Chairman's Report

May 15

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.

Air Pollution

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.

Community Assets

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

Chairman's Report Archive

Chairman's Report 23 Feb 17Chairman’s Report for FoBRA Committee 23rd Feb 17 Leader Meeting 13th Jan 17 Nick and I held another meeting with the Council Leader, Cllr Tim Warren, on 13th Jan. It was also attended by Cabinet members Patrick Anketell-Jones and Martin Veal. We covered the following subjects: 1. Usefulness of these “Leader meetings”. 2. Bath Transport Strategy & Alliance for Transport and the Public Realm, including: a. Alliance presentation 22nd Nov 16 b. Eastern Park and Ride (Cabinet meeting 25th Jan) c. Air Quality (Kerr/Warren letter dated 15th Dec) d. FoBRA letter in Chronicle 22nd Dec on Better Freight delivery. e. FoBRA’s responses to the WoE spatial and transport consultations. f. Council Parking survey. g. City centre visitor permits for hotels, etc., 3. Refuse policy (on agenda for BCF priority setting meeting 12th Jan) 4. Outcomes from Placemaking Plan Examination in Public: a. Student Housing b. Upstream flooding risk 5. Planning a. Upper Oldfield Park. b. “Party Houses”, and FoBRA’s role in campaign. c. Curo’s outline planning application for Foxhill Estate (and FoBRA’s objection and 22nd Dec letter in Chronicle). d. Use of brownfield city sites for housing, rather than students. 6. FoBRA winter reception 17th Jan 17 I shall be happy to expand on any of these subjects at the Committee meeting. National Organization of Residents’ Associations (NORA) Neighbourhood Planning Members will remember that I wrote in my last Report about the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, and the disturbing news of the overthrow of, or challenge to, adopted Neighbourhood Plans in several parts of the country. This will be a principal subject on the agenda of the NORA AGM, to take place on 2nd March, where we shall be represented by our Secretary, Barry Henderson. The guest speaker will be Michael Salmon, Head of Neighbourhood Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Housing White Paper The Government (DCLG) has published for consultation its White paper on Housing, proposing far-reaching changes to the planning system and housing funding. The link to find it is: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/590043/Fixing_our_broken_housing_market_-_housing_white_paper.pdf . It's a weighty tome, at 104 pages, but it’s important, and there’s a good Executive Summary. Its treatment by the Press so far hasn’t been ecstatic, but it's a major step away from the current appalling housing situation. For example, I have noted the following statement: "For housing associations and other not-for-profit developers, the Government has already announced funding worth a total of £7.1 billion through an expanded and more flexible Affordable Homes Programme. We will provide clarity over future rent levels. In return, we expect them to build significantly more affordable homes over the current Parliament." so we shall be quizzing Curo about this, as they have always claimed that there are no longer any subsidies. FoBRA’s Planning Sub Committee will be studying it and recommending comments to members and to NORA before the 2nd May deadline. Placemaking Plan Members will have seen the comments which FoBRA has made to the Council’s proposals for Main Modifications to the Placemaking Plan, following the Inspector’s conclusions – mainly on Parking and Student Housing. These have now been posted on our website and a meeting has been sought with Officers to hear their reaction to suggestions for amendment. Combined Authority Mayoral Election 4th May The candidates have been chosen for the West of England Combined Authority Mayoral Election, which will take place on 4th May. They are: • Conservative Party: Tim Bowles, South Gloucestershire councillor • Labour Party: Lesley Mansell, NHS manager, Westfield parish councillor and former Peasedown St John parish councillor. • Liberal Democrats: Stephen Williams, former MP for Bristol West and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. • Green Party: Darren Hall, former Parliamentary candidate in Bristol West. I should be interested to know if you would like me to try to arrange an extra Committee meeting at which we would ask them to come and introduce themselves to us. Council Refuse Policy Further to Rachael’s report on Refuse Policy in Nov 16 (see minutes), the Council issued new instructions to households on 2nd Feb (attached below), so the great roll-out of wheelie bins or gull-sacks seems to be going ahead from 6th Nov. As Rachael points out, this could be disastrous for flatted, Georgian terraces, particularly if accompanied by a shift from weekly to fortnightly black-bag collections. All is not necessarily lost on that front, however, as the Council’s ‘recycle’ webpage, says: “There may be areas in central Bath that are not suitable for every other week collections of rubbish and the Council is working with Ward Councillors, Residents’ Associations and other groups to come up with the right solution”. The Bath City Forum (BCF) was briefed on this by Cllr Martin Veal (Cabinet Member for Community Services) on 2nd Feb, and the BCF’s Environment Group, which I co-chair, with Cllr Dine Romero (LibDem Group Leader), is entering discussions with him, not only to ensure weekly collections remain (in those vulnerable streets), but also greatly to improve their cleanliness and discipline. This has been discussed with the BCF Chairman too. Flooding Risk above Churchill Bridge The present arrangement (whereby 105 homes which happen to lie between Churchill and Midland Bridges are getting flood protection through the Bath Quays Waterside Project, but ~2000 homes further upstream (but still within Bath) are not, is grossly unfair. There have been two meetings of the Abbey Ward Flood Group since my briefing of the last Committee on this Flooding Risk (see minutes). Despite high level representation at it, no solution has been offered by the Council or the Environment Agency, so Cllr Romero (see above) has agreed with me that this should be taken up by the BCF’s Environment Group, and I have discussed it with the BCF Chairman. Without letting the Council off the hook, solutions are not thick on the ground and the costs are very high. Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG) I serve on the Police IAG, and have attended two of its meetings since my last report, the second of which was attended by Sue Mountstevens, our Police and Crime Commissioner. We discussed: conclusions from the closure of the Manvers Police Station; rough sleepers; public lavatories; the recent large drugs operation in Bath; hate crime; and use of Tasers. I can expand on these items at the Committee meeting if members wish. Modern Tram and Cable Car Systems for Bath? As members may know, separate groups are advocating a cable car connecting Foxhill to the city centre, and reintroduction of trams, both of them as part of a modern transport mix here. Patrick will expand on these at the Committee meeting. World Heritage Site Steering Group Nick has been our representative on the World Heritage Site Steering Group since he became our Vice Chairman, and, during that time, Peter Metcalfe has chaired the Group. Peter has now come to the end of his period of office, and the Council is advertising for a replacement. If anyone is interested, please speak to our Secretary, Barry Henderson. Sydney Gardens Upgrade The team which manages Sydney Gardens (B&NES, the Friends of Sydney Gardens, local Residents’ Associations and the Holburne Museum) has successfully bid for a £332K grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of a £3.6M refurbishment. Buses in Upper Oldfield Park Members will remember an impassioned plea at the November Committee from the representatives of Upper Oldfield Park RA, as they sought to join FoBRA, for help in persuading the Authorities to divert double decker buses away from their street, as they were causing great congestion. You will be glad to hear that their campaign has been successful, aided to a small extent by FoBRA. Streetlife Members may be familiar with Streetlife, the internet based UK local community networks. There are at least seven such groupings in Bath. They aim to help people make connections with their neighbours, to share local news, recommendations and resources. Earlier this month Streetlife was acquired by its US equivalent, Nextdoor, and so this will be its name from now on. The web link at the time of writing is www.streetlife.com/Bath Shrub Attack? One of our members tells me that shrubs in our parks and green spaces are being chopped to the ground and many trees seem to be cut down at random. This has been carried out on the banks below Camden Crescent; despite the trees having been planted there to stop soil erosion. The shrubs absorb traffic fumes, reduce traffic noise and provide food and cover for wildlife, including birds. They also look attractive! This is happening in Hedgemead Park, the Botanic Gardens in Victoria Park, and Sydney Gardens too. Robin Kerr, draft 2, 20th Feb 17   Changes to your rubbish collection service from 6 November 2017 What is changing? Most households across Bath and North East Somerset will be changing to every other week collection for their rubbish from 6 November. We will be providing a 140 litre wheeled bin for the storage and collection of rubbish. We realise that one size does not fit all, so in a small number of cases where a 140 litre wheeled bin is not suitable for your property, or family situation, we may provide a larger bin or a re-useable rubbish bag to contain rubbish for collection. Recycling collections, including food waste will remain weekly and our emphasis will be on encouraging you to use this weekly service to its full potential. Over 70%of UK councils including all our neighbours in Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire, are already running every other week collections for rubbish (in wheeled bins) and weekly recycling collections. They are seeing the benefits including reduced street mess, cost efficiencies and collecting more recycling (instead of rubbish). Collection days and times may change as we will need to redesign the routes so that they are as efficient as possible. Look out for your letter in March From 9-13 March all households will be sent a personalised letter informing them how the changes will affect them. To reduce postage costs, most letters will be included in the envelope with your Council Tax Bill. This letter will let you know whether we have allocated your property a wheeled bin or re-useable rubbish bag for rubbish collection, and the frequency of your rubbish collection. The letter is for information and no response is needed. If you are concerned that the container we have allocated is not appropriate for your specific property, or if despite recycling all you can, you feel that your household will not manage with the allocated container you can complete an online query form. We will write separately to residents who • live in a registered House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) • are currently registered for an Assisted Collection (those who require the help of our crews to carry their rubbish and/or recycling to an agreed collection point). You will be asked to complete a form to update your details to re-apply for an assisted collection if you still need help. For some residents wheeled bins will be much easier to manage. Why are we introducing the changes? 1. To keep our streets cleaner Containing rubbish in a bin or bag will prevent animals and birds ripping open bags and making a mess which is unpleasant for everyone and costs us to clear up. 2. To recycle more We have a very comprehensive recycling collection where you can already recycle 17 different types of household waste every week. We know that some residents can recycle more than they are currently doing – about 75% of a household’s waste can be recycled using the current collections, but we still find that over half of an average rubbish bag consists of items that could have been recycled. Our local research shows that if you recycle all you can you will still have space left in your rubbish bin when collected every other week. The change will help to encourage everyone to use their food recycling collection – only about 50% of households currently use this. About a third of the waste in black sacks currently is food. 3. To save money Every lorry load of waste costs £1000 to dispose of whilst every lorry load of recycling earns an income of £100, so reducing the amount put out as rubbish is essential. Find out more www.bathnes.gov.uk/recycle Our website is being updated as details are confirmed and more FAQs added so please check back here www.bathnes.gov.uk/recycle for updates. • Like our facebook page www.facebook.com/recyleforbathnes to receive updates and tips to recycle more. • Get ready for the change – you can order extra free recycling containers online www.bathnes.gov.uk/orderacontainer • View the bins and re-useable rubbish bags and get advice and tips from our Waste Campaigns Team to help you recycle all you can to get ready for the change at our community roadshows www.bathnes.gov.uk/roadshows • Book a free talk for your community group - contact wastecampaigns@bathnes.gov.uk to show you how to make the best use of the recycling service, including practical tips to help your get ready for the change. • We need residents to star in our social media campaign to to encourage others to recycle more. We want your stories, photos, videos and recycling tips to share with others and are keen to hear from individuals and groups – including schools, families, housemates, work groups – how do you do it in your home/school/workplace? Find out more http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/bins-rubbish-and-recycling/recycling-and-rubbish-collections/latest-recycling-updates
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