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Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Indigo Hotel development on South Parade lessons for BANES

We are pleased that what we have been calling for in terms of a committee to coordinate the major developments in and around the Roman Baths and the Abbey and the efforts that have been made to communicate with and address the conserns of residents and businesses being impacted. We are also pleased with the attempts being made to minimise the impact of the development work on the aesthetics of the area.

However, we are facing over the next few years unprecedented numbers of development projects in the city centre and it is vital that BANEs gets better and managing them in a way which minimises disruption to communities and ensures that they are fully informed about what is going on.

The development of the Indigo Hotel on South Parade is a classic example of what can go wrong if there is no proactive management by the local authorities.

In granting planning permission much more attention needs to be paid to the likely impact on the local community and conditions and guidelines put in place to minimise them.

BANEs needs to be much more proactive in monitoring and enforcing conditions and BANEs officers should routinely be talking to neighbours about their experiences and encouraging developers to do the same not just waiting for them to register complaints.

The development at this site had overrun on an almost unbelievable scale which can only be down to poor planning, preparation and risk analysis.

Meanwhile the local community has suffered problems with:
  • Access to property
  • Safety
  • Loss of parking
  • Unnecessary obstruction of the highway
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Noise and dust
  • Early and late working on the site
  • Loss of trade
  • A complete inability to plan because of constantly slipping dates
  • Site traffic management
  • Lack of information
In addition to all this this site has always been an eyesore which the developer has done little or nothing to mitigate. 
This development highlights systemic problems in the way permission for significant development in the city centre is given and the way in which compliance is monitored and enforced.




Thursday, 2 August 2018

The application for a variation to the license conditions at the Garfunkels premises at the Empire


We note that these premises fall within the area defined in the council’s cumulative impact policy.

We do not believe that this is a minor variation and therefore should not be dealt with under the minor variation procedures. The applicant refers to the removal of “historic conditions”. This phrase is normally used to describe conditions whose original purpose had been rendered irrelevant by the passage of time. This is very much not the case here.

The original the conditions referred to are:

1.       The premises are structurally adapted and bona fide used for or intended to be used for the purpose of habitually providing for the accommodation of persons frequenting the premises for substantial refreshment, to which the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor is ancillary.

This was intended to reflect the nature, intended and actual use of this unique building by ensuring that the drinking of alcohol was ancillary to providing other types of refreshment which has always been interpreted as the provision of food. This condition has also avoided these premises adding to the amount of vertical drinking in the cumulative impact zone and constrained its owners to trade in a way consistent with reducing the nuisance caused to neighbours who because of the nature of the building are very vulnerable to noise and disturbance in and around these premises. The nature of the building structure and use have not significantly changed since this condition was originally imposed and all the other reasons for having it still apply and have not been superseded by events.


These are large premises that are in very close proximity to noise vulnerable residential premises. Allowing increased vertical drinking will increase the number of people able to drink there and the amount of alcohol consumed. The licencing authority will also be aware that vertical drinking establishments in the city attract significantly more complaints of noise nuisance and increased levels of drink fuel anti-social behaviour and drink related accidents.

The Home Office Revised Guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 (April 2018 section 10.23) states that with regard to large capacity “vertical drinking” premises “Previous research has demonstrated that the environment within such establishments can have a significant bearing on the likelihood of crime and disorder.”


2.       No off sales permitted.

These premises are entirely unsuitable for off sales. They are on an island site surrounded by a one way system. Through most of the week there is limited or no parking provision. There is already an issue with people parking in the access roads illegally and creating significant public nuisance. Off sales will generate more traffic in and out of the building increasing the potential for nuisance for neighbours and other businesses. There is already a problem with street drinking in this area and having an off license here is likely to exacerbate this.


We note that the applicant has offered no noise studies.


All this in itself would be enough for us to object to this application. However, these particular applicants have put into to public domain their plans for these premises, their management and business model which give further cause for concern.


They appear to intend that these premises should be operated by their pub division and branded as a pub. They are planning changes to premises which will incorporate large areas which they themselves designate as bars. They are planning changes to the premises to introduce large bar areas with limited seating and what seating is planned tends toward the type of primarily associated with vertical drinking such as high stools or soft seating around low tables.


For all these reason we object to the applicant’s request for the removal of conditions because we believe that their removal will lead to an increase of public nuisance both for the immediate neighbours and within the cumulative impact zone as a whole.


We would also contend that if the applicants publicly stated plans for these premises continue to be progress there should be a complete review of all the condition of this licence.


For the record we would of course support the proposed conditions relating to staff training and development.

