Saturday, September 30, 2006

Open Days at Firs Field Work Site

The Stone Mines Project Team is offering local people the chance to tour the Firs Field Work Site on 6th and 13th October from 5.30pm to 7pm. Each tour will take about 15 minutes.

Friends of Firs Field (FoFFs) and the Combe Down Heritage Group will have small displays of their work at the site.

If you want to join one of the tours contact the Project Team on 477200.

Chris Huhne MP Visit to Bath

Chris Huhne MP, Lib Dem Shadow Environment Spokes came to Bath on Thursday 28th September to look at some of interesting Environmental successes and challenges in the area.

First he was taken to ECT's Recycling Depot at Keynsham to see the very successful operation that helps to take our recycling percentage to more than 40% and then to a woodland area in Keynsham where there is a move to build.

Next it was back to Bath to look at the Midland Road Recycling Centre, where he saw how we have improved the extraction rate of recyclable materials from 37% to 69% in the past year.

From here he was taken to the YMCA where an invited audience from Bath and North East Somerset's environmental groups listened to Chris describing the Lib Dems latest environmental tax initiatives of shifting the tax burden from personal taxation to taxes on pollution (details of this can be found by hitting the 'simpler, fairer, greener button on this blog). He then took questions from the audience.

Chris is a rare bird being an economist and environmentalist. He wrote for the Guardian on economics for many years, before becoming a Euro MP and in 2005 being elected MP for Eastleigh. Earlier this year he was one of the candidates for the leadership of the Lib Dems.

The day continued with visits to Wessex Water and to the Cleveland Baths to talk to reperesntatives of the group trying to retain the Baths as a Lido and ended with a BBQ.

Public Meeting about the Mines

The regular monthly public meeting of the Combe Down Stone Mines Community Association about the Mines, was well attended last Thursday, with about 60-70 local people present in the Church.

As you can imagine high on the agenda was the closure of Combe Road. There is not much more to say about the problems, but there has been no further movement since work underground stopped and the road was closed.

There was discussion about the following points:
  • whether all of the road needed to be closed from the King William to the Dentists?
  • can vehicles be prevented from coming to the barriers where they turn and cause chaos going back into the Avenue?
  • could residents be allowed to park their cars in the road by moving the barriers up the road to the old church?
  • could some yellow lines in the village be removed to ease the parking problems?
  • could The Firs could be made one way out of the village?
  • could Parking wardens patrol more frequently?

I will talk to Highways Officers next week and raise these issues and suggestions with them. One of my neighbours asked how the recyclers and waste collectors would get to Combe Road so I have aked them to make arrangements to continue collections - the milkman seems to have got through all right!

Colin Harris from Scott Wilson Engineering doesn't yet know what can be done to solve the problems of subsidence. We hope that in the next week we will know more. However, it doesn't seem that the road will be opened in the immediate future.

An interesting fact came to light at the meeting - there are 748 houses in total to be stabilised and 60 have been done so far.

There was some discussion about security at the Work Site on Firs Field and I will be discussing this with our local beat manager, PC paul Honeychurch.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Combe Road Closure

Yesterday the section of Combe Road from the North Road junction to Rockhall Lane was closed as a precautionary measure after some movement on the surface over the mines was identified. It is thought that the vibration from traffic may have caused the movement. Work has also been progressing underground and this may have been a contributing factor.

The safety of people on the surface and of the workers in the mines is of paramount importance so the road will remain closed to traffic for a minimum of a few days, but it could be for much longer. An assessment of the risk will be made by the Stone Mines Engineers during the next few days.

In an attempt to avoid chaos during the morning 'rush hour' I spoke to the deputy headteacher at Monkton Combe Junior School and he decided to tell parents picking their children up last night that the School's normal one way route to the School, across the school field and out via Combe Road, would be changed to coming in by The Avenue and out via the school field.

This change seems to have been effective this morning because although there was more traffic in the centre of the village than usual there were few holdups. Any comments from people experiencing problems would be welcomed.

Buses now go along North Road as they are no longer able to access the village through Combe Road, so Cherry Beath and I have spoken to the Council's public transport officers and temporary bus stops have been identified in North Road.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Route Change for Bus Service 2

Local Combe Down residents voted overwhelmingly for a change to the bus route - some 80% of those who responded to our survey said that they would prefer the route to return to Bath via North Road. The changes will not operate until new bus stops are in place and the road closure in Combe Road is removed. Temporarily buses are going both ways along North Road at present.

When the one way loop is operational people will be able to get on at the Hadley Arms stop and ride all the way to the MoD and into the city for the same fare as people who get on at the MoD.

The photo shows Cherry, Ray Hardy First Group Manager and Roger holding the completed survey forms (photo by kind permission of Bath Chronicle).

We were very pleased with the response to the survey and the next step is to meet Highways officers and Ray Hardy in North road to identify sites for bus stops.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Call-In of Superstore Decision on Odd Down

Together with nine other councillors I have 'called in' of the Cabinet decision to allocate Hayesfield School Playing Fields, St Martin's Garden school and open space at Odd Down for commercial development in the Local Plan.

The 'call in' means that another group of councillors, who sit on a Scrutiny Committee can decide to:
a) dismiss the call-in or
b) uphold the call-in and refer the decision back to the Cabinet Member
c) proceed to a second meeting to consider further evidence before determining the outcome
of the call-in.

