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Thursday, 11 December 2014

CATTLE MARKET DEVELOPMENT


The Cattle Market car park north of the Hilton hotel has been an eyesore for many years and is perhaps the last major site awaiting development in the city centre.  Over at least the last decade rumours have come and gone but nothing has happened.  Lately, however, local TARA members have noticed a marked increase in the number of suits brandishing smart phone cameras and clip boards wandering the area and it emerged recently that for the past year the council has been in confidential discussions with a number of development companies over the future of the area.

No details have been released and no planning application is in sight.  It is possible, however, to discern through the fog from a variety of sources an outline of the city’s hopes, expectations and intentions.  A meeting of local residents and retailers in early December was given an update by ward Councillor Manda Rigby who filled in some background and put forward some ideas of her own, as did Martin Tracy of the Walcot Street traders.  TARA itself offered an outline development brief for the site in September 2013 and many of the principles incorporated therein are consistent with the city’s recently published Place Making proposals for the site (SB1) incorporated in the Core Strategy for the city centre.  From these and other sources it is possible to identify some common ground as well as numerous issues that will need to be resolved.

Common Ground

In the absence of funding for a major public institution such as an auditorium or art gallery the site is likely to see a mix of homes, offices and shops with small to medium sized shops occupying the Walcot Street frontage.  This will help to bridge the long-regretted gap between Walcot Street and the commercial heart of the city.
Building height should be limited to three or four floors above Walcot Street ground level.

The Corn Market building should be restored and brought back into use.
The river bank should not be privatized but should offer a publicly accessible space tied back to Pulteney Bridge by an improved riverside pedestrian link.  A new foot/cycle bridge across the river to St John’s Road should be considered.
Views across the site to the east from Walcot Street should if possible be protected or enhanced.

Issues

How should development be related to the Hilton Hotel?  There has been talk of an extension of the hotel to the north and a revised road access.

Parking.  Options range from continuing to provide a resource for the city centre as a whole (which would limit the amount of floor space which could be accommodated on the site) to providing limited parking for on-site uses only to virtually eliminating all parking.  TARA leans towards the middle option.

The future of the Saturday market.  Developers are unlikely to be attracted to this.
Bats.  It is thought that the Grade 2 listed three level medieval vaults on the river bank are home to a rare species of bat which may make it impossible to fully incorporate them into a scheme.


Of course all this may come to nothing particularly in light of local elections due next May.  Nevertheless, TARA has made it clear to anyone who will listen that it finds the twelve months of discussions behind closed doors irritating, that local residents are on red alert and expect to be full involved and consulted in future, certainly long before there is a planning application.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Sub !3 Licensing Application

These premises have applied to extend the use of their garden from 22:00 to 1:00.

The premises are very close to a number of noise and nuisance sensitive residential premises in addition noise from the garden here is audible, because  over a wide area including properties in George Street, Miles Buildings and St Andrew's Terrace. At least one of the buildings close to their garden, to our knowledge, is home to a school age child

 It is important to note that noise from these gardens is audible at the back of buildings in George Street and Miles Buildings and most people sleep in the back.

 Outside areas of licenced premises are almost always by their very nature a noise nuisance. in Bath city centre this has always be acknowledge by the licencing authority and socially responsible licensees. As a consequence all other outside drinking areas close well before midnight.

 Granting this application will create public nuisance over a wide area and impact the lives of adults and children living in neighbouring premises to a wholly unacceptable degree.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Governance debate – managing the expectation

We attended the last meeting of the BANES Working Group- “options to strengthen community representation and civic governance within Bath “. The meeting had a very good cross party discussion of two options for giving a little more influence over what happens in Bath to either a Bath committee of Bath ward councillors or a Bath Parish/city council.

Our concern is that if you talk to people in Bath about the issue of governance they talk about things like:

·         Retaining money generated by Bath in Bath and in particular keeping control of the money generated by the Cities commercial an heritage estate
·         Control over planning decisions
·         Control over investment in infrastructure
·         A real city mayor

Almost all of which will not be delivered by any of the options under consideration by the working group.


We are not aware of how BANES is planning to manage the potential gap between public expectations and their current discussions.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Statement on Bath Transport Strategy

While we were not consulted in its development, in general we support the principles of the proposed transport strategy together with the recommendations that flow from them.  We support, in particular, a reduction in the use of cars for commuter trips in favour of modes such as walking and cycling which improve air quality and the health of individuals. 

We strongly support the creation of an eastern park and ride and in principle we also support some well thought through constraints on long term parking in the city centre. However, such constraints should not be imposed until such time as adequate park-and-ride facilities are in place on the entire city periphery.

We agree that conditions for pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre should be improved and we support the reduction of extraneous through traffic especially on city centre streets.

We note however, that many of these principles and recommendations have been the subject of previous reports, have been the policy of successive councils for many years, sometimes for decades, but have been implemented only partially, haphazardly or not at all.Examples of this include:

·         the enforcement of standards in the Air Quality Management Area
·         serious constraints on through traffic and especially heavy goods vehicles which have no business on Bath streets
·         a park and ride facility east of the city
·         the quality of environmental design and management, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, on city centre streets. 

The Public Realm and Movement Strategy, which was designed to address this latter issue, was generally well received and made a promising start but seems to have run out of money and political support. In consequence our city centre still fails to meet standards which are commonplace among European peer cities.  It is unfortunate, in this context, that the strategy contains no detailed proposals covering costs, staging or timing, for its implementation.

