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

Question 1. Please can you give a full list of the chemicals and quantities used on the ground to facilitate golf on the High Common, including which herbicides not endorsed by the Soil Association are used? What is the acreage of this site?

Please can you give details of the water that is used on the High Common golf Course to maintain the green carpet – does the High Common use an irrigation system recycled spring water already or is it provided from a mains supply?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Sarah Warren/Cllr David Wood

The site is currently maintained by Parks as public open space. We can also confirm that the Approach Golf Course has not had any chemical inputs since its closure. Any future operators would need to show how maintenance of the site would meet the council’s climate and nature emergency declarations. The site is approximately 37.3 acres. There is an irrigation system that would be used to water the greens.  This system is fed from the mains supply.  

Question 2. Every year the Canal and River Trust hires gangs with large petrol driven mowers and strimmers to cut back vegetation along the canal towpath. The Council has declared an Ecological Emergency. Will you be approaching the Canal and River Trust on the issue of how better to support nature along the canal towpath?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Sarah Warren

Yes we can approach the canal and river trust, however, we continue to use diesel and petroleum equipment ourselves in our own grounds maintenance operations until viable alternatives come to market.The Canal & Rivers Trust are part of our Waterspace Partnership and sit on our Bath River Line Steering Group, the future management and maintenance of this important corridor is being reviewed to improve it as a key movement and ecological corridor.

Question 3. In December 2021 I asked the Leader of Council a question on how the Council will be working to address the issue of slavery and how the council will identify the social, cultural and economic inequalities inherited from this tragedy and take the lead on making this slave heritage visible. 

On the 22nd April 2022 the Council released a press statement on the opening of the Bath World Heritage Centre. This mentioned the city’s history with regard to architecture, the romans – “a central place for visitors and residents to find out about Bath’s special status as a World Heritage Site” yet no mention has been made of the role of slavery in the creation of this city. It would appear that the Council, the custodians of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the absence of any acknowledgement of it, seeks to avoid the pressing issue of the role of slavery in the history of the site.

How will this Council take forward active plans to properly tell the history of the city including its role in the slave trade?

Ref: Cllr Wright’s Question from December 2021

“The UNESCO website makes it very clear its commitment to “building peace in the December 2021 minds of men and women” and “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. It goes on to say that “a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”.

In essence, UNESCO was created because it viewed that politics and economics are not enough to build a lasting peace, and that it must be based on “humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity.” The whole city of Bath is a UNESCO world heritage site, and this status according to UNESCO should be used for education, healing and peace building. The custodian of this site, BANES, has made, it would appear little attempt to unpack the social history element with regard to slave trade, slave ownership or the wealth thereby generated or the extractive practices of colonisation. The Bath World Heritage website is silent. 

It states in the UNESCO Healing the Wounds of Slave Trade and Slavery: report from Slave Routes Project Jan 2021

“The violence of slavery did not end with abolition. Its contemporary consequences are still active in the form of the terrible poison of racism that continues to contaminate societies.”

How will the Council begin to work with the UNESCO Slave Route Project to question the social, cultural and economic inequalities inherited from this tragedy? Will B&NES Officers read the Jan 2021 Healing the Wounds of Slave Trade and Slavery report and report back with immediate and practical steps towards connecting with the Slave Route project to Bath with the Council taking a lead in this work?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Kevin Guy/Cllr Dine Romero

The World Heritage Centre’s primary purpose is to help visitors to Bath understand what a World Heritage Site is and why Bath was inscribed as one. It is not a space where a detailed history of Bath is explored and the press release reflected this. However, in the permanent displays in the centre there is prominent reference made to the fact that some of the wealth that created Georgian Bath (and hence one aspect of the UNESCO listing – the classical, Palladian architecture) was derived from Britain’s involvement in the Transatlantic Trade. Further to this, Heritage Services would like to undertake a more in-depth exploration of this subject in the temporary display area of the centre. The exhibition programme for this space will be established post opening. It is worth noting that other institutions in Bath have, and continue to interrogate, the history of Bath’s involvement in Transatlantic Enslavement. Displays at Bath Abbey and the Holburne Museum will hopefully be complemented shortly by renovated interpretation at Beckford’s Tower. These sites all have direct connections to enslavement and it is wholly appropriate and highly relevant to their locations and specific histories that they have undertaken to exploring these connections. Whilst the World Heritage Centre can introduce the story to visitors to Bath, they will then be able to explore it in detail at these other venues during their visit to the city.

