‘Sham’ Liveable Neighbourhoods consultation should be scrapped and restarted

The Liveable Neighbourhoods consultation is a sham and it must be scrapped and started again, Conservative councillors say.

The Liberal Democrat administration in control of Bath and North East Somerset Council recently held a public consultation on their plans for Liveable Neighbourhoods.

The plans involve introducing Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) to restrict vehicle movements at various locations across the district, and the five-week public consultation to seek the views of residents ended on 3 January 2022.

But numerous complaints have been made about the way the administration has conducted the consultation, with respondents accusing the council of asking leading questions and ignoring the majority of residents.

In an email sent to members of the Lib Dem Cabinet, one resident complained: “From the information presented with this consultation, I learned little that was new from the previous consultation of a year ago.”

He added: “Included were questions and pull down answers which could only be described as leading and I suspect meant to support an agenda already decided.”

Another resident said: “I have tried to participate in the so-called consultation but it is highly selective and complicated and does not allow generalised comment. It would seem that this is a sham consultation and I wonder what legal standing it has.”

And another said: “As with previous surveys of this nature produced by the council, your questions (tick boxes) seem designed to ensure that the output can be used to claim support for your approach.

“In addition to leading questions, I am also very concerned that it’s possible for suggestions to be ‘liked’ but not for them to be disagreed with. This absolutely skews the results of the survey and must call into doubt its conclusions from the outset.”

The Lib Dem administration has also been criticised for only alerting certain residents – those who live close to proposed LTN schemes – to the consultation, rather than the city as a whole.

Reflecting this concern, one resident wrote to the Lib Dem leadership to say: “I suggest that this is an oversight that risks undermining the results of the survey and your claim to be a ‘listening council’.” 

Following the complaints, Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, is urging the administration to scrap the consultation and go back to the drawing board.

Cllr Pritchard said: “This consultation has no legitimacy whatsoever and should be scrapped and started again.

“The Liveable Neighbourhoods policy will be hugely disruptive for residents and businesses right across our district, and it cannot be introduced on the back of such poor levels of public engagement.

“It’s clear that this survey was designed to produce an outcome already decided by the administration. Quite simply, this is consultation in name only.

“I urge the administration to take these complaints seriously, scrap the consultation and go back to the drawing board.”

‘Hapless and embarrassing’ – councillors rate B&NES Lib Dems’ 2021 performance

The performance of the Liberal Democrats in charge of Bath and North East Somerset Council over the past 12 months has been hapless and embarrassing, opposition councillors say.

And the administration desperately needs to get its house in order if it is to win back the trust of residents in 2022.

The past year has seen the Lib Dem administration make a number of poor policy decisions and avoidable mistakes. We have also seen unnecessary public squabbling among current and former members of Cabinet.

This year congestion has dramatically increased across Bath, especially at weekends, with one driver reporting an eight-minute journey taking three hours. Alarmingly, the chaos on Bath’s roads has been welcomed by the Lib Dems, with the administration arguing that traffic disruption is needed to force people to change their driving habits.

The repair work to Cleveland Bridge, which began in May and was initially meant to take four months to complete, still isn’t finished and relationships have soured between the council and neighbouring authorities, which means finding a long-term traffic solution has been made more difficult.

The administration has pressed ahead with the Ring of Steel, despite repeated pleas for a rethink from residents. And it was revealed at December’s Cabinet meeting that plans for the ring’s ‘inner zone’ were not, as the administration has always claimed, initiated by Avon and Somerset Police.

Cabinet infighting over the Ring of Steel has been played out in full public view, with Cllr Kevin Guy and Cllr Dine Romero exchanging petty blows in the local press.

Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are still being pursued, despite other local authorities removing them after finding they created more problems than they solved. In some areas they have been successful, but the B&NES administration has dismissed concerns that Bath’s unique topography will result in LTNs having an overall negative effect on the city.

This year’s Christmas Markets were extended and then completely cancelled by the Leader of the Council, creating great uncertainly for businesses at what should be a highly profitable time of year.

The Green Park car park was only reopened after a campaign by local residents and Conservative councillors.

To top it all off, barely a month has gone by this year without the administration appearing in the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ section of Private Eye magazine, causing further embarrassment to the council.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “I hope members of the current administration look back at their performance over the past 12 months and find the courage to be honest in their evaluations.

“They have done very little to make us feel proud of where we live but plenty to embarrass us. They have antagonised residents, ignored legitimate concerns about controversial policies, called each other names in the local press and sought to hide from scrutiny whenever possible.

“Even as the leader of the opposition, I want this administration to succeed. Because if they succeed, Bath and North East Somerset succeeds. But their record over the past year tells us only one thing – they are failing, and it’s residents who will suffer.