TARA and the City Centre Action Group are primarily concerned with the potential impact of these proposals on city centre residents.  Our estimates suggest that, at about 6%, the proportion of Bath residents living in the historic core wards of the city is about twice comparable figures for UK peer cities such as York and Chester.  City centre residents are the eyes and ears of the community at all hours of the day and night; we support the city centre economy throughout the year and few of us commute by car or use our cars for shopping trips.  There are a number respects in which we believe transport policy in the city centre should more closely and more urgently reflect the needs and concerns of city centre residents. In our view the most important of these issues is:

Air Quality.

Perhaps more than any other group city centre residents suffer from unacceptably high levels of nitrogen dioxide on our streets.  Reports indicates clearly that NO2 levels have consistently exceeded legal levels for almost twenty years and are not declining. 

The Action Group has made representations to the European Commission through Julie Girling MEP and we understand the UK government faces legal action for failing to take steps to reach mandatory air quality standards in urban centres including Bath. It is galling, to say the least, that there is a prospect that Bath citizens may see their taxes being used to pay fines imposed on their government and local authority for consistently failing to protect them from poor air quality.

In this context it is also worth noting that in our opinion BANES do not even have in place adequate systems to measure and monitor the pollutants that pose the greatest risk to the health of city centre residents.

Coaches

It seems to us extraordinary that Bath only has a coach management plan at Christmas, that existing restrictions on coaches in Brock Street are not enforced and that coaches that do not intend to stop in Bath have unrestricted access to the major historic sites.

Residents Parking


The council should consider allocating a higher proportion of the dwindling number of on-street parking spaces available in the city centre to residents.  Increasingly residents are finding that they are unable to use the permits they have paid for because available spaces are occupied, often by commuters or shoppers.  Moreover it is for the most part impractical for residents to use the park and ride facilities available to others.  Implementing the modal shift proposals outlined in the report should include an increase in parking provision for residents at the expense of other users even as the overall supply of spaces declines.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Budget Fair

We attended the Council's Budget Fair at the Guildhall last night and asked two questions. One about funding for the Air Quality Management Plan and one about on going funding for the Public Realm and Movement Project.

While the council were keen to talk about the Bath Transport Plan they had no information about funding for non transport related measures to reduce air pollution.

They confirmed that there was no plans for funding further phases of the PRMP and they focused instead on the development of Saw Close related to the Casino and the Seven Dials shared use space project.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Planning Application 5 Bladud Buildings

This application seeks consent for the erection of a single storey block providing facilities for staff in what remains of the garden of a Grade II listed terrace property at 5 Bladud Buildings in Bath city centre.  The building is used for mixed restaurant and residential accommodation.

We ask that the application be REFUSED on the following grounds
Originally a residential terrace conceive by Attwood and Jolly in the 1750s Bladud Buildings is believed to have been converted to provide for shops on lower floors in the mid-19th Century.  When such uses are established, permitted or encouraged in a single terraced structure it is vital that commercial premises do not, as a result of accumulating planning applications, gradually undermine the amenity of local residents.

That is what we contend is occurring in this case.

As would be expected there have over time been a number of extensions at the rear of commercial premises at Bladud Buildings but generally some garden space has been preserved.  This application for a comparatively large and fully serviced building seeks for all practical purposes to eliminate the garden altogether thereby setting a dangerous precedent and adversely affecting the amenity of residents on higher floors.  The applicant appears to respect the amenity value of rear gardens in that in an application for consent to fell four sycamore trees in 2012 (12/02950/TCA) he undertook to replace each of the trees and carry out a landscaping plan for the garden.  However, although consent was granted and the trees were felled, no improvement scheme appears to have been carried out.

The potential for loss of amenity to neighbouring residents many of whom, to avoid traffic noise from the Paragon to the north, have their main bedrooms at the rear extends to the use of the facility by staff in the late evening hours when the restaurant is at its busiest and after it has closed.


For these reasons we ask that the application be refused.  Should the committee be minded to grant consent, however, we ask that a condition be imposed requiring that the removal of domestic and restaurant rubbish be carried out at the front of the building as is presently the case rather than using the rear entrance via Walcot Street.

Retrospective Planning application 5 Bladud Buildings

This application seeks retrospective consent for air conditioning and air extraction equipment which has been positioned at first floor level immediately adjacent to the front and rear elevations of a Grade II listed terraced property at 5 Bladud Buildings in Bath city centre.  The building is used for mixed restaurant and residential accommodation.

We ask that the application be REFUSED on the following grounds
1.     At the rear of the building a single air conditioning compressor unit has been positioned though it appears not currently to be in use.  At the front of the building in the well above the restaurant entrance no fewer than three items of mechanical equipment have been placed at some time in the past.  We have been able to find no information in documents supporting the application as to the size, specification, appearance, material composition, output or sound and odour emission characteristics of the unit at the front of the building for which consent is now sought.  It is therefore difficult to determine whether the equipment is consistent with details approved in the discharge of conditions under a previous consent (13/01901/FUL).  Moreover the item of equipment currently operating for which, as we understand it, consent is now sought appears to be different from equipment shown in documents supporting the application.

1. This unit is unsightly and emits a continuous, harsh humming sound which varies in intensity but is at its most offensive in late evening hours when the restaurant is at its busiest and ambient noise levels from the street are relatively low.