Question 4. On a recent search on the NHS Service: Find a Dentist https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist it is apparent that there are no NHS dentists accessible in Bath for residents other than by a referral.  Even previous NHS dentists have ceased operating forcing residents to look for a private dentist or not have a dentist.. It is clear that many families relied on NHS dentists for healthy teeth and mouth care for all members of their families. It is apparent that many families will be unable to afford important dental care as the cost of private dentists is often out of reach for many families. As families will not be able to access an NHS dentist locally what will the Cabinet Member for Adults be doing to address this issue with regard to HCRG and the services the Council commissions through the NHS?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Alison Born

The problems that local residents are experiencing regarding access to NHS dental services was bought to our attention a few weeks ago. Dental access is not a council responsibility but we have raised it with colleagues in the CCG who confirm that dental services are commissioned by NHS England. NHS England is responsible for https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/dentists/how-to-find-an-nhs-dentist/ . There are inequalities in oral health and it is worrying that there is insufficient NHS dental provision locally and that NHS England do not have up to date data on many practices.  It is possible that the new integrated care system arrangements will include the provision of local dental services in the future but there is no timescale for that. In the meantime, people who are not registered with a dentist and who have  urgent dental needs should contact 111 online or by phone.

Question 5. What policies are B&NES Council developing to support sustainable agriculture and help drive best practice in terms of the district’s land use?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Sarah Warren

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 respond to the Climate and Ecological Emergencies. The Council sits on the WoEAgriculture Group hosted by the West of England Nature Partnership and this group will look to develop best practice guidance.

Question 6. Could the council give full details of the costs the council pays per child to private providers of children’s homes that are used by children from this authority? Does the Council know what the profit margin is, as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said that:

Private providers of children’s homes and foster care are making “significant and persistent” profits by charging cash-strapped local authorities elevated prices for increasingly scarce placements.

What is the Council being charged on average per week per child? Are the homes the Council uses owned by private equity firms?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Dine Romero

The majority of B&NES children are placed in children’s homes that are not owned by private equity companies. Of the 27 children placed in children’s homes, 2 are placed in a provision owned by a private equity company. These were the most appropriate placements for the needs of the 2 children. The average cost of residential care £4,500 per week and this could increase to £7,700 for those young people whose needs are very complex. The providers of children homes operate on a 10-12% profit margin.

Question 7. What are the council’s regulations with reference to pavements? It is understood by some residents that householders are not allowed to create a car parking space if it impacts on a public right of way i.e.: pavements used by pedestrians (including of course vulnerable children and the elderly.) If the Council does allow residents to turn front gardens into car parks how does this fit with the climate and ecological emergency? Specifically, I have been alerted to residents in Bathwick Ward who are creating or hoping to create car ports in anticipation of a lack of street parking space because of the Cleveland Pools restoration work. Please can you give full details of B&NES policy on this?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Manda Rigby

Creation of new accesses and/or hardstanding are regulated by the Town & Country Planning Act rather than any Council policy.    Each case is different depending on what classification of road or other designation such as a conservation area the proposal sits within.  As such we cannot give a ‘one size fits all’ response to this question.  We would advise people to use the pre application enquiry service to establish if planning consent is required.  Information on this service can be found here.

Creation of a new or amended vehicle crossing will also require approval by the Local Highway Authority under the Highways Act 1980, Section 184.  This will only be considered where consent has been given for its creation by the planning authority where applicable.  Further guidance on what our highway inspectors will be considering and forms to apply can be found here.

The Councils policy regarding the appropriateness of turning front gardens into car parking is guided by our adopted local development policies which can be found here.  The level of parking allowed is guided by the level of sustainable transport options available in that area.  This policy is under review, the draft guidance which seeks to help deliver sustainable development and economic growth by setting how parking and its effects will be managed can be found here

The area around Cleveland Pools is currently covered by a Residents Parking Zone which prioritises parking for residents and their visitors.  The level of parking amenity for residents should not be affected by the Pools and repurposing of front gardens shouldn’t be necessary

QUESTION 8. Please can you give full details of how the recent £100K funding for Social Prescribing and Active Travel in B&NES is being taken forward?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Dine Romero