“As we head into 2022, one thing is crystal clear – B&NES deserves better.”

B&NES Conservatives pledge support to local disability campaigners on UNESCO awareness day

The Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council has declared its unwavering support for local people who have disabilities.

Opposition councillors today met with local campaigners, including Access BANES, to highlight access issues in Bath city centre.

The meeting took place on this year’s UNESCO International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an annual awareness day which aims to raise awareness about disability issues and drum up support for greater equality.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group, and Deputy Leader Cllr Karen Warrington heard how the Liberal Democrat administration’s current plans for the Ring of Steel would leave some of the most vulnerable members of society barred from entering their own city.

Under the current proposals, the Ring of Steel will also see a 24/7 ban on food and parcel deliveries into the secure zone, with residents required to apply for permits for larger deliveries. This, Conservatives say, is an unnecessary and impractical imposition on peoples’ lives.

Cllr Pritchard said: “The Conservative Group has today offered its full support to local people who have disabilities and who are trying to get a fair deal for themselves and others.

“With the Liberal Democrat administration’s current plans to impose a Ring of Steel around the city centre, residents with mobility challenges and other disabilities are simply being forgotten.

“The meagre compromises the administration has made on the Ring of Steel do not go far enough and risk alienating a large section of our community.

“That’s why we’re using this international day of awareness to remind the administration of the responsibilities it has under the Equality Act to ensure people with protected characteristics are not excluded from society.”

Cllr Pritchard and Cllr Warrington also met with Cllr Charles Fifield, member of Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council, and Cllr Dom Morris, member of Gloucestershire County Council. Both these councillors highlighted their own successes in improving access for disabled people in their areas, and provided valuable advice based on their own experiences.

Cllr Kevin Guy, the Liberal Democrat Leader of B&NES Council, this week admitted that the original draconian plans for the Ring of Steel – which involved complete exclusion of access to the city centre for all residents – was “appalling”.

Cllr Pritchard added: “I am delighted to see Cllr Guy finally admit how damaging the initial proposals were. I implore him to cast a similarly critical eye over the revised plans and realise, as so many others have already, that they are still unfit for purpose.”

Conservatives call on Council to ditch Ring of Steel plans ahead of UNESCO disability day

The Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council has called on the Lib Dem administration to rethink its controversial Ring of Steel plans ahead of an important day of global awareness.

The UNESCO International Day of Persons with Disabilities will take place on Friday 3 December, and the Conservatives have suggested it would be the perfect time to announce a review of the policy.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to raise awareness about disability issues and drum up support for greater equality.

And the B&NES Conservatives say it will be embarrassing and damaging for Bath, as a UNESCO World Heritage City, to reach this important global day with the administration still planning to permanently exclude visitors and residents with disabilities from the city centre.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on B&NES Council, said: “These plans are causing huge upset to residents across our district who have mobility problems. People who cannot walk more than a few metres and who need to be able to access services by car feel they are being excluded from their own city.

“We recognise the need for enhanced security and improved air quality, but this must be achieved without ruining the lives of fellow citizens who already face significant challenges.

“We hope councillors of all parties will support us in trying to stop these divisive plans. The administration should pause, consult properly, and think again about the harm they are causing. Bath’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage City places responsibility on those with power, and I call on them to use that power fairly, for the good of all – particularly those with disabilities.”

The Council has announced plans to extend the closure of Milsom Street in the city centre for a further six months, with a view to closing it permanently to traffic during the hours of 10am-6pm. This plan is currently out for formal consultation.

Response from Conservative Group to Cllr Rigby’s Ring of Steel ‘fake news’ jibe

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “Throughout this process, the Conservative Group has sought only to highlight the damaging effects the Ring of Steel could have on residents and businesses in Bath.

“The administration has taken an unnecessarily hostile approach to pursuing this policy. They have repeatedly dismissed the concerns of residents, failed to answer direct questions at public meetings and only released information after being subject to demands under the Freedom of Information Act.   

“I remind the administration that it was only after the findings of an independent accessibility study were published that some concessions were finally made for blue badge holders. That these concerns were not properly addressed at the start of this process has created unimaginable stress for people, and shows how little members of this Cabinet care about some of our most vulnerable residents.

“The Ring of Steel received Cabinet approval in July. At no point in the text of the accompanying report is it made clear that two separate ATTROs are being proposed, nor has it been made clear in any of the Council’s recent communications.

“In fact, there does not appear to be any documentary record of the Ring of Steel being formed of two separate ATTROs. This could give residents the impression that the second ATTRO referred to by Cllr Rigby is a recent addition.

“Furthermore, it has been implied from early 2020 that the policy was in response to a direct, written request from the police. The letter sent by the police to the council in 2020 does not reflect what was implied. Our criticism highlighted that disparity.

“It is disappointing to see the administration use the terrible events in Liverpool, which are still coming to light, to make a party political attack. It does a disservice to residents to indulge in this kind of behaviour.

“We urge the administration to listen more carefully to the very real concerns of residents, and we would be happy to work in a cross-party manner to find solutions which strike a better balance between security and equality for all residents.”

Conservatives outline plans to ease Bath’s traffic problems

The B&NES Conservative Group has today outlined plans to solve the congestion problems that blight Bath.

It follows successive weekends of complete gridlock in the city centre, with some motorists stuck in traffic for hours on end.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, has teamed up with local residents and colleagues in the Bath Conservative Association to draw up plans to get traffic moving again.

The plans have been split into short term, medium term and long term aspirations.

In the short term, the Conservative Group is calling for:

  • Negotiations to open with utility companies to seek a temporary halt to all roadworks during busy periods at least until Cleveland Bridge has fully reopened
  • Park and ride services to be made free at weekends and, during the week, to charge by the vehicle rather than the number of passengers
  • The easing of temporary road restrictions until Cleveland Bridge has fully reopened

In the medium term:

  • Intensive discussions to start with the city’s major employers and generators of traffic to investigate alternative transport arrangements for staff and visitors, including dedicates shuttle buses from park and ride sites
  • Plans to introduce Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods to be put on hold to avoid displacing traffic to roads that are already at full capacity

In the long term:

  • Negotiations to begin with neighbouring authorities, WECA and central government to impress the urgent need to redesign the strategic road network to divert through-traffic away from Bath

A major contributor to the current congestion problems is the ongoing work by Wessex Water to divert a sewer near Avon Street car park to allow work to start on the Bath Quays North development. After the B&NES Liberal Democrat administration initially said this was nothing to do with them, it was revealed last week that Wessex Water was acting on the express instruction of the council.

The Conservative Group is calling for this work to be temporarily put on hold until Cleveland Bridge had reopened in order to reduce pressure on the road network.

Alarmingly, members of the Lib Dem administration have previously indicated that traffic chaos in Bath is desirable, claiming that increased levels of congestion “will allow new travel habits to evolve”.

This, the Conservatives say, is completely the wrong approach, and will result in Bath being permanently gridlocked.     

Cllr Pritchard said: “For a number of weeks now, Bath has been at a complete standstill at weekends. Last weekend, one resident said that an eight-minute journey ended up taking three hours.

“This level of disruption on the roads is extremely damaging, with residents left feeling like prisoners in their own city, completely unable to move around.

“To be clear – such traffic chaos is exactly what the current Liberal Democrat administration appears to want for Bath. Cllr Sarah Warren recently gave a frank admission that congestion on this scale is desirable because it will force people to abandon their cars and take up walking and cycling instead.

“But people will not change their behaviour in the way that Cllr Warren thinks because they need to be able to get about. Although we encourage the use of active travel, it’s not practical to expect everybody to cycle or walk around hilly Bath.

“We believe these proposed measures will go some way towards reducing pressure on the road network and we call on the administration to begin taking them forward at the earliest opportunity.”

Conservatives call for free parking in B&NES over Christmas

B&NES Council should offer free parking across the whole district in the run up to Christmas to help boost the local economy, Conservative councillors say.

It comes just a few weeks after the council announced that free parking at council-owned car parks would be available in Keynsham on every Saturday in December.

The Conservative opposition on Bath and North East Somerset Council welcomes this decision and is today calling on the Liberal Democrat to extend the offer of free parking on every Saturday in December to all council-owned car parks in B&NES.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on B&NES Council, said: “We are today calling on the administration to extend the offer of free parking to all council-owned car parks in B&NES to give local businesses a much-needed economic boost in the run up to Christmas.

“In 2019, our world-famous Bath Christmas Market brought more than £30m to the local economy. With the Liberal Democrat administration taking the decision to cancel this year’s Christmas market, there is an even greater need to do all we can to ensure businesses are given the space to thrive.

“We welcome the decision to bring free parking to Keynsham and believe that residents and businesses across the whole of B&NES should receive this early Christmas present as well.”

Lib Dems must learn from Ealing Council’s LTN blunder

The Liberal Democrat administration must learn from the mistakes of others if they are to bring Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods to B&NES, opposition councillors say.

It follows Ealing Council’s decision last month to remove seven of the Low-Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes it had previously put in place.

LTNs are designed to block access to residential streets in order to improve air quality and reduce congestion. 

