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Tuesday
Sep172013

Conservatives To Press For Rethink Over Public Toilet Closures

The following is a Press Release recently issued by BANES Conservatives:

Conservative councillors are set to press Bath and North East Somerset Council to rethink plans to close several of the district’s public toilets when the matter is debated by councillors at a meeting this week.

People power has forced a debate on the issue of toilet closures after a petition organised by local residents gained over 2,400 signatures.  If a petition gains over 1,000 signatures it automatically triggers a debate on the issue at a Full Council meeting.

Conservative councillors, who have been fighting to save a number of the public toilets under threat, have said they will use the opportunity to call upon the Liberal Democrat-run authority to rethink its current plans.

Larkhill Public Toilet was Saved Weston Public Toilet was Saved

Conservatives have previously criticised the Council for causing confusion over the fate of a number of the area’s toilets.  As a result, Conservatives have said they will be seeking firm assurances from the Council over the future of a number of public toilets if it is not possible to find suitable alternative provision or agree alternative funding arrangements.

Fairfield Public Toilet Stands Derelict Since Closure Councillor Geoff Ward, Conservative shadow spokesman for Neighbourhoods, said:

“Up to now there have been precious few opportunities for councillors to properly debate the planned toilet closures and give their views.  So the fact that people power has forced this issue onto the Council agenda is very welcome.

“Conservative councillors will be using this opportunity to press the Lib Dems to listen to local residents and rethink their current closure plans.  We will also be seeking greater clarity from the Council on what the future holds for a number of at-risk toilets if no nearby alternative provision is found.

“The Council recently announced that it is poised to sign a £2 million deal with a private company to maintain and upgrade its remaining public toilets.  It seems inconceivable that no way could be found to keep more toilets open as part of this deal.”

You may also be interested to know there was significant coverage of the public toilets debate on Points West on 12th September.  The issue was covered in their 6:30pm bulletin, and the result of the meeting covered in the 10:30 bulleting.  Geoff Ward did interviews for both features, which came across in a positive light for the Conservative Group.

The 6:30pm bulletin is available on BBC iPlayer at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b039r322/BBC_Points_West_12_09_2013/

Monday
Aug122013

"LET BATH DECIDE" 

- A public consultation on Bath Governance

Conservatives have launched a public consultation to give residents, resident groups, local businesses and organisations a chance to comment on what they would like to see as the future shape of Bath Governance. Rural areas have Parish Councils which are being given a greater say in how they wish to influence their communities and areas. Localism and Neighbourhood planning are key Government initiatives to get people more engaged and shape communities how they see fit. The challenge for Bath City is finding ways for more community involvement in Governance without tax payers having to stump up the growing burden of cost.

You can comment on a few possible options or suggest your own ideas on this on-line survey which can be found at www.bathconservativesurveys.com

Geoff Ward

Monday
Jul152013

Hydraulic Fracturing Speech

At a recent full Councillors meeting I presented my thoughts on Hydraulic Fracturing and the following is a copy of my speech:

I am delighted to support the motion before Council today, this is vitally important issue for the City of Bath and the whole of the Council area. I have researched the issue with my Professional Body the CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH who last year produced a policy paper "Hydraulic Fracturing: Impacts on the Environment and Human Health". Whilst the CIEH recognise the considerable economic benefits that are possible from shale gas they conclude, and I will quote:

There are a number of potential impacts that fracturing could have on human health and these include:

  1. Impacts on drinking water supplies
  2. Impacts on air quality and consequent respiratory disorders
  3. Geological impacts which it qualifies as seismic activity
  4. Noise impacts
  5. Release of naturally occurring radioactive materials and
  6. Impacts on communities which in turn could impact on individuals

The Chartered institute in their well researched policy position describe many examples of these health and environmental health impacts principally for the US where fracking has been used for some years in the extraction of shale gas.

They recommend the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE as the overriding principle for the UK at the moment. They also recommend independent research in bridging the evidence deficit. 

I therefore support this motion and hope this is something we can all support in protecting our residents and our world heritage City.

Geoff Ward

Wednesday
Jun192013

Bath's Gull Menace

I'm delighted to have been appointed to my new shadow cabinet role of "Neighbourhoods". It's a big brief at the heart of life in Bath and includes: parks and recreation, libraries, heritage services, street cleansing and waste services, public toilets and public protection. It's the front line of what the Council does for us and its bearing more than its fair share of cut from the Council's Liberal Democrat administration. 