At the front of the building the unit for which consent is sought is a few feet from the first floor kitchen and living room windows of the adjoining residential property at 4 Bladud Buildings and the air conditioning compressor at the rear is immediately adjacent to the main bedroom.  Neighbouring homeowners at this address, who have been in residence for more than ten years, are therefore in the actual, or potential, position of being unable to open their windows at night due to noise emitted by apparently illegally installed compressor and extract fans. While the noise from the equipment is most noticeable in the kitchen, living and main bedroom areas it can be heard throughout the property and kitchen smells are also noticeable.

When commercial and residential uses are established, permitted or encouraged in single terraced structures it is vital that commercial premises do not, as a result of accumulating planning applications, some of them retrospective, gradually undermine the amenity of local residents.  Noise, lighting, ventilation and kitchen smells are of particular importance and that is what we contend is occurring in this case.

2.  In our view it is plainly unacceptable to introduce noisy and unsightly mechanical equipment which partially obscures the front and rear elevations of a Grade II listed terraced property in the centre of Bath.  This is particularly the case at Bladud Buildings which was planned by Attwood and Jolly in the 1750s to have elevations of equal status viewed from both the north and south.  The applicant intends to provide at the front of the property a raised screen to mask the equipment consisting, as we understand it, of a black painted steel balustrade and artificial box plant material.  This material is likely to deteriorate quickly and, in our opinion and with all due respect, is a crude, unsympathetic and inappropriate solution to a problem that ought not to exist.  Moreover, to grant consent for the current proposals risks setting a dangerous precedent for other properties at Bladud Buildings.

Beyond the use of a metal grill not so far installed there are no proposals, so far as we are aware, to screen equipment at the rear of the property.


If however, the committee is minded in principle to grant consent we ask that any decision to that effect be deferred, or made conditional, until noise and odour assessments have been carried out by competent persons at both the front and the rear of the property and that any necessary mitigation measures have been implemented to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

First use of community trigger in BANES

Earlier this week Bath City Centre Action Group, comprising TARA, CARA and PERA demanded action from the Police, Council and Curo Housing over so-called ‘Party Houses’. Party Houses are notorious properties rented out for just two or three days to groups of people, usually celebrating a stag or hen night, and form a constant cause of misery to people living near them.

To ensure they get results the City Centre Action Group have made full use of new legal powers, that came into force on the 20th October, and pulled 'the community trigger'. The new community trigger requires all responsible bodies to work together to resolve frequently repeated anti-social behaviour problems.

It is not just the noise from uproarious drinking sessions day and night at these Party Houses, but children have witnessed lewd actions and nudity. The Community Trigger is a significant new power within the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. It allows people to insist action is taken over repeated antisocial behaviour problems

A handful of landlords actively encourage wild 24 hour parties and local people suffer loss of sleep and emotional upset as a result of noise, unattractive behaviour and foul language. We welcome the new powers to tackle these problems and specifically request the authorities use their new closure powers to curb irresponsible landlords.

In addition to making more use of closure orders, we have also called upon Licensing to use its powers under the Housing Act 2004 to create special licensing to control party houses in future. We need to protect the rights of all local residents to live a normal family life

Monday, 13 October 2014

Action on Air Quality

Air pollution is a considerable concern for the members of TARA and we have devoted much time to researching the issue and lobbying responsible authorities, including BANE, the Environment Agency,  the European Commission and the European Parliament, to take action.

We have been very disappointed by the response we have had from BANES and the lack of action by successive administrations to address the problem or even take it very seriously.

The following summary table, published by Camden council, shows why this issue needs to be taken seriously and needs to be addressed with urgency.

Health effects and sources of air pollutants
Pollutant
Sources
Health effects
Nitrogen dioxide
Road transport (especially diesel vehicles), domestic boilers, power stations and industry
Lung irritation and damage
Sulphur dioxide
Power stations, domestic boilers, industry
Coughing, irritation and narrowing of airways. Can make asthma and bronchitis worse
Carbon monoxide
Petrol vehicles, domestic boilers, industry
Deprives the blood of oxygen and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea. Can lead to death at very high levels
Fine Particulates (PM10 and PM2.5)
Road transport (mainly diesel vehicles and tyre and break wears), power stations, domestic boilers
Increased chances of respiratory disease, lung damage, cancer and premature death
Ozone
Produced when sunlight reacts with vehicle exhaust fumes
Irritation to eyes, nose and throat. Can damage lungs and airways
Benzene
Petrol vehicles
Long term exposure can increase risk of cancer
Lead
Petrol vehicles, industry
Learning disabilities and brain and kidney damage
Air pollution can also damage trees, plants and buildings and contribute to climate change.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Seven Dials

We strongly support both the principals of shared space in city centre streets in general and their proposed application in the case of Seven Dials in particular.

That said, however, we believe that Seven Dials and Kingsmead Square together already represent one of the best urban spaces in Bath where mixed uses and complex traffic movements on three separate traffic lanes combine successfully with high levels of pedestrian movement without apparent conflict.  While we recognise the pressure on funding for infrastructure improvements in Bath we believe that a single concept should have been developed in outline for the two spaces together before detailed proposals were drawn up for Seven Dials.  It would even have been preferable, in our view, to have included Saw Close in this preliminary analysis so that the potential of level changes between Saw Close and Seven Dials could have been exploited.

Monday, 1 September 2014

COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY

We support the council’s intention to introduce a Community Infrastructure Levy from 2015.  We are aware of the very wide ranging commitments the council has to infrastructure spending and the need for new revenue sources to bridge the on-going gap between aspirations and available funding.

Our primary concern is, of course, the city centre where the council has a variety of infrastructure commitments both above and below ground.  In this context the main concern of TARA members is, and has been, the state of our roads and public spaces.  Given the rare status of the entire city of Bath as a World Heritage Site and the presence in the city centre of almost all of the historic sites that contribute to that status and account for the city’s world wide reputation the current state of many of our streets and public spaces falls far below the level that ought to be expected and was achieved years ago by many peer cities both in this country and abroad.  Road surfaces are patchy, uneven and even potholed in some places, railings are missing or broken, pavements are often cracked and unstable and made up of a patchwork of inferior quality materials in poor condition combined with temporary tarmac infill.  While signage has certainly improved throughout the city centre the quality of seating and lighting is variable at best and the provision of public toilets shameful.

It was for these reasons that the Public Realm and Movement Strategy (PRMS) adopted by the council in 2010 was greeted with enthusiasm by our members and many others.  Here was an initiative prepared with exemplary care and professional expertise which held out the hope that Bath would, however belatedly, soon raise the standard of its public spaces to a level commonplace in peer cities throughout Europe, many of them with advantages and resources far below the level enjoyed by Bath.  True, we were puzzled by the apparent omission from the programme of Milsom Street, Bath’s premier shopping street currently in a quite shocking state, together with New Bond Street, Upper Borough Walls and York Street and the perplexing 20 year horizon for completion of the programme but we were encouraged by the prompt and effective start made on Stage 1, the High Street area and Northumberland Place.  Since then, however, progress seems to have slowed to a halt.  There seem to be no plans for commencing Stage 2 of the six stages included in the first five year programme culminating in 2015 and it is galling to find in Table 1 of the council’s infrastructure Funding Gap Evidence Paper, July 2014, that no funding source has been identified to cover the estimated £14m cost of the PRMS for the period to 2029.  It is our understanding that the aspirations of the much heralded and welcomed PRMS now go no further than acting as a template for public space improvements associated with projects funded from other sources such as Stall Street and Lower Borough Walls, Seven Dials and Saw Close.

We recognise that there are extensive demands for infrastructure improvements throughout the District and that there are many claims on the limited resources available but we urge the council to recognise that only the highest standards are acceptable in the historic heart of the city which attracts increasing numbers of visitors from all over the world, that an effective process for achieving these standards exists in the council’s own Public Realm and Movement Strategy and that the programme urgently needs to be given a higher priority in infrastructure spending.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

An even stronger voice for residents

If you are not yet a member of TARA we invite you to become a member

The more members we have the more influence we will be able to bring to bear to win improvements for the residents of Bath city centre.

The more members, the more effective we will be at getting city centre resident's concerns heard where and when it matters.

Membership cost £3 a year for individual households


To pay by cheque or standing order download and print off the membership application form

For more information go to our web site

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

An Elected Mayor

In the light of several potentially misleading headlines in the Chronicle we think it is important that members are clear that what is being proposed is not an elected mayor for the City of Bath but an elected mayor for Bath and Northeast Somerset.

Bath City Governance

We have been reading the interim report of the working group set up by BANES to consider community representation and civic governance within Bath. Their report can be seen at http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/neighbourhoods-and-community-safety/working-partnership/bath-city-conference/community.

Our overall reaction is one of disappointment about how little determination or imagination  the working group appears  to have shown in addressing their brief. Their output is merely a restatement of the existing ideas promulgated at previous meetings. Have they explored and rejected other options or have they merely recycled their brief?

None of the proposals goes very far in addressing the democratic deficit in Bath. We note that none of the options as presented is fully costed only indicative figures being provided.

The creation of parish councils that will have little power and then only in local areas of Bath, will do little to address the systemic problems of the city and will, we understand, cost council tax payers a lot of money to create and maintain as well as adding extra levels of bureaucracy.

The committee idea has the virtue of probably being cheaper but would have little actual power. It seems unlikely that any serious residents’ groups would join it as it would give them very little power in the decision-making process but would ensure they shared more than their fair share of the blame.

This leaves us with the status quo which while unsatisfactory appears to be better than the other options on offer.


If the BANES is really serious about addressing this issue, and this is not just a PR initiative, we would urge that they take more time to analysis the costs and benefits of various proposals. We would also urge that they look at researching more options with more imagination and determination than they have shown to date.

Monday, 28 July 2014

CURO and holiday lets

CURO are now letting out more and more of their city centre Georgian property as holiday lets http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2426615/Tourists-offered-Bath-social-housing-flats-waiting-list-tenants-outpriced.html

We question whether this is an appropriate policy for the city's principal provider of social housing. There is a considerable shortage of affordable housing in the city centre and a clear demand from people working in the city, particularly in the light of the poor and expensive public transport links into the city.

We are also concerned at the impact that such a policy will have on the community dynamics of the city centre.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

THE COLONNADES PLANNING APPLICATION


As we understand it this is a full application for change of use to A3 (restaurant) as well as the carrying out of certain enabling works in particular to Boat Stall Lane, Grand Parade and the Colonnade.   We have found this an extremely difficult application to deal with due to confusion and inconsistency among supporting documents and lack of clarity about exactly what it is for which consent is sought.  If there is a list of documents which would be approved in any consent we have not been able to find it.  Presumably there will be further applications in respect of works to the restaurants themselves as well as to later stages of the development.  Meanwhile we have had no choice but to view the current application in isolation, on its merits and on the basis of the information provided.

