Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Questions over Cabinet Reshuffle

Liberal Democrat Councillors on Bath and North East Somerset Council have welcomed news of the replacement of the Cabinet member for Development and Major Projects: Councillor David Hawkins has stood down to be replaced by Councillor Terry Gazzard as of 1 November.

Councillor Andrew Furse at the new crossing point (photography: Jennifer Pack)

Cllr Furse campaigned for the new crossing, which the Council Cabinet needlessly delayed

However questions are being raised over the creation of a new Cabinet post specifically to preserve Councillor Hawkins' place on the Bath Recreation Ground Trust Board.

Councillor Andrew Furse (Liberal Democrat, Kingsmead) commented, "The Cabinet member has consistently displayed a lack of vision in his handling of the Major Projects portfolio. From the loss of the Dyson scheme to the delayed start of the Bath Western Riverside development, there has been a leadership vacuum in the portfolio.

"The Cabinet member has repeatedly come under fire for his handling of the Southgate development in Bath. Residents, visitors and local businesses have suffered unnecessary levels of disruption and even urgent measures, such as installing a crossing west of Bath Spa station - the lack of which adversely affected businesses on Manvers Street, were needlessly delayed.

"I am pleased that the Cabinet member has finally caved in to the repeated calls for his resignation. It remains to be seen whether Councillor Gazzard will prove a more effective replacement."

Councillor David Dixon (Liberal Democrat, Walcot) added, "It already appears that there is little faith in the new Cabinet member's abilities given that he is not being trusted with the previous Cabinet member's position on the Rec Trustees Board. Given that the Leader of Council has created a brand new Cabinet post to keep Councillor Hawkins on the Rec Trustees, why did she not take the opportunity to have two Bath Councillors on the Board?

"How can we be assured that the vital portfolio of Major Projects and Economic Development for Bath and North East Somerset will be safe in his hands?"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Local people feeling the pinch

Soaring prices of petrol, food and heating are hitting people hard across Bath.

It doesn’t matter how much you earn, almost everyone is feeling the pinch. Hardest hit are pensioners and others on fixed incomes.

Bath MP Don Foster said, "People are fed up with Gordon Brown’s excuses for his economic mismanagement. We need action now to help people in Bath. Pensions went up by just a few pounds a week this year. That is quickly wiped out when the cost of basic foods like butter and cheese has risen by a third in a year. Petrol prices remain sky high. It doesn’t stop there either. The cost of heating also went up by up to 40% too. With winter setting in it is clear that we need action now to help the most vulnerable in our communities."

Lower taxes needed

Walcot Ward Councillors Colin Darracott and David Dixon are backing Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable MP to get action to tackle the crisis.

Top priority is putting more money in the pockets of ordinary people. The Lib Dems are calling for a 4p in the pound cut in income tax and better pensions.

Energy companies would be forced cut prices for the less well off and pay to improve home insulation.

Cllr David Dixon said, "It’s only right that people need to keep more of what they earn to help deal with rising prices. The Government’s own statistics show that the price of a basic shop has gone up by 26% in the last year. Energy companies have made massive profits from their customers. It’s time that they helped those on low incomes. No one should have to choose between putting food on the table or keeping their home warm."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ice Rink for Bath

Plans for an ice rink for Bath have been approved, at last one might think?

Hold on though, the Conservative run cabinet have once again demonstrated their total lack of udnerstanding about our beautiful city and decided to hide it away behind the Bath Sports and Leisure Centre.

What's the point in that? No visitor to Bath will bother to venture down there to go ice skating. This is just another ploy for the Council to say, we tried to help but no one wanted it - no one will know it's there!

Why not put it in the town centre where people can actually access it easily? By the Abbey? Parade Gardens? Stall Street? This token gesture to suport an ice rink is just that. Now doomed to failure in such a poor location!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dyson Gone!

James Dyson had a dream to build an exciting academy in Bath to specialise in design and technology. It was supported by the Liberal Democrats and all political parties in Bath. It was supported by the Tony Blair’s Labour Government that wanted these new schools. It was supported by Gordon Brown’s Labour Government.

