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.