Unfortunately,  many of the questions raised by local residents during consultation, particularly the 60-odd who live at the Empire, an apartment building immediately above the proposed site, are not answered in this application or are answered in a confusing, inconsistent or incomplete manner.  For example,

1.      BOAT STALL LANE.  There are numerous conflicting statements in supporting documentation as to how, by whom and at what times Boat Stall Lane will be used by pedestrians and service vehicles accessing the Colonnade and we have found no acknowledgement of its current use for access to the Empire’s 24 space parking garage.  Whatever may be intended there are numerous ways in which the needs of pedestrians, commercial premises, both existing and proposed, and Empire residents could come into conflict in practice.  Boat Stall Lane is narrow, no more than two and a half meters wide in some places and has two blind corners.  It seems to be implicitly accepted that service vehicles carrying ‘large items,’ as proposed in some documents (but not in others) would be unable to proceed to the east end of the alley where there is  no manoeuvring or storage space.  If a trolley system from the Guildhall car park is proposed it has not been described and no manoeuvring, parking or storage space is provided in this area either.

2.     GRAND PARADE.  Doubts on the intended use of Boat Stall Lane, both as to intentions and practical outcomes, are bound to lead to questions over Grand Parade.  Here the planning and design team has made bold and ingenious proposals for use of the shared space.  In our view this could work well in favourable conditions but with its single traffic lane and pinch points to the north and south there is very little room for error.  If no deliveries or collections will be permitted down Boat Stall Lane as stated in the Design and Access Statement (but contradicted elsewhere) it is arguable that the reception buildings will need to be re-thought with larger lifts and it seems to us far from certain that restaurant operators will be happy to see their customers sharing lifts with garbage removal and supply deliveries.  Furthermore, no mention is made in the Transport and Parking Statement to the fact that the Empire (wrongly identified as a hotel) which occupies about half of the west side of Grand Parade has its main entrance on that street.  This is used frequently for taxi pickup/drop off and for drivers to assist elderly passengers, some on wheel chairs, all of which is put at risk by the revised road layout.

3.     MANAGEMENT ISSUES.  Living immediately above the proposed development Empire residents were at pains, during the consultation stage, to emphasise their concerns over such operational issues as rubbish storage and collection, noise, kitchen smells and hours of operation as well as service access.  In June 2013 they were promised that a Management Report would accompany any planning application.  We have been able to find no such report and while many of these issues are discussed in supporting material the status of such proposals is unclear and they vary across documents.

4.     CONCLUSION.  While in general local residents have no objection to the proposed change of use they find material supporting the application lacking in clarity, consistency and completeness and they believe that many of the concerns they raised during consultation have not been adequately addressed.  We therefore request that a DECISION be DEFERRED on the application until matters discussed above can be more thoroughly resolved.  Alternatively, should the committee be minded to grant consent on the basis of the material currently available we ask that conditions be imposed which will ensure that no development can take place until the applicant is committed to workable and satisfactory proposals in at least the following areas
Waste management
Management of service access and storage
Other management issues including hours of operation, noise attenuation and removal of kitchen smells
Fire risk and safety issues

Management of the construction process

Friday, 18 July 2014

GETTING AROUND BATH


In general TARA supports the principals outlined in the report together with the recommendations that flow from them.  We support, in particular, a reduction in the use of cars for commuter trips in favour of modes such as walking and cycling which improve air quality and the health of individuals.  We support constraints on long term parking in the city centre in favour of external park and ride.  We agree that conditions for pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre should be improved and we support the reduction of extraneous through traffic especially on city centre streets.

We note in passing, however, that many of these principles and recommendations have been the subject of previous reports, have been the policy of successive councils for many years, sometimes for decades, but have been implemented only partially, haphazardly or not at all.  Examples include the enforcement of standards in the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), serious constraints on through traffic especially heavy goods vehicles which have no business on Bath streets, a fourth park and ride facility east of the city and the quality of environmental design and management, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, on city centre streets.  In the latter case the Public Realm and Movement Strategy, which was well received by our members and others and  made a promising start seems to have run out of steam so that our city centre still fails to  meet standards which are commonplace among European peer cities.  It is unfortunate, in this context, that Section 3 of the report, Delivering the Strategy, contains no detailed proposals covering costs, staging or timing, for delivering the strategy.

At TARA we are concerned primarily with the potential impact of the proposals on city centre residents.  Our estimates suggest that, at about 6%, the proportion of Bath residents living in the historic core wards of the city is about twice comparable figures for UK peer cities such as York and Chester.  City centre residents are the eyes and ears of the community at all hours of the day and night; we support the city centre economy throughout the year and few of us commute by car or use our cars for shopping trips.  There are two respects in which we believe transport policy in the city centre should more closely reflect the needs and interests of city centre residents.

Parking.  The council should consider allocating a higher proportion of the dwindling number of on-street parking spaces available in the city centre to residents.  Increasingly residents are finding that they are unable to use the permits they have paid for because available spaces are occupied, often by commuters or shoppers.  Moreover it is for the most part impractical for residents to use the park and ride facilities available to others.  Implementing the modal shift proposals outlined in the report should include an increase in parking provision for residents at the expense of other users even as the overall supply of spaces declines.

Air Quality.  Perhaps more than any other group city centre residents suffer from unacceptably high levels of nitrogen dioxide on our streets.  The report indicates clearly that NO2 levels have consistently exceeded legal levels for almost twenty years and are not declining.  TARA has made representations to the European Commission through Julie Girling MEP and we the UK government faces legal action for failing to take steps to reach mandatory air quality standards in urban centres including Bath.  It is galling, to say the least, that there is a prospect that Bath citizens may see their taxes being used to pay fines imposed on their government and local authority for consistently failing to protect them from poor air quality.  