The call-in meeting will be held at 6.30pm on Tuesday 3rd October at the Guildhall. Members of the public can speak at the meeting, for not more than 3 minutes. Details from Democratic Services 01225 477000.

The decision by the Cabinet was taken solely on the late recommendation of the Planning Inspector, without consultation or supporting evidence. The decision could mean that the new £2m 'Sure Start' extension to the school will be demolished along with the rest of the school, which also houses the Margaret Coates Unit for Autistic children.

There has been no investigation about whether there is a need for a Superstore in this part of Bath and what the effects would be on the local environment or on shops in the city, in Moorland Road, Odd Down, Southdown, the Bear Flat or in Combe Down.

This call-in is a chance for the Transport Planning and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee to tell the Cabinet to gather more evidence before making such an important decision.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I saw this Al Gore documentary on Climate Change at the Little this morning. It is frighteningly frank about global warming and its consequences. The ice in the Arctic and Antarctic continues to melt and eventually sea levels will rise by about 20 feet, flooding many low lying places and making millions of people homeless, particularly in the developing world.

None of this is new. Its just that the presentation of the issues is done in a very professional manner by an accomplished speaker and politician, known around the world and the issues are covered more comprehensively than in any other documentary that I have seen. Al Gore starts out with the quip "I was at one time the next President of the United States".

Al Gore is optimistic that Climate Change can be reversed. He believes we have all the means at our disposal at present to avert disaster, but that we lack the Political Will to do so.

Go see it at the Little from 15th September and visit the web site

The Spa

Is the Spa a costly ‘white elephant’ or a development which will ensure Bath’s economic future? There was only one way to find out and that was to visit. So on Saturday 2nd September Nic my partner, Erica my daughter, two friends from London and I, tried our luck for two hours between 7 and 9pm.

First of all though, in the afternoon we visited the old Roman Spa at the other end of Bath Street, to find out what happened 2000 years ago. I can see why the Roman Baths continue to be amongst the most popular visitor attractions in the country, with the new commentary by Bill Bryson a further useful recent addition.

I certainly believe that we should use the natural hot spring waters in a similar way to the Romans, and so I am pleased that the scandal of the waters running off into the river Avon for the last 30 years without being used, has been ended. In the new Spa the experience is certainly communal, just as in Roman times, because you pass and chat to people as you move from one pool to another.

After entering we secured the small plastic wristband containing the microchip to our wrists and entered the individual changing cubicles. A door on one side of each cubicle gives entry and then on the other, access to the lockers. The numbers of our lockers were contained in the microchip, so there was no need to remember them.

First of all we went up by lift to the rooftop pool on the third floor, hoping for a spectacular sunset, but alas the sky was overcast and it was spitting with rain! The views though are spectacular; the Abbey in all its gothic glory, an ancient tower in Swallow Street, which is almost impossible to see from the ground and Bath’s ‘green hills’ to the south and east.

The pool itself has an area where people can sit and be bombarded by warm water pumped from the seats and from the floor and sides of the pool, but it is simply stunning just to be able to swim or float in this pool on the roof.

We went next to the second floor and the steam pods, footbaths and shower (more of a torrent than a shower) of cool water in the centre of the room. Time in the steam pods, and we tried them all, made a cooling shower essential.

Next the New Royal Bath on the ground floor where we caught site of a clock – 8.15 already we had been in the Spa for one and a quarter hours. Here again the water bubbles around you and the whirlpools make swimming interesting. In the centre of this pool there is a social circular area where people can stand and enjoy the foaming water and chat to each other if they wish.

To finish off our visit we returned to the rooftop pool, by now in darkness except for the underwater blue and green lights. This time Bath Abbey, Sham Castle and Prior Park all stood out floodlit against the darkening sky. I wonder what the Romans would have thought about this outstanding atmospheric twenty first century experience?

We all agreed (I am biased of course) that the new Spa should enable local people and visitors alike to enjoy a world class experience, unique to the UK. As well as the eighteenth century architecture and the Roman Baths, this new Spa should enable local people to be even more proud of our city. Despite the problems of construction, the cost, the delay, the criticisms, the Spa is already very popular and has put a smile on the faces of all who have used it so far, after just a few weeks of operation.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Combe Down Litter Pick

In July local resident Tim Pentreath emailed local councillors to complain about the poor street cleansing in Combe Down, but this was not just an ordinary complaint! Tim also offered to do something about it.

The upshot of this was that on 19th July 2006, Tim and a group of 10 of his friends and contacts and both local councillors turned up in the Firs and using kit supplied by the council, spent a couple of hours picking up litter in the village.

Tim had divided the village up into 'picking routes' and each 'picker' was armed with a 'picking stick' and bag - you can see from the picture the amount of litter collected - 6 bags.

The litter pick revealed to me the ingrained dirt and detritus in the gutters, built up over the years - Paul, a volunteer from Hawthorn Grove, and I did Westerleigh Road and Combe Road between us.

To get the gutters and pavements really clean, a 'deep' clean with brush and shovel is needed. I will be talking to Trevor Cummings, the officer who manages the street cleansing operation at the council to attempt to get a 'deep' clean in Combe Down. But of course this would not be needed if people did not drop litter in the first place!

Well done Tim and his gang of helpers. In a strange sort of way I found the exercise to be quite satisfying, but then I am a waste and recycling anorak!