they do, Transport and Housing/Public Realm respectively. They have agreed, and the Constitution allows them, to be co-opted onto the Executive, which should result in more streamlined working in future.
Another suggestion which arose from these discussions was to encourage 'networking' between Representatives by offering coffee (or tea?) at our meeting place for the half hour prior to the formal start of Committee meetings (ie from 1800). Is there any interest in such a notion? Biscuits could even be provided!
Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) - Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)
Members will be aware that B&NES has recently revised its HMO SPD from 25% to 10% of properties within a given area, beyond which planning permission will not normally be granted for a new HMO. This was in response to a public consultation in which FoBRA suggested that 10% is a more appropriate threshold beyond which communities are considered to become 'unbalanced' through an unsuitable housing mix. This widely-accepted 10% threshold is based on research carried out by the National HMO Lobby, which suggests that community imbalance can also occur if the number of occupants of HMOs or student accommodation blocks represents more than 20% of the population in a given location. This additional test would take into account the situation where it is proposed to license a new HMO in proximity to, for example, established purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). However, despite FoBRA's suggestion, this test was not included in the SPD amendment, despite there being several instances in Bath . Our Universities Lead, Chris Beezley, therefore recommends a further amendment to the HMO SPD to take into account the situation where an HMO (or PBSA) application area is already above the '20% of the population' threshold. Any thoughts on this?
Bristol Airport Plans
On 11th Jan a team from Bristol Airport manned a display in the Guildhall to discuss its overall master plan for the next 20 years or so, which I attended on your behalf. I shall be happy to talk about this at the Committee on 18th Jan, including whether we should like to invite a member of their team to address us in the future. The main issue for us is probably about aircraft noise.
Bath Clean Air Champions
Transition Bath plans to implement a vehicle anti-idling programme in Bath to reduce exposure to emissions by persuading drivers to turn off their engines when parked, as a contribution to the Council's more robust Air Quality Action Plan. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are damaging to health, and idling engines produce up to twice as much harmful exhaust emissions than when they are moving. They have applied to the Community Empowerment Fund (see BCF above) for financial assistance to train volunteers, following the lead given by some London Boroughs . I understand that several FoBRA members have already given their support to this initiative . Would others wish to do so?
Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) – Volunteer Open Days
If anyone is interested in becoming a Volunteer at BPT, there are Open Days on Wed 17th and Sat 20th Jan, 11am - 2pm, at any of their museums.
The Abbey has invited members of all Bath's Residents' Associations to attend an update in the South Transept about their huge Footprint project on either 6th March (1400-1500) or 19th March (1030-1130). Just turn up!
Rosie van Musschenbroek, an ex-Treasurer of FoBRA, is concerned at the Abbey's intention permanently to remove most of the pews during this project and seeks members' support for the Victorian Society's (VS) associated petition to block this. You should note that approval to remove these pews has already been granted by the Consistory Court, contrary to the efforts of the VS, but the VS has lodged an Appeal; and that the Bath Preservation Trust has decided not to object. Contact me for details.
Country Living Show
In my report for the 19th Sept Committee, I mentioned the proposal by the magazine Country Living to stage a show in the centre of the city just prior to the Bath Festival. I met the organizers recently and they tell me that plans have progressed: the dates are confirmed as 10th to 13th May. [Post meeting note: this event has now been cancelled]
If we are to hold another FoBRA Summer Party, planning must start. We shall discuss this at the Committee on 18th Jan, but please come with your ideas for an exciting and beautiful venue (including a garden!).
Robin Kerr, final, 12th Jan 18