Monday, 7 July 2014

Queen Square improvement

While in principle we welcome the plans to invest in this iconic and important area we believe the proponents of this particular scheme need to address some issues in more detail. In particular:


  1. What impact will the proposed road closures have elsewhere in the network and what plans do BANES have for mitigating that impact?
  2.  What will happen to the parking spaces around the square? If, as seem likely, parking space are to be lost are BANES intending to make alternative provision for residents?
  3. Queen square is a well used informal space. What reassurances can be offered to existing users that they will not be negatively impacted by an increase in formal events and the new focus on formal landscaping?

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Colonnades Licensing Applications

We should begin by making it clear that we are broadly supportive of bringing the colonnades into use provided this can be done in a way which respects their position at the heart of the World Heritage City.

However, the premises are very close to a number of noise and nuisance sensitive residential premises who are regularly affected by noise and anti-social behaviour from late night revellers in Grand Parade and Orange Grove. Many of the nearest noise sensitive premises are occupied by people in their 80's. People living on levels 1,2 and 3 of the Empire regularly report this kind of disturbance as do visitors sleeping in guest rooms at the (basement) level of the Colonnades.

These premises are at the epicentre of Bath's late night drinking culture with drink based establishments on North Parade, Pierrepont Street, across the other side of the weir and late night refreshment establishments in Grand Parade and Orange Grove. In addition to this Grand Parade and Orange Grove see most of the late night drinking crowd from the rest of Bath as they make their way to the taxi ranks and the station. This means that additional, particularly late night, licences issued in this area are very likely to increase the disorder already experience by residents and enforcement agencies.

Another concern is music and particularly amplified music. Residents are already impacted by noise from musical events beside the river and we are aware from many instances across the city that music created in vaults, particularly if it contains low frequencies, can propagate through building structures for great distances. The guest rooms in the basement the Empire which are at the level of the Colonnades are often occupied by young children and are particularly sensitive to this sort of disturbance.

River safety is a major concern in Bath with a quite unacceptable number of deaths having occurred over recent years many of which have involved victims who have been drinking alcohol. We have witnessed occasions when police resource have be diverted to deal with people who, often under the influence of alcohol, have decided to "take the plunge" in the pool behind the weir. Again this raises concerns about the management of premises serving alcohol at the riverside which we believe the licencing authority needs to address in setting conditions.

In the light of this we would urge the licencing authority to impose the following changes and additions to the proposed conditions:

1. No alcohol to be consumed in outside areas after 22:30 and the area to be cleared by 23:00.
- Outside areas are invariably a source of noise pollution

2. All alcohol sales to cease at 23:30
- To allow for drinking up time

3. Alcohol sales on Sundays to end at 22:30
- Sunday is currently the only really relatively quiet night and that should be preserved

4. New Year’s alcohol sales to end at 1:00

5. No alcohol sales before 11:00
- as a matter of general principle it is not clear that the authority should provide for the early morning consumption of alcohol. If when the units are let tenants can offer a justification in their particular circumstances they may then apply formally for a variation.

6.On-sales of alcohol to be served by waiters only to customers sitting at tables and consuming food.
- the is already too much vertical drinking in this area

7. Customers not to leave the premises with glass containers.

8. Ideally we would like to see music restricted to a level appropriate to creating an ambience for eating.
However, if the authority is not minded to do this we would propose:
- noise limiters on all amplifiers set to levels agreed by the local authority
- no noise being audible in the nearest noise sensitive premises
- a requirement to close all windows and doors after 23:00 if music is being performed

9. CCTV coverage of all exits from the premises and on to the parades.

10. A dispersal policy for the management of people leaving after midnight.

11. A requirement to clear litter around the entrance and exits at close of business

These premises are, as we understand it within the area covered by the cumulative impact policy.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

34-36 Stall Street

There is a proposed development by Longacre (Bath) at 34-36 Stall Street involving the refurbishment of the building to provide additional retail facilities, new apartments on the first and second floors together with further apartments in a rooftop extension.  The rear of the building overlooks the courtyard at St Catherine's.   We have spoken to the developer and his agents who provided details of the proposals and we have visited the site with local residents.

In general, and subject to anything we have not yet seen that may be in the planning application when it is filed, we do not think the development itself will be a problem for residents.  There are, however, justifiable concerns about the management of the construction process which is likely to take about eight months, particularly access, hours of work, machinery, lighting and the avoidance of undue noise, dust, etc.  We have suggested to the developer that satisfactory arrangements covering these areas of concern will be need to be included in the planning application

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Party houses

An increasing number of residents are reporting problems of noise nuisance and antisocial behaviour associated with flats and houses being let out as party venues and in particular stag and hen dos.

We are pressing the council to review the legal advice to their planning officers in the light of an Appeal Court Judgement which allows them to view this type of letting a “change of use” requiring planning permission.

We are also asking the police and local authority for assurances that they will be looking at the provisions of the Antisocial  Behaviour, Crime and Police Act 2014 which becomes law  this month to consider their use in tackling this problem.


In the meantime we are urging affected residents’ to complain regularly to BANES Environmental Protection Team who can be reached via Council Connect. It is really important that there is a body of officially recorded complains that can be referred to in any enforcement proceedings.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Comments on the proposed Code of Best Practice for Licenced Premises

Code of Best Practice can be found on the Council's website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/licensing-consultation

We would suggest the following additions

1.            The Licencing Policy includes numerous references to risk assessment and we believe the Code should offer some guidance about how these should be done

2.            It is important to make door security staff feel part of the team and to ensure they understand the ethos you are trying to promote

3.            Give the nearest noise sensitive premises a contact number so that they can call to alert you to the fact that nuisance is occurring

4.            Hold regular meetings with your local residents’ association to discuss your future plans and hear their concerns.