The road was hard and rocky with false dawns and planning objections along the way. Eventually the Planning Committee passed a design. And then horror - the Government decided to call a planning inspection on the whole process at the behest of the environment agency. What a shambles this current government is - one arm detached from another arm. Complete disarray. Now we are in credit crunch territory and the Government has reviewed its financial commitment to the project. What a shambles.

Lets hope that James Dyson’s decison is not final and that a way can be found to bring this exciting school to fruition in the heart of Bath.

Our Conservative administration meanwhile just stayed quiet all along - difficult problems are easier to deal with if you have someone else to blame.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Southbourne Gardens battle hits 20 mark

October 1st marked the 20th anniversary of the day when local residents were evicted from their allotments on land at the end of Southbourne Gardens, Bath.

The land is privately owned and the owner wished to build on the allotments. There have been numerous applications to build but for all of those 20 years local residents have resisted them. Although the space is virtually inaccessible it is now subject to yet another in a long list of planning applications.

Liberal Democrat Councillors Colin Darracott and David Dixon (Walcot) are supporting Claremont Residents' Association (CRASS) members in their hope that the land could be returned to use as allotments. The Council knows that there is a very long list for local allotments and that plans to build can be rejected if old allotments are needed once again.

Cllr Colin Darracott (Lib Dem, Walcot) said: "This is a frustrating example of the public sector being unable to deliver. The point is simple - there is growing demand for allotments in the area, powers exist to acquire land or reject development, but owing to conflicting priorities, nothing is achieved."

The gardens between Eastbourne Avenue and Chilton Road were originally divided into around 25 allotments.

Over the years local residents have been making donations to cover the cost of buying the land.

Chairman of CRASS, John Ingham said: "We can't call this 20-year mark a celebration, because we still haven't got our allotments. This is private property and I understand that the council has powers to acquire land for allotments. In view of the large demand for allotments and the modern emphasis on local food production, we hope the council will treat this as a priority. The latest application has been in for quite along time and we can't work out why. Some of the original allotment-holders are still very keen to get their plots back and there are also lots of new people, too."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Monthly e-newsletter launched

We have now launched a monthly e-newsletter to help with communicating local issues in the Walcot area.

To subcribe please email

Friday, August 08, 2008

Camden Speed Warning Sign

This sign has been reported as out of action. This plays an important part in reminding drivers that Camden Road is a 20mph zone. Highways officers will send out contractors shortly to fix it.

Council should Adopt Cyclescheme

Bath and North East Somerset Council is being urged to take a lead on environmentally friendly commuting and set an example to businesses in the local area by cycle-keen Lib Dem Councillors and Don Foster MP.

Historically Bath and North East Somerset Council has been slow to assume a leadership role in promoting green travel choices. Now Councillor Paul Crossley (Southdown) has asked the Council to join the Cycle to Work scheme which offers employees VAT-free bikes, repaid by loans that are exempt from income tax and national insurance, through a salary sacrifice system.
Cllr Crossley commented, "Cycling is not only good for the environment but it also reduces road congestion and improves health. Many other Councils offer such schemes to their employees, as do several firms here in Bath. The Council should be leading on the green travel agenda and cutting the carbon footprint of the area. The cycle scheme is a great way of getting more people onto bikes and properly equipped for safe and comfortable commuting to work."
Cllr Roger Symonds (Combe Down), another keen cyclist, added, "In fact in Bath we are lucky to have Cyclescheme - the country's leading company in promoting this salary sacrifice idea - right here in the city. This is a great scheme, which I fully support, to get employees on their bikes, not only will it show that the Council values its staff, but a fitter healthier workforce will give better value to the Council."

City MP Don Foster added, "Getting people out of their cars and onto public transport, or cycling and walking should be a high priority. When one of the leading companies offering this scheme is based here in Bath, it amazes me that our Council is so far behind the times.
"With so many Council offices based in Bath city centre, the Council should be taking a lead in promoting sustainable methods of getting to work, as well as cutting congestion in the city."
Richard Grigsby, Director of Cyclescheme said, "We are currently working with nearly seventy employers based in Bath alone and over 80 councils and boroughs within the UK. This includes the RUH, the University and other leading private firms such as Buro Happold and Cross Engineering. Cyclescheme has it's roots in Bath commerce, since the early 90s, and offers an excellent service to employers and employees who have a choice of all of the very best independent bike shops in the south west.