B&NES Council was successful in being awarded £100k from the Department for Transport (DfT) to carry out a feasibility study to develop plans for a three-year Social Prescribing and Active Travel programme in the Somer Valley area as part of a national pilot.  The feasibility study has been completed and a funding bid was submitted to the DfT at the end of April by colleagues in the public health and sustainable communities directorates in collaboration with many partners. The feasibility study needed to demonstrate how the following objectives could be met through an active travel and social prescribing offer over the three years:  •             Address local community identified need relating to underrepresented groups, deprivation and health inequalities•             Actively promote increased levels of physical activity through cycling and walking•             Demonstrate clear links between infrastructure development and the proposed social prescribing schemes•             Support a modal shift to active travel providing people with travel choices and supporting changes in behaviour The funding bid is for £1.6m over three years (2022/23 – 2024/25).  If successful, the project will initially focus on an offer in Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Westfield, Paulton, though with the option of expanding the offer across the Three Valleys PCN area. A key reason for Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Westfield, and Paulton being key geographical areas of focus, is that there are planned infrastructure improvements in these areas and the DfT are keen to explore how behaviour change support and social prescribing can be linked with change to active travel infrastructure.  The proposal is to set up and operate a ‘Walking and Cycling Hub’ in the Healthy Living Centre Radstock. It will be a ‘one stop shop’ forwalking and cycling support, activities, cycle hire, cycle repair, and information on active travel routes. As well as the main hub in Radstock there will be regular ‘pop-up’ hubs in high-street locations in Midsomer Norton, Radstock and Paulton offering the same interventions. The pilot will expand on our existing Social Prescribing model. It will take referrals from community services, health professionals, self-referral, and a range of other routes. Pathways will be set up with the 3 Valleys Primary Care Network with the B&NES Community Wellbeing Hub for people to be referred to a range of walking and cycling activities which will be led by several different providers including B&NES Council, Sustrans, Sporting Family Change, and other local charities.  We have been working with a range of partners to progress the study, and including the Town & Parish Councils, 3SG, B&NES Communities Team, HCRG, DHI, WERN, University of Bath, and Wheels for All

Question 9. In the press statement on the 14th April 2022, you stated that:

“Uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic and the impact of high inflation may well influence future trends” However, in full Council in February when you set the Council’s annual budget you stated that inflation would be set at 2% and were derogatory of the remarks made by Councillors who questioned the inflation rate set by the council. As the UK inflation rate is presently at 7% how will the Council be resetting the budgets for the coming year?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Richard Samuel

To give Councillors assurance that the Council has recognised inflationary risk in its budget, provision has been made in addition to the 2% (£2.4m) across all major contracts; inflationary contingencies have been included in recognition of inflationary budget pressures across areas including: Energy contracts, Home to School Transport and Social Care, these total £4.5m in recurrent revenue funding (included in Annex 2(ii) of the budget papers). In total this allocates 5.5% revenue budget uplift across Council contracts, at the time of setting the budget the December national inflation rate was 5.4%, the Cabinet is satisfied that appropriate provisions have been made giving a robust budget for 2022/23.

Question 10. Under E3357 Park and Ride Contract renewal it states:5.5 Several start and finish times were quoted within the tender. All options create a significant on-going budget pressure and, for this reason, any option to lengthen the timetable has unfortunately been dismissed at this time. However, as set out in 5.3 this could be revisited based on the income levels generated within the gross cost contract if supported.5.6 The analysis of financial model options is therefore based on the default or current, option (Monday-Saturday 06:15-20:30, Sunday and Public Holidays 09:30-18:00).Under E3358 Journey to Net Zero: Reducing the Environmental Impact of Transport in Bath it states:1.2 The current ways in which we travel will not get us to carbon neutrality by 2030. This plan sets out the changes needed to decarbonise Bath’s transport system in line with our climate emergency and to create places we want to live and work; with better connected, healthier and genuinely sustainable communities.For information, the cheapest return ticket to Bath from London Paddington means taking a train after 10am in the morning and after 7pm in the evening. Should a person wishing to use a park and ride to get to and from the train station, they will have found that no P&R bus exists.Do the Cabinet Members recognise that the decisions they are taking on the new Park and Ride Contract and the Journey to Net Zero do not enable the necessary connectivity that allows for sustainable journeys which in turn will reduce private car miles and lead to carbon reduction in the transport sector?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Manda Rigby

As set out within the report, the costs for the Park & Ride service after open market tender are significantly higher than the previous income generating contract let in 2012. Therefore, consideration was given to the overall affordability of the service due to the reduction in standard patronage levels of over 22% and a reduction of 42% in concessionary fare users due to the pandemic.  In light of this significant change in usage, the Council is recommending moving toward a gross cost contract option. This significant change in management approach will allow the Council to both maintain the service at this time, provide an affordable business model in the short term and over the long term reinvest in further service enhancements as patronage increases back to and above the levels seen historically. This approach is supportive of the wider policy direction and more practical steps such as using increased residents parking schemes, liveable neighbourhoods and increased parking charges to reduce car usage in the city centre.  However, under this model, the risks of patronage not recovering also sits with the Council as the Council will be required to make payment for the entire service regardless of income generated and this could lead to further losses. Therefore, each space within the car parks and on the bus services themselves becomes critical to the financial model for the contract and the Council will need to ensure that we generate as much income as possible to allow us to invest in future service upgrades and improvements such as late night running, changes to routes, improvements to the sites themselves and upgrades to the buses used.  In the meantime, the service will continue to operate with buses running to and from the city centre from 06.15 until 20.30 Monday to Saturday, 09.30 to 18.30 Sunday in line with the model in place for the last 10 years.   

