Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Memorandum submitted by The Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations (GIB 19)

Response to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill

1. Introduction:

The Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations (FoBRA) is the main representative voice for residents in Bath. It has 26 member associations representing about 5000 residents across the city, and four affiliates, such as the two student unions. It meets in committee about eight times a year and conducts residents’ business through its democratically elected Executive at all other times, liaising with the local authority (Bath and North East Somerset) leaders, elected members, officers, the Police and other sectors of the community. The whole city of Bath is a World Heritage Site.

2. Summary:

There is plenty to worry any reader of this Bill, but three clauses are of particular concern to Bath residents: those on (a) the authority and performance of Local Planning Authorities, where it is proposed to bypass those which are deemed to be performing "poorly", (b) installation of cabinets for superfast broadband by Permitted Development, and (c) greater powers for developers over Common Land.

3. Observations:

3.1 Clause 1 – Authority and Performance of Local Planning Authorities:

The removal of powers from "poorly performing" Local Planning Authorities (LPA) by the Secretary of State appears arbitrary and counter to the Localism agenda, withdrawing, as it will, one layer of appeal at the same time. Surely some more logical method can be found, which still retains the tier of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, such as (a) depending on the democratic process to oust inadequate Councillors in power, (b) depending on the disciplining of the Chief Executive in the normal way, if he or she could be shown not to have met targets, or (c) offering guidance and direction instead of taking away the LPA’s powers? Moreover, no definition or measurement of "poor performance" is offered. Is this not dictatorial and the very opposite of Localism?

3.2 Clause 7 – Electronic Communications Installations:

This clause would make the installation of cabins and cabinets for the spread of superfast broadband Permitted Development everywhere except in SSSIs. This a particular worry for Bath as a World Heritage city. How should the needs of the communications industry and the continuing unaltered existence of a World Heritage Site be reconciled except through the planning process? How else would the installation of a cabin or cabinet in (say) the middle of Royal Crescent be prevented or controlled (however important this industry might be)?

3.3 Clauses 11-13 – Common Land:

These clauses appear to grant authority to landowners designed to reduce the ability of the community to protect its rights over common land. Current legislation permits open argument over the rights to use common land, and we fear that these clauses will hazard the use by the community of green open space in their environment. We hope that some of the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework may ameliorate these concerns but, if so, this needs to be made clear.

November 2012

Prepared 21st November 2012