Sunday, 21 March 2010

Proposed Experimental No Right Turn from Manvers Street to Dorchester Street

As so often with BaNES consultations it is very difficult to evaluate this proposal on the basis of the information provided. No evidence is given of current, or projected, problems in Dorchester Street or the extent to which these are, or may be, caused by vehicles other then buses and taxis. There is no evidence on the extent to which problems would be resolved by a right turn ban out of Manvers Street, none of the category of trips likely to be affected by the ban, none on alternative routes likely to be used by diverted drivers, none on the effect on their journey times and none on increased traffic levels on other routes.

Some city centre residents face the prospect of seeing their option of several exits from the city centre with traffic divided more or less evenly between them all effectively reduced to one exit - and this on a route which is heavily congested at times already. Added to this the extra traffic generated by the proposed Dorchester Street experiment (including eventually all the cars leaving the Manvers Street Car Park) and by the closure of Pulteney Bridge to traffic and they are likely to be face a serious and routine delays. The traffic lights allowing vehicles on to Pulteney Road only allow 2/3 cars through at a time (although going the other way quite a few cars can turn the corner into the city when the filter light is on), but there are many other problems on this route - open top bus crawling along, coaches/buses dropping/picking up at the sports centre and bus stops, lorries delivering to the clubs/hotels and traffic feeding in from the Sports Centre car park, the Cricket Club car park and the Court car part - often forcing their way out several at a time and not feeding in turn and many even wishing to execute a U turn back into town.

Drivers leaving the south eastern quadrant of the city centre, where TARA has many members, for the south and west will be considerably disadvantaged by the need to divert via North Parade and Widcombe. What gain it is anticipated this proposal will create is unclear from the information BaNES has provided. However, it seems to us unlikely that these will outweigh the inconvenience to residents and businesses in the city centre.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

King Edward's School - TARA response to latest develoments

TARA, some of whose members attended King Edward School, would like to see this important building restored and brought into productive use. However, with alcohol-fuelled disorder and noise, with littering, public vomiting and urination particularly on weekend nights still among their principal concerns city centre residents will be seeking assurances that the applicant can be held to his undertaking to create a high class ‘boutique hotel’ in the centre of our city and not another large scale stand-up drinking venue of the kind that has been so damaging to the city centre in the past.

The applicant seeks a C1 (hotel) consent. It seems inconceivable to us, however, once the costs of restoration are taken into account, that the applicant could operate a viable business with so limited a number of rooms and that, consequently, substantial support will be required from non-resident use of the bar and dining facilities on the ground floor. The applicant cites Robert Raikes House in Southgate, Gloucester, as an exemplar. This business, owned by the same applicant, a brewer, and also a conversion of an important historic building, has had the benefit of planning consent as a ‘pub with conversion of upper floors to hotel accommodation’ since 2003. It does not, however, offer rooms, does not claim to be a hotel and is not listed as offering accommodation by the Gloucester tourism office. It seems reasonable therefore to conclude that the King Edward School application is effectively, not for a hotel with ancillary bar and dining facilities but for a bar-pub to be named the King Edward Tavern with ancillary bedroom accommodation on upper floors which may never be realised. We have calculated, moreover, that if furniture indicated on plans were to be excluded from the dining, bar and ‘parlour’ facilities on the ground floor, and the bar enlarged, from 300 to 400 drinkers could be accommodated in the building. This has the potential to be a disaster for an area of the city centre already overloaded with drinkers at weekends.

Aware of the concerns of residents and visitors alike Bath has in recent years recognised the need to curtail the introduction of large new drinking establishments into the city centre. A few years ago the Bath and North East Somerset Community Safety and Drugs Partnership (CSDP) collated information from a variety of sources which demonstrated that in Bath city centre ‘a defined geographic and temporal area experiences a significantly greater degree of alcohol related crime and disorder than the remainder of the authority area’. The Council accordingly resolved, on September 13th 2007, that inclusion of a Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP) in the Statement of Licensing Policy was justified. In areas covered by the CIP, which remains in force and includes Broad Street and George Street, licence applicants must now demonstrate that they will not materially add to existing problems of alcohol-fuelled disorder in the city centre before being considered for a licence.

The applicant does make reference to the effect of the proposed change of use on existing residential amenity, citing inter alia BaNES Local Plan Policy D2 Para 6.3 (f) and acknowledges that there are people living in the immediate area. It is important to remember, however, that a large premises offering alcohol for sale in the city centre can seriously harm the amenity not only of local residents but all those both living in and visiting a much wider area.

Having previously been inclined to give the applicant’s stated intentions the benefit of the doubt in the hope of at last seeing this important building restored and put to good use TARA now believes, on the balance of the evidence available, that the principal intention is to create a large new drinking establishment in the city centre. On this basis we have no alternative but to OPPOSE this application.

