Improving Bicycle security

This weekend your local neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs will be security marking bicycles, which increases your chance of having your bicycle returned to you if it is lost or stolen.

They will also be giving advice of how to keep bikes safe and less attractive to potential thieves. Everyone who has their cycle marked can enter a free draw with a chance of winning a £150 voucher towards new accessories such as lights, locks and helmets. Bring your bike along to one of these locations:

Twerton, Whiteway and Southdown (Southside Youth Centre, Kelton View, Twerton)

Saturday 23 January 2pm-3.30pm
Sunday 24 January 2pm-3.30pm

Foxhill (Bradford Road shops)

Saturday 23 January 10am-11.30am
Sunday 24 January 10am-11.30am

City Centre (Green Park Station)

Saturday 23 January 2pm-3.30pm

Larkhall (Alice Park)

Saturday 23 January 11am-2pm

Decision on HMOs must not drag on

Bath MP Don Foster is writing to the new Minister for Housing and Planning, John Healey MP, asking him not to let the response to this summer’s consultation on House of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) drag.

Earlier this year, the government consulted on changing the use class order of HMOs which would, in effect, mean someone wishing to convert a family home into a HMO would have to apply for planning permission.

Oldfield ward Lib Dem Councillor Shaun McGall has been lobbying for changes to the law for a number of years. He said,

Where areas have a high concentration of HMOs it can add a number of strains to the community, for example in car parking and refuse collection. Councils have not had the ability to do anything about the rise of the HMO, meaning that communities, such as Oldfield Park, can change very quickly as private landlords buy family homes to convert. HMOs do serve a purpose, but they need to be controlled so that local communities aren’t damaged. That is why this government consultation is so important.

Bath MP Don Foster said,

This consultation was finished in August, but the new Minister doesn’t seem to have any expectation of when the findings will be published, partly because of the overwhelming response. I have written to him to stress the importance of this issue, which is affecting communities up and down the country. When we clearly need more affordable housing, it is important that councils have the power to prevent more family housing being converted into HMOs, especially in the most affordable areas of our city. HMOs should be spread across cities, not concentrated in certain areas which can have a massive effect on the local community.

Please see below for the full text of Don Foster’s letter to John Healey MP. Read the rest of this entry.

Lib Dems: Local Needs Not Government Targets

Liberal Democrats in B&NES are calling for the Government imposed targets for housing and other land use to be rejected and are saying planning policies for the future should focus on real local needs.

B&NES Council is currently consulting residents and others on a vision for our area for the next 20 years. Liberal Democrats have criticised the ‘Core Strategy Spatial Options Consultation’ document for being based on Government targets for housing and jobs which are based on flawed and outdated economic projections and which do not fit in with what local people really want.

Plans for the future of our area must start with the needs and views of the community and not be driven by ridiculous Westminster targets. We have previously said ‘No Way to 21k’ and we continue to reject the Government’s agenda to impose housing targets on local people.

The Government requirement to build urban extensions is a key example of a crazy idea dreamed up in an office in London. We oppose the proposals to despoil Bath’s beautiful surroundings by building isolated and soulless new settlements on green belt land.

Yes we do need more housing in the district, but we should first make sure that all present housing is fully utilised – this includes empty homes, flats above shops and basement properties – and we must make sure ‘brownfield’ sites are used before any new land is even considered for development. This will include challenging the MoD to make a decision concerning their surplus land in Bath and finally getting to grips with Bath Western Riverside.

Village communities should be able to work out their own local solutions for affordable housing for villagers, as Hinton Charterhouse has done.

Where we do build new houses we should insist on a high percentage of social and affordable housing – it is a scandal that our own young people cannot get onto the housing ladder because of high land values and high house prices.

A familiar problem in many parts of Bath is family homes which have been turned into houses in multiple occupation. We should insist that most students are housed either on campus or in purpose built blocks and the Government should take purpose built student accommodation into account towards housing targets.

Update on HMOs and Use Class Orders

Of course, this year has been dominated by the HMO Consultation. A report on the Consultation should have been published within three months of its ending in August, but it has still not appeared.

Apparently, the response was three times greater than expected – some 900 responses! Hopefully, the majority of these were from local residents, councillors and MPs in favour of changes to the current law and regulations – but landlords and students were also campaigning against these changes. The volume of responses has caused the delay (the government has only one part-time officer dealing with them – Cllr McGall spoke with her before Christmas and she told him that they hope to publish by the end of the year).

Meanwhile, we also have a new Minister for Housing & Planning, John Healey MP, who claims he is not well enough briefed as yet to make any decisions. Below is his reply to a question in the Commons, on 8 December 2009: –

Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (Lib Dem): Landlord licensing is one solution, but the use classes order is far more significant in many areas with concentrations of HMOs. Will the Minister give me an update on the progress of the Government’s examination of that? Does he agree that restrictions on the number of HMOs in such areas will increase the balance of the community and be in the interests of all?

