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Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We would like to wish all our members and friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017 and thank you for your support in 2016 which has allowed us to:

  • Fight for better provision for city residents' parking
  • Support people whose lives are blighted by party houses and licenced premises
  • Fight to get measures to reduce pollution in the city centre in the short term
  • Fight to get unauthorised trade waste dumps removed
  • Fight to get better resources and policies to reduce anti-social behaviour
  • Support people whose quality of life is being affected by building works
  • Fight for better management of major development projects in the city
  • Support people fighting to oppose planning proposals which will damage their quality of life
  • Monitor plans and proposals that will impact residents
  • Work with agencies to get better resources and policies to reduce the problem of begging and street drinking
  • Counter the arguments of organisation who want their interests placed above those of residents
  • Make representations to national politicians to get legal changes
  • Respond to local consultations to ensure city centre residents voices are heard when policy is made
  • Have routine meetings with senior politicians and senior officers to share city centre residents' concerns
  • Stop members being unfairly evicted

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The BANES parking survey

We are very disappointed with the BANES parking survey which is very poorly designed and fails to address many of the key issues. Some of the problems are:

  1. You get asked the same question irrespective of your personal circumstances or where you live or whether you are responding on behalf of an organisation this means that:
  2. Many of the questions are ambiguous and will give results which are misleading
  3. Many issues are not addressed at all for instance the question about motorcycle parking seems to assume all respondents are motorcyclist; so will fail to pick up residents' concerns about the widespread use of car parking spaces by motorcyclist in the city centre.
We think the council needs to:
  1. Withdraw the current survey
  2. Consult more widely about what data need to be collected
  3. Design and circulate a better survey


Monday, 5 December 2016

Party houses

We are once again seeing a rise in problems of noise nuisance and antisocial behaviour associated with flats and houses being let out as party venues and in particular for stag and hen dos.

We are pressing the council to review the legal advice to their planning officers in the light of Appeal Court Judgements which allow them to view this type of letting a “change of use” requiring planning permission and opening the owner to a more stringent set of fire safety regulation and potential a requirement to pay business rates.

We are also asking the police and local authority rigorously apply the provisions of the Antisocial  Behaviour, Crime and Police Act 2014.

In the longer term we are asking BANEs to look at the licensing regimes that have been put in place by other authorities to judge their success and evaluate their applicability to the situation in Bath.

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

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Pollution and Parking

Our concern is tackling pollution in the city centre which is damaging peoples health now. So we support measures which will make a difference in the short term and confront the issues of the here and now.

We strongly support the need for Park-and-Ride facilities to the east of the City. It has been part of the expensively created transport strategy for some time and indeed figured in many previous strategies. Its time to put the strategy into action.

The selected site should operate for 7 days a week until late, with secure overnight parking, to enable its use by evening visitors and those staying overnight in Bath. The public transport to and from the city centre should use low emission vehicles, and be inexpensive to use.

Our concern is pollution and its reduction in the short term. One of the factors that increases pollution in the city centre is people driving around the city seeking somewhere to park. While we applaud the plans to build more out of town parking, we also recognise that people need to and, for the foreseeable future, will want to drive their cars into the city.

We therefore believe that it is important to have better planning for what to do with vehicles coming into the city that need to park. We would therefore like to see:
  • More parking capacity in the city centre, perhaps by adding another layer above or below Charlotte Street
  • An end to giving planning consent to hotel developments which have no parking provision
  • A firm principle that parking spaces cannot be removed without a plan to provide additional capacity elsewhere
  • That on street parking should be primarily for residents' use but with clear allocation of bays that businesses can use for their customer loading and collecting
  • A proper plan for managing coaches coming into Bath and in particular putting in place deterrents against coaches that merely drive round the city's major attraction without allowing passengers to disembark 
Our research also shows that a key factor in reducing pollution from vehicles in the city centre is reducing the amount of stop start driving they do. This means removing unnecessary obstructions, for instance, reducing the number of traffic lights, and ensuring traffic lights are better coordinated to avoid the build-up of queues.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Unauthorised Trafe Waste Dumps


We are concerned about the permanent trade waste dumps which there are in the city centre. As far as we have been able to establish no one has authorised or licenced any of these dumps which are often positioned to block highways and pavements. We are particularly concerned about the dump blocking the pavement in River Street Mews, the dump at the Gay street end of George Street and the dump in Spring Gardens Road.

Trade waste bins are large and invariably cause problems. They block highways and access to premises, they are often dirty and smelly and the attract litter and vermin. They also attract and encourage other forms of waste dumping and littering.


We are told bins have to be on the streets because businesses have no room to store them on site. This argument does not go down well with flat dwelling city centre residents who are expected to find space to store their rubbish within their homes for a week. It also allows business to ignore the consequence of their own poor waste management practices. If they had to store waste on their own premises and put it out for collection outside their own premises they would be much more careful about minimising dirt, smells and ensuring their waste did not attract vermin. It also offers them little incentive to invest in technologies that might minimise storage such as cardboard compactors and glass compactors.

In addition, we understand that some these businesses gave assurances to the planning authority about storing rubbish on site which they are now failing to deliver.


Many bins are located near listed buildings and in conservation areas.

 Although they often block pavements 24 hours a day seven days a week the highways authority do not take action. Why?

They are often a smelly health hazard but environmental protection takes no effective action. Why?

 Waste dumped anywhere other than the perimeter of your premises constitutes fly tipping but waste enforcement takes no effective action. Why?


