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Friday, 2 November 2018

The CAZ


For years now politicians of all stamps have done little or nothing to stop people in Bath being poisoned. Now that we finally have a well-researched plan it is really important that our local politicians don’t play politics with it but implement it.
The plan has been consulted on for months now and certainly, all politicians and major pressure groups have had many months to make points and raise concerns and suggestions. It is a complex issue and there will always be room for disagreement about issues such as boundaries, business impact and the need for exceptions and mitigations to protect the vulnerable but those have been extensively debated and the plan has undoubtedly evolved in response. However, too often in BANES perfect is made the enemy of good to serve political ends and we are concerned that this does not happen here,
No of the main political parties can claim credit for the progress now being made all of them have effectively ignored this issue until the courts intervened. That why we now need action.

Finally, we would ask everyone to remember that this project is about reducing pollution sooner rather than later it is not about traffic management or congestion. This is particularly important when discussing the charging regime which is still too often referred to as a congestion charge rather than what it is a levy on polluting vehicles.

If your vehicle has low emissions you will not pay.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

BANES officers acting without proper process

We have seen two worrying example of BANES officers ignoring or circumventing licencing procedures and effectively denying residents the right to have their views heard and properly considered.

Highways officers have approved the obstruction of the pavement on George Street without using the licencing procedures which would have given residents and local businesses the right to have the concerns heard. More concerning still it took the use of the Freedom of Information Act to get them to tell us and elected members what they had done.

A recent application for a street trading licence was granted by officers before the end of the statutory consultation period. This caused considerable stress to the applicant and put the licensing committee in the invidious position of risking looking as if a decision to grant was influenced more by the need to mitigate the distress caused than the merits of the application or the objections before them.

These examples are concerning in their own right but lead us to worry whether how many examples have remained undiscovered and what this all says about officers attitudes to democratic accountability.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Application for a fast food stall on Grand Parade


The council’s street trading policy has a number of goals most of which this application appears to frustrate:




Complements premises-based trading

There are a number of outlets in this area which are providing the food being offered by this applicant on both an eat in and take out basis.

Is sensitive to the needs of residents

We understand several residents and residents organisation have already made the case that an outlet of this nature in this location is likely to have a negative impact on their lives particularly in the light of the early hours of trading and the likely increase in gull activity, smells and crowding.

Provides diversity and consumer choice

It is hard to argue that there is a shortage of outlets of all type and price points providing Bacon rolls/filled baps and hot and cold drinks or that consumers lack choice in this area

Seeks to enhance the character, ambience and safety of local environments

Grand Parade is cited in descriptions of Bath as exhibiting the grandeur of a “processional route”, and is a key part of the World Heritage site. We would argue that the proposed stands are inappropriate on its pavements, detracting from that special ambience, impeding key views of Pulteney Bridge and the river and riverside.

Promotes healthy eating

We assume BANES would not support the suggestion that bacon rolls were a healthy eating choice but it might be worth citing the following:

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. And it has classified red meat as a probable carcinogen, something that probably causes cancer. IARC is the cancer agency of the World Health Organization.

Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavour it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat.

Twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog.”



In addition to the above we would draw attention to some aspects of the BANES policy in relation to this application:




12.4 Street trading hours will normally mirror those of shops in the immediate vicinity

This does not appear to be the case here.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Trade waste on the streets


 We remain unconvinced that many if any business in Bath really needs to be allocated permanent on-street trade waste dumps and we are calling for BANES to be much more transparent about how it makes decisions in this area. We also question why there is so little consultation about the location of such dumps. 
While this debate continues we believe that those businesses that have been given the privilege of storing their waste on the street should be held to a code of conduct which includes the following requirements:

·       Keeping the bins washed down

·       Sweeping the area around the bins at least twice a day

·       Taking responsibility for reporting and fly-tipped waste cleared

·       Getting their waste collected often enough to avoid overfilling

·       Not letting waste creep into the area of residential and business premises near their dump

·       Maintaining the locking systems on the bins

·       Making their staff pick up rubbish they spill

·       Making the waste contractors pick up the waste they spill

·       Wrapping organic waste properly

·       Not continuing to add waste to bins that are already full



Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Indigo Hotel development on South Parade lessons for BANES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Thursday, 2 August 2018

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


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

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

The original the conditions referred to are:

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

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


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

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


2.       No off sales permitted.

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


We note that the applicant has offered no noise studies.


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


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


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


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


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

The new stadium for Bath Rugby


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



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



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



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



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

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Short term letting and gesture politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Ongoing investment in expanding the CCTV network


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

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

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

3.       The poor quality of other reporting systems

4.       To combat fear of crime and ASB

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

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

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


Friday, 6 July 2018

Why are highways allowing this and on what authority?

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


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



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

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

Meanwhile:





Thursday, 5 July 2018

The New Information Centre Proposals

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

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

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

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Christmas Market 2018

The start of both the Footprint and Archway projects this year means that the Christmas Market footprint will be extended to Milsom Street which would be closed for the duration of the market and some days either side. This will: 
  • bring considerably more nuisance and inconvenience to town centre residents particularly those living on Milsom Street
  • take out of operation a large number of city centre parking spaces several of which are residents only
  • disrupt deliveries and collections from Broad Street and Milsom Street businesses including the House of Fraser who are already planning to withdraw from difficult sites.
  • create more traffic chaos in George Street and the rat runs north of George Street for the entire duration of the market
A number of politicians, pressure groups and officials have talked about the proposals for moving the footprint of the Christmas market as an opportunity to test the idea of pedestrianising Milsom Street long term. We have a number of concerns about this:

1. We doubt that BANES have well a founded traffic management scheme which can avoid considerable disruption and chaos if Milsom Street is closed for the Christmas Market. The traffic management in the area is poor even under normal circumstances.

2. Any pedestrianisation scheme needs to be part of a carefully thought through traffic plan for the whole of the city centre to avoid unintended consequences elsewhere in the city. We have yet to see such a scheme.

3. Pedestrianisation will lead to further loss of parking spaces for residents not just in Milsom Street but also in adjacent street which will become inaccessible

4. Many people live in Milsom Street and nobody seems to accord them and their needs any priority in pedestrianisation experiments or longer term schemes.

5. And most importantly this whole debate seems to be starting from the wrong end. We should be talking about how to improve the city centre for all those who live, work and visit. Within that we should be looking at how to make Milsom street a better place for all those who live, visit, work and do business there. Pedestrianisation may well have a role to play in either or both of these plans but it cannot and should not be seen as an end in itself.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Policing the City Centre

We would like to see more resources given to policing the city centre.

However, we are concerned at the nature of the debate which is now taking place.

Firstly, the fear of crime still remains a greater problem than actual crime. The fear of crime has both economic and socially damaging effects on our community. The way in which the current debate is being conducted is in our view increasing the fear of crime.

Secondly, we need a much more serious debate about where any additional resources should be spent. For instance, do we really want to spend several million on creating a new police station or would that money be better spent on more and or better-equipped officers, more CCTV coverage or perhaps properly funded programmes to tackle the drug dependence which drives much of the theft and anti-social behaviour.

It is very important to residents that this debate is properly conducted and does not become just another political football.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Insulation and noise reduction in listed buildings

Local political figures have suggested that residents cannot undertake work to insulate their listed properties and in particular double glaze them.

Since there are double glazed grade 1 listed buildings in Bath the issue is obviously a little more complex that the political headline.

If you are wishing to undertake this sort of work we would recommend consulting the excellent and authoritative guides published by the Bath Preservation Trust which are available to download below:

http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Making-changes-for-web.pdf

http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Warmer-Bath-PDF-June-2011.pdf

Friday, 29 June 2018

Gambling Act 2005 Statement of Principles


We are broadly supportive of the proposed principles.



One specific issue which has been raised by residents which does not seem to be explicitly addressed is displays visible outside the premises which are not directly advertising gambling but are likely to attract young people to the premises an example being TV screens showing major sporting events.