5.            Have the duty manager regularly go outside the premises to see and hear what it looks and sounds like to passers-by and neighbours

Comments on draft Statement of Licensing Policy

It is a requirement of the Licensing Act 2003 that every Licensing Authority produces a "Statement of Licensing Policy" which explains how it will exercise its licensing functions under the Act.


A copy of the proposed Statement can be found on the Council's website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/licensing-consultation.

Our comments on the proposed statement are as follows:


We think the introduction should include a statement explicitly acknowledging the role of the local authority in balancing the legitimate aspirations of business in the Night Time Economy with the rights of residents in the areas where they operate

Paragraph 2.4 says “It is expected that when promoting low priced alcohol, all premises will be considerate of the effect such promotions are having on our large student population, as well as being mindful of the negative effect promotions aimed at females often have.” We are not clear what effect the Licencing Authority expects this to make in practice? How do they expect premises who had read this sentence to behave differently from premises that had not?

Paragraph 3.6 is, as drafted, very defensive. We believe this policy statement ought to include a statement of when the BANES will use its new status as an interested party not just when you will not.

Paragraph 6.7 I; is far too prescriptive particularly in relation to the Environmental Protection Act. There are a number of situations in which noise generated by licensable activities is significantly undermining the licencing objectives but cannot be effectively dealt with by the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act for instance when the noise is regular but intermittent or the noise level is not above statutory limits but is still causing nuisance. In these situations it is necessary that the licencing authority act to support the objectives being undermined and officers and members should have the freedom under this policy to make that judgement.

Paragraph 17.2. How will the Licencing Authority encourage all the excellent things mentioned in this paragraph? For this to be meaningful, not just motherhood and apple pie, there must be some reference to mechanisms?

Paragraph 17.3. Whom does the licencing authority see as its key partners? What form will these partnerships take for instance does the policy envision formal partnering agreements and structures?

Paragraph 21.2. We see no justification for enforcement being graduated; particularly when a premise has been in business for some time there is no excuse for breaches particularly “minor” ones. Enforcement is a major issue for residents; examples of failures to comply are far too frequent suggesting premises do not respect the current enforcement policy. Enforcement resources are very limited which means warnings and cautions are often not followed up effectively.

Paragraph 21.4. What is the Authority’s policy on the level of resourcing it will provide for enforcement activities requiring the involvement of BANES officers? What is its policy on out of hour provisioning?

Paragraph 35.5. As a statement of policy this is very unclear.

Section 36 focusses primarily on harm to children on licenced premises. The policy needs to acknowledge harm potential off site for example children whose sleep is disturbed by rowdy drinkers, exposure to drugs paraphernalia, exposure to advertising in premises window and street flyers which use foul language or glorify the consumption of alcohol and drunkenness.

Section 37.1. The policy statement needs to recognise that it is often a very daunting prospect for residents to approach the proprietors of licenced premises with complains. The policy should include referring complainants to organisations that could help them in approaching proprietors, such as residents’ associations, or the licensing authority itself being more proactive in acting as a mediator.

One of the frustrations objectors often experience is that applicants make assertions about how their business will be run or promises about what they will do which the committee acknowledge has influenced their decision but which do not or cannot get turned into conditions on the licence. It would be useful if the licencing authority maintained a register of these influential assertion and promises so that at subsequent hearings the committee can get a sense of the integrity of the applicant.

Other authorities when making CCTV a condition of a licence go beyond specifying the number and siting of cameras and specify minimum technical standards that must be met.

The policy should include a commitment about how quickly applications will go up on the council’s web site.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

CCTV

CCTV is an increasingly important weapon in combating crime and disorder and in particular in the management of the night time economy.

This is particular true at a time of financial pressure on police resources and of areas not patrolled by bid rangers. The CCTV system and its associated communications networks are key to the effective and rapid deployment of limited numbers of enforcement  officers and the gathering of evidence.

The recent review of the Blue Rooms (now Zero Zero) licence demonstrated the effectiveness of CCTV in proving links between drunken disorder and particular premises something which is notoriously hard to do by any other means.

We are actively campaigning for ongoing investment in the CCTV network in Bath city centre both to improve coverage and ensure high quality imaging and tracking. CCTV is however only effective if control rooms are adequately manned and so we are also concerned about BANES funding the  availability of suitably trained operators.

We are also campaigning for greater involvement of residents in decisions about where CCTV is deployed both to improve the impact on crime and disorder  but also to allow resident's to express concerns about privacy issues that might arise at particularly sensitive sites..


Friday, 28 March 2014

The Nest's application for extended hours

These premises are, as we understand it, subject to the cumulative impact policy.

The premises are very close to a number of noise and nuisance sensitive residential premises and both we, and as we understand it the local authority, have received numerous complaints regarding noise and nuisance associated with these premises and in particular from the noisy crowds who regularly stand outside. Many people in these crowds appear to us to be drunk. On one occasion we observed someone in a group leaving these premises with a pint glass of what appeared to be lager and walk up George Street to join his friend in the crowd outside Moles which led us to further question the management of crowds and drinking at these premises.

The offer at these premises is based on vertical drinking and  music, often highly amplified.



