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Tuesday
Mar052013

Core Strategy - Cllr Geoff Ward

I note the challenge we all have today in agreeing a workable Core Strategy going forward.  Whilst there are elements of these proposals which we find very difficult to accept, I applaud the hard work by our Officers which has ensured we have a plan before us today. I also recognise that through cross-party working we have arrived at a plan which is more acceptable than the proposals for large-scale development initially presented to us.

None of us want to see speculative applications across our region which damage the quality of life and upset our communities. I accept the need to plan for more houses for the future:

  • We need to grow economically
  • We need to ensure there is sufficient affordable housing for local residents
  • We need to support jobs and growth in our area
  • Above all we need to ensure that our offspring can access the housing ladder without having to rely upon the bank of Mum and Dad – something not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

Nevertheless, I remain concerned about some elements of the Core Strategy.

I am passionate about protecting the Greenbelt and ensuring that Bath does not join up with Bristol.
Growth must be for the whole of our region and not just along the corridor between Bath and Bristol.

Yet in order to create sustainable communities and enable growth, better infrastructure is essential.

We need to do more to improve the roads, the transport, the IT communications and economic activity of the region as a whole. If this were to be done, development could be spread across our area in a sustainable manner more acceptable to local communities.

It is clear that there are enough brownfield sites and planning permissions in the system to satisfy our area’s housing needs for the next 5 years. Yet unfortunately, this Core Strategy does not make that sequence of development clear, meaning the commitment to delivering ‘Brownfield First’ is not as solid as we would ideally like.

We should make it as easy as possible for developers to get on with their brownfield developments – working with them and greasing the wheels to bring these sites forward.

Which brings me to the matter of the Placemaking Plan.  We are disappointed not to see this document before us today, as had originally been expected. If work had started on the Placemaking Plan immediately last summer, it may be the case that more acceptable smaller sites could have been identified – mitigating the need for so many greenfield sites.

Nevertheless, we are where we are and we have to make the best of the situation presented to us.

I will be supporting the majority of the proposals within the Core Strategy, but in many cases with a heavy heart.

We must have a Core Strategy. However, I still deeply regret the fact these proposals will result in loss of Greenbelt, something I find very difficult to accept.

Friday
Feb082013

An Update on my Councillor Activities

 Bathavon North Ward

I have visited all 8 of the proposed East of Bath Park and Ride sites and few, if any, have all the necessary criteria to make them suitable for development. Some are just too far out from Bath to promote use, others are prone to flooding and others don’t comprehensively intercept the East of Bath road network to capture all the traffic. A report is being prepared by Consultants on their relative merits. I was surprised to find the proposed rail interchange site in Bathampton has a couple of houses on it and that the residents did not know that it was a proposed Park and Ride site. I also find it rather disingenuous that the original site area that my LibDem opponent Previous article on proposed park & ride site in BathamptonPrevious Article on proposed Park & Rise site in Bathamptoncampaigned would get stopped, is back on the agenda. That’s politics I suppose!

I have been concerned about a number of Ward Planning issues, which need enforcement in order to support the concerns of residents affected by those developments, that have not been taken forward to enforcement by BANES. Fellow Councillor Martin Veal and I will be meeting with the Planning Officers to register our concerns and to see what can be done to improve its service to the community.

BANES Draft Budget for 2013/14

I have extreme concern on the cuts to: 

  • Mobile Library Service
  • Public Toilets
  • Public Protection

I am also concened about the proposal to charge for car parking in the provincial areas, although this seemed to have been dropped due to early pressure.

I am working on these cuts with the Conservative Shadow Cabinet and hope to get them overturned or at least reduced.

Core Strategy

Our BANES 15-year forward plan for development is progressing well and we are working hard to protect the Greenbelt. I have proposed alternatives which have far less impact on the Greenbelt and ANOB and am hopeful that these ideas will form part of the plan going forward. Cross Party working is essential to get an acceptable plan for all, it won’t be easy but we are on track!