We have endeavoured on a number of occasions to engage officers in a discussion about these dumps we have also expressed our concern to the BID whose contractors collect from many of these dumps.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Notes from a walk with BANES officials looking at issues arising from proposed changes to domestic waste collection in the city centre



The walk highlighted the following:


The majority of city centre properties are divided into flats which do not have external storage, and very limited little internal storage. That any communal hallways must be kept clear due to fire safety. This limited storage capacity means fortnightly collection is not viable and indeed weekly collection may not be adequate.


City centre properties co-exist alongside businesses and tourist attractions. These streets are different to other areas of BANES and therefore need a different strategy.

That many properties are using gull sacks and other recycling boxes as permanent external “refuse bins”. Thus they are becoming permanent street furniture on Bath’s heritage streets.


Additional refuse is often left by the side of full, overflowing, soiled, filthy sacks. Many of the current Gull sacks are not taken back inside properties because passers by have filled them with organic matter, often fast food, which makes them unhygienic and unsanitary.

Discussion showed that there is no clear BANEs view of whether the priority is the recycling targets or clean vermin free streets.

The trials conducted with gull proof bags in the city have demonstrated that the system does not work well. Our visit to the BNES “flagship” pilot street – New King street showed the pilot to be an unmitigated disaster despite the resources that have been devoted to making it a "proof of concept".

We have be led to understand that the new proposals mean that rubbish left outside properties in containers other than gull proof bags or recycling boxes will not be collected by the waste collection contractors. We are unclear what happens to waste, which may have nothing to do with the occupants of the property involved, that isn’t placed in a gull sack. Does it just get left indefinitely?








Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Notes on CCTV

A note prepared as preparation for our attendance at a meeting of key agencies and stakeholders to discuss the state of CCTV in the city.

What we want:

·         A clear method for proposing and getting approval for new CCTV cameras or indeed getting existing cameras moved
Why we want it:

·         The rise of anti-social behaviour and drug dealing on the periphery of the existing network

·         The cut backs in police numbers which mean that police activity is increasingly report driven

·         The poor quality of other reporting systems

·         To combat fear of crime

The financing issues:

·         BANES commercialisation programme is not delivering investment where it is needed or as quickly as it is needed

·         The police contribute little or nothing

·         Residents and businesses will not fundraise or sponsor without:

o   Getting a say in how the network is managed

o   Getting a convincing explanation about why the police don’t contribute

o   Without public bodies taking responsibility for ongoing costs

The PCC statement on CCTV financing:

·         Appears to suggest that the police regard CCTV as a “nice to have” while officers on the ground, and common observation, say it is increasing essential.

·         It does not explain how she is planning to address residents’ concerns without CCTV

Other issues:

·         Links to other networks and, in particular, Network Rail

·         Lack of control over quality of premises installations

What we want from the meeting:

·         Agreement to carry on the discussion about these issues and escalate them to involve the PCC directly – Ben Howlett has offered his commitment

·         A clear commitment to address our concerns

Monday, 31 October 2016

Building projects in the city centre

The issues which have been raised by residents living near the new hotel being created in South Parade include:
  • 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
  • Completion timescale being grossly overrun
  • Site traffic management
  • Lack of information
All these need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and we are pleased that our local MP has committed to making that happen. However, this situation 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.

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.

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.










Comment on the Planning Application at 4 Edgar Buildings




THE PROPOSAL


The applicant seeks to extend an existing cocktail bar, Sub 13, currently occupying the basement of 4 Edgar Buildings to the ground floor above and requests a change of use from A2 to A4 in order to achieve this.  Existing offices on the first floor would be retained as would apartments on the second and third floors.  The combined complex would have a new entrance from the street shared with offices and flats above.  The proposal would double the number of staff, and presumably also of customers, to be accommodated at the premises. 

The scheme would essentially eliminate one of two existing levels, the ground floor, which currently act as a buffer limiting the impact of any noise and disturbance in the basement on residential levels at the second and third floors.  The applicant proposes various measures, both internal and external, to mitigate this impact and an acoustic analysis is provided in supporting documentation describing these measures.

COUNCIL POLICY AND CONTEXT

The applicant cites current council policy in support of the application as well as pre-application advice provided by officers (16/00442/PREAPP).  This states, inter alia, ‘The change of use to a drinking establishment would be acceptable in principle under current policy.  Considering the context of the site it is my view that the proposed change of use would not be harmful to the character of the Conservation Area or the vitality or viability of the centre.  It is my view that there is not an over concentration of A4 uses in this locality and the proposed change of use would support vitality and viability by attracting more people to the area.’

Unsurprisingly the applicant was ‘particularly heartened’ by these comments.  Residents in the George Street area are likely to be less enthusiastic.  The applicant does not refer to the potential impact of his proposal on an area already stressed by excessive noise, violence and drunkenness associated with the night time economy.  Nor does he acknowledge that, in addition to licensed premises, George Street contains offices, an hotel, numerous other businesses and many residents, some of long standing, most of them in flats above commercial premises including 4 Edgar Buildings.  A study carried out in 2014 by the two local residents associations, TARA and The Circus Area Residents Association (1) highlighted the existence of 14 licensed premises in the 300 meter stretch of George Street in which Edgar Buildings is situated, a concentration unmatched anywhere else in Bath.  This comparatively small area has long been known in Bath for high levels of noise, disturbance and crime associated with the night time economy all of which adversely affect the amenity of local residents and visitors alike.  Problems reported by residents include fights and assaults (28% of recorded violent crimes between April 2012 and February 2013 in Bath took place in the George Street area), littering, public drug taking and urinating, shouting and obscene language, threats of violence and damage to property.  38 reportable offences were committed during August 2016 including six violent and/or sexual offences.  The Council’s Cumulative Impact Policy, introduced in Guidance to the Licensing Act 2003,  while acknowledging these problems and the widespread demand for public action that resulted from them, has done nothing to limit the number of licenses premises in the area or their hours of operation.