John Healey: Indeed, and that is why our general policy is to promote mixed communities, as they tend to be better balanced and more stable. The hon. Gentleman asked for an update on our examination of whether changes to the use classes might help us pursue our objectives. At present, we are sifting the 900 or so responses that we have received to the consultation, and I hope to be able to update the House on this shortly.


Several MPs, including our Don Foster, are lobbying the Minister to take action. The danger is that an early election will sabotage all the progress we have made. If you haven’t already done so, it would be invaluable if you could lobby Don Foster, and ask him to put what pressure he can on the Minister to move things along.

Meanwhile, in the hope of a positive outcome in due course – Season’s Greetings to one and all!

Action on “To Let” boards

We have just writing to all the estate agents and letting agencies in the city about the use of “To Let” boards.

We wrote reflecting many local residents’ general concerns including:

· The large number of signs are unsightly, they feel that most of the people you are marketing to will be looking online for properties in first instance.

· As you mainly market the properties to students, students will use the accommodation lists provided by University.

Please let us know of any road where letting agencies and estate agents are using excessive numbers of “To Let” boards.

Local students could face £7,000 tuition fees

There is now less than eight months to save a new generation of young people from huge increases in university tuition fees, according to Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, Don Foster

Don was speaking after the Conservatives suggested they will increase tuition fees to £7,000 if they take power at the next general election, which has to be held by next June.

That will see tuition fees for undergraduates more than double. Currently there is a cap of £3,300 in England and Wales.

Peter Mandelson has already suggested that Labour will allow universities to charge more than at present if re-elected – though the party is too scared to push through the changes it wants before June.

Only the Liberal Democrats will scrap tuition fees. The party believes university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go – and not be put off by the cost.

Bath MP Don said:

“I look around Bath and I see people return from university with no job and a bank balance tens of thousands of pounds in the red. What sort of message is that?

“Labour and now the Tories are showing their true colours. They don’t care about young people – they just want to saddle them with staggering amounts of debt.

“The choice is clear: the people of Bath can vote for a politician who will condemn a generation of youngsters or for the Liberal Democrats who will make education free again, giving young people the best possible start.”

Don backs Live Music Bill

Bath MP Don Foster is backing the Live Music Bill put forward by Lib Dem Peer Lord Clement-Jones. Don has also signed a petition on the number 10 website, calling on the government to change laws which came into place as part of the 2003 Licensing Act.

The Live Music Bill aims to revive live music by:

• Creating an exemption from licences for the performance of any live music in a pub or similar venue

• Reintroducing the rule allowing up to two performers to play live music anywhere without the need for a licence

• Enabling hospitals, schools and colleges to perform live music without the need for licences

Don said, “When the licensing laws were changed in 2003 we were promised an explosion of live music, but in reality many small scale events have been stifled by bureaucracy.

This Bill will not only make it easier for local musicians to get a gig, but it will help small venues who cannot cope with the cost of applying for a license.

It is time that common sense prevailed, and small venues, hospitals and schools were allowed to host live music without having to cope with an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare.

Student rewarded for best ‘Bloomin’ Garden’, but minimum garden maintainance standards are needed

The winner of the 5th ‘Bath’s Bloomin’ Students’ Garden competition this year is Ronald Bradberry, a PhD researcher in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Bath, for his flat in Beaufort East.

The competition was originally set up by Cllr Shaun McGall and is organised by the Student Community Partnership, made up of the Council and student and staff representatives of the University of Bath and Bath Spa University.

James Turner and housemates from the University of Bath came second closely with Fiona Haines from Bath Spa University third.

This year the competition was sponsored by Roman City and Trustease Lettings and the entries were judged by Graham Evans from the Council’s Parks dept.

It is great that this annual competition is now in its 5th Year, and those who enter the competetion do a great job with their gardens.

However, in our honest opinion the mast majority of gardens in privately rented houses across Oldfield Park are not maintained well by their landlords/ladies.

The Council really now needs to work with the ‘good’ landlords and letting agencies, such as Roman City, to work towards the introduction of garden maintainance standards in the Council’s HMO Accreditation Scheme which cover nearly 2,000 HMOs in Oldfield Park and the wider Council area. Please email us with your thought on this idea.

Give the government your views on HMOs

“A chance to swing the balance towards permanent residents “is how Liberal Democrats in Bath are describing the current government consultation on shared houses.

The government is thinking of changing the rules controlling Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) or shared houses. Currently some HMOs are subject to licensing conditions under the Housing Act 2004; however one of the options now under consideration by the government is a change to the “Use Classes Order” which would allow tighter planning controls over HMOs. The consultation is open till 7th August.

