2021 Chairman’s Statement

This statement was made by Ian Perkins at the 2021 Annual General Meeting of TARA, at which Ian stepped down as Chair of TARA following many years of outstanding service in the role.

For the last two years TARA has been impacted, as has very other organisation, by the restrictions imposed on society by the SARS- CoV-2 virus.
Despite the problems we have managed to continue to find ways of working with Councillors and Officers and maintaining links with other key organisations and city centre stakeholders.
With the expert assistance of Michael Brett we have responded to a range of planning issues including the proposed changes to the planning permission for the site formally occupied by the Nest. We also worked with the Rosewell Court residents association on issues around planning policy and HMOs and drawn attention to the many planning ambiguities surrounding Eveleigh House as well as defending residents interests over the future of the King Edwards school building and the Min. We also commented on the Government white paper on planning reform which had the potential to greatly reduce local democratic controls. We have also commented on the proposed update to the BANES local plan.
We have been lobbying for much more consideration for Bath city centre residents in planning for the management of the tourist offer post Covid.
We have supported the council’s efforts to continue schemes to reduce the number of gulls in the city even as central government has sought to thwart their efforts.
The Covid-19 crisis has pushed many people and organisations to make much greater use of digital systems and this is likely to continue into the post Covid world. More and more public bodies including BANES and the NHS are now planning to build on the on- line systems and processes they developed during the crisis. This will or should put the issue of digital exclusion front and centre for policymakers. Many of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our community cannot afford to access IT and/or lack the ability to use it. TARA is pressing BANES to address these issue.
Pedestrianisation will and is creating numerous problems for city centre residents ranging from loss of parking to problems with access. A large number of people live in the city and nobody seems to accord them and their needs any priority in pedestrianisation experiments or longer-term schemes. There are many residents and visitors with impaired mobility and energy, who don’t meet Blue Badge criteria but are adversely affected. 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. Pedestrianisation may have a role to play in these plans but it cannot and should not be seen as an end in itself. The proposed security zone has greatly intensified this issue and TARA has taken a leading role in the debate.
We have constantly challenged the justification for the security scheme proposed by the police which manages to be both objectively oppressive and inadequate when judged against recent attacks. It is also clear that the Council lack both the authority and political will to oppose it. Bath is very fortunate in having a wide variety of people that have chosen to live in the historic city centre. This is something that many cities have spent large sums of money trying to achieve and there are example of historic cities and tourist destinations that have lost their inner city residents and paid a heavy price. Too often in Bath people who actually chose to live in the City come bottom of the list of stakeholders to be taken into consideration in creating and implementing policy. The city centre security proposals are yet another example of this. The original proposals were developed with minimal consultation with residents and the publicity sought to downplay negative impacts. As a consequence they largely failed to acknowledge issues for those with limited mobility and dumped almost all the responsibility for coping with the negative impact on residents. This dereliction of responsibility by BANES was most clearly manifest in the original ludicrous proposed arrangement for deliveries and property maintenance. While the access consultants did a good job of starting to identify problems their terms of reference constrained their conclusions to a focus on the most disadvantaged and then only a subset. What we have argued for is a proper consultation with all affected residents proactively working to identify problems that will be created and identifying ways in which the local authorities will seek to take responsibility for implementing schemes to minimise those impacts and associated costs.
We have been active participants in the debate about liveable neighbourhoods, while we agree with the principle of reducing the dominance of vehicles in residential space we have expressed considerable concern about the councils approach to designing schemes which has tended to pit resident against resident but our main concern is in introducing these schemes without an overall traffic management strategy for the city.
Amid all the furore about pedestrianisation, low traffic neighbourhood and the health benefits of walking we have noticed that in reality space for walking is becoming harder to find. Most highways plans, in fact, do not even refer to spaces for walking any more but spaces for walking and cycling. This probably reflects the success of a well-organised cycling lobby but fails to recognise the inherent conflict between pedestrians, particularly pedestrians with mobility issues, and cyclists in shared spaces. We see calls for more planters in pedestrian spaces in the city as well as calls to greatly expand alfresco dining on city centre pavements and pedestrianised areas. Neither, of these we object to in principle but they do not seem to be part of a well thought through plan and seem to ignore the needs of pedestrians and residents living nearby. At one stage BANES paid for a well-research strategy for public realm spaces and movement through them but this was never implemented what now seems to be on offer is a smorgasbord of fashionable urban planning experiments. City centre residents complain about having to dodge cyclists, skateboarders and now electric scooters illegally using pavements and so called “pedestrianised” areas.
Where are the plans to improve the enforcement of rules?
There are a number of dangerous and well used road crossing points in the city centre. Where are the plans to invest in properly designed crossing controls in these places?
Trade waste blocks pavements forcing pedestrians into roads. Where are the plans to address the storage of trade waste to avoid this?
Successive BANES administrations have talked about creating cafe culture in the city centre but where is the properly funded research into how to strike the right balance between this and the inevitable impact on pedestrians and nearby residential properties?
We have continued to assist our members in dealing with problems caused by licensed premises and the complexities of licensing law and procedure. This year we have also had to opposed badly conceived alfresco dinning applications which ignored impacts on nearby domestic properties.
Among the many consultations we have responded to is the BANES one shared vision. Bath as a city has probably had more effort and money spent on creating visions and strategies than any other city of comparable size in the world and its unique status has attracted the interest of some of the world’s leading experts. Unfortunately, none of these visions and strategies has been realised in practice and every new administration seems to feel the need to restart the processes from square one thus compounding the problem. However we used this consultation to highlight:
The need to deal with the basic hygiene of repairing roads and pavements, clearing rubbish, managing trade waste properly before pursuing visions.
The failure to implemented the Public Realm and Movement strategy
The need for policies to tested for their impact on flat dwellers.
The role for affordable public transport that has routes designed around need
The importance of acknowledging the role of residents in preserving Bath heritage infrastructure and the visitor experience
The lack of priority given to pedestrians in planning the public realm