 

Friday
Dec212012

Out With The Old In With The New

This year has, for many, been another tough one economically. We remain in the doldrums with everyone suffering in some way or other. Young graduates trying to get a start in life with that first proper job, people in employment trying to make ends meet with increasing costs and wages static, the spectre of business failure and the risk of redundancy and those approaching retirement worried about their pensions with older people receiving next to nothing interest on their savings and gradually using up their hard earned cash. Never the less we have to stay positive and hope that 2013 will be better and that we will see the green shoots of improvement.

To all my friends in business, times might be tough but with confidence and energy you can win through! Growth and success will come from our SMEs, developing their great ideas, making well researched prudent investments and getting their ideas nimbly to the market. Growing businesses in recession is possible by finding well motivated talented people and supporting young graduates with work experience programmes. Such investment in people would be a great mutually beneficial move in 2013. I did it for nearly 20 years and it worked for me!  

As this most challenging year draws to a close with Christmas celebrations, I wish everyone who reads the blog well and hope that you have a restful time with family and friends.

Best wishes,

Geoff Ward

Thursday
Nov152012

Cuts in Frontline Services

At the BANES Planning, Transport and Environment Panel this week huge cuts in frontline services were proposed by Officers of Bath’s LibDem administration. A 30% cut in public protection, 50% cut in public toilets provision, cessation of the pest control service and extending car parking charges to the provincial towns around Bath were amongst a wholesale decimation of services. The spectre of plans to make cut the mobile library service again having been attempted last year but failed from a Conservative led campaign led by fellow Ward Councillor Martin Veal.

These cuts are at the heart of what the council is all about, promoting wellbeing, keeping us safe and ensuring economic vitality and vibrancy across the Council’s area. The cut in Public Protection will see less activity in trading standards with the potential of more rogue traders defrauding the old and vulnerable and more distraction burglaries. There have been two such incidents in the Bath suburbs in the last couple of weeks!! Food safety inspections of Bath’s 2000+ (and growing) food businesses will to be cut back to the “statutory minimum” with the advice service to these businesses stopped completely. It’s already at minimum now and with between 5 to 7 staff potentially being made redundant there is a real risk that public health will suffer and it doubtful that our Council would be able cope if a major outbreak occurred. Remember the Scottish E Coli outbreak with 400 cases which killed a score of people. That local Council was censured in the Pennington Report for its inadequate inspections!

On Public toilets, World Heritage Bath is one of the most visited in Europe and its inconceivable that we could be cutting provision, we should be providing the infrastructure to promote our biggest industry not taking steps to destroy it! Another cut being put forward is stopping our Pest Control service. This can only be another retrograde and potentially disastrous step for the City and its residents which again will be exposed to the dangers of self treatment or open up the opportunity for more rogue traders. The increasing Seagull menace and the public health risk should concern residents and business owners alike.

On car parking, to charge for provincial parking will hit the small shops and businesses which are struggling to keep going in the hardest recession since records began. Fellow Labour Councillor Eleanor Jackson commented that “if car driving customers can’t stop for a sandwich at one of her thriving Radstock shops without looking over your shoulder for the traffic warden then her shops certainly won’t be thriving for long!”

Our LibDem Panel members sort to waive through the Officers budget plans with very little “scrutiny”. They voted down my proposal for Cabinet portfolio holders to revisit their proposed front cuts which in my view puts BANES Council, its residents and visitors at risk and our economic revival in jeopardy for very little saving.

Friday
Oct122012

Success in removing Swainswick’s Worst Eyesore

I managed to persuade the Development Control Committee to allow a planning application on the derelict garage in Upper Swainswick despite Officer recommendation to “refuse”. This was our village’s “worst eyesore” and has been empty since 2009. Ever since the Garage was by passed nearly 20 years ago it has struggled to be a viable business. Because it’s in the greenbelt, the Planners suggested the “openness” will be affected. I suggested the derelict garage already affects the openness and if a garage ever came back into use then 30 odd cars would also be a blot on the landscape! Another victory for common sense!

Former Upper Swainswick Garage Site