CONCLUSION

The applicant claims there is nothing in council policy to prevent the granting of further A4 consents in this locality. The council does, however, have  various Retained Policies from the 2007 Local Plan which do place upon it an obligation to consider any potential adverse impact on local residents, and others,  where such applications are being considered.  These include policies D2f and S6, which is cited in support of the application, but which states ‘Proposals for A3, A4 and A5 uses within and adjoining the city centre…will be permitted provided that (either singly or cumulatively with other similar existing uses) they preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the relevant part of the Conservation Area and do not have an unacceptable impact on the retail viability and vitality of the area or the amenity of local residents.’

If there is anywhere in Bath where such policies have relevance and should be routinely implemented it is in the George Street area.  Compared with peer cities such as York and Chester Bath is exceptional in the proportion of its citizens who choose to live in the city centre.  This contributes to the character of the city, to its economy and to its reputation for being a friendly, busy and engaging place to visit and in which to live.  If the legitimate concerns of residents are ignored they will leave the city centre, the fragile balance of interests there will unravel, and the city will pay the price. 

While we support the night time economy we conclude that it would be consistent with council policy to REFUSE this application and request that this action be taken.

(1)   The Impact of the Night Time Economy in the George Street Area.  A Joint Report by CARA and TARA

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Rough sleepers, beggars and street drinkers


City centre issues involving rough sleepers, beggars and street drinkers have worsened over the last year. Key issues have included the leisure centre camp, rough sleeping in Milson Street and more recently, Kingsmead Square. We have seen an increase in Anti-Social Behaviour and criminal offences. The police have taken some action to tackle these issues however everybody agrees that the solutions require us to go much wider than a policing activities.


In addressing this issue, it is important to be clear that not all or even most of the people involved are homeless it is also necessary to differentiate between people who are in distress and those who are merely criminal particularly in relation to aggressive begging. It is also important to recognise the fear that the behaviour of some of this community generate in vulnerable residents and visitors.

We have now attended two meetings with key agencies to discuss how to address the complex issues surrounding this community.

Partly as a result of these meeting police have been running operations making use of relatively new powers against anti-social behaviour and will run other operations including some aimed at addressing the problem of professional begging.

There is an ongoing programme of outreach work seeking to meet the accommodation problems of this community and the problems of untreated mental illness, addiction and substance abuse which often underpin them. This work has been consistently reducing rough sleeping in Bath against the general trend elsewhere. This work is designed to understand, engage with and challenge individuals.     

There are currently 25 rough sleepers in Bath, this has been consistent over last 3-4 months.

The multi-agency meetings we have been involved in have reviewed the work the Bristol Streetwise Project. This is a joint project between Bristol City Council and the Police Anti-social Behaviour Team and it is their full-time role to engage with individuals, guiding them towards the appropriate pathways.

In Bath the intention is to create our own version of Streetwise, using monthly multi-agency Task & Targeting meetings and grading problematic individuals by their impact on residents and businesses. Agencies will refer individuals to the meeting were their case can be discussed with the group members and actions agreed. This process will coordinate urgent action to prevent further nuisance from the highest risk individuals and look at longer term preventative and early intervention work for the rest.

We have welcomed this initiative but would like BANEs to look at appointing someone to hold overall responsibility for this process and highlight what is working well and what needs to change.

We were concerned to learn that the Police and Crime Commissioner has revealed a potential reduction in the community safety grant.

 We believe there is also a need to reinvigorate the Kindness can Kill campaign to stop well intentioned tourists from fuelling the problem by giving money to individuals who will often use the money to feed their adictions.


Friday, 14 October 2016

An insight into the BANES planning department

In reviewing an application to change the use of a premises in Edgar Buildings from its current use as an Estate Agency to a late night bar we came across the following astonishing pre-application advice from a BANEs planning officer from which we quote verbatim:

'The change of use to a drinking establishment would be acceptable in principle under current policy.  Considering the context of this site it is my view that the proposed change of use would not be harmful to the character of the Conservation Area or the vitality or viability of the centre  It is my view that there is not an over concentration of A4 uses in this locality and the proposed change of use would support vitality and viability by attracting more people to the area.'

A4 use is planning jargon for Drinking establishments - Public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments.


George street has the largest concentration of drinking establishment in BANES and BANES recognise this by including it in the area covered by the cumulative impact zone. The George Street area regularly tops the police statistic for alcohol fuelled disorder.

Our questions would be:

  • Who is this person?
  • Have they ever been to George Street?
  • Have they ever been to Bath?
  • How do you get a job in planning and know this little about the major city in your area?

.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Last night's fresher's pub crawl

The event organised in Bath last night by the national organisation the Big Bar Crawl was large and badly supervised.

The event created much mess and disturbance and too many young people appeared to get drunk.

We have ask the Licensing Authority to look into this event and the premises involved.

Application for change of use 3 - 4 Bath Street


In summary we ask that the application be REFUSED.

The applicant seeks approval for a change of use at these premises in Bath Street currently occupied by a bank from A2 to A3 (restaurant).

Though a lateral extension of Bath’s principal north-south shopping street Bath Street is, in itself, a quiet residential street with several flats in Bibury Lane immediately adjacent to the premises, Arlington House, an apartment building providing accommodation for thirty three households immediately across the street and St John’s Hospital, an historic complex accommodating mainly elderly residents beyond the Cross Bath to the west.  It is also, by common consent, one of Bath’s outstanding examples of excellence in urban planning and design.  Commercial premises with active frontages are limited to two banks on the south side of the street following normal banking hours.

It would be entirely inappropriate, in our view, to introduce into this sensitive and relatively pristine environment a restaurant with all its potential for noise and disturbance late into the night and early in the morning.

Council Policy

Although the applicant does seek to justify a change of use to A3 in this location in the context of council, and national, policy he does not refer to the council’s obligation to consider the impact on the amenity of local residents in considering such changes, neither has he informed or consulted residents we have spoken to who live in the immediate area.  The council has various Retained Policies from the 2007 Local Plan which do address such concerns where planning applications are being considered.  These include Policies S6, S7 and D2f which states: ‘Development will only be permitted if it will not cause significant harm to the amenities of existing or proposed occupiers of, or visitors to, residential or other sensitive premises by reason of loss of light or increased overlooking, noise, smell, traffic or other disturbances’.

Conclusion

We conclude that it would be consistent with council policy to refuse this application.

However, should the council be minded to grant consent for a change of use we ask that conditions be imposed on any subsequent development that would provide that the premises may not come into use until proposals have been submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority in at least the following areas

Ventilation, including the elimination of cooking smells.

The storage of waste, especially bottles, within the premises and the disposal of waste in a manner which is not harmful to local residents.

Use of the pavement for tables and chairs to be prevented.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Bath Universities and Residents

Bath's Universities are an important part of Bath's economy.

The students they attract are a significate and, for the most part welcome, part of our community and student organisations go to some effort to liaise with and reach out to the non-student population.

However, the Universities themselves have a much less good record when it comes to reaching out to the residents of our city, hearing our concerns and consulting with us about their plans for growth and development,

We are seeing a marked increase in student accommodation in the city centre but have little consistent and authoritive information about plans for future growth from either the Universities themselves or BANES.

Many other University towns have developed a town vs gown culture which is damaging to both parties. We are anxious that this should not become the case in Bath but a cursory glance at online message boards and social media show that the early symptoms are already there.

We believe it is important that BANEs our local MP and the Universities themselves start to take this issue more seriously and engage in creating and consulting on a plan for managing the situation.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Motorcycle parking in the City Centre

There are dedicated parking spaces for motorcycles in the city centre. Despite this more and more spaces design for motor cars are now taken up by motor cyclists. We have even observed motorcycles parked on pavements which on Bath's busy streets seems to be inviting accidents.

The situation is made worse by the fact that as we understand it, and the BANEs website confirms, there is NO CHARGE levied on motorcycles occupying on street parking slots. Why not?

Not only do motorcyclist use their privileged position to use up more and more of the city's limited on street parking places, often taking up a space designed to accommodate a car or van with just one motorcycle, but some of them put covers on their bikes and leave them for days, weeks and even months.

We have raised this issue with BANEs council and await some action.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Lords Committee on Licensing Act 2003 a response to call for evidence


Licensing objectives

1. Are the existing four licensing objectives the right ones for licensing authorities to promote? Should the protection of health and wellbeing be an additional objective?

While the existing objectives are fine as far as they go they do not allow a proper consideration of the impact that granting a licencing application may have on the quality of life in the neighbourhood.

They also fail to address questions of cumulative impact. Cumulative impact takes two forms:

·         Introducing new premises into areas that already have a number of licenced venues. Banes council who struggle with balancing the large number of people who live and stay in the city centre with the demands of the night time economy have had to create the rather contrived mechanism of a local cumulative impact policy and cumulative impact zone. This should be addressed within the objectives of the licensing Acts.

·         Mission creep by applicants. A typical example was two residential houses in a purely residential neighbourhood being bought and converted into a B&B. The owners then applied for an alcohol licence offering many reassurances and conditions to limit the sale of alcohol to in-house residents. Successive applications have by small steps extended this to having a bar open to the public, vertical drinking, an outdoor drinking area of some size and off sales.

2. Should the policies of licensing authorities do more to facilitate the enjoyment by the public of all licensable activities? Should access to and enjoyment of licensable activities by the public, including community activities, be an additional licensing objective? Should there be any other additional objectives? The balance between rights and responsibilities.

The enjoyment by the public of all licensable activities has not been an issue

3. Has the Live Music Act 2012 done enough to relax the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 where they imposed unnecessarily strict requirements? Are the introductions of late night levies and Early Morning Restriction Orders effective, and if not, what alternatives are there? Does the Licensing Act now achieve the right balance between the rights of those who wish to sell alcohol and provide entertainment and the rights of those who wish to object?

The issue with the Live Music Act 2012 was that it was a one size fits all deregulation regime which allows little discretion for local authorities to adapt its provisions to local situations. In situations where people live near licenced premises, this Act has left them defenceless in the face of premises exploiting the opportunities the Act creates for boosting their commercial offer. The limitations imposed by the act are hard and expensive to police, who will go and count how many people are in a crowded pub, and the legislation on noise nuisance is often inadequate to deal with the real world situations that arise.

