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.]


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.


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: