Sunday, 24 November 2013

Get your empty property back into use!

Local people in possession of empty properties are being encouraged by Bath & North East Somerset Council to take steps to bring them back into use as part of Empty Property Week.

SOBA supports this initiative because there are around 500 empty properties in the area, approximately 200 of which have been empty for over two years. The more houses and flats in use, the less pressure to build new properties - especially on green belt and AONB.

Specialist Housing Team advisors will be on hand at the Council’s One Stop Shop in Manvers Street, Bath between Nov 25-29 from 2-4pm each day to give advice on financial assistance for owners, VAT relief on refurbishment, advertising properties for sale and private sector leasing schemes.

The Council is also taking the opportunity to highlight the financial schemes available for works ranging from minor repairs to major schemes to get an empty property back into use.

  • Grant scheme of up to £500
  • Loan scheme of up to £30,000 to be repaid over 10 years

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Green Belt under attack - your chance to object

We all have until 5pm on Friday, 20th December 2013 to respond to a BANES public consultation about plans to build 300 houses at South Stoke plateau.

The council have made the process about as user-unfriendly as is possible, but the next few weeks could change Bath forever, and there's no going back.
We need to send a clear message to the Planning Inspector that there is a huge amount of opposition to the plans to develop the plateau - stunning countryside separating the city of Bath from the historic village of South Stoke.

Please spare 10 minutes to either print off a comment form and send it back to the council, or complete a comment form via a Word doc and email which can be found by clicking on the link below, where the process is fully explained:

Our petition is delivered to BANES councillors

On November14, 2013, SOBA co-founder Gareth Herincx delivered our 1,300-strong petition to a full meeting of Bath and North East Somerset Council.

The petition, including several hundred accompanying comments, will get passed on to the Planning Inspector when he resumes his Examination in Public later this year or early 2015.

Below is the text of the three-minute statement given by Gareth...

"Mr Chairman, councillors, ladies and gentlemen...

I’m honoured to be representing the 1,300 people who took the trouble to sign our petition - most of whom also wrote impassioned comments. The vast majority are from Bath, but there are many others from the UK and the rest of the world including America, New Zealand and Mexico - an indication that the preservation of Bath's green belt is of national and international interest.

I'm also representing the South of Bath Alliance which provides a voice for the communities surrounding South Stoke plateau – all opposed to the housing plans - that's South Stoke village, Combe Hay village, the roads to the north including Southstoke Road, Midford Road, Old Frome Road – and Sulis Meadows

And finally, I'm here as a resident of Bath who is proud of our city's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and accepts the need for more housing - but doesn't believe that bulldozing the green belt is the only solution.

South Stoke plateau is meant to have the highest level of protection. Not only is it part of the Cotswold Area of Natural Outstanding Beauty, it's also designated green belt - which in this case should provide a buffer between the historic village of South Stoke and the city of Bath. The nationally important Wansdyke Scheduled Ancient Monument also runs through the plateau, while it's also ecologically important to threatened species including skylarks and greater horseshoe bats. Housing on the plateau would also jeopardise the delicate ecology and natural spring water routes that flow through the nearby Horsecombe Valley

It seems to me that this proposal is being driven by profit and convenience. PROFIT for the landowner and developers and CONVENIENCE because it makes up the housing numbers and it’s a nice flat piece of agricultural land..

We say there is no need to destroy Bath's green belt if the density of housing on brownfield - especially the three MoD sites - was increased slightly. Incidentally, the MoD Foxhill site is a couple of minutes' drive from the plateau and has been earmarked for 800 houses - potentially putting a large strain on our already strained infrastructure.

A few months ago Adam Fergusson gave a talk in Bath to mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of his book, The Sack of Bath. I don't need to remind anyone here today that he was the man who blew the whistle on the planning vandalism that took place in this city during the 60s and 70s. In his speech, Mr Fergusson warned of a second Sack of Bath and concluded by saying the green belt should be “non negotiable”.

Bath isn't just about its historic centre - its setting makes it unique too. If the green belt is allowed to be breached at South Stoke AND Weston we fear there's a real danger that Bath could lose its valuable status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

Monday, 11 November 2013

Beautiful Bath vs housing. Have your say...

Bath and North East Somerset Council has published detailed proposals to destroy the green belt boundary around Bath so new houses can be built.

The changes to B&NES' Core Strategy - a planning blueprint which outlines where new houses will be built in the area over the next 15 years - highlights green belt in Weston and South Stoke.

A six-week public consultation is now underway during which time we can all respond via the B&NES website and see the plans at a series of exhibitions:
  • Wednesday 13th November - South Stoke Parish Hall between 3.00pm and 5.00pm
  • Wednesday 13th November - Odd Down, St Gregory’s College between 6.00pm and 8.00pm
  • Thursday 14th November - Weston All Saints Centre between 3.00pm and 7.00pm
Visit the Consultation details area of the B&NES website to send your comments. Unfortunately, it's not a simple process, but it's vital that we voice our objections. 

Read more about the story on the Bath Chronicle website.

Friday, 8 November 2013

D-Day looms for South Stoke Plateau

We have had an exclusive preview of a map outlining Bath and North East Somerset Council's revised plan for South Stoke Plateau (or land adjoining Odd Down) - and it's bad news. 

A six-week public consultation begins on November 11
If the plan for 300 houses goes ahead ahead, virtually all the fields will be bulldozed for housing expect the far east and far south-west - in effect doubling the area of Sulis Meadows.

The plan will be available via on November 11 and this will be followed by a six-week public consultation during which presentations will be made in South Stoke and Odd Down (see story below) We'll also get the chance to respond directly to the council.

B&NES wants the comment forms returned no later than 5pm on Friday, 20th December 2013.  Comments received by this deadline will be forwarded to the Planning Inspector for his consideration.

Needless to say, it's vital that as many of us as possible respond so the Inspector is fully aware of the strength of opposition to ANY incursion of the green belt.