SPG update meeting
Most members will be familiar with the history of the SPG situation, but for a brief recap:
- Labour councillors and AM Julie James secured legal changes in Welsh Government to allow permission to develop local Supplementary Planning Guidance regulating the development of HMOs.
- The draft SPG brought to Planning Committee last July proposed a threshold of 25%.
- A very vocal public protest led by Cllr Peter May called for a 15% concentration. Tory member Linda Tyler-Lloyd (Mayals) proposed this amendment, which the committee agreed. Legal advice was that a new document setting out the rationale for this number would need to be prepared for public consultation.
The advice of planning officers has always been very clear: the threshold cited in the SPG should reflect the existing situation in the neighbourhood, because SPG can seek to maintain the current character but not reverse a trend. With most of Uplands at 30-35% and some much higher, we had supported the draft and the promise of a review at 12 months.
On 20th December all Uplands ward councillors attended a meeting arranged by the Cabinet Member for Housing & Energy, Andrea Lewis to update us on the progress of drafting the revised SPG. Various relevant officers attended. It seems likely that the new draft will not be ready for consultation until late 2018.
Cllr May raised the recent appeal allowed in Cardiff. The Planning Inspector had ruled that their SPG, with a 20% threshold, no longer reflected the character of the neighbourhood and could not serve as a basis for refusal. Cllr May’s response to this is that reliance on numerical thresholds alone is not desirable, and welcomed the longer time taken to consider our SPG.
Meanwhile of course we have had no SPG which we feel has been a great detriment to Uplands. We are seeking confirmation of the number of HMOs approved since July, for which the rejected draft would have served as a basis for refusal.
Uplands Traders Association
Both Councillors recently attended a meeting of Uplands Traders’ Association. The UTA has a project of bringing Christmas decorations to Uplands. The reasons that this not already happened are twofold: infrastructural issues, on which the UTA is liaising with council officers, and a relatively minor funding shortfall. Hopefully this latter problem can be dealt with by contributions from councillors’ community budgets and donations from the ‘big beasts’ of Uplands shopping area: Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots.
The other issue was the the car park in Gwydr Lane belonging to Pobl (formerly Gwalia). This is unused at weekends and could provide valuable parking space, especially on market days. Up to now, efforts to engage with Gwalia to come to an arrangement about this between them and the authority have not been successful but we will keep trying.
Swansea Uni Bike Scheme
A company called Next Bike, with sponsorship from Santander, ran a competition in which University towns competed to have a bike loan scheme installed. Essentially the two which raised the most in crowd-funding would be successful. Swansea came out top and will now benefit from having “hubs” installed at both campuses, with loan bikes available.
Mumbles community council pledged a considerable sum to the scheme, in the hope of being considered in the first round of “extension” hubs. Swansea Council colleagues would like to see the scheme extended with hubs at the Train Station and other central locations as well as the Liberty stadium. However, it is up to Next Bike where the scheme is extended. A hub costs roughly £2k per bike.
In theory, we could use, say, £10k of our community budget to have a 5-bike hub installed in Uplands. If this linked with one at the train station it would be particularly beneficial. We would welcome members’ views on this idea, as well as all our other spending ideas (see below).
We would like to thank Wheelrights and other cycling activist groups for their help promoting this scheme and ensuring its success, particularly our valued branch activists, John Sayce and Nick Guy.
Wheelrights have also been behind the local consultation, of which many members will be aware, which produced a 94% positive response to proposals for a 2 way cycle lane on Walter Road and Mansel Street. This will be going out to full consultation by the authority shortly. If this goes ahead, as it should, it will expand and enhance the cycle network, reduce traffic congestion by keeping cyclists off the road, obviate the need (mistakenly perceived by some cyclists) to cycle on the pavement, encourage more to use bikes and thus improve fitness and air quality.
We have decided that to try and improve transparency, engagement and democracy in the ward, we will use the online platform, Vocaleyes, to seek feedback on our ideas for Community Budget spending, and to seek further ideas.