It is perhaps worth noting at this point that licensing reviews have proved to be largely useless in practice for defending the rights of residents and indeed other businesses. It is a little disturbing that your question talks about “those who wish to object” rather that those who live and work in affected areas.

4. Do all the responsible authorities (such as Planning, and Health & Safety), who all have other regulatory powers, engage effectively in the licensing regime, and if not, what could be done? Do other stakeholders, including local communities, engage effectively in the licensing regime, and if not, what could be done?

If you take an area like Bath you will find that most licenced premises are or have been in a position where there planning conditions are in conflict with their licensing conditions. The artificial barriers created by the legislation between planning and licensing should be removed. This would allow both planning and licensing authorities to hear and consider all the evidence of the impact or potential impact that a premises will have on its environment.

Similarly, the constraint on licencing authorities not to impose conditions on things which are subject to other legislative regimes should be removed allowing the licencing authority to effectively coordinate the work of all agencies in relation to licenced premises.

Licensing and local strategy

5. Licensing is only one part of the strategy that local government has to shape its communities. The Government states that the Act “is being used effectively in conjunction with other interventions as part of a coherent national and local strategy.” Do you agree?

No the see 1 & 4 above

6. Should licensing policy and planning policy be integrated more closely to shape local areas and address the proliferation of licensed premises? How could it be done?

Yes, see 4 above

Crime, disorder and public safety

7. Are the subsequent amendments made by policing legislation achieving their objects? Do they give the police the powers they need to prevent crime and disorder and promote the licensing objectives generally? Are police adequately trained to use their powers effectively and appropriately?

The new policing legislation has certainly created improvements and had given officers far more options which they seem keen to exploit. However, it is still early days.

The new legislation still leaves gaps the most obvious example being the lack of any effective control over “Party Houses” which can cause endless misery for their neighbours and blight communities.

8. Should sales of alcohol airside at international airports continue to be exempt from the application of the Act? Should sales on other forms of transport continue to be exempt?

No comment

Licensing procedure

9. The Act was intended to simplify licensing procedure; instead, it has become increasingly complex. What could be done to simplify the procedure?

Give licensing authorities more discretion to create or adapt the procedure to reflect local conditions and the nature of applications they are receiving.

10. What could be done to improve the appeal procedure, including listing and costs? Should appeal decisions be reported to promote consistency? Is there a case for a further appeal to the Crown Court? Is there a role for formal mediation in the appeal process? Sale of alcohol for consumption at home (the off-trade)

We have an example in Bath of a premises which used the appeal process to resist decisions of the licencing authority, and the planning authority, for 10 years. This is unacceptable and led to housing units actually being vacated because the premises involved made living in them intolerable. None of the substantive appeal issues was upheld and the premises could legally trade in defiance of the local authority’s decisions.

The fear of the cost of being appealed is clearly having an influence on licencing committee decisions and the way in which they are being implemented. Local residents are often effectively locked out of the appeals processes. The idea of formal mediation would certainly be worth considering as a way of addressing this.

11. Given the increase in off-trade sales, including online sales, is there a case for reform of the licensing regime applying to the off-trade? How effectively does the regime control supermarkets and large retailers, under-age sales, and delivery services? Should the law be amended to allow licensing authorities more specific control over off-trade sales of “super-strength” alcohol?

Licenced premises regularly report pre-loading and the smuggling of alcohol into their premises as a major factor impacting their ability to control drink fuel disorder and trade profitably.

Retailers, in particular, the major supermarkets often promote cheap drink offers and create products which in practice make drink smuggling easier.

Under the current legislation it is virtually impossible to object to a new off-licence even where it is in close proximity to numbers of licenced venues and areas know for high levels of drink-fuelled disorder – see attached exchange with Banes licensing department.

12. Should alcohol pricing and taxation be used as a form of control, and if so, how? Should the Government introduce minimum unit pricing in England? Does the evidence that MUP would be effective need to be “conclusive” before MUP could be introduced, or can the effect of MUP be gauged only after its introduction?

No comment

Fees and costs associated with the Licensing Act 2003

13. Do licence fees need to be set at national level? Should London, and the other major cities to which the Government proposes to devolve greater powers, have the power to set their own licence fees?

No comment

International comparisons

14. Is there a correlation between the strictness of the regulatory regime in other countries and the level of alcohol abuse? Are there aspects of the licensing laws of other countries, and other UK jurisdictions, that might usefully be considered for England and Wales?

No comment

15. Additional comments

Consideration should be given to giving licenses to applicants rather than premises. Applications and conditions which may give little cause for concern by one applicant may be inappropriate if the premises are sold to a different operator with a different business model. Also because licences have a commercial value there are numerous examples of applicants asking for hours they do not intend to use because they will add value to the building when it is sold.

Where applicants make assertions before licencing committees which are clearly influential in the decision to grant or are intended to be influential these assertions can often not be turned into conditions for a variety of largely technical reasons. In these cases, the assertions themselves should be recorded and be made available at subsequent applications or reviews.