Question 11. E5537 Park and Ride Contract Renewal appears to fail to address support for cycling provision on the buses connecting many up and down high hills in Bath that presently have no LTN 1/20 compliant cycle infrastructure. As the E3358 Journey to Net Zero is only policy, which is clearly years away from implementation, why has the E5537 P&R contract failed to include the provision of cycle storage as a key transport deliverable as one of the Council’s corporate aims to deliver on the climate emergency?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Manda Rigby

As noted above, the Park and Ride contract will be let on a gross cost contract basis allowing the Council to consider fully the policy, financial, service and reputational opportunities on a regular basis. As patronage recovers, full consideration will be given on a 6 monthly basis to how the services can be improved based on the information gathered during that period. This could allow consideration of further enhancements for cycles in the future. Whilst the solutions for carrying bikes will be investigated further, it cannot be at detriment to the use of the service by those who have additional needs or need to transport children. In addition, the park and ride sites will be considered within the wider WECA led Future Mobility Zone project that is looking to develop the park and ride sites into multi model interchanges and we will ensure that any improvements further enhance this approach.

Question 12. The Government will soon be making a decision whether to legalise e-scooters on the public highways. Throughout the trial all parking of e-scooters was on pavements in B&NES. Will the Council be making E-scooter parking on the road where vehicles presently are allocated parking places?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Sarah Warren

As part of the plans to expand the operational area of the Voi Escooter trial, the council is undertaking a review of existing hub locations alongside new hub locations for expansion areas. This review is expected to be concluded by 10th May and includes consideration for trialling several methods of increased physical formalisation of parking for Escooters, including some parking on road. Parking formalisation is being trialled to increase legibility of the parking for pedestrians with sight impairment, and to increase the level of adherence to safe parking by Escooter users. 

ANSWER FROM Cllr Dine Romero

Question 13. Presently parents of adopted children in B&NES are unable to access the Adoption West support in the form of WANDS (Wiltshire Adopters Networking, Development and Support). What Networking, Development and Support is being offered to B&NES adopted parents? What funding is in place to do this?

A proposal is with Adoption West (AW) Board of Directors to commission WANDS to grow the service in other areas of the AW region, to include B&NES. B&NES Adopters can join groups commissioned by Adoption West in Bristol, via CSS Adoption https://www.ccsadoption.org/ B&NES adopters and residents are encouraged to contact AW duty team directly to discuss specific adoption support needs and to determine if the child / family need an assessment which they are entitled to request.https://adoptionwest.co.uk/

Question 14. In a planning application, a request was made by the Council to the landowner to plant 80 trees due to the removal of trees felled in the planning request. To date this planting has not taken place. What actions will the Council take to uphold this planning decision?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Tim Ball

This will be registered as an enforcement case and a written response will be provided once investigations have taken place.

Question 15. When will Cleveland Bridge be re-open for use in both directions?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Manda Rigby

In January our contractors unearthed a complex engineering and safety critical issue which reports show does not have a straight-forward solution. Engineers need to be 100 per cent certain any solution will not cause a structural failure on other sections of the bridge.  This will take time to model, we had aimed to open the bridge to two-way car traffic during this period, but we have been informed by technical experts that this cannot be done safely.  The assessment is expected to be completed by the end of May and will inform how repair works progress. As a consequence, the traffic regulation order for the bridge will be extended for six months or until repairs to the bridge have been completed, if sooner.

Question 16. Please can you give full details of the latest pollution figures on the London Road with regards to the Clean Air Zone?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Sarah Warren

The table below contains the data relating to nitrogen dioxide concentration levels at monitoring locations on London Road, showing those which are within the CAZ boundary and those which are outside.  ‘DT’ refers to monitoring using a diffusion tube and ‘CM’ refers to monitoring using a continuous analyser. The results from 2019 are confirmed and relate to ‘at monitor’ locations. The results from 2021 are also ‘at monitor’ locations and are provisional, awaiting peer review by DEFRA.   Levels at all monitoring locations have reduced in 2021 when compared with the last representative year of 2019. All monitoring sites meet the Government’s air quality objective level of 40 µg/m3 in 2021 except DT224 (Walcot Parade 2) which although above the objective, has reduced significantly from the 2019 concentration of 55 µg/m3.  This location, together with Walcot Parade and Anglo Terrace façade, have been particularly affected by the temporary changes in traffic flows resulting from the closure of Cleveland Bridge throughout 2021.    

