Monday, July 25, 2005

Employer Travel Plans

Each day many people run the gauntlet to get to work, by car, bike, train, bus or on foot. But what do employers do to promote the greener methods of transport and do they actually have a travel plan for their staff or are staff left to their own devices to get to work on time, and do employers think about the impact that they have on our roads each morning and afternoon?

A travel plan is a package of measures which are tailored to the needs of individual work sites and aimed at promoting greener, cleaner travel choices and reducing reliance on the car. It involves the development of a set of initiatives and targets that enable organisations to reduce the impact of travel and transport on the environment, whilst also bringing a number of other benefits to employers and staff.

Currently employers may be asked to produce a travel to work plan by the Council when applying for planning permission for the property they are building or converting into suitable premises for their business, but how many employers produce a travel plan to benefit themselves and their workforce, or produce one to ensure that their staff are coming to work in a sustainable way?

A travel plan needs to contain a mix of incentives and disincentives such as car sharing, promoting more use of public transport, encouraging walking and cycling, restricting on-site car parking spaces and supporting alternative work practices which reduce the need to travel.

I know of one company which not only provides cycle racks, and showers for workers to freshen up before they start their day at work, but also encourages worker to purchase a bicycle through their company benefits scheme, making this friendly form of transport, appealing, accessible and financially attractive, and it is this form of forward thinking initiatives that Bath and North East Somerset Council should be recognising, championing and promoting.

The Planning, Transportation, Economy and Sustainability Overview and Scrutiny Panel, Chaired by myself will be looking at Employer Travel Plans as part of a 3 month review, and will lead by example, in revisiting, developing and looking at current practice of the Employer Travel Plan of the Council, gathering relevant national guidance and good practice guidelines, investigate other local authorities approach and look at existing Employer Travel Plans amongst employers in Bath and North East Somerset.

Roads in Bath and North East Somerset simply can not cope with anymore traffic and with much needed developments on the horizon such as Bath Western Riverside and Southgate which will bring a much needed boost to the area’s economy this does have to happen with minimal impact the volume of traffic on our roads. First are keen to invest in better and more user friendly buses for Bath and North East Somerset in order to encourage public transport and Bath and North East Somerset are looking at developing Park and Ride provision for the city, and this should be reflected in Employer Travel Plans as they are considered and more importantly reviewed. Travel plans should not be allowed to sit on the shelf as a document gathering dust but should be a working document which changes as new initiatives and more suitable modes of transport become available. More and more areas across the city are asking to be considered for Residential Parking Control in order to eliminate commuter parking and we will soon see free commuter parking spaces removed from Royal Victoria Park.

If employers do and the Council do not work together on this issue the likelihood is that staff will find it increasingly difficult to get to work and Bath and North East Somerset will become a less attractive place to locate a business, which will have a knock on effect on the economy. People need to get out of their cars and get to work by more sustainable methods, the lead on this should come from the Council working in partnership with employers. This is why this review is being undertaken to ensure that the Bath and North East Somerset Council is ready to give good advice and guidance.

We will be inviting local employers to come and speak to the panel about their Employer Travel Plans and the benefits it brings to them and will be looking at how we can encourage employers to develop their own plans. We also would like to hear views from all residents on travel plans by writing to, Cllr David Dixon, Employer Travel Plan Review, The Guildhall, High Street, Bath, BA1 5AW or by email:

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bus Shelter at York Place, London Road

Finally the Bus Shelter at York Place near Morrisons will be replaced within 4 weeks.

Within a week of asking the question at Full Council Meeting Councillor David Dixon has received a response that Adshel will commence work to replace it within the next 4 weeks.

The Shelter has been missing for some time and is part of the showcase bus route.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Lambridge Park and Ride

Planning approval has now been granted for the controversal Park and Ride on Lambridge Training Ground.