The assumption to grant built into the 2003 Act was justified on the basis that the review procedure would be a powerful tool in correcting any mistakes. In practice, this has proved not to be the case. Licencing Committees who might have been quite comfortable with refusing a new application are very reluctant to close premises that are already operational and providing employment. The review procedure is also complex and difficult for ordinary residents to use. An example of the reluctance to withdraw licences can be seen BANEs with the outcome of a review on a nightclub where undercover police had been sold class a drugs on numerous occasions by a drugs operation that involved the premises management and the committee was shown some 15 minutes of CCTV footage of customers coming out of the building so drunk they were unable to stand, customers vomiting and defecating outside the premises, customers fighting, customers trying drunkenly to force entry into neighbouring premises. While conditions were imposed the premises were allowed to continue their operations uninterrupted.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Improving Enforcement in the public realm - a suggested approach


The suggestion is that a group be set up to produce a Task and Finish report on Enforcement in our city.

This should be addressed in 4 parts.

1. A review of all the current public realm enforcement regulations and penalties and establish what the current policy is towards their implementation and what enforcement activity has been conducted over the last 5 years.

2. Seek legal advice about whether new legislation could be used to create more enforcement options. Some of these options may require formal consultations before they can be used and at this stage it might be necessary to undertake some informal consultations to establish likely public responses.

3. Assess available resources that are or might be made available to improve reporting and enforcement. This would include:

•             Staff in BANEs, officers both police authorities, residents, businesses, the BID and other agencies who are active on the streets

•             Technology such as the CCTV network, personal CCTV, radio networks, text reporting and personal phone apps 

4. Preparation of a detailed report and a list of recommendations for the Council to consider and approve in order to implement an improved enforcement regime for our city. This would have the aim of improving the quality of life for all those who live, work and visit our city.

Planning application relating to GARFUNKELS, ORANGE GROVE


In summary we ask that the application be REFUSED or a DECISION DEFERRED until matters of concern to local residents are adequately addressed.

Consultation, Information and Objection

The premises occupy a part of the ground floor of the Empire, a Grade II listed apartment building, formerly a hotel, which is home to forty-three households most of whose members are elderly.  Some of the apartments are immediately above the premises which are the subject of this application.  An application for change of use to A3/A4 where a family restaurant is to be replaced by a ‘gastropub’ can, of course, lead to a considerable increase in disturbance from drinkers particularly where, as is the case here, there are likely to be higher numbers of customers and outside drinking areas are planned.

While the applicant has taken the trouble to present his proposals to Empire residents he does not appear to have responded to their concerns.  Existing parasols and an enclosed conservatory which have afforded some protection to residents until now are to be removed and replaced by open verandas along the south elevation of the building where diners and drinkers can gather immediately below the apartments.  To address this problem, the applicant proposes reinforced canvas awnings.  However, from the drawings available (unfortunately sections through the verandas are incomplete) these awnings do not appear to cover the full width or depth of all the verandas.  The applicant cites, in para 3 of the Design and Access Statement, ‘an acoustic analysis…that shows that the proposed open veranda arrangement will have no more detrimental acoustic effect than the current conservatory bearing in mind the ambient sound of Orange Grove’.  The existing parasols are not referred to in this context and the acoustic analysis is not included among available documents.

Council Policy

The applicant does not seek to justify a change of use to A3/A4 in this sensitive location; he has not dealt satisfactorily with local residents concerns over amenity, nor does he discuss the application in the context of council policy.  The council has various Retained Policies from the 2007 Local Plan which do address such concerns where planning applications are being considered.  These include Policies S6, S7 and D2f which states: ‘Development will only be permitted if it will not cause significant harm to the amenities of existing or proposed occupiers of, or visitors to, residential or other sensitive premises by reason of loss of light or increased overlooking, noise, smell, traffic or other disturbances’.
Conclusion


We conclude that it would be consistent with council policy to refuse or defer a decision on this application until the applicant is able to reassure local residents on issues of amenity.  This could be done by fully enclosing the verandas, thus treating them as conservatories, or by enlarging the awnings to ensure that the verandas are fully covered above and to the sides.  In any event the applicant needs to show in an acoustic and environmental analysis that the measures taken will ensure that noise and disturbance from diners and drinkers, and the nuisance caused by cigarette smoking, will be no worse than at present.

However, should the council be minded to grant consent on the basis of the application as presented we ask that a condition be imposed which would require the clearance of the verandas, except for arriving and departing customers, and the cessation of consumption of food and alcohol from 10.00 pm nightly.

Finally, although the applicant makes no reference in available documents to changes to current arrangements for cooking, ventilation, storage and removal of waste, etc, we ask that an additional condition be imposed that would provide that the premises may not come into use until proposals for ventilation including the elimination of cooking smells and for the storage and disposal of waste, especially bottles, have been submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority.






Monday, 8 August 2016

Some thoughts on managing coach drop off in the City Centre


There is no light bulb solution to this problem.  Cities that attract large numbers of tourists to their historic centres find themselves trying to reconcile conflicting needs.  Tour operators who are on a tight schedule (the average stay-over for coach borne tourists in Bath is said to be 90 minutes) want to get their customers into the popular locations and out again with as little fuss as possible. Then it is on to Stonehenge and Longleat.  Cities on the other hand, and particularly residents who live in the historic core, want to reduce as far as possible the nuisance associated with tourist coaches such as congestion and in particular harmful emissions.


The standard model to which many cities aspire would have visitors dropped off at designated points as close as possible to the central zone and picked up again at pre-arranged times as coaches return from dedicated parking areas further out.  This model has obvious failings.  Each bus makes two visits to the city centre thus disrupting operators' schedules and increasing congestion.