The Lib Dems who run Bath and North East Somerset Council are planning to rollout Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods across the district over the course of the next couple of years, and the Conservative opposition on the council is urging them to learn from Ealing’s mistakes and think again.

The LTNs in Ealing were erected during the lockdown last year. But recent a consultation found the majority of people living in them were against the schemes.

In Ealing, the LTNs were found to have increased levels of congestion on nearby streets, made no improvement to air quality and soured community relations.

A report considered by Ealing Council’s Cabinet reads: “There is evidence that (as would be expected) traffic flows have reduced within each of the LTN areas themselves. 

“Apart from that, broadly speaking, the overall benefits for some residents are somewhat offset by disbenefits to others.

“In addition, there are no schemes where the overall impact in terms of traffic/congestion and air quality are significant either positively or negatively.”

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on B&NES Council, said: “Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods are nice in theory but don’t always work in practice. As we now know from what has happened in Ealing, they can create more problems than they solve.

“By pushing traffic onto other roads and damaging relations between communities, LTNs will serve only to create ‘poor air zones’ and ‘rich air zones’.

“We are therefore urging the Lib Dem ‘listening’ council to put its money where its mouth is and actually listen to residents in Ealing who objected so forcefully to LTNs.

“And with a budget of £2.2m already earmarked for LTNs in B&NES, we must ask ourselves – is this money well spent?”

Conservatives demand answers over cancellation of Bath Christmas Market 2021

The Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council must give a full and frank explanation as to why this year’s Bath Christmas Market has been cancelled, Conservatives say.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on B&NES Council, has written an open letter to Cllr Kevin Guy, the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council, on behalf of residents and businesses in Bath demanding to know why the 2021 Bath Christmas Market has been cancelled.

On Friday 17 September, the administration announced that the Christmas Market was to be “reshaped” due to supply problems caused by Brexit and COVID-19. This reshaping involved, among other things, moving the market online.

But the explanations given by the administration for the cancellation – Brexit and COVID-19 – have been challenged by councillors, residents and businesses who have pointed out their numerous flaws.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on B&NES Council, said: “I am shocked and saddened, though not entirely surprised, that the incompetence of this administration has resulted in the loss of our Christmas Market.

“The decision to cancel the event is a devastating blow to the local economy at a time when this Council should be doing all it can to support local businesses.

“I have written to Cllr Guy to demand a full explanation because the excuses given so far simply do not add up. Time after time we are seeing a catalogue of failure from this administration, and the Leader of the Council ought to recognise that he has a duty to be transparent when making crucial decisions.”

The news came just a few months after Cllr Guy announced that the 2021 event was to be extended for an extra week, meaning it would run for an unprecedented 25 days. The decision to cancel the event so soon after announcing its extension, Cllr Pritchard claims, shows a catastrophic lack of forethought and planning.

In his letter to Cllr Guy, Cllr Pritchard says: “According to Visit England, there are almost 20 locations in the UK that are hosting Christmas markets this year. This even includes small towns such as Skipton and Rochester. Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its Christmas market is famed across Europe. It seems highly unlikely, therefore, that Bath is uniquely susceptible to problems with logistics, while other towns and cities are able to continue as planned with their festive markets.”

The Bath Christmas Market attracts around 400,000 visitors every year and is consistently named one of the best festive markets in Europe.

B&NES Conservatives appeal to Government minister to stop ‘unfair’ Ring of Steel plans

The Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council has appealed to the Government for help to fight the Bath Ring of Steel proposals.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Council’s Conservative Group and ward member for the Chew Valley, has penned an open letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP asking the Secretary of State to review the policy.

It follows the recent Cabinet meeting in which the Council’s Liberal Democrat administration approved the plans to restrict access to Bath city centre, and the Conservative Group’s persistent opposition to them.

In the letter, Cllr Pritchard highlighted the fact that the proposals are, in reality, insufficient to stop a terror attack and would instead leave people, especially people with mobility problems, locked out of the city centre.

He explained that the policy is against the spirit of the Equalities Act and that, following the economic shock that has been visited upon towns and cities across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be championing our city centres, not walling them off to residents and visitors.

Cllr Pritchard said: “The Ring of Steel proposals are unfair and unnecessary and we are seeking help from the Government to try to get this administration to see sense and ditch these controversial plans.

“The Liberal Democrats are using the threat of terrorism to further their anti-motoring agenda and further demonise drivers. These proposals will not actually prevent terror attacks from taking place and will simply marginalise members of our community who are not able to move around easily.”

Keynsham councillors call for roundabout at busy junction

Councillors in Keynsham have called on Bath and North East Somerset Council to build a roundabout at a busy junction.

Cllr Alan Hale and Cllr Lisa O’Brien, both Conservative councillors for Keynsham South on B&NES Council, are urging the authority to build a roundabout at the junction between Longmeadow Road and Charlton Road.

