QUESTIONS from CLLR Joanna Wright to B&NES CABINET March 2022

QUESTION 1 In a recent press release it was stated that the Council will spend £38 million over the next 5 years on items that will take the council to net zero by 2030. This figure is less than 5% of the councils’ budget. Can you please give full information as to. Which items are entirely new initiatives since the Climate Emergency declaration in September 2019? Which items are the council’s direct response to the Climate Emergency declaration and not part of another scheme, something already being considered, or part of a national or regional government initiative? Which of these has been funded by this council and not national or regional government?

ANSWER CLLR WARREN

1. All of the sums have been adopted into the capital programme since the climate emergency declaration in March 2019, apart from the £732K initial funding for the Riverline scheme, which is brought forward from the 2018/19 programme.

2. All schemes have multiple objectives, but all the Council’s work, including the capital programme, is driven by the core policy to tackle the climate emergency. 

3. All schemes are Council funded with the exception of successful applications for Government Grants for: Keynsham Recycling £3m; Clean Air Zone £1.5m, and WECA Grants for: Riverline £3.5m and Active Travel £561K.

QUESTION 2 In a recent pilot project undertaken by Council Climate Plan Scorecards (https://councilclimatescorecards.uk/methodology/) who have undertaken to mark councils’ Climate Action Plans, B&NES Council scores 50%. What actions will the Council be undertaking to improve this score?

ANSWER CLLR WARREN

Our Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan is reviewed and refreshed annually.  This year’s annual report will be brought to Council on 24 March, as is noted on the Forward Plan. The average score for Scottish and English councils was 46% dropping to 31% for Wales and 25% for Northern Ireland and one fifth of Councils have not published any plans. We understand that Climate Emergency UK will not be updating the scorecard in future years, so it is a point in time, one off exercise.

QUESTION 3 What actions is the Council taking to reduce District wide emissions?

ANSWER CLLR WARREN

The Council’s Climate Emergency commitments are about supporting the district to cut carbon emissions and we have evidenced the key priority areas for action: buildings, transport and renewable energy. The Council is using the levers available to us to provide that leadership and, working across the community, to deliver carbon reduction. The next Climate Emergency Annual report, which updates on progress and action planning is on the Forward Plan and will be brought to Council on 24 March.

QUESTION 4 A Public Right of Way (PROW) application for the claimed footpath near Bathampton Tollbridge was submitted on the 6th of May 2021. Public access to the riverside was blocked in March 2021 when the landowner installed a padlocked gate across the footpath and erected a tall barbed wire fence. When can we expect the application process to be completed and what additional resources are there to complete this?

ANSWER CLLR WOOD

Under Schedule 14(3)(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Council must determine the application within 12 months of receipt i.e. by 6th May 2022. The Definitive Map Modification Order process is a long and complex legal process with a number of possible permutations, as summarised in the attached flowchart. Consequently, it is not possible to provide a firm timescale for its completion. If the Council determined that there is not sufficient evidence to record the route as a public right of way and the applicant does not appeal, then the process would be complete by early May 2022. If the Council makes a DMMO and no objections are received, then it is likely to process will be completed before the end of the year. However, if the Council makes a DMMO and objections are received then the matter will be referred to the Planning Inspectorate who are likely to hold a public inquiry and this is currently adding approximately 2 years to the process.

QUESTION 5 The Council has not used its powers to stop the landowner from preventing public access to the River Avon at Bathampton Tollbridge. Apparently, it was able to do this by an “Enforcement Order” at Warleigh Weir which has stopped the landowner from denying public access at this site – please can you explain why it is possible to use these powers at one Avon riverside location and not another?

ANSWER CLLR WOOD

The route at Warleigh Weir is recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement and, consequently, it is beyond legal dispute that the route is a public right of way. The Council was therefore able to exercise its legal powers under section 130 of the Highways Act 1980 to have the obstructions on the public right of way removed. In contrast, the route near Bathampton Tollbridge is not recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement; consequently, the Council cannot currently prove that the public have a right to use the route and, as a result, we’re not in a position to compel the landowner remove the locked gate. A Definitive Map Modification Order application has been submitted to the Council and this process will determine whether or not the route is a public right of way. If the route is found to be a public right of way then the Council will use the same powers relied upon at Warleigh Weir to ensure the route is open and available for use by the public; if the route is not found to be a public right of way then the landowner will be entitled to exclude the public from this part of their land.