An obvious improvement would be in effect a park and ride system for coaches.  All coaches park outside the centre in dedicated parking areas and shuttles carry visitors into and out of the centre.  The electric 'petit trains' and shuttles operated by such French cities as Montpelier, Nimes and Toulouse which are 'themed' as part of the visitor experience and provide direct access even to traffic-free streets could easily be adapted for this purpose.  Of, there would be numerous problems associated with trying this in Bath including the usual issues of land, routes and resources.  Perhaps the river could be brought into use. It is vital that BANEs get specialist advice on addressing this issue sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

TARA comments on proposals for the World Heritage Centre and Roman Bath's Learning Centre

TARA is happy to lend its SUPPORT to proposals for the World Heritage Centre and Roman Bath Learning Centre at York Street.

It is true that visitor attractions in the city centre can cause problems for local residents including increased pressure on limited parking resources and the impact on air quality of slow moving tourist buses.  We recognize, however, that as a World Heritage City Bath has an obligation to protect and enhance its historic sites and make them available to public view.  In addition, tourists and visitors provide irreplaceable support to the local economy particularly to the hotel and retail sectors in the city centre from which local residents benefit.

TARA members have been fortunate in being able to follow the development of this scheme from its early stages.  We believe that the proposals represent an ingenious and well thought through response to a challenging brief and complex site which will provide a welcome addition to the city’s array of cultural and historic treasures without adding significantly to the city centre’s existing problems.

However, given access constraints and lack of obvious availability of areas for storage close to the site there will be concerns among residents over management of the construction stage We therefor endorse the request by the Highway Officer in comments posted July 18th 2016 for prior approval by the council of a comprehensive Construction Management Plan should it be minded to grant consent.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Comments on the proposed development of the Colonnades


The current application revises proposals previously submitted by the applicant in July 2014 on which TARA commented in July and October of that year. This application was refused in committee and there was no appeal. TARA has consistently supported the aim of bringing the Colonnades into public use and finding a suitable role for the vaults below Grand Parade. We welcome many of the changes now introduced including in particular the removal of the north and south kiosks on Grand Parade and the undertaking, in most though not all supporting documents, that access to the Colonnades will be available to the public at least during the hours that Parade Gardens are open. We have no objection to the changes of use proposed and applaud the inclusion of D1 (museum) as an adjunct or alternative to the original A3 proposal.


It is therefore with regret that we must ask that a decision on the application be DEFERRED until matters of concern to local residents, particularly those living at the Empire, an apartment complex on Grand Parade immediately above the Colonnades, are adequately dealt with. Notwithstanding comments made in the Statement on Community Involvement there has been very limited consultation on the current application and as things stand residents still have unresolved concerns about various detailed design issues as well as operational matters particularly in relation to service access and the role of Boat Stall Lane.


Issues of servicing and the use of Boat Stall Lane and the Guildhall car park illustrate a weakness of this as of many such ‘shell and core’ applications where crucial details of interest to the surrounding community are lacking. Servicing of the proposed restaurant and/or museum complex is to be via a single lift on the corner of Grand Parade which is also to accommodate such visitors and customers as choose to, or have to, use it. The contribution of Boat Stall Lane to this regime is, as it has always been, unclear. In documents supporting the application the Transport and Parking Statement claims that ‘no vehicular access to the undercroft area is proposed’ but also that ‘goods and items that are too large for the lift can be brought down Boat Stall Lane’, two statements that appear to be in conflict.


In the Statement of Community Involvement where issues arising from consultation on the 2014 application are discussed the following comment is made in relation to Deliveries and Waste Collection: ‘Particular concern was raised about using Boat Stall Lane and the impact this might have on the East Gate. In response to this consultation the (current) design includes a lift to service the restaurant and dedicated waste storage areas within the restaurant premises.’ We have taken this to mean that the use of Boat Stall Lane for servicing the complex is not intended. However, where consultation with stakeholders on the current application is described the statement is made that: ‘The use of Boat Stall Lane is undecided and will be a decision of the chosen operator.’


The Planning and Heritage Statement claims that: ‘Waste will be stored within dedicated waste and recycling spaces below ground and will be transported up to street level via the proposed lift or on rubber wheeled vehicles up Boat Stall Lane for collection in accordance with a Waste Management Plan.’


Regrettably, there is no Waste Management Plan in supporting documentation. Whatever is actually intended it is by no means clear that the use of Boat Stall Lane as a servicing route is practical at all. During the consultation phase following the 2014 application numerous objections to the use of Boat Stall Lane were put forward, some by local residents and ourselves and others by the design team itself


Width restrictions on the Brydon Archway and on the manoeuvring of large public service vehicles within the Guildhall car park

Conflicts over the use of the Courtyard as a public car park

Access to the Empire basement car park

The historic status, gradient and optimum surface for Boat Stall Lane and the way its use for refuse removal and major deliveries could impinge on the amenities of Empire residents

The lack of a turning and manoeuvring area at the foot of Boat Stall Lane

Lack of parking/storage area for the ‘rubber wheeled electric vehicles’ at various times proposed


In our view the current application, rather than leaving the matter unclear and unresolved or subject to ‘decisions by future applicants’ should state clearly and consistently how servicing of the complex will work under various alternative scenarios and the role envisaged for Boat Stall Lane. It is not acceptable that such fundamental issues of feasibility, practicality and potential impact on local residents should be addressed in conditions attached to the present application (on which the council has stated it will be unwilling to consult with third parties) or deferred until applications by future operators are under consideration. The planning and design team has commendably gone to considerable lengths to obtain specialist advice on such diverse matters as traffic and transport, drainage, ventilation and noise attenuation, bat welfare and flood risk. It ought to have been possible to obtain the services of a specialist consultant to advise whether servicing arrangements for the proposed complex are workable and the role, if any, of Boat Stall Lane in these arrangements.