This, the councillors say, will make it easier and safer for traffic emerging onto busy Charlton Road from Longmeadow Road, as well as reducing queuing traffic on Longmeadow Road.

Cllr Alan Hale, who is also the Council’s Member Advocate for Safer Roads, said: “A roundabout at this location would go a long way to improving road safety in the area and will make things easier for residents who live in the vicinity.

“Speeds on Charlton Road can be quite high and this makes it difficult and unsafe for drivers emerging from Longmeadow Road.”

Cllr Lisa O’Brien said: “Today we are urging the Council to take these safety concerns seriously and start to undertake the necessary procedures for making changes to the road layout. “A roundabout here is a sensible and necessary measure and Cllr Hale and I would be willing to revisit the plans with officers and the relevant cabinet member as soon as possible to get the ball rolling.”

Parties unite to ensure safety of women and girls in B&NES is top priority

The safety of women and girls across Bath and North East Somerset has been recognised as a top priority for the Council.

A special motion was tabled at last night’s Council meeting calling on the authority to act to improve the safety of women and girls right across B&NES.

The motion, proposed by Liberal Democrat councillor Dine Romero and seconded by Labour councillor Liz Hardman, was written with full cross-party support, with the Council’s Conservative, Independent and Green Party political groups also giving it their backing.

Following the killing of Sarah Everard in March this year, the issue of behaviour towards women and girls, and their safety in public places, has been brought to the forefront.

The motion recognises that everybody should have the right to be safe from violence and harassment on our streets and states that women and girls from any background should not have to alter their behaviour in order to feel safe.

It is also acknowledged that it is not just women who are at risk but that any individual may be vulnerable to attack for various reasons.

Councillor Dine Romero, Liberal Democrat ward member for Southdown, said: “This motion represents a cross-party statement of solidarity with women. We are not only taking a stand against violence and harassment, but we are also calling for concrete action to help all women go about our ordinary lives without fear. We want this Council to do its part, and to make sure in all its decisions that it is not putting more risk on women.

“Somehow it has become accepted that it is women’s fault if they become victims. This is not right and must stop. Women should be safe in public spaces, whatever time of day or night, during daylight or in the dark. Going forward this principle will be embedded in Council strategies and councillors will work together to make B&NES a safer place.”

Cllr Liz Hardman, Labour ward councillor for Paulton, said: “Women are far more likely than men to fall victim to sexual violence, with estimates that 4.9 million women have been victims of sexual assault in their lives including 1.4 million who have been raped or have faced attempted rape.

“The vast majority of sexual offences remain unsolved. Indeed, most are not even reported to the police. Women feel too embarrassed to report rape because they think that the police will not help, and they think that they will not be believed. 

“Women live in fear and they change their behaviour to avoid being out at night on their own and to try to keep safe. Yet Sarah Everard did everything she could to stay safe and still she fell victim to violence. As a society we must stop laying all the responsibility for keeping safe on women. There are things that B&NES Council can and should do. We should make our public spaces safer with improved lighting and CCTV provision and we must keep monitoring progress”.

Cllr Sally Davis, Conservative ward councillor for Clutton and Farmborough, said: “I am pleased to see this motion brought to Council, though I would of course prefer to live in a world in which it would not be deemed necessary.

“The fight for equal rights and fairness for women has a long and proud history. Yet despite many successes there is still, evidently, a lot of work to be done to ensure women and girls, and other more vulnerable members of our society, feel safe in public places.

“On behalf of the Conservative Group, I applaud this motion and the spirit of cross-party unity in which it was written.”

Cllr Karen Walker, Independent Group ward councillor for Peasedown, said: “The cross-party group of women came together to share their own experiences and to help understand the need to support others. Woman should not have to change the way they are to stop sexual harassment in any shape or form.

“B&NES Council and other organisations should work together to provide better street lightning and CCTV cameras. We shall continue to monitor any actions and push if we feel that safety measures are taking too long to be addressed, as stated in the motion before Council.”

Cllr Joanna Wright, Green Party ward councillor for Lambridge, said: “The Green Party supports this motion, as we recognise the level of violence that surrounds many in daily life is not acceptable.

“All sections of society need to call out violence against women and against any human being whatever their gender. We have to keep asking the question, what kind of world do we want to live in, how do we make sure it is fair and safe for everyone to go about their daily lives? This motion is an opportunity for all of us to call out violence, harassment and intimidation.”

The motion requests the principle of championing the right of women and girls to be protected from violence and harassment in public places be embedded in all Council strategies going forward.

