Sunday, 23 April 2017

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.

Air Quality

A disproportionally high proportion of the pollution in Bath City centre, and in particular the very damaging small particulate pollution, comes from diesel engines and we need:

·         A scrappage scheme to get the owners of diesel cars to move away from this form of fuel

·         A better and more equitable system for funding the creation of Clean Air Zones

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


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.

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.

The Christmas Market

Bath Christmas market brings significant commercial benefits to the city. It also potentially brings nuisance and inconvenience to those who live and work in the city and we have an ongoing dialogue with the market organisers to ensure that they are aware of residents’ concerns and that any nuisance is minimised.

Moving forward the market needs to address three principal issues:

1.       Concern about impact on traders outside its footprint

2.       The increasing number of visitors

3.       The loss of many of its traditional locations to the Footprint and Archway Projects

We were pleased to see the proposals to address the impact on traders and understand that they have been well received by the businesses involved. We have raised some concerns about potential noise nuisance, road closures and pedestrian flows and have received assurances that these issues will be addressed in the event plan.

The professional event planners advising VisitBath propose to deal with the congestion issues created by increasing visitor numbers by spreading the market out over a greater number of days. While we have some concerns about the validity of this argument the only real way to test it is by trying it in practice. VisitBath have undertaken that they will only apply for permission for extended hours for a one year trial and will reapply next year afresh when the actual effects of such an extension can be evaluated. This seems to us a reasonable compromise.

We have expressed some concern about moving some of the market into the spine streets of the city centre and have received some assurances about the number and orientation of stalls but we will continue to monitor these plans. We have also asked that special provision is made to support people with mobility issues who will find it more difficult to avoid the challenges thrown up by the market and received assurances that this will be addressed in the stewarding plan and that key charities in the field will be involved in planning.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Rugby Club proposed new stadium

The efforts of the rugby club to reach out to the community at the earliest possible stage are appreciated.  Moreover, TARA has consistently supported the development of a new stadium at the Rec.  We believe that the presence of the stadium adds an essential element to the character of the city as well as contributing to the health of the city centre economy on which we depend and to which we also contribute.

Given the high proportion of Bath residents who have chosen to live in the centre of the city however, about twice that of comparable cities, there is obviously the potential for a serious clash of interests.  It will be our purpose as proposals for the new stadium develop to ensure, so far as we can, that the rugby club and the people living around it emerge from the process as good neighbours.  As the residents association for the city centre we will be particularly focused on the following

Planning and Design

Our members are clear that only a design of the highest international standards in planning and design will be good enough for Bath.  We endorse the suggestion made elsewhere that an international design competition would be appropriate.

The height of the building should be carefully considered.  The preservation of sight lines from various locations around the city should be a priority; for city centre residents the view east over the stadium roof to the hills is of particular importance.

A stadium is an inherently inwardly focused structure with a serious security issue at the perimeter.  In a city centre location, however, these two factors should not combine to produce a ‘defensive’ structure which fails to offer an open and inviting face to the surrounding area.

Treatment of the river bank where the needs and expectations of rugby fans,  residents and visitors to the city must be reconciled is a key issue.  Activities which increase the noise and disturbance already associated in the city centre with the consumption of alcohol should be avoided and any attempt to treat the riverside as an extension of the night time economy will be resisted.

Capacity and Use

City centre residents are accustomed to the occasional use of the stadium for purposes other than rugby football.  But they are alert to the risk that the club will seek to extend the type and frequency of alternative uses to the point where disturbances become intolerable.  A regular view of the evolving business plan for the new stadium would do much to mitigate these concerns.

Traffic and Access

One of the reasons the rugby club is able to thrive in its city centre location is because the city as a whole, and the city centre in particular, are important regional transportation hubs. Consultants working on earlier proposals were thus able to conclude, plausibly in our view, that the main effect of the additional 4,300 supporters likely to converge on the stadium on busy match days would be felt, not in the form of increased traffic congestion on city centre streets, but in a marked increase in the use of existing public transport systems and in increased pedestrian traffic in areas around the stadium.  ‘Mitigations’ proposed therefor focused almost entirely on improvements to public transport, trains, buses and park and ride.

These are needed without doubt, but there are other actions that in our view the club will need to consider

While it may be true that the number of supporters arriving in the city by car but not using park and ride is unlikely to increase significantly we have anecdotal evidence of large numbers of cars on match days unused to the city centre road layout adding to congestion and harmful emissions by circling in search of parking space as well as an increase in illegal parking particularly in residential areas around the city centre such as Henrietta Park.  In addition to providing zero parking space for its supporters at the stadium the club should work with the city to increase deterrents to car usage by supporters on match days and crack down on illegal parking in areas where enforcement patrols are currently relatively inactive.

Of course, almost all supporters arrive at and depart from the stadium itself on foot.  The number of pedestrians crowding streets around the stadium on match days is excessive to the point of being a nuisance bordering on a danger to the public.  Earlier analyses failed to address this problem which impacts residents, visitors and supporters alike. Unfortunately, links to the stadium for pedestrians are poor, relying too heavily on flights of narrow, twisting stone steps leading to the river bank stadium entrances from Argyle Street and North Parade.  The planning and design team should use currently available software to model the circulation patterns of fans approaching and leaving the stadium just as they do with vehicles. Layout of pedestrian entrances to the stadium and improvements to pedestrian routes should be planned accordingly.  In particular the council and Bath Rugby should work together on planning a new pedestrian bridge across the river linking the stadium with the commercial heart of the city to which many supporters are drawn during their stay.  A new footbridge will benefit visitors, residents and businesses as well as rugby supporters and will greatly enhance our city centre.