As well as responding to consultations we have been critical of the modes of consultation that BANES has chosen to use with its over use of online questionnaire, filled with leading questions. The inability to submit responses outside this online mechanism is unreasonable and unfair. The online mechanism itself barely acknowledges the existence of representative organisations it has forced us, for instance, to declare whether TARA considers itself disabled.
One of the issue which the recent parking consultation seems to have failed to address is the anomalous position of motorcycles. Despite their negative environmental impact motorcycles continue to be able to park in the city free of charge. This is a facility which they exploit to its fullest extent. We find motorcycles occupying car parking spaces and very dangerously cycle racks including cycle racks on pavements. As well as occupying the cities limited parking spaces free of charge, irrespective of their emissions, many of them seem to have disabled or circumvented the sound control measures on their machines and create considerable noise nuisance.
We have been pressing both BANES and the Bath BID to improve the poor management of trade waste and in particular the use of on large on street dumps in some of the most iconic parts of the heritage site many of which appear to lack the correct approvals.
We have continued to lobby for more resources to be given to policing the city centre. However, we are concerned about the nature of the debate about policing issues as believe we need a much more serious debate about where any additional resources should be spent. For instance, not just creating a new police station but spending on having more and or better-equipped officers, more CCTV coverage or perhaps properly funded programmes to tackle the drug dependence and mental illness that drives much of the theft and anti-social behaviour.
For many year now TARA and the City Centre Action Group have played a leading role in campaigning for a plan of action to address the scandal of high levels of pollution poisoning residents, visitors and workers in the city centre. The CAZ is the first substantive response to this challenge but has failed to do what is need to reduce NOX pollution and instead has settled for trying to spread it over a wider area. There has been little movement on the reduction of other pollutants and in particular small particulates which are not even monitored accurately. The in adequate monitoring of pollution is also an issue in relation to the proposed creation of LTN’s which will potentially displace traffic and therefore pollution.
We continue to be concerned at the behaviour of the National Trust in taking over the management of one of Bath most important community and cultural assets and displacing one of Bath’s and indeed the world’s most important museum collections. Despite repeated requests they have failed to hold any proper consultations with Bath residents.
We have been working with both BANES and event organisers to ensure that plans to close streets in Bath have proper consultation processes which ensure that the views of all affected residents and in particular vulnerable residents are understood and taken into consideration.
I cannot end this statement without thanking your committee for their hard work on your behalf and you our members for your continued support. I have been proud to be your chairman for more than a decade but this year, as I foreshadowed at previous AGMs, I am standing down and proposing that you elect my deputy Ian Tarr to succeed me. I am confident that Ian is an ideal candidate to lead TARA in meeting the challenges we face in the coming years.
Finally I want to pay tribute to Michael Brett a former chairman of this association and one of the longest serving committee members who even after leaving the committee has continued to work to support TARA with his considerable expertise. On personal level I have benefited hugely from Michael’s extensive knowledge, wisdom and friendship.