It supports schemes such as ‘Ask Angela’ and calls on licensed businesses to participate and to take active steps to ensure harassment and sexual intimidation is taken seriously.

It also calls on Council departments, and other public bodies, to improve the security of public spaces and asks that schools, colleges, universities and youth organisations renew their efforts to promote a ‘safety and respect for all’ agenda among their students.

Conservatives slam “reckless” Cabinet decision to restrict access to Bath city centre

Motorists will be permanently excluded from Bath city centre following a “reckless” decision by B&NES Cabinet members.

At tonight’s Cabinet meeting members agreed to go ahead with proposals to completely restrict access to Bath city centre through the controversial ‘Ring of Steel’ proposals.

With approval from Cabinet, the process can now start whereby access to the city centre will be restricted 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week for 365 days-a-year. New reinforced bollards and anti-terror street furniture will also be erected at numerous places in the city centre.

These unnecessary measures will leave city centre residents unable to park their cars outside their properties, receive deliveries to their doors or be dropped off at their doorsteps by taxis late at night.

Some of the more controversial proposals have been tweaked to allow a degree of access for Blue Badge holders. But these changes, the B&NES Conservative Group says, do not go far enough and will severely restrict the freedoms of residents.

Cllr Karen Warrington, Conservative councillor for the Chew Valley on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “The people of Bath will wake up tomorrow morning in a city they no longer recognise. When these regulations come into force, this administration will have turned a once welcoming and vibrant city centre into a no-go zone for residents.

“The concessions the administration has made to Blue Badge holders do not go far enough and they have given themselves the power to remove these concessions whenever they see fit.

“Let me be clear – the Liberal Democrats are using the threat of terrorism to further their anti-motoring agenda. This is reckless, cynical and underhand in the extreme.”

Midsomer Norton councillor welcomes decision to refuse controversial mast application

The decision to refuse a planning application for an 18m-high mast in Midsomer Norton has been welcomed by a local councillor.

Cllr Chris Watt, Conservative ward member for Midsomer Norton Redfield on B&NES Council, objected to the planning application when it was submitted to planning officers.

The application would have seen the telecommunications mast sited near the grade 11* listed St John’s Church, a prominent location in the Midsomer Norton Conservation Area.  

Although Cllr Watt supported the aspiration of improving telecommunications services in the ward, he did not think the conservation area was an appropriate location for the mast. The installation would have included the mast itself and equipment cabinets on a raised pavement highly visible to motorists and pedestrians.

In a welcome move, Bath and North East Somerset Council earlier this month announced that the application had been refused by planning officers.

The proposal, they said, would be “highly incongruous, harmful to visual amenity and entirely at odds with the historic character of the street scene”.

They added that it would undermine the character of the conservation area and the setting of the nearby listed buildings, especially as the proposed equipment had not been sympathetically designed or camouflaged.

Responding to the decision, Cllr Watt said: “I’m delighted that the Council’s planning officers have refused this application. The mast would undoubtedly have been at odds with the character of the surrounding area and local people would have found it an unnecessary imposition.

“I’m pleased that my objections, and those of other Midsomer Norton residents, have been listened to. The public benefits of the proposal are acknowledged but so too are the public benefits of the conservation area, and as a ward councillor I will continue to stand up for the things that matter most to residents in Midsomer Norton.”

Cllr Watt’s objections to the application were shared by independent Midsomer Norton councillor Paul Myers, who also welcomed the decision.

Cllr Myers said: “Given that the Midsomer Norton and Welton Conservation Area is only one of two at risk in B&NES, it’s great to see that concerns about the impact of this particular proposed mast on the street scene have been listened to by planners.

“This development would never have been allowed in a street in Bath, so I see this as a watershed moment where at last Midsomer Norton’s heritage counts too.” 

Conservatives call for memorial to honour COVID victims in B&NES

Conservative councillors have called for a memorial to be constructed in honour of those in Bath and North East Somerset who have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

The B&NES Conservative Group has tabled a motion for debate at next week’s Council meeting.

The motion seeks to recognise those people who have lost their lives due to COVID and pays tribute to all the key workers and health staff who have done so much for the community during the pandemic.

Other authorities across the country have been using blossom trees as a way to pay tribute to victims of COVID.

If the motion is agreed by Council next week, the Leader of the Council, Cllr Kevin Guy, will be required to create a cross-party working group to find a way for a blossom tree memorial, or other suitable memorial, to be created at an appropriate location in B&NES.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the B&NES Conservative Group, said: “We are tabling this motion because we wish to honour those people in our local area who have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19.

“The pandemic has been a challenging time for all of us but for some people, it has been devastating. We wish to extend a hand to those who have lost loved ones and to find a way for our community to heal.