The development has seen overwhelming opposition from local residents and local councillors a like. It is too close to local residents houses, too close to the city centre, to be located in an already congested are which will only exacerbate the problems and is too small and too expensive to have any impact.

Campaigners fighting plans for a new park and ride on the edge of Bath are stepping up their efforts after discovering it has doubled in cost. The original bill for the long-awaited Lambridge park and ride was £2.9m - but the council project will now cost £6.6m.

Opponents say this means each of the new parking spaces at what is now Bath Rugby's training ground will cost £12,000.

Many local residents say the scheme, which will create 800 parking spaces, is in the wrong place and will aggravate rather than solve congestion and pollution.

Local councillor David Dixon (Lib Dem, Walcot) said: "It seems to be a very expensive way to park cars."

The cost is made up of £4.2m for preparation and construction of the site, where a major flood prevention project is needed, and £1.3m for the relocation of the Bath Rugby facilities to Bathampton Meadows.

Some parking spaces will be lost from the city centre once the scheme is completed.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Cleveland Pools

Supporting local residents on Cleveland Pleasure Pools...

Hidden away in Bathwick, on the banks of the River Avon, is possibly the only surviving Georgian lido in the country. Closed over twenty years ago, the Cleveland Pleasure Baths were at one time a favourite summer destination for generations of Bathonians. Now, spurred on by plans to sell the site, a campaign is underway to re-open the pools for public bathing.

Local Councillors are very supportive and would like to see these pools come back into public use. The pools have been taken off the market on the request of local councillors and we are working with the local residents to look at how we can achieve a more suitable use. Councillor David Dixon said, “It would be a shame to let this fine example of our heritage to fall into private hands and to be closed off to the public.

Public Enagement on Council's Budget and Financial Planning Process

Cllr David Dixon is chairing a group looking at what sort of say you should have over council tax levels EVERY year residents (including me), receive a bill from Bath and North East Somerset Council asking for what I believe is quite a substantial amount of money to fund public services, some of which we use and some we do not.

But, year after year, there is the social responsibility of adding to the pot in order to make the neighbourhoods in which we live a better place, or sometimes in order to maintain them as they are. Some people believe that for what we pay in council tax we only get our bins emptied and many would argue otherwise.

As a council, we spend taxpayers' money on many services educating our young and old, resurfacing roads, looking after old people, investing in the economy of Bath and north east Somerset and by attracting new and exciting developments. We also try to attract businesses to move to and stay in Bath and ensure that new and old buildings are kept to the highest standard. Then there is the sweeping and maintaining the appearance of our streets. The list goes on.

Just look at some of the achievements over the past years which can be built on with more involvement from our residents.

For the environment we have introduced garden waste and cardboard recycling, we now recycle batteries, having introduced litter fines as part of a litter reduction strategy.

We are building two new schools in Radstock, a state-of-the-art special needs school at St Martin's Garden and a new school in Keynsham while a review is currently drawing to a close on primary schools meals with the positive engagement of various interest groups in order to secure a well balanced diet for our children giving them the sort of healthy start in life that every child deserves.

We introduced the bus gate in Bath which has resulted in reducing congestion, making the city centre a better place to live, work and visit. Bus usage is on the up and we are encouraging better quality buses from First.

We are developing Southgate and Western Riverside which are set to boost the wealth of this area not just economically but also socially with the many amenities and facilities such as cafes, apartments, transport interchange that are in the plans.

We have introduced and developed the community warden scheme which is valued in the community, improving safety for our residents.

And we have delivered some of the lowest council tax increases in the south west. Yet all of these successes require B &NES Council to spend your money. Again the list really does go on.

We all know that we elect councillors to make decisions for us but when was the last time the council or any councillor asked you for your views on how we spend our money?

Do you know how much the Bath and North East Somerset Council spends on services? We all receive a leaflet with our council tax bill, but is that enough?

Has the council engaged the public enough when setting its budget? I do not think so.

Different methods across the country are used to consult with the taxpayer such as, referenda, questionnaires and focus groups, but the question is what works and was it worth the money consulting with residents?

