Sunday, 6 May 2018

Who should have a say in how CIL money is spent?

Clearly the Bath City Forum is not an ideal solution nor does it go very far in addressing the Bath governance issue.

However, creating a subcommittee of the Council made up of Councillors with Bath city constituencies to focus on Bath city issues and make authoritative proposals to full council about the how to address city problems and opportunities does make some sense.

To assist in this work, it might also have made sense to set up links between key organisations in the city, such as the BID, CCAG, BTP, Police etc., and forum members. This might, in part, have been achieved by inviting groups to nominate representatives to sit in on Forum discussions.

We are considerably less clear why the council has gone down the route of appointing self nominated individuals to sit as members the subcommittee. The pool created are self-selected and represent only themselves.

This is a situation which has always concerned us but a new development concerns us more. 

BANES are now using the forum to set priorities for spending the large amounts of money raised by the council through Community Infrastructure Levies.

How can this be justified?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Additional HMO Licensing consultation

HMO of any size create the same risk issues for both tenants, their neighbours and the wider community and should therefore be subject to the same regulatory framework.

We have seen an expansion of multiple occupancy properties of various sorts in the centre of Bath. This increase is both in terms of numbers of such properties and types of multiple occupation models ranging from large traditional HMO to holiday let party house models. We have also seen an erosion of traditional constraints and controls on this type of property both from legislative action and inaction and the ongoing attack on existing lease restrictions and covenants.

Two or more households in a building require as much external oversight as much as larger HMO both to protect tenants and their neighbours

Bath city centre is unique in the number and socio-economic diversity of its residents. This requires managing and protecting.

The nature of many of the buildings in Bath city centre presents particular challenges in terms of fire risk, noise pollution and waste management which require external oversight.

Fees proposed are designed to cover the administration cost not make a profit. HMO operators should be liable for the regulatory regime necessitated by their chosen business model.

The proposed conditions cover the basic risks and responsibilities that any responsible landlord should be held to

The current reactive response to complaints leaves landlords and tenants unsure of the rules. It also is a much more resource intensive approach and similar models of reactive response fail because of both resourcing issues and reporting issues as many tenants in this type of property feel vulnerable.

With the increased use of multiple occupancy models by landlords a lack of effective regulation will almost inevitably lead to abuses and increased nuisance and risk both for tenants and the community.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Letter to highways

We are writing in connection with the trade waste bins blocking the lower pavement at the end of George Street adjacent to Moles.

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.

Ian Perkins – Chairman of TARA
Tom Maddicott – Managing Director Moles
Peter Turner – Ward Councillor

Friday, 2 March 2018

Major city centre development projects

For almost two years now we have been pointing out the fact that we are facing over the next few years unprecedented numbers of development projects in the city centre and saying how vital it is that BANES gets better at managing them in a way which minimises disruption to communities and ensures that they are fully informed about what is going on.

There has been little sign that our warning have been taken on board and we have already seen residents impacted by poorly managed projects. The Christmas Market is only just beginning to address the long foreseeable impact of the Footprint and Archway Projects and their progress in this has already been impacted by poor coordination with planned street maintenance activities.

We recently attended a meeting of independent traders who expressed concern about the impact of things like the positioning of hoardings around developments was having and bemoaned the general lack of engagement with businesses most likely to be affected by long term developments.

BANES needs to be much more proactive in coordinating, monitoring, controlling and anticipating the impact of major works in the city centre.

The Pedestrianisation of Milsom Street

A number of politicians, pressure groups and officials have talked about the current 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.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Christmas Market Proposals

The start of both the Footprint and Archway projects this year means that the Christmas Market with have to move off its traditional footprint.

Their are two proposal on the table at the moment:

One is to move a sizable part of the market 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
  • create more traffic chaos in George Street and the rat runs north of George Street for the entire duration of the market
The other proposal is to move the entire market to the Royal Avenue and the area around the Bandstand. This would reduce the nuisance and disruption caused by squeezing the event into the restrictive and heavily used city centre spaces and put the event in a space where it can be redesigned as a 21st century event and where it will impact relatively few residents.

We just hope that this time BANES will put the best interests of city centre residents at the forefront of their decision making.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

BANES consultations designed to disappoint?

We have commented before on the generally poor quality of BANES consultation processes.

Three recent examples have added to our concerns:

The Parking Strategy was based on what was finally a very good consultation process after a very poor initial effort and raised expectations that the parking strategy would be a comprehensive attempt to address the very many issues in this area. The outcome was disappointing as the resulting strategy largely ignored all the more difficult and contentious issues raised and focussed on a minor rearrangement of charging policy.

With the coach strategy there was a fair attempt at consulting although it seems to use a very limited sample of consultees but again the results are very disappointing and mainly focussed on issues raised by coach operators with little or no attempt to engage with more difficult issues such as pollution, enforcement and controlling coach cruising around key heritage sites that bring no economic benefit to the city or the relationship with other plans such as the destination strategy.

The library/one stop shop consultation which after a very poor start, which disappointed almost all stakeholder and led to some questionable decisions being made, now seems intent on setting the future project up to disappoint further. Consultees are being invited to make any proposal they like and being led to believe that all proposal have an equal chance of being considered for inclusion in the final project. This cannot be the case. Several proposals are not compatible and represent completely different vision of the role of libraries in the community. All proposal will have to fit in the existing space as the is little room for expansion at the Podium and the architects have already, in our view unwisely, committed to retain the same number of books available for browsing. It will also be the case that all proposals will have to fit within what is unlikely to be a generous budget.