We consider this an important and controversial application and ask that, if the Case Officer is minded to recommend consent, it should be referred to Committee for decision. We ask, however, that if consent is granted whether for a pub, bar, hotel or any combination of these, conditions such as the following be imposed to ensure that the applicant’s stated intentions are realised and the concerns of city centre residents recognised

1. Substantial food shall be available to order from 12.00 noon each day until 22.00 hours Monday to Saturday and 21.30 hours on Sunday.
2. Alcohol shall be cleared away from consumption areas (with the exception of bedrooms/suites) by 23.30 hours Monday to Saturday and 23.00 hours on Sunday.
3. There shall be seating provided at all times for not less than 28 persons in the area marked ‘bar’ on the plans, not less than 60 persons in the area marked ‘dining lounge’ on the plans, not less than 8 in the area marked ‘front parlour’ (north) and not less than 12 in the area marked ‘front parlour’ (south) on the plans, and the courtyard area at the rear be predominantly seating.
4. There shall be only one bar servery, as shown on the plans, and this bar servery shall not be increased in size.
5. The Broad Street terraces shall not be used for the sale or consumption of alcohol or for smoking.
6. Consumption of alcohol in the rear courtyard area shall cease at 22.00 hours nightly.

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Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sightseeing in Bath - Part 1

Chewing Gum and waste bins in Westagate Street and chewing gum outside Sally Lunns

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Management of the Night Time Economy

Bath city centre is special and one of the things that make it special is the large number of people who choose to live in the heart of the historic city. It is also important for the city that we continue to attract people to visit the historic city both because of the economic benefits they bring but also because of the rich cultural life which they make possible.

Both these groups of people complain that they too often have to suffer the consequences of drink fuelled noise and antisocial behaviour in the city at night especially at weekends. The management of the night time economy is therefore a key issue for anyone who cares about Bath.

TARA is working with other stakeholders and the local authorities to improve the way in which the night time economy is managed and planned.

We support initiatives such as the Cumulative Impact Policy, Purple Flag accreditation, the City Centre Manager and the Kingsmead Square project. But we think there is a need much more effective coordination of the planning and enforcement agencies to deliver:

• A city centre which is seen to be safe and welcoming for a wide range of people;
• More smaller eating and drinking establishments catering to all age and social groups;
• A richer night time entertainment offer with less emphasis on noise and alcohol
• A significant reduction in drink fuelled antisocial behaviour;
• A significant reduction in noise for residents

In pursuing these objectives TARA:

• Works to achieve licence conditions which protect the interests of the wider community;
• Lobbies for better co-ordination of enforcement agencies;
• Works to oppose planning and licensing decisions which will expand the number of vertical drinking establishments and nightclubs in the city centre;
• Lobbies for more joined up thinking in planning for the evening and night time economy of the City centre

Thursday, 4 March 2010

OPA Bath Ltd: Proposed change of use from restaurant to mixed use as restaurant, bar and nightclub

This part of the city centre is primarily residential. The block on which OPA is located bounded by North and South Parades and Duke Street is entirely residential containing 65 apartments in 7 apartment buildings as well as a residential hostel for foreign students which has operated on North Parade above the subject premises since the late 1980’s The application, if granted, will cause significant harm and distress to these local residents by reason of intolerable levels of noise and disturbance. For some time, and on many occasions, local residents and local businesses have complained about the noise created by OPA’s operation; indeed they have been the subject of noise abatement enforcement by Environmental Protection officers. We know that local residents will be providing testimony to this effect for the Local Planning Authority to consider. The noise complained of derives from extensive noise leakage from OPA’s premises and noise created by, often rowdy and intoxicated, revellers entering and leaving the building and gathering outside on the pavement to smoke.

It is perhaps useful in this context to quote the Department of the Environment (now DETR) document Planning Policy Guidance:

“Commercial developments such as fast food restaurants, discos, night-clubs and public houses pose particular difficulties, not least because associated activities are often at their peak in the evening and late at night. Local planning authorities will wish to bear in mind not only the noise that is generated within the premises but also the attendant problems of noise that may be made by customers in the vicinity. The disturbance that can be caused by traffic and associated car parking should not be underestimated”

OPA has effectively become a nightclub by stealth. The case officer’s report on their previous application for the use of Parade Gardens as an extension area, 09/01794/FUL,heard in October 2009 contains numerous references to it being run as a bar/nightclub while only having planning permission for use as a restaurant. The most telling reference is in the third paragraph of page 6, “Therefore, this means that a change of use has most likely occurred from restaurant to restaurant/bar without the benefit of planning permission and can still be subject to enforcement action.” OPA now seek to regularise this use by this application. The premises were operated as a restaurant between 1983 and 2007 without adversely affecting the amenity of local residents and this is the appropriate use for these premises in view of the fact that “the premises are very near to premises that are used for residential accommodation” to quote the words of the applicant’s own solicitor.

If the application is granted a precedent will be set for other bars and restaurants elsewhere in the city centre to flout planning regulations, turn themselves into nightclubs and then seek retrospective planning permission. This is not fair to the majority of businesses who play by the rules and show respect for the planning regulations.

TARA has no objection to OPA operating as a traditional well managed restaurant similar to many others in residential areas of the city centre. Our objection is to OPA as a restaurant/bar and nightclub. This application for change of use threatens the delicate balance which exists between businesses and residents in this small and primarily residential corner of our city. This is a noise sensitive residential area and the imposition of a premises who seek to attract the nightclubbing crowd that already create problems in other parts of the city centre is wholly inappropriate