QUESTION 6 Many residents in the area of Entry Hill Golf Course are concerned about the projected numbers that will be visiting the site by car once the scheme to turn this site into a Bike Park is realised. The Council has repeated to residents that this site will be delivered according to its climate and biodiversity commitments. Residents have repeatedly asked for a carbon footprint of this site. Council officers originally stated that the existing car park would not be expanded. It has been announced that the car park will be expanded from 30 spaces to a capacity of 52 spaces. The Council appears focused on seeing access to this site as a mobility issue rather than an accessibility issue. When the Council needs to keep to its corporate policy with regard to the climate emergency and work to deliver cuts to emissions, would it be more sustainable for the car park to remain at 30 places and be by prior booking only, further should non-Bath users be encouraged to park at Odd Down Park and Ride and South Gate Shopping Centre with a dedicated LTN 1/20 cycle route to encourage all users of this bike park to come by bike?

ANSWER CLLR WARREN

The Draft Transport Assessment that has been completed indicates that the existing car parking provision of 54 spaces is adequate to cater for peak demand.

Pedal Progression, the appointed operator of the site, are committed to ensuring customers travel sustainably to the site and at first point of contact visitors will be advised to walk, cycle, or use public transport and use the park and ride.  The booking system will include allocation of a car parking space (if required).  

Pedal Progression are fully committed to supporting the Council to deliver the Climate and Ecological Emergency action plans and are aiming to be the first carbon neutral business of its kind in England.

The site will be surveyed to assess its lifetime carbon footprint, and this will be submitted as part of the planning application and used as a benchmark for measuring improvement. 

As part of the project development process, we are actively considering creating safe cycle routes to the site.

QUESTION 7 What is the current policy position to develop organic farms in Bath and North East Somerset? It is not apparent from the Climate Emergency strategy what the business case is to scale up food production. What protection will be given to areas in B&NES where they are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with regard to planning applications for developing organic farms?

ANSWER CLLR ARREN

Within B&NES, our engagement in relation to farming is largely through our environmental partnerships, one of which is the West of England Nature Partnership (WENP) which has an agriculture working group which is attended by the Council’s Ecologist. This group is a discussion forum to engage the farming community with nature recovery, it does not set policy and its discussions are not specific to any particular farming practice such as organic farming.

The two National Landscapes (AONBs) of the Cotswolds and Mendip Hills both currently operate the Defra Farming in Protected Landscape Grants, and the Cotswolds has a farming forum:

https://www.mendiphillsaonb.org.uk/caring-about-the-aonb/farming-in-protected-landscapes/

Through the programme, farmers and land managers can be supported to carry out projects that enhance nature recovery, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage, or support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses. These projects are not specific to organic farming and do not fund the setting up of new farm holdings. They are included here to demonstrate the type of engagement which the National Landscapes have with farming.

Agriculture is largely excluded from planning controls although some associated activities fall within the requirements of measures such as prior approvals.  Where this occurs in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, permission must be determined in accordance with national planning policy.  There are already clear policies in the Local Plan to support local food production (e.g. RE2, LCR9) and the new B&NES Local Plan will be reviewed or prepared to help achieve the objectives to response to the Climate and Ecological Emergencies

QUESTION 8 Please can you provide information, over the past ten years, on Housing Condition Complaints received by B&NES Council:

How many complaints and concerns have been reported to the Council or Environmental Protection Team have received regarding poor housing conditions?

How many complaints have been upheld?

How many of these were confirmed as adequately addressed with an inspection?

How many of these have been considered a danger?

How many of these have resulted in an enforcement order?

How many of these were confirmed as adequately addressed with an inspection?

How many of these have resulted in a prosecution?

ANSWER CLLR DAVIES

YearComplaints received(1)Complaint inspections2Category 1 hazards identified3Formal Notices Served4Prosecutions/Financial Penalties(5)
2011/12229260286n/a6
2012/13311402424n/a0
2013/14343313350n/a0
2014/15238229237n/a0
2015/16298261306n/a0
2016/1731519225880
2017/1829721025451
2018/1919122027861
2019/2022215629663
2020/212858013698

Interpretation Notes 

1) Refers to all property condition-based complaints received by Housing Services regardless of tenure.

2) This is not a subset of first column as recorded in different IT module.  Some complaints receive multiple visits. 2020/21 figures impacted by Covid restrictions.

3) This relates to number of Housing Health & Safety Rating System Category 1 hazards identified.  There can be multiple hazards in a property.