"Our friendly and efficient services are entirely free to the employer and fully compliant with government legislation. In fact we run schemes for the Department for Transport and Office of Fair Trading - the two leading protagonists of the cycle to work initiative.
"I find it ironic that we provide our free service for every public body in the Highlands for instance, but Bath and North East Somerset Council have so far managed to miss out on the best government initiative to date."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Discussions to start on the Rapid Transit Link for the London Road

Council highways officers and local businesses at the end of September will be leaving the Guildhall at and walking the route to the Lambridge training ground. The purpose of this is to give residents, councillors and businesses an early indication of the proposals, but more importantly to share their concerns over highway and pedestrian safety along this route.

The Council have now reconsidered Lambridge as the prefered location for a park and ride site and Mill Lane near Batheaston is now the prefered location, this will deliver 540 more car parking spaces for cheaper, but will of course mean higher volumes of buses using the London Road bus lane and the Bath Package include London Road and Walcot Street as a rapid transit link, similar to that planned to rail road through people's gardens in Newbridge.

Cllr David Dixon said, "Although this will not be an open public tour, the views of residents who use Walcot Street and the London Road are important to us as local councillors. Anyone who has a particular view that they would like to share are encouraged to contact us on 01225 462590 or by email . We want to help get this right, hopefully then we can ensure that the delivered scheme is responsive to the needs of local residents and businesses, and will go someway to improving highway safety along the London Road."

Following pressure from a number of councillors including Cllr David Dixon and and Cllr Colin Darracott, the Council is currently advertising for a Road Safety Accident Investigation and Prevention Engineer. This person's role would revolve around looking into accident clusters and coming up with ideas for remedial measures. It is envisaged that the first area for the new engineer to deal with will be the London Road.

Calls for a Safer London Road

With so many accidents occuring on the busy London Road, local residents and ward Councillor David Dixon, are calling for more safety measures to be introduced and for the bus lane to be reconsidered as 24 hours.

Cllr David Dixon said, "This stretch of road is becoming very dangerous and the Council must come up with solutions and put them in place. People are having accidents, in some cases very serious ones, due to the lack of visibility and speeding traffic coming along the bus lane. Vehicles are also ignoring the merge at the end of the bus lane near Morrisons and are quite often cutting up traffic as they pass the lights."

Friday, August 01, 2008

Victory over Lambridge Park and Ride

Bath Liberal Democrats have given a cautious welcome to the Council’s change of heart on the Lambridge Park and Ride. This follows the announcement that the preferred site for the east of Bath park and ride will be Mill Lane.

However, they have urged the Council to use this proposed change to the Bath Transport Package to also reconsider the route of the Bus Rapid Transit scheme.

Bath MP, Don Foster commented:
“I have always opposed the Lambridge Park and Ride scheme. It would have cost a fortune, done nothing to reduce congestion and pollution on the London Road and would, in effect, be a city centre car park. I’m delighted the Council has been prepared to think again.”

Cllr David Dixon (Walcot) added:
“After 20 years of discussions and consultation – and after the previous Conservative member in charge of transport wasted 4 of those years trying to force through an ill thought out scheme at Lambridge – I am pleased that the current Cabinet member has seen the light. Mill Lane will provide more spaces and really will have an impact to the traffic which clogs up the London Road.

“This change of heart is a victory for local residents in Lambridge and London Road who have consistently opposed the Lambridge site – were it not for their opposition, the Lambridge park and ride would have already been built.”

Councillor Caroline Roberts (Newbridge) said:
“Until this announcement, the Cabinet had been taking the line that no changes were possible to the Bath Transport Package or the Council risked being sent to the ‘back of the queue’ for funding.

“Now the Executive has decided it’s possible to change one end of the route, let’s hope they will now turn their attention to the other end. Surely the huge outcry about the proposed route of the western end of the Bus Rapid Transit scheme, deserves as much of the council’s attention as the outcry about the Lambridge Park and Ride.”