The current ‘shell and core’ application has, by its nature, only limited relevance to other ‘downstream’ operational matters such as lighting, hours of operation, attenuation of noise and kitchen smells and management of the construction process and residents have no means of judging the extent to which any consent based on the current application will commit future applicants to acceptable standards. The officers’ report to committee on the 2014 application did recommend twenty five conditions covering these and other areas but it is no clearer now than it was then whether the local community will be consulted on the likely scope of such conditions, what standards will be mandated, if any, whether future applicants will be bound by them or whether residents views will be sought when applicants seek to have conditions discharged. It is for these reasons that we ask that a decision on the application be DEFERRED until these matters are clarified. However, should the council be minded to grant consent under the current circumstances we ask that conditions be imposed which will ensure that no development can take place until this applicant, and any subsequent applicants, are committed to workable and satisfactory proposals in at least the following areas and that residents have an opportunity to consult on such conditions


Waste management

Management of service access and storage

Hours of operation

Other management issues including noise attenuation and removal of kitchen smells

Buildability and management of the construction process.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Response to the PPC's YOUR POLICING PRIORITIES CONSULTATION


We broadly agree with the PCC’s vision and priorities.

However, we think her plan needs to be much clearer about what is meant by vulnerability and how competing vulnerabilities will be addressed.

We agree that strengthening and improving your local policing teams should be a priority but would observe that almost all the changes brought in by the PCC since the role was created have weakened local policing teams and connections between police and the communities they serve.

We agree that ensuring Avon and Somerset Constabulary have the right people, right equipment and right culture should be a priority but would note that while CCTV is increasingly important in effective policing Avon and Somerset invest little or nothing on the network.

We agree that working together effectively should be a priority but note that there is little coordination or pooling of funding over things like CCTV and that while the PCC took control of a number of BANES budgets including public protection there is little sign that this money has been spent in improving policing or public safety in BANES.

Friday, 15 July 2016

A reaction to planned changes to rubbish collection arrangements


The current proposals are in our view a "one size fits all approach" which completely ignores the practical realities of the situation in the city centre.
Gulls don't attack bags that have no food in them.

There is a real risk of gull proof bags being permanently left outside city centre houses particularly where there are several flats. They will then become outside rubbish bins with less incentive to separate food waste as gulls won't attack them.

Because residents work many gull proof bags will, as a matter of course, be left outside on pavements for many hours and in the city centre this means they will be moved or taken.

Given that, many city residents live in flats with very limited storage space the council’s ideas about recycling and storage are impractical, particularly if residents have to store two weeks’ worth.

Most of the rubbish and unsightly pavement blocking rubbish dumps, and in particular most of the food waste is created by businesses and not residents.



Commercial waste left overnight
seven days a week


We would suggest that instead of creating more problems for residents the council should focus on addressing the issues of rubbish created by businesses and street sleepers and drinkers.

Rather than exacerbating residents problems by moving to fortnightly collection we would suggest they talk to commercial waste contractors about creating a daily collection in the city centre.
A permenant commercial waste dump
showing detail
A permanent commercial waste dump 

City of Bath World Heritage Site Management Plan 2016-22 Consultation Draft A Response by TARA





There is much in this document which we would support but it is unclear how its conclusions and actions will be implemented.


Priorities


We would like to propose two additional priorities:

1.       Pollution and air quality – current levels of pollution exceed WHO guidelines in several areas. Pollution impacts the health, comfort of both residents and visitors and damages the history structures which caused the city to be selected as a WHS.

2.       Protecting communities - Bath is unique in the number of people who choose to live in the city centre and in the social and economic diversity of those who live there. Your own report talks about Bath as a thriving 21st-century community. Venice demonstrates what happens if a WHS loses its community structures.

Actions


Managing Development

It will be very important to have proper coordination of the many major, and some of the minor, development projects to avoid disruption and damage to the WHS in the short to medium time and to minimise costs.

Transport

The action “Monitor & engage with the delivery of the Transport Strategy (2014) objectives in so far as they relate to the WHS & seek to ensure that they have no unacceptable impact on the OUV of the WHS & its setting” begs the question who will decide on acceptability and what criteria will they use.

It is not clear why cycling has been pulled out of the Transport Strategies and accorded special consideration ahead of other issues such as parking. The assumption seems to be that cycling has an entirely positive impact on the city a contention that many residents would dispute.

Public Realm

There are a number of issues impacting the public realm which do not get mentioned here including street drinking, street living, busking, begging and litter.

In addition, the quality of public realm infrastructure, particularly in the city centre, continues to fall way below the standard achieved by many peer cities which do not have the benefit of World Heritage Site status.  Funding of the city’s own Public Realm and Movement Strategy, which would have remedied many of these deficiencies, has ceased after a promising start and should be restored.

Other observations


The stakeholders in the WHS referenced in this report and the list of those to be used in initiating actions seems to have been selected from a rather narrow pool which may well reflect the situation at the time the last plan was prepared.

There is a need to create an effective database both of the assets of the WHS in terms of historical and archaeological records and artefacts but also the key stakeholders and gatekeepers who need to be engaged if the objectives of this plan are to be realised.