Oldfield Councillors Shaun McGall and Will Sandry have responded to the consultation themselves and have also written to residents in Oldfield – an area with many HMOs – to alert them to this opportunity.

This consultation is a chance to swing the balance towards permanent residents. There’s nothing wrong with HMOs in themselves, but problems can occur when areas become dominated by this type of living arrangement, as has happened in certain parts of Oldfield Park.

It is our view that local residents and Councils should be given the power to control over-concentrations of HMOs through the planning process. I would strongly encourage as many local residents as possible to consider responding to the consultation by August 7th – all the necessary information can be found here on our website.

Don Foster MP commented:

It is high time that the government looked at altering the rules on HMOs. It is quite clear that a heavy concentration of such houses causes certain issues and strains on communities, and currently there is little we can do to protect such communities.

Don hopes that residents living in areas of Bath which are densely populated by HMOs, such as Oldfield Park, will take the time to respond to the government consultation, as he will be. This is not about stopping people living in HMOs, clearly they serve a purpose, but about being able to control how and where they grow and finding a balance for local communities.

New Rules on HMOs?

Now is our moment! The government is thinking of changing the rules on HMOs (houses in multiple occupation, or shared houses) – and they are asking us what we think! Now we have a chance to tip the balance in favour of residents.

Oldfield Park’s problem is HMOs. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a house, as such. But there’s something seriously wrong with a neighbourhood where most of the houses are HMOs.

This is now the case in the neighbourhoods in and around Oldfield Park. Few live in HMOs for very long, so what this means is a constantly changing population. Constant change breaks the links on which communities depend. As HMOs increase, community spirit decreases. There are now many streets in Oldfield Park where temporary tenants outnumber longer term residents. The results are all too obvious in the changes that have overtaken these neighbourhoods in the last decade or two.

But it’s not only our area which is affected. Most university towns now have concentrations of HMOs. And not only these – there are huge problems in seaside towns where guest-houses have been turned into HMOs, and in many market towns gangmasters have bought up HMOs for seasonal workers.

As a result, residents groups from all over the country have joined the National HMO Lobby, a network of community associations pioneered by the Leeds HMO Lobby. Locally the Bath Federation of Residents Assoications are members. In addition, there is a parallel national group of local councillors, of which Cllr Shaun McGall is a member. Don Foster, our MP here in Bath, is a member of the parliamentary Group working on these issues.

Together we all have campaigned for ten years to get government nationally to bring in legislation which will enable government locally to resist concentrations of HMOs. We helped to bring in licensing of HMOs with the Housing Act 2004, and the highly successful voluntary local accreditation scheme for HMOs

But licences and accreditation schemes don’t resist HMOs – for this, new planning legislation is needed.

At the moment no permission is needed to convert a family house to a HMO – so anyone can do so, landlords, buy-to-let investors, student parents … There’s nothing the Council can do without new powers. So we has been campaigning for a change to the Use Classes Order, the relevant regulation. Colleagues in Loughborough, Nottingham and Southampton have shown ministers what the problems are in their areas. So last year, we got the government to commission a report on HMOs – and this recommended consultation on new legislation. This year, in May, the government published a consultation paper: click here. click here.

The consultation paper agrees that concentrations of HMOs cause problems. It suggests three courses of action, and is seeking the views of the public on these.

Option 1 is to rely on existing ‘good practice’, like the things we’ve done in Bath to try to tackle the problem – but we know it doesn’t work!

Option 2 is to change the Use Classes Order, so that HMOs need planning permission – this is obviously what is needed, and what we’ve campaigned for so long. On its own it won’t solve the problem, but it is essential to prevent it getting any worse, here and elsewhere.

Option 3is a complicated proposal to allow HMOs anywhere at all – except where the government agrees to give special powers to councils in limited areas (Article 4 Directions). This is basically unworkable.

We have until 7 August to persuade the government to act on Option 2.

What can you do to help?

Cllr Shaun McGall and Cllr Will Sandry will be writing to the government of course. So will other local Lib Dem councillors in Bath. So will Don Foster, our MP here in Bath. So too can you, the more voices the better!

  • First of all, below there should be a model letter to send to the government. All you need do is add your address, give an idea of some of the problems you have had – and sign and send it!
  • If you would like to write your own letter or email, please do. Contact Cllr Shaun McGall for background info.
  • Also, encourage you neighbours to write. And lobby the Council to write in. Contact Cllr Shaun McGall if you need details.

The email address for replies is: (subject: HMO Consultation);

The postal address is:

Susan Turner,
Planning System Improvement Division,
Department for Communities and Local Government,
Zone 1/J10,
Eland House,
Bressenden Place,

The deadline is 7 August 2009.