We are also not clear how the enforcement regime will be modified to address the challenge of policing a casino operating over much longer hours than traditional Bath gambling establishments.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Pedestrianisation may have a role but is not THE solution to the problems of the city centre


A number of politicians, pressure groups and officials have talked about pedestrianising all or part of the city centre. We have a number of concerns about this:

1. We doubt that BANES have well a founded traffic management scheme which can avoid considerable disruption and chaos if the is extensive experimentation with pedestrianisation. The traffic management in the city centre is poor even under normal circumstances and perioding closures of sides of Queen Square do not inspire confidence.

2. Any pedestrianisation scheme needs to be part of a carefully thought through traffic plan for the whole of the city centre to avoid unintended consequences elsewhere in the city. We have yet to see such a scheme. This traffic management plan needs to encompass more than just traditional traffic issues and in addition cover the range of things address by the late lamented Public Realm and Movement Strategy.

3. Pedestrianisation will create numerous problems for city centre residents ranging from loss of parking to problems with access. A large number of people live in the city and nobody seems to accord them and their needs any priority in pedestrianisation experiments or longer-term schemes. There are many residents and visitors with impaired/variable mobility & energy, who don’t meet Blue Badge criteria but would be adversely affected if the centre was pedestrianised. Accessibility for them appears to have been overlooked.

4. Most importantly this whole debate seems to be starting from the wrong end. We should be talking about how to improve the city centre for all those who live, work and visit. Pedestrianisation may have a role to play in these plans but it cannot and should not be seen as an end in itself.

It has been suggested that pedestrianisation is the magic bullet to improve air quality in the city centre. TARA has a long history of fighting to get improvements in air quality and this has shown us that the issue is much more complex than this and those advocating extensive pedestrianisation need to acknowledge this or we will fail to have the result that we would all wish to see. This is particularly true if we move from our current focus on NOX to the much more dangerous small particulate pollution.
We currently, for the first time, have a relative well funded project involving outside experts looking at pollution issues undertaking measurements and building models against which to evaluate potential approaches to improving air quality and we think the output of this work should be the starting point rather than simply espousing any particular solutions ahead of evaluating their data.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

The need for national legislation



For a number of issues facing Bath residents, we are have reached the point where they can no longer be addressed entirely by local agencies and need action at national level.

Pavement Parking

Pavement parking is a big problem in the city centre causing considerable concern to people with mobility issues and causing considerable damage to paving stone which is unsightly, dangerous and expensive to put right and we need:

·         Legislation on pavement parking

Licensing

Licenced premises and their effective management are an important issue in Bath City centre, and indeed most urban centres in BANES. There are many problems with the current Licensing Acts which we outlined in our submission to the house of Lords Review and we need:

·         A review of the licencing law following up on the review by the House of Lords and in particular removing the artificial barriers between licensing and planning


Short term letting

Short term holiday and party lets can course major problems for neighbouring residents, are not subject to the same regulation or taxation regimes of other more conventional providers of holiday accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs.

Internet companies such as Air B&B are considerably increasing this type of letting and whole neighbourhood are being blighted by the worse tenants and most irresponsible landlords.

Local authorities are struggling to find legislation which allows them to manage this growing problem London Authorities have fallen back on some legislation from the 1970s which only applies within the boundaries of Greater London. However, even this rather inadequate legal provision was considerably weakened by the deregulations laws passed in 2015.

Outside London local government is struggling with case law which can only be applied in very limited circumstances.
We need legislation which unambiguously gives planning authorities powers to reclassify premises use for holiday letting as business use.

We need to give Local Authorities the option to bring short term letting within the sort of licensing regime which is available for HMOs


Housing Associations

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.

This latter appears to be being changed by those entrusted with creating and managing social housing and other low-cost accommodation. We are increasingly seeing these organisation appearing to pursue policies which are displacing social housing tenants from the city centre and developing the resulting vacant properties for commercial gain by selling them, renting them out at commercial rents or even turning them into holiday accommodation.

These policies too often appear to be causing distress to tenants, threatening the nature of the city centre and displacing key city centre workers and turning them into commuters thus adding to their living costs and increasing the pressures on the city's fragile transport network.

·         We need changes to the regulatory framework to make Housing Associations as responsible for their social impact as they are for their financial management. They need to be made more accountable to local communities for what they do.


Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Street Trading Policy Consultation

We have been actively participating in the Street Trading Consultation both in writing and through a series of consultation briefings and discussions and have been pleased to see many of the issues we have raised addressed in the latest proposals. Our remaining observations about the emerging policies are:

Part of the "vision" is to ensure "that public spaces become active spaces". Our view is that it is important that not all public spaces should or need to be "active" we also need spaces that are quiet and passive




There is a focus in the policy on the number of stalls that should be allowed in particular locations we think this is the wrong starting point. It’s not an issue about numbers it' s about the amount of space they take up, both their allocated space or the space they occupy in practice.
We support the idea of assessment criteria because it is important that Bath as a destination is managed with focused on high quality and diversity not just trading volume.


The council say they are exploring other ways of managing street trading on a day to day basis.  This could be by the Council as it is currently, or through a third party. Here, the key issue for residents is enforcement of the agreed policy's and rules and we will support whatever delivers this most effectively.
The policy proposals call for the creation of markets that "should be beneficial to the local area". We believe that this should mean that they should add to the local retail offer not merely compete with it. They should be managed to minimize disruption to local residents. They should where possible offer benefits to local residents such as discounts. special access or contributions to local community organisations and causes.

One group that is often negatively impacted by street traders are people with mobility issues and we believe much more thought needs to be given to their needs and issues in navigating the city centre.


Sunday, 6 May 2018

Who should have a say in how CIL money is spent?

Clearly the Bath City Forum is not an ideal solution nor does it go very far in addressing the Bath governance issue.

However, creating a subcommittee of the Council made up of Councillors with Bath city constituencies to focus on Bath city issues and make authoritative proposals to full council about the how to address city problems and opportunities does make some sense.

To assist in this work, it might also have made sense to set up links between key organisations in the city, such as the BID, CCAG, BTP, Police etc., and forum members. This might, in part, have been achieved by inviting groups to nominate representatives to sit in on Forum discussions.

We are considerably less clear why the council has gone down the route of appointing self nominated individuals to sit as members the subcommittee. The pool created are self-selected and represent only themselves.

This is a situation which has always concerned us but a new development concerns us more. 

BANES are now using the forum to set priorities for spending the large amounts of money raised by the council through Community Infrastructure Levies.

How can this be justified?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Additional HMO Licensing consultation


HMO of any size create the same risk issues for both tenants, their neighbours and the wider community and should therefore be subject to the same regulatory framework.

We have seen an expansion of multiple occupancy properties of various sorts in the centre of Bath. This increase is both in terms of numbers of such properties and types of multiple occupation models ranging from large traditional HMO to holiday let party house models. We have also seen an erosion of traditional constraints and controls on this type of property both from legislative action and inaction and the ongoing attack on existing lease restrictions and covenants.

Two or more households in a building require as much external oversight as much as larger HMO both to protect tenants and their neighbours

Bath city centre is unique in the number and socio-economic diversity of its residents. This requires managing and protecting.

The nature of many of the buildings in Bath city centre presents particular challenges in terms of fire risk, noise pollution and waste management which require external oversight.

Fees proposed are designed to cover the administration cost not make a profit. HMO operators should be liable for the regulatory regime necessitated by their chosen business model.

The proposed conditions cover the basic risks and responsibilities that any responsible landlord should be held to

The current reactive response to complaints leaves landlords and tenants unsure of the rules. It also is a much more resource intensive approach and similar models of reactive response fail because of both resourcing issues and reporting issues as many tenants in this type of property feel vulnerable.

With the increased use of multiple occupancy models by landlords a lack of effective regulation will almost inevitably lead to abuses and increased nuisance and risk both for tenants and the community.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Letter to highways


We are writing in connection with the trade waste bins blocking the lower pavement at the end of George Street adjacent to Moles.

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

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

Ian Perkins – Chairman of TARA
Tom Maddicott – Managing Director Moles
Peter Turner – Ward Councillor

Friday, 2 March 2018

Major city centre development projects

For almost two years now we have been pointing out the fact that we are facing over the next few years unprecedented numbers of development projects in the city centre and saying how vital it is that BANES gets better at managing them in a way which minimises disruption to communities and ensures that they are fully informed about what is going on.

There has been little sign that our warning have been taken on board and we have already seen residents impacted by poorly managed projects. The Christmas Market is only just beginning to address the long foreseeable impact of the Footprint and Archway Projects and their progress in this has already been impacted by poor coordination with planned street maintenance activities.

We recently attended a meeting of independent traders who expressed concern about the impact of things like the positioning of hoardings around developments was having and bemoaned the general lack of engagement with businesses most likely to be affected by long term developments.

BANES needs to be much more proactive in coordinating, monitoring, controlling and anticipating the impact of major works in the city centre.

The Pedestrianisation of Milsom Street

A number of politicians, pressure groups and officials have talked about the current proposals for moving the footprint of the Christmas market as an opportunity to test the idea of pedestrianising Milsom Street long term. We have a number of concerns about this:

1. We doubt that BANES have well a founded traffic management scheme which can avoid considerable disruption and chaos if Milsom Street is closed for the Christmas Market. The traffic management in the area is poor even under normal circumstances.

2. Any pedestrianisation scheme needs to be part of a carefully thought through traffic plan for the whole of the city centre to avoid unintended consequences elsewhere in the city. We have yet to see such a scheme.

3. Pedestrianisation will lead to further loss of parking spaces for residents not just in Milsom Street but also in adjacent street which will become inaccessible

4. Many people live in Milsom Street and nobody seems to accord them and their needs any priority in pedestrianisation experiments or longer term schemes.

5. And most importantly this whole debate seems to be starting from the wrong end. We should be talking about how to improve the city centre for all those who live, work and visit. Within that we should be looking at how to make Milsom street a better place for all those who live, visit, work and do business there. Pedestrianisation may well have a role to play in either or both of these plans but it cannot and should not be seen as an end in itself.


Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Christmas Market Proposals

The start of both the Footprint and Archway projects this year means that the Christmas Market with have to move off its traditional footprint.

Their are two proposal on the table at the moment:

One is to move a sizable part of the market to Milsom Street which would be closed for the duration of the market and some days either side. This will:

  • bring considerably more nuisance and inconvenience to town centre residents particularly those living on Milsom Street
  • take out of operation a large number of city centre parking spaces several of which are residents only
  • disrupt deliveries and collections from Broad Street and Milsom Street businesses
  • create more traffic chaos in George Street and the rat runs north of George Street for the entire duration of the market
The other proposal is to move the entire market to the Royal Avenue and the area around the Bandstand. This would reduce the nuisance and disruption caused by squeezing the event into the restrictive and heavily used city centre spaces and put the event in a space where it can be redesigned as a 21st century event and where it will impact relatively few residents.

We just hope that this time BANES will put the best interests of city centre residents at the forefront of their decision making.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

BANES consultations designed to disappoint?

We have commented before on the generally poor quality of BANES consultation processes.

Three recent examples have added to our concerns:

The Parking Strategy was based on what was finally a very good consultation process after a very poor initial effort and raised expectations that the parking strategy would be a comprehensive attempt to address the very many issues in this area. The outcome was disappointing as the resulting strategy largely ignored all the more difficult and contentious issues raised and focussed on a minor rearrangement of charging policy.

With the coach strategy there was a fair attempt at consulting although it seems to use a very limited sample of consultees but again the results are very disappointing and mainly focussed on issues raised by coach operators with little or no attempt to engage with more difficult issues such as pollution, enforcement and controlling coach cruising around key heritage sites that bring no economic benefit to the city or the relationship with other plans such as the destination strategy.

The library/one stop shop consultation which after a very poor start, which disappointed almost all stakeholder and led to some questionable decisions being made, now seems intent on setting the future project up to disappoint further. Consultees are being invited to make any proposal they like and being led to believe that all proposal have an equal chance of being considered for inclusion in the final project. This cannot be the case. Several proposals are not compatible and represent completely different vision of the role of libraries in the community. All proposal will have to fit in the existing space as the is little room for expansion at the Podium and the architects have already, in our view unwisely, committed to retain the same number of books available for browsing. It will also be the case that all proposals will have to fit within what is unlikely to be a generous budget.