These premises sit at the end of the George Street area. This area, until recently, was regarded as the worst area in Bath for drink fueled anti-social behavior Hard work by a number of organisations and agencies have started to turn this area around. This improvement has been achieved by encouraging more responsible proprietors and managers, more effective enforcement and much tighter better structured conditions. It would be regrettable if this progress was undermined by allowing a these premises to extend their hours of operations.

 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Planning enforcement

We have had a phone call from a local business man pointing out yet another Bath premises breaching the terms of their planning consent. On this occasion the breach concerns hours of operation. He had reported the breach to planning but their enforcement action had made little or no difference to the operation of the premises in question.

His question to us was why should he be constrained by his planning consent when competitors were ignoring theirs with seeming impunity.

We have seen this before with OPA and we warned then that the slowness of BANE's enforcement processes would encourage others to ignore the terms of their consent.

We think it is time that BANES reviewed its procedures and adopt a far more "zero tolerance" attitude to breaches of planning consents and licensing conditions.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Porter Application for Tables and Chairs on the Highway

The basis of our objection is both the risk of public nuisance and the risk to public safety.
Our objections are as follow:

Proposed hours:
The premises are located very close to a number of noise sensitive residential premises and the applicant has a poor track record on clearing tables and chairs away by the time designated in their license. We would therefore suggest an end time of 22:00.

Tables on George Street:
The usable pavement in front of these premises on George Street is extremely narrow and subject to high levels of pedestrian traffic both during the day, at night and into the early hours of the morning. The two large A board which the premises currently put in this area, we believe in breach of the council A-board policy, already cause problems at times of peak use. Tables and chairs would cause considerably more problems particularly for wheel chair and mobility scooter users.

Basement Planters:
It is a matter of considerable concern to us that these premises have decided to use the basement door a principal entry and exit point. We have observed large groups of often inebriated and distracted customers using this entrance and crowding on to the tiny area of pavement between it and the stairs from the upper pavement and the waste bins which the neighbouring premises store on the lower pavement. Crowd jostling and ill consider decisions to cross George Street often causes people to step off this small pavement area and into the road. This road is one of the major routes through Bath and is often used by emergency service vehicles travelling at high speed, traffic is often accelerating away from the blind bend junction with Gay Street and the stairs obstruct their view of people on the small area of pavement. We therefore view the suggestion that this small area should be further reduced by the addition of quite unnecessary planters as a significant issue of public safety.


In addition to the above we are advised by the Highway Authority that the lower pavement is subject section S142 of the Highways Act which makes them the licencing authority for the planting of shrubs and trees.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

WANTED – A NEW FOOTBRIDGE TO THE REC

Among  technical issues that the planning and design team for the new stadium at the Rec have addressed in recent months is the possible impact of the development on the city’s traffic and transport systems.  It seems that the main effect of the additional 4,300 supporters likely to converge on the stadium on busy match days will not be felt in the form of increased traffic congestion on city centre streets, as many might expect, but in a marked increase in pedestrian traffic in areas around the stadium.

This is because travel to and from the stadium by supporters is, and will remain, heavily biased in favour of public transport: trains, buses and park and ride.  But all supporters will end and begin their journeys as pedestrians and city centre streets, already crowded to bursting point on some match days, will come under increased pressure.  This may be a problem for the city and for visiting supporters.

Unfortunately, links to the stadium for pedestrians are poor, relying too heavily on flights of narrow, twisting stone steps leading to the river bank stadium entrances from Argyle Street and North Parade.   It is for this reason that TARA will encourage the council and Bath Rugby to work together on planning a new pedestrian bridge across the river linking the stadium with the commercial heart of the city to which many supporters are drawn during their stay
.

A new footbridge will benefit visitors, residents and businesses as well as rugby supporters and will greatly enhance our city centre.  

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Area Quality a response from the European Commission

In September we had a meeting with Julie Girling MEP to raise our concerns about the failure of the UK authorities to control pollution  in the centre of Bath. Julie agreed to raise our concerns with the European Commission by means of a Parliamentary Question.

Julie has now received an answer from the European Commission as follows:

Question for written answer E-010825/2013 to the Commission Rule 117
Julie Girling (ECR)
Subject:    Air pollution in Bath

It has been brought to my attention that air pollution (including emissions of nitrogen dioxide) in Bath has been above acceptable EU levels for some time. Current statistics give a figure of over 400 cars per hour, including coaches, in the Circus area. There is a strong concern that the issue of air quality in Bath, specifically along the A4, is not being dealt with adequately by the UK government at Member State level.

Is the Commission in contact with the UK government regarding this issue and has any commitment been made to address it?

EN E-010825/2013
Answer given by Mr Poto─Źnik on behalf of the Commission

In accordance with Directive 2008/50/EC , Member States have to ensure that the limit values for the protection of human health are complied with throughout their zones and agglomerations, subject to the exceptions laid down in Article 22 (postponement of attainment deadlines). The limit values for nitrogen dioxide are binding since 1 January 2010 and the exceptions are subject to conditions, which are assessed by the Commission under the procedure laid down in the Directive.

As regards the limit values for nitrogen dioxide, the United Kingdom Government notified its intention to postpone the deadline in a number of zones including Bath (which is included in zone 0030, South-East). By decision of 25 June 2012, the Commission raised objections as regards certain zones including the one of Bath, because the conditions for a postponement were not met. As a result, the UK authorities are under the obligation to ensure that the limit values are complied with in Bath.

Julie also obtain a response from DEFRA which gives us cause for concern as to the quality of information informing their decision making in this area.

We are having a further meeting with Julie Girling next month to discuss the answers we have received and plan the best way forward.