Monday, 28 July 2014

CURO and holiday lets

CURO are now letting out more and more of their city centre Georgian property as holiday lets

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

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

Saturday, 19 July 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

Management of the construction process

Friday, 18 July 2014


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 July 2014

Queen Square improvement

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

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