Cllr Loraine Brinkhurst (Newbridge) added,
“The proposed BRT route costs a fortune to save just a few minutes travel time. If the council wants better value for money, then they should also think again about this route.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More bus lanes planned for the London Road and Walcot Street

Now I am all for getting people out of cars and onto public transport, but the latest plans for the London Road is something that all resident and business owners need to be very much aware of.

Some of you will have read about the Rapid Transport Link proposal; which, in theory will be a designated bus `red route` linking a Park and Ride on the east side of the city and the Park and Ride at Newbridge on the west side of the city.

There is a severe shortage of explanation as to exactly how this bus lane is to be accommodated all along the London Road, then up London Street and down Walcot Street; then passing right round the Guildhall which will be totally bus gated against ordinary traffic (including Grand Parade and all delivery access to the Guildhall Market).

The simple fact is that the present bus lane on London Road is highly dangerous. At least three serious accidents in as many years, and any widening or extension of the bus lane must involve road widening.

On this side of the city we must find out what the implications are; will the green space in front of Grosvenor will be narrowed or taken away? Will the same happen at Kensington and the front gardens at Lower East Hayes will be shortened?

The pavement could all but disappear at Walcot Buildings and Walcot Terrace, where any form of loading or unloading will probably be banned. The same could apply at Longacre.

All parking will have to be banned on Walcot Street: which will effectively close all the small businesses there. Deliveries for Guildhall Market traders will be all but impossible and businesses on Grand Parade and Pulteney Bridge will also be affected.

So after fifty years of debate about traffic; has the council has finally decided that the final solution to Bath`s traffic problem is to kill off London Road Walcot Street, the High Street, Grand Parade and Pulteney Bridge as places to live and work?

As your local councillors we will be doing all that is possible to ensure that local residents and businesses are kept informed of what the proposals are, highways planners have alread agreed to meet up and walk the route to discuss possible issues that will arise.

Vision for Snow Hill and London Road

At the most recent board meeting of the London Road and Snow Hill Partnership, Lawrence Buabeng, who is spearheading the proposed Skills and Enterprise project for Snow Hill which is part of the broader Vision for Bath Project; told the meeting that the sum of £1000 had been donated by a resident on Snow Hill. The meeting was told that the resident, who has expressed a wish to remain anonymous, had saved the money from his wages.
The donation, which was in the form of a building society cheque, will be paid into the
LRSHP holding fund for the Skills and Enterprise Project. The meeting expressed the unanimous hope that other donors would come forward with similar, if more modest help, and that the B&NES would offer to match this very real and major step forward.

Cllr David Dixon said, "I for one will be looking at ways that this donation can be best supported by the Council, a clear vision and action plan is what is needed for the London Road and Snow Hill Area which should build on previous work undertaken by the Council in 2003."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Youth Volunteering Scheme on the horizon

Councillor David Dixon is working on a scheme for young people in Walcot to earn rewards such as trips away, go karting and paint balling.

Cllr Dixon said, "Last month we took a group of young people go karting, which was very successful and resulted in organisations across the area agreeing that a scheme should be set up to get young people to positively contribute to their local area and in reward we will organise free activities for them. It is hope to get support from the local police, council and other local organisations to get the scheme off the ground."

The model will be focussed around Timebank, whereby people give some time and in return receive time back from other people, in this case they will get time back in the way of incentives.

It is hoped to get young people involved initially in improving their local environment and through small scale time committments.

The scheme will be based from the Riverside Youth Centre and Councillor David Dixon is currently looking for funding opportunities to see this through.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Concert for Cleveland Pools

Concert for Cleveland Pools

Walcot State Choir and Friends

St Mary's Church, Bathwick

7.30pm Wednesday 9th July

Friday, June 06, 2008

Partners and Communities Together meeting

Would you like to actively engage with local agencies, police and residents with initiatives to promote Safer Stronger Neighbourhoods within Walcot?

Tuesday 17th June, 6.30pm
Riverside Youth and Community Centre, London Road

Tuesday 17th June 2008 will mark the third in a planned series of PACT meetings for the Walcot area, PACT meetings are designed to bring members of the community together with local police teams and key representatives of various organisations to decide on priorities in the local area.