“We think a memorial at a suitable location in B&NES would be a fitting way to honour the victims of COVID and to thank all they key workers and health staff who have looked after us over the past year.”

At the time of writing, 293 people in Bath and North East Somerset have died of COVID-19.

Councillors team up with activists to oppose waste processor plans

Councillors and activists have come together to oppose plans to build a new food waste processing plant on green belt land near Keynsham.

Cllr Alan Hale and Cllr Lisa O’Brien, Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Conservative ward councillors for Keynsham South, have teamed up with local activist group POKE (Protect our Keynsham Environment) to help see off the controversial proposals.

The plans involve building an Anaerobic Digester Plant at the former Queen Charlton Quarry, Charlton Field Lane.

The Anaerobic Digestion facility processes organic materials or ‘feedstocks’ (crops and food waste) to produce biogas to create renewable energy. If approved, the plant will process 92,000 tonnes of crops and food waste a year.

Objections to the proposals include the detrimental effects the plant will have on the local community through an increase in HGV traffic, noise and odour pollution. The application also poses a threat the green belt.

Cllr Alan Hale said: “I applaud the desire to create more renewable energy but I do not believe it should come at the expense of the local community in Keynsham and in nearby wards. This is green belt land that should be protected from this sort of development.

“I’m delighted to team up with POKE on this issue as it shows that ward councillors and residents are united in their objections to these plans.”

Cllr Lisa O’Brien said: “POKE have done excellent work to raise awareness of these potentially damaging proposals locally, and it’s a pleasure to work with them going forward.

“This is not the right location for a building of this nature and I implore the Council to think of local residents and make the right decision when, eventually, a decision is to be made.”

Kerry Morgan, Chair of Protect Our Keynsham Environment (POKE), said: “We’ve looked in detail at the plans for where the waste to feed this giant digester will travel from and we do not believe this will reduce our carbon footprint. Instead, we will be blighted by more lorries on our roads and higher levels of noise and odour pollution.

“We all want sustainable and renewable energy, but this controversial plan isn’t the answer. These plans will change our area forever and we need to stand firm against them.”

The application will be brought before the Council’s Planning Committee in due course.

Lib Dems’ failings on waste issues show ‘staggering ineptitude’

Failures with waste services across Bath and North East Somerset show the Liberal Democrats are ‘staggeringly inept’, opposition councillors say.

The Conservative Group on B&NES Council is urging the ruling Lib Dems to get their act together and address the problems currently blighting waste services.

It comes after recent revelations that over the past 12 months the administration has not had a single successful prosecution for fly-tipping, despite recording more than 3,000 separate incidents.

Other local authorities across the country have had recent successes with prosecuting fly-tippers. In April this year, East Herts Council prosecuted four people for fly-tipping, Hull City Council prosecuted nine and Durham County Council prosecuted two.

The Conservative Group insists that it is not good enough that B&NES has not managed to get a single prosecution in the past 12 months, and is concerned that not enough is being done to tackle fly-tipping.

It also follows weeks of severe delays to the kerbside collection service. On Wednesday (30 June), the Council failed to collect waste from more than 180 individual locations and from more than 150 on Thursday (1 July).

Although the administration has blamed the delays on a nationwide shortage of drivers, other authorities in the South West are coping just fine. This, the Conservative Group says, points towards mismanagement of the service by the Liberal Democrats as being the main cause of the delays.

It was also revealed last month that the amount of waste – from kerbside collections, HWRC deposits and trade waste – the Council sends for incineration has increased by 28% since 2018/19. Incineration is a controversial method of disposing of waste due to its negative effects on the environment.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “This catalogue of failure when it comes to issues around waste and the environment is simply not good enough. It shows a staggering degree of ineptitude on behalf of the Lib Dem administration, and I am hereby serving them with a notice that they must make improvements as quickly as possible.

“These services are extremely important to residents and the Council needs to recognise that it has a vital role to play in discouraging behaviours that damage the environment.

“From today, the Conservative Group wants to see the administration make more of an effort to prosecute fly-tippers, incinerate less waste and ensure the kerbside collection service is able to return to full capacity as soon as possible.”

Traffic plans show Lib Dems are asleep at the wheel

The B&NES Liberal Democrats’ inept traffic policies show they are asleep at the wheel, Conservative councillors say.

It follows last night’s (23 June) Cabinet meeting in which the Lib Dem administration approved the roll-out of a number of Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) across Bath and North East Somerset.

LTNs are a key part of the Lib Dem administration’s Liveable Neighbourhoods policy, the aim of which, they say, is to reduce overall traffic levels and to discourage what they call “unnecessary car ownership”.

