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Wednesday
Jan252017

East Of Bath Park & Ride - Decision On Site Selection

I recognise the leadership role you all have in growing our economy, creating jobs and providing sufficient housing. I also understand the need to tackle congestion, reduce pollution and enhance the quality of our city environment both for residents and visitors alike.

What I can't agree with is exporting Bath's traffic woes to Bathampton, Batheaston and Bathford. Your site selection is the most damaging and destructive way forward. It's got to be a serious misjudgement to despoil our Greenbelt and the World heritage setting for Bath. If this goes ahead you'll spoil the charm and quality of life for many residents and the wider Bath community, who value the rural character right on the outskirts of our city.

Image of Proposed Area of East of Bath Park & RideOur meadows are under considerably more threat now than at any time in the past. We have proposals for car parking, a freight terminal an A46-36 link. How much of our green open space will all this infrastructure need? I see the location of this Park and Ride right in the middle of the meadows as the first step to terminal urbanisation and its quite right that my community should make a stand, otherwise something so precious us all will be lost forever.

Image of Proposed Area of East of Bath Park & RideOn one fact I'll probably agree with you, I suspect this Park and Ride will be popular and busy, so popular that your initial 800 spaces will quickly by overwhelmed and you'll want to expand it to 1200 or perhaps 1400 space with consequential impact on air quality, on noise and especially light pollution, which will inevitable diminish the enjoyment of our meadows for many.

Image of Proposed Area of East of Bath Park & Ride

It's a mistake that you think these sites can be hidden away amongst trees and shrubbery. Many properties were built elevated on the slopes to take advantage of the wonderful view  and you will destroy that forever with the site selection you are about to make.   It's absolutely inconsistent that my local residents in the same location have their planning applications so often refused on the ground of "damaging the openness of the greenbelt" but in the case for a 1200 space car park it's all fine and dandy!

I hope you see tonight that you have a chance to pull back from this detrimental and damaging step. I hope you recognise it's in your gift tonight to ask Officers to look again at solving our increasing traffic challenge. You could ask them to think a bit more "outside of the box", support local buses, perhaps smaller parking areas and maximise the excess capacity in the other park and rides. You have an opportunity now to demonstrate you are the true custodians of the greenbelt, our world heritage setting and the quality of life for my residents and the wider Bath community.                

I call on you to reject the Officer report and recommendations, you have no choice in front of you, only "Hobson's choice". Thank you!

Thursday
Jan282016

Pavement Upgrade in Batheaston

Good news on the long awaited pavement upgrade outside the shops at Batheaston. Batheaston Parish Council met with Bath and NE Somerset Council officers and its highways contractors Skanska in January and agreed a final design for this substantial upgrade. The design will incorporate a completely flat surface and improved car parking in front of the shops. The plan can be seen in the village post office. The start date has been fixed for 15th February and is scheduled for 5 weeks depending on the weather.

 

Monday
Sep152014

Speech to Second Conservative Motion to Council - 10 Sep 2014

The Bath and NE Somerset Conservative Councillor Group put a motion to Full Council last night 10 Sep 14 on public toilets closures within Bath and suggested the Council Administration revisit their plans for closure by pausing the current programme for conversion of the remaining toilets to 20p entry, consulting with residents as it should have done from the start and getting better value for council tax payers from the contractor.

The motion was won by 33 votes to 26 and the Administration will now have to look again at this controversial issue. Batheaston, Larkhall and Weston public toilets were all closed suddenly in the summers when the administration said they would keep them open in accordance with the wishes of communities until suitable alternatives were found.

This is the speech I gave to Full Council seconding our successful motion:

This is a classic case of a Council which has put its fingers in its ears and refused to listen to its residents. You've used every trick in the book to get your way on this. And what is most tragic is that it did not have to be this way – these modernisations SHOULD have been a positive thing. Instead they have just caused anger and resentment in communities throughout the authority.

You say "We're investing in loos for the future" when in fact you're closing 11 out of 27 loos – and reducing the number of cubicles at the remaining toilets by two thirds.

You say "What people want above all is clean and safe loos" yes, but residents have told you clearly through their petitions, representations and speeches they also want adequate provision and conveniently located loos above all else.

"The new loos will be less likely to abuse and vandalism" - this might be right as the opportunist is less likely to have 20p - but what I also know is that the average person on the street has never got 20p when they need it. Certainly our own Council workers did not have 20p when they were caught short and were found by residents urinating at the back of one of our residents garages. Our residents will no doubt experience a lot more of this!

Why did the Council not consult with our own new established Public Health Unit?

They would have told you that isolation of the elderly and vulnerable is one of the major public health issue of the day. Many elderly people rely upon nearby and convenient loos when out shopping. By closing the provincial loos on High Street and at public transport hubs you're effectively excluding hundreds of older people from the social interaction they need.