PACT meetings are about giving members of the community a direct say on what they would like their local neighbourhood team to focus on and, equally, getting them on board to help us deliver the results.

The PACT Panel for Walcot will include elected councillors, representatives from BANES Council, Education, Housing, Youth Services along with Walcots Neighbourhood Policing Team.

Current PACT Priorities are:
- Parking on pavements around the Walcot ward in particular outside of Multiyork, Longacre Public House, Cleveland Bridge and the top of Snowhill.
- 2 and 3 Longacre: it is still being proposed to convert the buildings into managed homes, residents are against this.
- Pollution: Nitrogen Dioxide pollution is higher than the government targets, more time, work and funding is required in an effort to combat this.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Go Karting for Free!

Th Council's Youth Service, with the Police and Bath and North East Somerset Racial Equality Council are offering a free go karting trip to young people between the ages of 12 and 19 in the Snow Hill and London Road area.

The trip is on Monday 9th June and will depart from the Riverside Youth Centre on the London Road at 6.30pm and due to arrive back at 9.30pm.

Local Councillors and police beat team, as well as B&NES youth Workers will be attending.

Places are limited and will be on a first come first serve basis.

Please contact Rosco on 01225 442352 to book your place.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Council Budget

The Conservative administration have set a budget increase on Council Tax of 3.75%. However they have raised charges everywhere else which in our view means the real level of Council Tax rise is 7.56%. We voted against the buget and proposed an alternative which was rejected. Our alternative would have eliminated the carparking charges on blue badge holders, phased in increases in care charges and removed a substantial sum from the Waste Partnership of the West of England Partnership. The reason for this last part is that we are very concerned that this partnership is aiming to build a large mass burn incinerator (the Governments preferrred solution for waste) which we are completely opposed to. We would have used the money to bring forward food waste collection and a variety of other environmental initiatives.

Parking Charges Increase

Lib Dem Councillors have expressed their disappointment that the scrutiny call-in, which had been organised to look into the increases in parking costs in Bath, has been dismissed.The panel voted, by four votes to three, to dismiss the call-in, with Conservative Councillors from outside of Bath backing the original decision taken by their Conservative Cabinet colleague. The Cabinet member has now gone ahead and implemented the decision to apply increases of up to 60% to residents’ permit costs across the city, as well as a number of other changes to parking costs and arrangements.

The call-in panel raised a number of issues around poor consultation and excessive increases to permit costs. Although all Councillors agreed that consultation on this decision had been inadequate, Conservative Councillors appeared more concerned with the state of the Council’s finances than the issue of engaging with those who will be affected.

Councillor Ian Gilchrist (Widcombe), who led the call-in signatories commented:“I am disappointed that the Conservative and Independent members of the panel did not recognise the merits of the case made to uphold the call-in.“I thought that the arguments outlining the damaging effects of extending charged times in the city centre to 8pm were pretty compelling, and if they don’t listen to Nod Knowles (Director of Bath Festivals) who will they listen to?“I am slightly mollified by the apparent concession that Cllr Gerrish has made in the direction of Sunday evening parking, but this still has to be confirmed. If we have achieved even this small bit of good then that is a good thing. Residents will not be pleased at a 60% increase in their annual charges, but I do draw comfort from the thought that we at least did our best to oppose this.”

Cllr David Dixon (Lib Dem, Walcot) said:“This really is a kick in the teeth for the democratic process; this decision has been made with complete disregard for best practice in decision-making such as engaging with hard-to-reach groups and the elderly who are often on fixed incomes. The Cabinet member also refused to address the issues raised in the call-in notice, including my concerns around costs of permits for traders, most of whom are small independent businesses who can not afford such huge increases.”Concerns raised by Nod Knowles as to the impact on the night time economy, were supported by Cllr Roger Symonds (Combe Down), who said:“Extending car park charging from 6pm to 8pm will have a knock-on effect for all evening and night time businesses in the city centre. How long before this money grabbing administration extends charging until 8pm for kerbside parking as well? It is significant that none of the four councillors who voted to dismiss the call-in live in Bath.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Improvements due at Morrisons Traffic Lights

After a local resident approached councillor David Dixon about the problems for pedestrians at Morrisons, changes are due to make life safer.

