Chairman's Report for FoBRA Committee 12th May 15
Democratic Accountability Bath (DAB)
Some of you will already be aware of a new, non-party-political group, 'Democratic Accountability Bath', which aims to "increase accountability of our local representatives, particularly whoever is MP, but hopefully also local councillors if momentum builds. We intend to have a quarterly public meeting with the MP, as well as online forums and a place to check the MP's voting record". I asked our Governance lead, Van DuBose, to look into this and he told me, "It will be difficult for it to remain strictly an information source and politician record keeper without evolving into a pressure group with an implicit agenda. I see no need for FoBRA to consider tracking politicians' promises and performance - others (including DAB) already do this for MPs (although I cannot find anyone doing it for local councillors or mayors) and it would require significant resources to do it properly."
Residential Car Parking
Two aspects of residential car parking have been raised by member Associations:
In one of the Outer Zones, the use of 'permit-holder' spaces by contractors parking their vehicles close to the properties on which they are working has had an impact on the availability of spaces for residents' use. These contractors are presumably doing work for residents and residents collectively are presumably glad that tradesmen can get permits to come to their houses. However, is the balance right, and is there anything to be done about it? Is this a problem in other areas?
In the Central Zone, the Council's Parking Services are now issuing permits to hotels, rental houses, landlords and 'medical'. There are regularly upwards of 20 of these permits on street daily, not an insignificant number given the pressures on parking in this area. In Royal Crescent the hotel seems to have about 10 of the 40 places. What will happen when the Gainsborough Hotel opens? There appears to have been no public consultation about this.
Subject to members' views, I believe that these are issues that merit being raised with the new Council at one of our regular meetings.
Parking Availability App
The 'Visit Bath' App has been updated to include live information on parking space availability: an initiative of Bath Tourism Plus and the Business Improvement District.
Transport – Different Modes to Reduce Congestion?
Some years ago a study was funded by Civitas to investigate the viability of small pods (like those at LHR Terminal 5 car park), to take people round the centre of Bath and in areas of traffic congestion where no other solution can be found, such as the London Road. A recent Chronicle letter goes further, suggesting a Monorail, running above the river until it reaches the Rec and then diving under any new stadium to be built there, but development would have to be quick or the opportunity will be lost.
'Hidden Car Park'
Some will have seen an exchange of correspondence initiated by Stephen Marks, a planning consultant, ridiculing the Lib Dem proposal for a combined Eastern P&R and A36/46 link, near Bathford. My view is that it doesn't seem a stupid idea but it is almost certainly an expensive one. We shall see what emerges after the election as a result of the promises on both these subjects made by all parties.
Six members' representatives met the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Liz Truss, on 22nd April to discuss Air Pollution. Ms Truss favoured creation of Low Emission Zones, and seemed not to know that only London Boroughs had moving traffic offence enforcement powers.
Efforts to tackle air pollution effectively received a boost on 29th Apr when the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Government must put forward new air quality plans by the end of the year or face stiff fines.
National Organization of Residents' Associations (NORA)
NORA alerted FoBRA in March to proposed Government legislation on parking. I responded on FoBRA's behalf in mid-April, pointing out that traffic congestion and air pollution remained FoBRA's top concerns. I added that parking attracts traffic, and that traffic, particularly when it becomes congested, causes air pollution. Unfortunately the Department for Communities and Local Government seemed to see parking only as a matter of supporting city centre trade, so I suggested that NORA's comments emphasised this, particularly where the regulations refer to locations with pollution which is already beyond the legal limits, or approaching them.
Electoral Pressure - Conservation
Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of the Bath Preservation Trust (BPT), suggested in their Spring magazine that we should ask candidates in the forthcoming local elections what they proposed to do to 'conserve and enhance' the World Heritage site and its setting; and in particular if they would promise to prioritise the adoption of three Bath Conservation area planning documents, which exist but which either have not been adopted or are out of date: Buildings Heights Strategy, Pattern Book and Character Appraisal. Accordingly, I wrote on FoBRA's behalf to the leaders of the Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour Groups. The Conservative answer was much more positive than that from the Lib Dems. Labour has not so far replied.
NHS Drop-in Centre
Correspondence has continued in the Bath Chronicle about the closure of the NHS Drop-in Centre in James Street West, and its substitute located beside the RUH, which some consider to be less useful. With planning approval recently for several large student residences in the James Street West area, one can speculate that justification for a new Drop-in Centre there might be generated.
Under the Localism Act 2011, Communities were given the 'Right to Bid' for local assets: this came into force in September 12. Two transfers from B&NES Council to Community control have now taken place, using this procedure, one of them being in Bath. This is the Chapel Arts Centre, St James Memorial Hall.
Local Green Space Designation
In my last report I mentioned Local Green Space designation. A more up to date list of those spaces being considered by the Council was issued by the Secretary on 9th April 15. At least one member's proposal had been omitted.
Community Payback Initiative
Following his presentation at the last meeting, Robin Davies has provided information on the Council's Community Payback Initiative, which is operated by the Business Improvement District. Groups generally number eight, are supervised, and cost £100 per day. They can be used for jobs such as bulb planting, clearing of unsightly common areas, painting of communal railings, etc. Details from me or Robin Davies.
Burlington Street Wall
I last wrote about this in my 24th March Report. St Mary's Church expects the approval later this month from their diocesan authorities to redevelop part or all of the car park site for housing, which would, inter alia, solve the wall problem. The church is beginning to make associated preparations, including a Planning Application.
Robin Kerr, 7th May 15