Pages

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

High Street Works - Public Realm and Movement Programme

We are broadly supportive of the Public Realm and Movement programme’s proposals for the High Street and Orange Grove particularly the proposal to remove coaches from Orange Grove.

The creation of a dedicated 'continental' coach bay opposite the Abbey which will, as we understand it, accommodate only one coach will avoid the current situation where two or even three coaches block the exit from the Empire and Guildhall car parks. We will be seeking reassurances about management of noise from the audible indication on the pedestrian crossing.

The extended taxi rank will hopefully relieve the unofficial 'overflow' taxi park which stretches from opposite the Parade Gardens right around into Grand Parade and causes obstruction and inconvenience for residents and visitors. Particularly In the evening a longer more integrated taxi rank will be easier for the Taxi Marshals to control allowing the rank to be better managed and more efficient.

The increased Pavement Area outside All bar One is welcome as this is a congested area which often looks dirty, with delivery vehicles, bus passengers, shop keepers and pedestrians all competing for space.

We are however less comfortable with the plans for coach parking in North Parade which already has its challenges with bendy buses and the volume of traffic. There are also particular issues with bus and coach noise and the residential blocks towards the bridge end of the parade which these proposals could exacerbate if coach parking is not better managed than it is in its current location

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Localism Bill

A timetable recently published by the Government indicates that by November 2011 the Government’s Localism Bill will be passed.

Key points of the Bill

The bill is split across four main heading and some special provisions for London

community empowerment
decentralisation and strengthening local democracy
reform of the planning system
social housing reform.

COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

Right to veto excessive council tax rises
Any council tax rises above a ceiling set by the secretary of state and approved by the House of Commons will trigger a referendum of all registered electors in their area.

Community Right to Challenge
A right for voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, parish councils and local authority employees delivering a service, to challenge a local authority, by expressing an interest in running any service for which they are responsible. A local authority must consider and respond to this challenge.

Community Right to Buy
This will require local authorities to maintain a list of public or private assets of community value put forward for consideration by communities. When listed assets come up for disposal communities have the chance to buy the asset when it comes on the open market.

Local referendums
This measure gives people, councillors and councils the power to instigate a local referendum on any local issue. Although these referendums will be non-binding.

DECENTRALISING AND STRENGTHENING LOCAL DEMOCRACY

General Power of Competence
The general power of competence will provide local authorities powers to do anything apart from that which is specifically prohibited.

Local authority governance
These measures will allow principal authorities to return to the committee system of governance, should they wish.

Directly elected mayors
Giving areas the right to have a mayor if they wish to following a referendum.

Predetermination
This will make councillors free to campaign, to express views on issues and to vote, without fear of being accused of having a closed mind on a particular issue. The bill is intended to make it clear that the normal activities of a councillor – campaigning, talking with constituents, expressing views on local matters and seeking to gain support for those views – should not lead to a legal challenge to a council decision.

Standards Board
The bill would bring about the abolition of the Standards Board regime. A new duty on local authorities to promote and maintain high standards of conduct will be introduced.

Pay accountability
Provisions are included that will require authorities to approve and publish annually a senior pay policy statement which they will be required to follow when setting senior pay.

Scrapping bin taxes
So-called 'bin tax' schemes would have allowed local councils to charge residents for household rubbish collections or fine families for having a full bin. The bill will repeal sections 71 to 75 of, and Schedule 5 to, the Climate Change Act 2008 thus stopping these schemes taking place.

REFORM AND THE PLANNING SYSTEM

Abolition of Regional Strategies
The bill will remove primary legislation which sets the basis for Regional Strategies.

Community Infrastructure levy
The Community Infrastructure Levy allows local authorities to set charges which developers must pay when bringing forward new development in order to contribute to new infrastructure.

Local Plan reform
The Bill will remove the ability of the Planning Inspectorate to re-write local plans and remove procedures on timetabling and monitoring. Planning inspectors will continue to assess local plans at a public examination, and authorities will only be able to adopt plans judged ‘sound’ by the inspector, but inspectors will only be able to suggest changes at the request of the local authority.

Neighbourhood planning
Neighbourhood plans will enable communities to permit development without the need for planning applications.

Community Right to Build
This measure will give local communities the power to take forward development in their area without the need to apply for planning permission, subject to meeting certain safeguards and securing 50% support of the community through a referendum. It will be for communities to identify suitable land, sources of finance and secure support for their proposals.

Duty to co-operate
The bill introduces a duty to co-operate on local authorities and public bodies.

Pre-application consultation
The bill introduces a new requirement for prospective developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for very large developments.

Enforcement
Proposals in the bill will tackle abuses like making deliberately misleading planning applications and running retrospective planning applications and enforcement appeals simultaneously.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
This measure will replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission with a system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.

SOCIAL HOUSING REFORM

Social Housing Allocations reform
This measure will take transferring tenants who are not in housing need out of the allocation rules.

Reform of homelessness legislation
The bill will give local authorities the right to bring their homelessness duty to an end with an offer of suitable accommodation in the private rented sector without requiring the household’s agreement.

Social housing tenure reform
The provisions in the bill will enable local authority landlords to grant tenancies for a fixed length (the minimum length being two years).

Reform of council housing finance
Under the new system, councils will keep their rental income and use it locally to maintain their homes.

National Homeswap Scheme
This measure would require landlords to participate in web-based mutual exchange services that enable tenants to see a wide range of properties across providers in England.

Reform of social housing regulation
This measure will: make reforms to the regulatory system for social housing; abolish the Tenant Services Authority and transfer its remaining functions to the Homes and Communities Agency; and make changes to the Ombudsman regime applicable to social housing complaints.

Facilitating moves out of the social rented sector
The bill will ensure that housing association tenants who are also members of their landlord organisation are allowed to take up incentive schemes which help moves out of the social rented sector into owner occupation. Current legislation does not allow this because it precludes the making of any gifts to tenant members or former members.
Home Information Packs
This measure will repeal Part 5 of the Housing Act 2004 thereby abolishing Home Information Packs.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Consultation on the Rec

We feel that there is not enough information provided to make any meaningful comment on the balance between benefits and detriments in the Trustees’ proposals. We don’t think a meaningful judgement can be made in the absence of a substantive proposal for any new development. This would need to include:

  • Details of facilities, including non-sporting facilities such as shops, bars and restaurants
  • Some idea of the size and outline of building on the site
  • Indications of proposed usage beyond rugby and expected attendance numbers required to achieve financial viability
  • Indication of how the impact of the above would be managed in terms of such issues as parking provision, traffic and noise management

In any case it is not clear that the proposed land use plan referred to in the consultation documents can be relied on. The owner of Bath Rugby seems to have indicated in recent press interviews that he wants the club to have a substantially bigger stadium than the trustees seem to envision in their statements.

The consultation appears intended to close off discussion of other locations for a new stadium and does not seem to distinguish local residents from visitors to Bath who may well have an opinion about the Ruby Club but have no interest in Bath or the Rec beyond that. It also seems a strange decision to run such a consultation ahead of the results of local elections and the consequent change of trustees.