Evening ritual, birds aggressively and brazenly seeking out food on the streets!One of the long standing issues for the City is the Gull menace! I'm aware of the nuisance noise for those city residents is acute, I saw a Black Backed Gull yesterday attack a family, snatching away food from their table whilst dining al fresco on the new square by the Station and I was shocked by the mess on the streets last week, with refuse and food waste scattered on our World Heritage streets.

I am even more concerned by all the bird excrement on the streets, buildings, railings, hand rails and cars, the birds are known carriers of Salmonella, Campylobacter and a whole host of gastrointestinal illnesses. I had a report from a resident recently which is being investigated by Public Protection.

The pigeons move in once the sacks have been ripped open by the Gulls.From observations of street life this week, there is certainly a lot more could be done to deny the birds the food which is perpetuating Bath's Gull menace. I will be meeting with Council Officers soon to present my finds and observations and harness their skill in improving this public health issue in the future to the benefit of visitors and residents. 

Daily removal of trade waste but the gulls have got there before the contractor! A pedestrian slipped on the food waste residue and then gulls and pigeons cleaned up the mess!    This cannot be right in terms of public health one of the most visited cities in Europe. There has never been a public health issue that civilised society can't crack. It needs the political will and application of resources, something not quite there yet but I'm working on it!!


Monday
Jun032013

Protecting The Green Belt

I voted against all Bath urban extensions for the following reasons:

  1. I believe them to be unnecessary, there are enough brownfield sites and sites where planning applications have already been agreed to satisfy the critical requirement of a 5-year land supply. The BANES Planners should be focussing on delivery of those sites before any other sites are considered.
  2. In my opinion the 12,700 housing requirement may be too high. I not convinced full account has been taken of the future employment patterns where remote and home working is likely to accelerate as IT infrastructure improves to high speed Broadband. Many firms are looking to downsize office and workplace space and service engineers now commonly work covering geographic area based on their home location. I believe BANES is still holding on to a bygone age when it comes to this more modern approach to working. What is probably needed is more hub style business units where Skype/ teleconferencing can be made more reliable and cost effective. The effect of more work from home is less need for travel and less housing in the long run.
  3. It's clear to me that the focus of BANES thinking is about the sustainability of transport and climate change and not on economic development. Whilst this might be topical and a laudable path for the Administration to take, they have not given enough weight to the need for sustainable communities and social life. Putting the houses near the City of Bath on the face of it achieves transport sustainability as new residents are encouraged to use public transport but the reality is it concentrates growth and causes economic and social unsustainability of rural areas and local market towns. It justifies neglecting the road network and this in turn weakens the opportunity to encourage business to establish itself away from the current central band of habitation and growth - the area between Bath and Bristol.
  4. If the Bath Green Belt urban extensions go ahead there is risk of damaging the World Heritage setting. The City and it's setting is the key reason why a lot of us want to live and work in and around Bath and why tourists visit us. The Green Belt and ANOB was put there for a reason - to prevent it from being extended and encroaching on the slopes and also joining up the urban areas. It is now under a lot of pressure and recent decisions including:
    • The skyline development of housing next to the MOD site on Lansdown.
    • The expansion of facilities at Oldfield School - the monstrosity of the new wooden faced gymnasium now visible from miles.
    • The building work now progressing at Bath University - visible on the Bath skyline for miles.
    • The sixth form centre at St Gregory's, again, very imposing on a key road into Bath.

I cannot deny we need to have development but the skyline is under attack like never before and if much more happens the future of Bath as we know it and as a World Heritage City must be under threat.

View from Colliers Lane of the building on the Lansdown escarpment, Bath skyline

My alternatives (not excepted) was to spread the development and develop the whole of BANES with forward thinking infrastructure developments. This would include better links to and from the motorways and around Bath, links to the Airport, ring roads around Bristol and better co-ordination and partnership with riparian Authorities, try to ensure Radstock and Somer is connected with London etc. etc. We must allow sustainable communities to be put first so rural villages and hamlets justify schools, shops, post offices and above all commerce and economic activity. Housing should be spread with smaller sites and units, not the mega greenfield sites so favoured by the Planners and the Developers. We really should be thinking of a bit bigger if the BANES area as a whole is to have an sustainable economic future.

I can only hope that the Inspector who will examine the revised Core Strategy in public, will concur with some of my thoughts. We shall have wait and see!

All Councillors had to reach a consensus on the main provisions of a revised Core Strategy, otherwise even more Green Belt would have been at risk throughout the whole of the BANES area. There were many who were not happy with the Bath urban extensions.

Cllr Geoff Ward

 - Former Shadow Portfolio - Homes and Strategic Planning 

 - Now Shadow Portfolio - Nieghbourhoods