4) Information not available prior to 2016/17.  It should be noted that the Council’s Enforcement Policy (https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Housing/Landlords-and-tenants/enforcement_policy_final_v2.pdf) aims to address issues informally in the first instance.  Only if this is not possible does the Council progress to formal action, including the serve of formal notices.

5) Recent increase in activity reflects the introduction of Financial Penalties. Includes action against unlicensed HMOs.

QUESTION 9 How does the Council, in keeping with its duty of care to residents, protect tenants in properties managed and owned by housing associations?

How frequently are regular compliance checks scheduled?

Under what circumstances, and how, are unscheduled, or extra checks triggered?

What protections are in place to identify problems with specific landlords?

ANSWER CLLR DAVIES

Registered Providers, also known as Housing Associations, are independent organisations who are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing.  One of the key areas of the Regulator relates to ensuring that stock is maintained in a good standard and compliance regimes are fit for purpose.    However, where a Housing Association tenant, or indeed any tenant, has a specific concern relating to their housing conditions the Council will investigate, and if appropriate take formal action against the landlord to remedy any defects.  Formal action can range from service of Notices, Financial Penalties or Prosecution.

QUESTION 10 The statutory guidance for local authorities published by the Dept for Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the following:

“8.35 People in a care home will contribute most of their income, excluding their earnings, towards the cost of their care and support. However, a local authority must leave the person with a specified amount of their own income so that the person has money to spend on personal items such as clothes and other items that are not part of their care. This is known as the personal expenses allowance (PEA). This is in addition to any income the person receives from earnings. Ministers have the power to adjust the PEA. Any changes are communicated by Local Authority Circular and are binding. Local authorities have discretion to apply a higher income allowance in individual cases, for example where the person needs to contribute towards the cost of maintaining their former home. Further detail is set out in Annex C.”

As this is not a national arrangement but delegated to local authorities what discretionary uplift will B&NES be making to the PEA (Personal Expenses Allowance), for care home residents?

ANSWER CLLR BORN

The Council allows the PEA to all those resident in a care home setting. In addition to the PEA the Council allows up to an additional £144 per week or their maximum assessed weekly care if lower than £144 per week to maintain a property as long as the person has a deferred payment agreement in place, and they request this allowance. 

B&NES does not make any annual uplift beyond the increase prescribed by Central Government; however, all matters are considered on a case by case basis with a person centred approach to any decision taken. 

This is accordance with the Council Care and Support Charging and Financial Assessment Framework which can be viewed online at  https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/care-and-support-charging-and-financial-assessment-framework/care-and-support-charging-and

QUESTION 11 Keynsham Road Safety Campaign have been working to try to improve safety on Wellsway in Keynsham. They have been campaigning for a speed limit reduction from 40mph to 30mph out to the Welcome to Keynsham sign since the end of 2019, as the road is currently unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised road users. There is a blind bend at Uplands with busy entrances on both sides and residents are forced to essentially pull out on faith. Improving visibility isn’t possible due to the proximity of properties to the road, therefore a reduction in the speed limit is the best way to ensure the safety of all road users.

Cllr Rigby, as Cabinet Member for Transport, you agreed to the reduction to 30mph in May last year, however in November Cllr Rigby, you told the Keynsham Road Safety Campaign that the Highways department had refused to implement the changes. The plan to reduce the speed limit up to 200 Wellsway, which is only 700m short of the Welcome sign where the Keynsham Road Safety Campaign are asking for the 30 limit to end. In a recent press release you stated that “safety is your first priority” Why then is this dangerous and fast road not having a speed reduction put in place?

ANSWER CLLR RIGBY

It’s important that speed limits are set at a level where there is a realistic likelihood of compliance and that drivers will understand the reason for the limit. If drivers perceive that a speed limit has been set too low, it is unlikely to be obeyed and this can undermine speed limits more generally. We are proposing to extend the existing 30mph limit on Wellsway southwards up to the point where the road is no longer built-up and the street lighting ends. The section further south of this towards Uplands is not suitable for a 30mph road because it is open, with very little development alongside the road. We reduced the speed limit here from 60mph to 40mph a few years ago. Officers have advised that if a 30mph limit was introduced here and it was ignored by many drivers then it could lead to lower levels of compliance further into Keynsham where it is more built-up and potentially lead to vehicles trying to overtake others who do obey the limit, thereby making the road less safe.

Safety is our highest priority, but we will not put in measures that could have the opposite impact than is intended. Officers will be assessing the road near Uplands to identify whether there are any alternative measures that could be provided at this specific location to improve safety.

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