But the B&NES Conservative councillors say the measures will lead to higher levels of congestion and pollution and will result in residents with mobility problems being disproportionately affected.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “We are disappointed, though not surprised, to see Cabinet give the green light for 28 Low-Traffic Neighbourhood schemes to be rolled out across the district.

“We sympathise with the principle of LTNs, and with the administration’s desire to reduce overall traffic levels in the area. But we know from the introduction of LTN schemes in other parts of the country that, due to the displacement of traffic, they can lead to higher levels of pollution and congestion and can hamper emergency service vehicles.

“We have urged the administration to keep in mind all the people who could be adversely affected by these schemes and to rethink their approach. Sadly, they haven’t listened, proving that when it comes to their transport policies, they are well and truly asleep at the wheel.”

At a recent meeting of the Council’s Climate Emergency Scrutiny Panel, it was revealed that LTNs in Bath will not be scrapped even if they are initially disastrous.

As well as the approval of 28 LTN schemes by Cabinet last night, the administration is also seeking to base residents’ parking permit charges on vehicle emissions, increase the cost of on-street parking and implement on-street charges on Sundays.

The Conservative Group is concerned that proposals to introduce residents’ permit charges based solely on vehicle emissions will see those unable to afford to upgrade their cars to more environmentally-friendly models hit hardest.

The Conservatives are also concerned that proposals to start charging people to park on Sundays will hamper Bath’s economic recovery post-COVID.

And with the closure of Cleveland Bridge scheduled to take place for three months from Monday 28 June, there is a very real prospect of traffic chaos in Bath.

Council must ensure waste and recycling backlog is cleared quickly

The current backlog in waste and recycling collections across Bath and North East Somerset must be dealt with swiftly, Conservative councillors say.

It follows news released today (23 June) that the service is currently hampered by delays due to a shortage of staff.

In response, the Conservative Group on B&NES Council has called on the Liberal Democrat administration to ensure the backlog in kerbside collections is dealt with quickly and that proper procedures are put in place to mitigate the effects of staff shortages.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on B&NES Council, said: “I am disappointed to hear of the long delays to the waste and recycling collection service across Bath and North East Somerset.

“This service is an extremely important one to residents and the Council should be making every effort to ensure the backlog of collections is cleared as soon as possible.

“While it’s true that waste services across the country have been hit by a national shortage of drivers, neighbouring Councils seem to be coping much better. It’s vital that the Lib Dem administration urgently puts procedures in place to mitigate the effects of staff shortages, and to ensure the service is able to resume at full capacity as soon as possible.”

Although the administration has blamed the delays on a nationwide shortage of drivers, B&NES Council is, at the time of writing, the only authority in the South West currently advertising for drivers for the waste and recycling services – suggesting other authorities are coping just fine.

This, the Conservative Group says, points towards mismanagement of the service by the Liberal Democrats as being the predominant cause of the delays.

Cabinet urged to rethink ‘harmful’ traffic schemes

The B&NES Liberal Democrats must rethink their plans for Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods, Conservative councillors say.

It comes ahead of a crunch Cabinet meeting next week (23 June) in which proposals to introduce Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) will be taken forward.

LTNs are a key part of the Lib Dem administration’s Liveable Neighbourhoods policy. The aim, they say, is to reduce overall traffic on the roads of Bath and North East Somerset.

But Conservative councillors say the measures will lead to higher levels of congestion and pollution and will result in residents with mobility problems being disproportionally affected.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “Next week’s Cabinet meeting will be crucial as we will finally learn which schemes the administration intends to take forward as Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods.

“Although we sympathise with the principle of LTNs, we are concerned that problems that have been reported with them in other parts of the country will also emerge here. These include higher levels of pollution and congestion caused by displaced traffic, unfair restrictions on peoples’ freedom of movement and delays to emergency service vehicles.

“Residents and businesses across the district have serious concerns about the consequences of these schemes, and the Conservative Group is calling on the Lib Dem Cabinet to heed these concerns and rethink what could be extremely harmful policies.”

At a meeting of the Council’s Climate Emergency Scrutiny Panel last week, it was revealed that LTNs in Bath will not be scrapped even if they are initially disastrous.

In September 2020 in the London borough of Ealing, a protest against LTNs was attended by around 2,500 people, with more than 10,000 people having signed a petition objecting to them.

In October, Harrow Council introduced four LTNs. Six months later, they were all removed on account of causing higher levels of congestion and pollution and delaying emergency service vehicles.

Following calls by the B&NES Conservatives for a rethink, the administration last month agreed to pause their plans to restrict access to Bath city centre.

The Conservative Group hopes the administration will heed its warning over Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods and once again puts the brake on the policy.

Cabinet will meet to discuss the proposals at 6.30pm on Wednesday 23 June.