You were told by residents how important these facilities were to people through the campaigns of local Ward Councillors, as well asbut chose to ignore their pleas. You said you would keep them open whilst alternatives were sought – then closed them suddenly three months later.

The usage survey was done over two years ago, over a one-week period, giving just a snapshot of usage – not the full picture. The Council then refused to consult with local communities on whether they found the reductions, changes and potential replacements to be acceptable.

You have simply refused to listen.

Indeed, even ward councillors were unaware of the planned cuts in cubicle numbers until after the contract had already been signed and sealed.

Is this consultation? Is this listening?

What’s even worse is this is not even saving the money planned. Neither does it represent a good deal for taxpayers! The cost to the Council of maintaining each toilet has trebled – even though users are now being asked for 20p a time.

The only people who have made a wise investment here is the contractor who'll be laughing all the way to the bank in the great deal they've forged at the expense of residents and council tax payers. And you guys opposite have let it happen.

I therefore second this motion – the only sensible way forward – which asks for a pause in the closure programme while residents are properly consulted and better value gained for the taxpayer.

 

Batheaston Loo - Closed despite the opening of the new foot bridge and cycleway Larkhall Loo - Suddenly closed in the summer after a hard fought campaign  Western Loo - A man was locked in due to the council's rush to close it!

Thursday
Aug072014

Parcel 2866 – Field Shelters – The Meadows

BANES Development Control Committee overturned the Officers recommendation “to permit” a further potential development at last week’s meeting. The owners of Golden Valley Paddocks had again controversially submitted a retrospective application for two “field shelters” despite the debacle over the 10 poultry units which were refused last year. They have a perfectly suitable barn on site which they converted into an office without permission and was accepted by BANES in retrospect. It does seem odd that the shelters were applied for when the land was up for sale and there have been no animals for months! Let’s hope the new owners make good custodians of this very special greenbelt gateway site which has “Article 4 designation and is part of Bath’s ANOB world heritage setting.

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DCC WEDS - PARCEL 2866 FIELD SHELTERS THE MEADOWS

You might be thinking this is a simple decision on farm field shelters for animal welfare, what could be more innocuous than that?

Putting aside the planning history for a moment, Id just like to be clear on what my Parish Councils and residents are trying to achieve: They wish to preserve the openness of this very special ANOB valley and setting for our World Heritage City. Its the view that thousands of visitors see on the journey into Bath form the Motorway just before they reach the edge of the City. As a consequence of this Committees good work over many years, you have kept it open, despite all the development pressure.

In isolation, many would think it bizarre that  we have objections from local parish councils and 41 individual residents with nothing in support. Why is this farm not supported? The answer is the planning history and the 6 year battle local residents have had in supporting this Council in keeping this Greenbelt valley green and open. Wansdyke Council protected this valley 22 years ago with an Article 4 believing it was particularly special, special enough for the locals to fight for 6 long years against the wrong sort of development.

You rejected intensive farming as the wrong sort of development; Development that filled the narrow lanes with earth moving diggers, lorries and skip trucks, churning up the verges and turning them into impassable mud baths. The sort of development the resulted in foul smelling duck excreta runoff into the Woolley Lane. This Committee rejected intensive farming when you recognised that 10 poultry units, dispersed like army camp Nissan huts across the valley, was not right. 

The applicants fitted out their existing stock barn into a plush office without permission, now regularised for office use. The fact that such development by stealth can be achieved clearly will not be lost on you, but you need to remember this was a perfectly useable barn, for animal welfare and storage. Now its an office!! And now the applicants, despite having no animals and being in the process selling the property (See the sale particulars!) need a couple of field shelters, Why? What for? 

Over the last 6 years of planning history there have been 14 applications: 6 refused, 2 approved by this Authority but rescinded by the High Court, 3 withdrawn, 1 was permitted and another- the stock barn - turned into a rather plush office and regularised. The majority, if not all, were retrospective applications. I do hope the nature of applications and long history informs you in your judgement, if nothing else you should ask yourselves whos trying to do the right thing here? What's the underlying motive of respective parties and what should the priority be in this case? Why not let the Article 4 do the work in protecting the openness of this very special rural heritage setting?

In summary, this is probably the last GVP application before they sell up. This is a retrospective application for shelters despite the one erected in January having since been taken down, on a farm with a state of the art office with no livestock which is being prepared for sale. The Officer thinks there will be little visual impact and if it should go ahead. Why not give the locals the benefit of the doubt on visual impact, show your support in protecting the Greenbelt and reject this application?

Cllr Geoff Ward, Bathavon North Ward

Monday
Apr072014

In Memory of Councillor Gabriel Batt

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that our fellow Councillor Gabriel Batt passed away last Monday 31st March after a long illness. He was a dear friend and a tremendous inspiration and mentor to me and I will miss him greatly. The funeral will take place on Wednesday 9th April at 11.00am at St John the Evangelist, South Parade, Bath. The burial will be at Perrymead Cemetery afterwards.