The new stadium for Bath Rugby


TARA as been actively engaged in consultation on the new stadium for Bath Rugby from the start.  We have consistently supported the proposals in principle, we appreciate the efforts of the club to consult locally over past months and several of a committee members were able to visit the presentation of outline proposals at the Ricoh Suite. Our view of the current proposals is summarised below;



1.   It is proposed to raise the playing surface by 3.8 m for flood control purposes bringing the higher tier of seats on the west side roughly level with Grand Parade.  This gives rise to two potential difficulties.  First, it has been an important principle for residents during the consultation stage that sight lines to the east from Grand Parade, and from the city centre generally, should be maintained.  It is hard to see how this can be achieved once the height of the roof is added to the raised pitch and seating levels and no indication of a solution to this problem is given in the material presented.  Second, it is proposed that the undercroft created by the raised playing surface should be partly used for 600-800 parking spaces.  It has from the start been an important principle in planning for the new stadium, and one which we at TARA have supported, that minimal parking would be provided and virtually none for fans.  The provision of a substantial new off-street parking resource on the stadium site looks, at first sight, like an expedient resulting from the creation of an undercroft space for other purposes which will simply add to already serious congestion and air quality problems on approach roads to the heart of the city, and on city centre streets.  For a proper evaluation, we would have appreciated more details on the purpose of this parking resource, who its intended users are and how its provision is seen in the context of council policy.  This, in broad terms, seeks to replace any provision lost through the development of existing sites, for example in Enterprise Areas such as Avon Street, and to emphasise short stay rather than long stay parking.  There could, in addition, be a case for additional off street parking given the failure of the council to implement a key part of its policy, namely the eastern park and ride facility.  But the case needs to be made.  If the stadium parking provision can be justified against this background, is for short term use only, closed on match days and even, for example, available for use under contract to city centre residents thus lifting the pressure on on-street parking, then it could receive the support of TARA members.



2.   The proposal for a new pedestrian footbridge across the river is welcome; the idea has been consistently supported by TARA as providing a direct link between the city centre and the stadium complex thus helping to reduce the serious overcrowding of streets by pedestrians around the stadium on match days. This is caused largely by the inadequacy of existing access points for fans almost all of whom arrive at the stadium itself on foot.  However, the proposal has been mishandled.  First, it should have been considered as fundamental to access arrangements for the stadium rather than a potential add-on and should in our view form a part of any planning application.  Second, it connects the stadium, not to major city centre pedestrian routes, but to Parade Gardens which itself has limited pedestrian access under current arrangements.



3.   We have no objection in principle to the proposed commercial frontage along the river on the west side of the stadium.  From the standpoint of local residents however, the uses applied for which should exclude pubs, clubs and all establishments where sale of alcohol predominates will be critical, as will management issues such as hours of operation, prevention of excessive outside drinking, sound mitigation and security.



4.   The elimination of coach parking from Bog Island and the removal of the radial gate would both be welcomed in principle by residents.  The inclusion of a coach park within the stadium complex could make sense subject to local traffic circulation issues and improved pedestrian links to the city as discussed in para. 2 above.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Short term letting and gesture politics

We have been dealing with the problems created by and drawing attention to the problems created by unregulated short term letting since 2014.

We have now moved to within a few months of elections and surprisingly politicians have discovered  an interest in the subject.

This has resulted in a debate in full council the minutes of which are shown below:

On a motion from Councillor Joe Rayment, seconded by Councillor Robin Moss, it was RESOLVED that Council notes:

1. Home-sharing services are often attractive to tourists and they provide direct income to host households.  However, regulation has been slow to keep up with the growth in these services and the impact they have on both the housing market and on amenity issues for residents;

2. In Bath and North East Somerset, we are experiencing a housing crisis, yet at the same time, properties are being removed from the private rental market as the earnings from short-term lettings can prove lucrative to landlords;

3. The difficulty in obtaining accurate figures around short-term lettings as there is no requirement to notify the Council of an intention to use a property in this way. 

4. A report by Tom Copley (London Assembly Member) highlights recent changes to legislation allowing the short-term letting of whole residential properties for up to 90 days in a calendar year in London but that the report also identifies a need for additional measures to enable London authorities to investigate and effectively enforce the new legislation.

5. The BANES Visitor Accommodation Study which this Council has commissioned to help provide evidence for the Local Plan includes considering the extent of and growth in short-term holiday lets and the implications and problems of short-term lets in relation to, for example, both the housing stock and the operation of other forms of visitor accommodation.

6. The Leader of Council has written to the Minister asking for a new use class to be introduced for short-term lets so that they are differentiated from dwelling houses.

7. The owners of properties available for short-term lets for up to 140 nights per year are liable for Council tax.

8. The Planning, Housing & Economic Development Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel is due to discuss short term holiday lets at its September meeting, which will provide an additional opportunity for public engagement and evidence gathering. Council believes that:

9. There is a need to find effective solutions which allow legitimate home-sharing to continue while at the same time addressing the widespread concern about the growing professionalised sector.

10.Bath & North East Somerset should be able to benefit from a change in legislation in the way that London has, and that, at the same time, the lessons should be learnt from the London experience with additional measures and resources to support enforcement of any new law.

11.There isn’t a level playing field when hoteliers and registered B&Bs running legitimate businesses must comply with health and safety rules and licensing rules and contribute to the Council funds with business rate payments whilst 'Short Term Lets' do not.

12.This discrepancy could have implications on the health and safety grounds.

13.The increase in Party Houses is having a detrimental impact on communities.

14.Residential properties are lost to the tourist industry when they are badly needed for families. Council agrees therefore to ask the Leader of Council to: 15.Continue discussions with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government asking for:

a. A change in the law around short-term lets, limiting the short-term letting of whole residential properties to 90 days in a calendar year;

b. Other legislative measures such as a change to the use classes order, to make short-term holiday lets its own specific use class so that they are differentiated from dwelling houses;

c. The resources and tools needed to ensure that the costs of implementing any new legislation do not fall on Council taxpayers and to enable effective enforcement including, but not limited to, the introduction of a requirement that short-term lettings hosts must register with the Local Authority and that home-sharing platforms must share details of property owners suspected of breaching any new requirements;

d. Support with the creation of an ombudsman by the home-sharing platforms paid for by the industry to address home-sharing fraud, help with enforcement, resolve disputes and investigate complaints.

e. Assurances that the costs of implementing any new legislation do not fall on Council taxpayers;

f. Tools to enable effective enforcement such as the introduction of a requirement that short-term lettings hosts must register with the local authority and that home-sharing platforms must share details of property owners suspected of breaching any new requirements;

g. The introduction of a licensing and registration scheme to enable effective monitoring and control of anti-social behaviour and the use of enforcement powers where appropriate;

h. The same regulatory framework for short-term lets and other forms of visitor accommodation;

i. Any future Tourism Levy to apply to short-term lettings;

j. An extension to the defined exemptions for “sole or main residence” within the Housing Act 2004 to include properties wholly used as shortterms holiday lets, thus enabling them to be subject to a licencing scheme.

16. Write to Housing Associations asking them to remind their tenants that they must not sub-let their homes.

[Notes; 1. The underlined wording in resolutions 2, 7 (‘available’), 11-14, 15, 15b and 15e-i above was proposed by Councillor Tim Warren, and accepted into the substantive motion by the mover and seconder of the motion. 2. The underlined wording in resolution 7 (‘nights’) was proposed by Councillor Dine Romero and accepted into the substantive motion by the mover and seconder of the motion. 3. The underlined wording in resolutions 8 and 15j was proposed by Councillor Will Sandry and accepted into the substantive motion by the mover and seconder of the motion. 4. The above resolutions were carried with one Councillor abstaining (Councillor Lin Patterson) and all other Councillors voting in favour.]

27  MOTION FROM THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP - UNREGULATED SHORT TERM HOLIDAY LETS

Following a full debate on this issue on the previous item on the agenda, Councillor Will Sandry withdrew this motion.

While we welcome this sudden interest in what has been a major problem for residents for many years and while this discussion represents a very useful summary of the current position we cannot help but reflect that had they addressed  the issues when we and others raised them we might have made more progress in getting central government to act.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Ongoing investment in expanding the CCTV network


We are looking for ongoing investment in expanding the CCTV network for a number of reasons:

1.       To deal with increased incidents of anti-social behaviour and drug dealing on the periphery of the existing network most of which goes unreported

2.       Because the cut backs in police numbers mean that police activity is increasingly report driven

3.       The poor quality of other reporting systems

4.       To combat fear of crime and ASB

We had suggested two pilots both immediately north of George Street which we understand received approval following a technical evaluation but where rejected following an intervention by Charles Gerrish who was concerned about ongoing financial commitments if the pilots were seen to be successful. We chose sites north of George Street because those streets are an obvious escape route for offenders in George Street and are popular with drug dealers because they are near several nightclubs and party houses. Dealers have been heard reassuring customer that the is no CCTV.

The two sites selected where the right angle in Miles Buildings and a site looking up Hay Hill from the London Road.

Throughout this process we have worked in consultation with the local police teams and local businesses who have welcomed our initiative. We have also had regular discussion with the BANES CCTV team.


Friday, 6 July 2018

Why are highways allowing this and on what authority?

In February we wrote to BANES in conjunction with a local business which is being blighted by the trade waste dump on George Street asking the following:


Have BANES, as Highway Authority authorised this obstruction of the highway. If so could you, please provide any documentation of such an authorisation and tell us what procedure was followed in granting this permission? Could you also advise what processes are available to challenge this decision?



If BANES have not authorised this obstruction we would like to formally request that action be taken to have it removed.

The letter was also signed by our ward councillor. WE HAVE STILL NOT RECEIVE ANY RESPONSE and that despite the responsible cabinet member asking for an answer to be provided.

Meanwhile:





Thursday, 5 July 2018

The New Information Centre Proposals

We were being offer two option for the future of the library and the One Stop Shop. Before this could receive proper consideration BANES allowed a vocal minority to highjack the decision making process.

Based on a rushed and poorly design consultation process they abandoned their own proposals to move the library to a dedicated space co-located with the One Stop Shop. This would have left the One Stop Shop in a dedicated space co-located with officers who could provide back up support to the OSS for more complex issues.

The detailed design for the new "Information Centre" have now been promulgated. They seem to offer an interesting community space which will be family friendly and include some element you would expect to find in a library. The One Stop Shop element is much harder to find in the design and appears to be a bit of a bolt on after thought. The Police ,as we understand it, have opted not to move to the Podium.