An interactive map showing these locations can be found at https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/environment/pollution-noise-nuisance/air-quality/air-quality-data-long-term

Question 17. It was reported that Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries has written to broadband service providers, including BT and Virgin Media O2, to raise concerns over the low uptake of social tariffs – discounted tariffs available to an estimated 4.2m households receiving Universal Credit. Only around 1.2% of eligible households are taking advantage of the tariffs, according to regulator Ofcom. Ms Dorries said in her letter that it is “vital we raise awareness of discount broadband offers for low-income households”, with 84% of benefit recipients unaware of the tariffs.What active role has the council made to let residents know about low-cost broadband tariffs and how has the Council communicated this to residents?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Richard Samuel

Social Tariffs as well as other schemes including free broadband for job seekers can provide much-needed support to residents in light of the current cost of living crisis. Both schemes are managed directly by JobCentre Plus (DWP), whose staff will be having regular contact with benefit claimants to determine eligibility. We promote both schemes through our central communications channel and the teams that have regular contact with our residents. We have a number of services including the Employment & Skills Pd, Future Bright, Cool Ventures, Citizens Advice Bureau, NCS, Cleanslate, Curo and Julian House that work closely with job seekers and Universal Credit claimants. 

Question 18. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has stated:“to avoid catastrophe, the main emitters must drastically cut emissions starting this year. This means accelerating the end of fossil fuel addiction and speeding the deployment of clean renewable energy.”It is clear that leadership at every level requires bold action now to avoid climate catastrophe. This Council has declared a Climate Emergency. The Liberal Democrats won the 2019 local election with a clear mandate from the electorate to deliver on the climate emergency. However, as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency and Sustainable Travel you have decided to hold a Citizens Panel on a bus gate on North Road – a route that would provide a safe and sustainable travel route for thousands of journeys every day in Bath. This route could already be in place. This route already has had a consultation, which was in favour of this necessary change to the public highway. Rather than deliver this you have decided to hold a Citizen’s Panel at the further cost of £30,000. Cllr Warren you have repeatedly deferred the decision on this route. If you believe in a Climate Emergency, why are you not acting now as the UN Secretary General has called for with the aim of providing emergency degrowth alternatives that will help save the earth?

ANSWER FROM Cllr Sarah Warren

Tackling the declared climate and ecological emergency is central to our policy objectives and enshrined within the council’s corporate strategy. Part of our commitment is to support the introduction of measures to encourage more active and sustainable travel across the whole of Bath & North East Somerset. The results of the 2021 consultation on the active travel proposal for North Road were not as clear cut as Cllr Wright suggests, as detailed in the Cabinet report of 23rd June 2021, para’s 3.32 and 3.33. The public debate about the North Road scheme became very polarised in 2021. The LGA report on the implementation of the Emergency Active Travel Fund (Cohen, Eslava and Frost, 2021) notes that Government guidance quickly changed, following the Emergency Active Travel Fund’s launch, from an emphasis solely on speed of implementation, to increase the emphasis on consultation with local communities, given the vehemence of the opposition observed to some of the measures implemented around the UK. The report comments that many cycle lanes introduced under the scheme were swiftly amended or removed, and concluded that “it pays to invest in doing engagement well”, and that engagement may sometimes consume the largest proportion of the budget for the intervention. It notes that “a visibly open approach to seeking views from a wide range of stakeholders at an early stage is likely to result in a better design and will reduce the risk that distrust arises”, that “where debate has become…. Polarised, councils can benefit from seeking the opinions of a socio-demographically representative sample of the community,” and that “it can be useful to organise a deliberative process to understand how stakeholders feel when they have considered relevant evidence and arguments in a structured way.”B&NES wishes to ensure that any scheme brought in to support active travel to Claverton Down, and elsewhere around the district, will be acceptable to local residents. Cabinet therefore decided to commission a citizens’ panel (a deliberative process of a representative group of citizens, as recommended by the LGA) to find out what ‘ordinary’ residents (including those we seldom hear from) think about efforts to make space for safe cycle lanes on roads in Bath and North East Somerset, including the route to Claverton Down. This research will be used to inform future schemes, alongside our usual consultation processes.Reference: Cohen, T., Eslava, L.N. And Frost, M. (2021) ‘Stakeholder engagment in an emergency: Lessons from low-traffic neighbourhoods’, Local Government Association. https://www.local.gov.uk/publications/stakeholder-engagement-emergency-lessons-low-traffic-neighbourhoods

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