Traffic lights engineers have now spent some time assessing this junction and the conclusion was that the problem is being caused by vehicles from Bath turning into Morrisons through signals that are on red. This has resulted in some near misses.

To prevent this bad driver behaviour we are going to contact the Avon and Somerset Camera Partnership together with our own Traffic and Safety team to propose installing a red running traffic camera. In addition to this we will be changing the road markings and detector loop position on the right turn lane for Morrisons, this will reduce the number of vehicles held in this lane and help call the green filter arrow more frequently, which should further deter motorists going through the signals on red.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Claremont Post Office Under Threat!

The Post Office Network Change list for Bristol and Somerset has been revealed in the press today. Four Bath Post Offices are down for closure and Liberal Democrat Councillors with threatened Post Offices in their wards are campaigning with Don Foster MP against the Government plans.

Councillor Colin Darracott (Walcot) was appalled to learn that Claremont Post Office in Walcot is on the list, saying:

“Local people in Walcot will certainly be outraged to hear the Government is planning to close their Post Office. It is a focal point of local life in the community and certainly contributes to keeping the Camden Road shops busy.

“I urge all residents to support the campaign to save Bath’s Post Offices, and to sign the petition on our website.”

Don Foster MP said:

“I am concerned that the social importance of Post Offices is being ignored by the Government. These closures do not take into account the knock-on effect on other shops in the local community. It will be the elderly and vulnerable who are most affected by these closures as they may struggle to travel the extra distance to important services”.

To sign the petition please visit

Monday, February 18, 2008

Resident Parking Consultation

Due to the Conservative's plans to increase residents parking by 58% to cover their poor administration of the highways maintenance contract over the past 4 eyars - this has unexpectedly cost the tax payer £700k with the possibility of more to pay out. Until than, any consultation on residents' parking schemes will be on hold.

A Perfect View?

Cllr Dixon is working with residents of Perfect View to see what can be done to ensure that the view stays perfect.

The road offers of the best views acroos Bath, however with oversized Poplar trees getting ever taller, the view is at risk.

We are working with Council officers and local residents to look at possible solutions.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Youth and Community Centre Update!

After a four year campaign by local councillors and residents to improve youth services in Walcot, the Riverside Youth and Community Centre behind the Porter Butt on London Road, has finally been refurbished and the access road rebuilt with new lighting.

A growing youth club operates on Mondays and Thursdays from 6.45pm to 9.15pm.

Cllr Colin Darracott said of the centre, "This is the end of a 4 year campaign by local councillor and local residents to save the centre from closure, and see the investment of £250,000 by Council and local businesses to improve this environment. I do hope that the Conservative administration will recognise the hard work put in by the local community and save the centre from being axed."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Claremont Road Resurfacing

The length of Claremont Road, Bath which extends from its junction with Dowding Road to its junction with St Saviours Road.

Will be resurfaced at the end of February.

Riverside Youth Centre

The youth centre held a successful reopening party on 6th December enjoyed by over 35 young people, and the celebrations included live performances by young singers, m.c.'s and d.j.'s, a 5-a-side football training session, caribbean food and refreshments. Our thanks go to Ryan Thomas and Pauline Swaby for preparing the buffet, to all at LRSHP for funding the buffet, to Versatile Media and Sound Knowledge for their help in publicising the event and supporting the young musicians, and to Mark Brown for organising the football session.

We changed the youth club opening times a couple of weeks ago, current times are:

Open access: Mondays & Thursdays 6:45pm to 9:15pm
After school music studio session: mondays 4pm to 6pm

All our sessions target young people from school year 11 to aged 19.

We hope to also reopen on wedneday evenings in the near future - we have had to close wednesday sessions for the time being due to staffing shortages, but we hope to fill vacant post within the next two to three months. After a quiet period following the two refurbishment closures last year, attendance at the Youth Centre has started to increase again during over the past month, and we plan to build on this thoroughout the year. We also plan to recommence on street detached youth work from April onwards once new staff are appointed.

During the past 12 months we have recieved funding for the music studio and the young people accessing from Youth Music, Somerset Crimebeat and Youth Bank which will help us continue to build the project, so we are looking forward positively to the coming year.