As chair of one of the council's overview and scrutiny panels which reviews council priorities and policies, I notice that it is sometimes the same groups of people who come forward to share their thoughts and ideas. With ever-increasing pressures on council services and not enough money coming from Government to support these extra pressures, council tax is set to always increase or services are set to be cut. I believe that the Bath and North East Somerset Council needs to ensure that we involve as many tax payers as possible when making these decisions.

I think it is worthwhile asking residents how they would like to be involved. That is why I have initiated a review to look at how we engage the public and we would like your views on how we should do this. Please email or attend the public meeting at the Guildhall on Wednesday at 9.30am and tells us what you think.

Call In result for Bathwick Traffic Regulation Orders

Residents have lost their battle to prevent parking restrictions being introduced on two Bathwick roads. People living on St Catherine's Close and St Mary's Close reacted angrily earlier this year when Bath and North East Somerset Council said it would be introducing yellow lines along the streets. They claimed they had not been properly consulted.

The residents received the backing of a number of councillors and had the decision called in, meaning that it would be reviewed by the council.

However, at a meeting held earlier this month, the council's planning, transportation, economy and sustainability overview and scrutiny panel dismissed the call-in after hearing evidence from council officers, councillors and Bathwick residents.

Although the councillors on the panel agreed unanimously to reject the call-in, they made several recommendations to Cllr Sir Elgar Jenkins, the executive member for transport and highways, to help improve the consultation process in the future and make it more user-friendly for the public.

These included asking the executive member to review how much weight was placed on residents' views when considering the introduction of similar policies. They also asked for general leaflets to be drawn up for the public, explaining how the council reached its decisions.

In their ruling, the panel also said they would review the Bathwick decision in 12 months' time.

Resident Peter Try said: "While we are disappointed the panel rejected the call-in, we are pleased the panel made recommendations which will help improve the process in the future and make it more user-friendly for the public.

"In particular, we welcome the council's commitment to consider how much weight is placed on residents' wishes and to review this individual decision in a year.

"We are now looking forward to working with the parking team to explore how the scheme should be implemented and its performance monitored."

Cllr David Dixon, chair of the scrutiny panel, said: "Sometimes decisions are made that may not be popular with all residents and this is the case here.

"The panel could not, however, find any reason to uphold the call-in, as the current procedure has been followed, and we recognise that the council does more than is statutorily necessary.

"It is more important now than ever, that we consult more and help residents understand the process as the cost of public services are ever increasing. Residents, quite rightly, should be involved in our decision-making processes."

Cllr Jenkins first approved plans to implement the restrictions at the end of May.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Riverside Youth and Community Centre

After several years of uncertainty over its future, a community centre is preparing for a new era. The Riverside Youth and Community Centre is set to host an open day to show local people its facilities after recent refurbishments.

Members of the Riverside Community Association, which was set up two years ago to support the Bath and North East Somerset Council-run venue, are busy planning the day although a date has still to be made.

It is hoped the day will bring forward people who have never visited the centre, hidden behind the Porter Butt pub on London Road, and that they could bring fresh ideas for activities to be held there in the future.

Three years ago the centre lost out in a bid to become a Healthy Living Centre, which led residents and business people to join forces and the Riverside Community Association to try to promote the venue and safeguard its future.

The association was also established to show the council that people in the area were interested in the facility and determined not to lose it.

The council's youth service has now taken on the venue and a range of organisations use it, including the London Road Food Co-operative and Bath Toy Library.

Association chairman David Dixon, who is also the ward councillor, said: "I am pleased to see the centre being well used and to see youth provision back at the Riverside."

Gareth Jones, B&NES principal youth and community official, said: "We are looking to develop a lot of things at Riverside - maybe a music studio, or maybe we could take advantage of it being on the river bank."

For more information about the open day contact David Dixon on 462590 or 07900 974975.