It must be remembered that this is only one avenue for seeking input. Councillor surgeries, chats in the street, branch meetings, online discussion etc are all valuable methods of engagement, and Vocaleyes will only reach those already inclined to engage that way. We cannot imagine that every relevant voice will come through VocalEyes. It is up to all of us to keep our feelers out and encourage people to share their thoughts.
However, if 18 councillors pledge 5% of their annual community budget to pay VocalEyes in recognition of the service they provide, then they will be able to employ a part time development worker to try and support greater involvement by a variety of people.
We will be posting some of our spending ideas online and sharing the links shortly.
Parking in Uplands is often a challenge, not least on market days. Since the Grove Medical Centre ceased to provide free parking for traders, problems have arisen with many parking fines being issued. We have been in contact with the Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, Mark Thomas, who has been very supportive. It seems impossible to get fines withdrawn once issued but Mark and officers have been helpful about finding a solution.
We are hopeful that a new scheme will be in place in time for this month’s market, which will see Gwydr Crescent closed from the corner near Pantygwydr Church along to Gwydr Square. Currently the road is only closed on the square itself. Closing the road in this way will allow for a temporary suspension of the double yellow lines, allowing traders to park there with a permit issued on the day by the market team but with virtually no impact on residents and shoppers, who will have the usual residents’ bays and free parking zones without competition from traders.
The market is incredibly important to Uplands and we are deeply concerned to demonstrate our support and improve relations in the wake of these very unwelcome fines.
Community Budget Spending
All spending is listed online, but for members’ ease:
£1k of community budget has been granted to the market. Many possible expenses could be met with this, e.g. paying musicians rather than relying on their good will to perform for free (we think music makes the market more lively and reliable performers require payment).
Some £700 was spent on a barbecue bin for installation near the 360 cafe after concern was raised last summer about a number of accidental bin fires. This will be in place in time for barbecue season 2018.
£500 has been donated to Victoria St Helen’s Bowls Club by Cllr Nick Davies. Bowls clubs across Swansea are struggling as a result of very difficult decisions taken by this authority in response to repeated cuts to our revenue support grant from Welsh government, in turn a result of austerity from Westminster. Bowls clubs are a valuable community asset and deserve whatever support we can give them.
Cllr Nick Davies has also donated from his community budget the cost of installing a new bollard at the entrance to grass area at Rosehill Quarry to prevent the anti-social use of motor vehicles (one bollard there has a key so it can be removed, to enable council grasscutting vehicles to gain access).
IMPORTANT CONSULTATION: WELL-BEING PLAN
Please go to www.swansea.gov.uk/psb to have your views heard, and encourage others to do so. More info, below, is copied from that webpage. If you are interested but cannot get online please contact either of us for advice as there are many ways to get involved:
Swansea Public Services Board is a partnership of public service agencies who work together to improve local services. The four statutory members of the Board are Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, Natural Resources Wales, the Fire and Rescue Service and the Council. The Board also involves other organisations that have an interest in the wellbeing of the area for example the police and the universities. Support is provided by the City and County of Swansea.
Every local council area in Wales is legally required to have a Public Services Board (PSB) whose purpose is to work collectively to improve local social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being. This requirement is set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
Each PSB is required to carry out an Assessment of Well-being to understand current levels of well-being and what matters most to local communities and to produce a Local Well-being Plan in order to improve well-being.
In 2016, Swansea’s Public Services Board (PSB) started a conversation about well-being in the local area. Our Assessment of Local Well-being (published in March 2017) told us that Swansea is a great place to live but that we need to work harder together to make sure everyone can live well, benefit from and be proud of Swansea.
Swansea’s draft Local Well-being Plan is now out for consultation
Using information from the Assessment and by listening to people, we have developed a draft Local Well-being Plan which is designed to improve well-being in the local area. But we need your views to make sure we’ve got it right for Swansea.
Cllr Mary Sherwood 07452 997699
Cllr Nick Davies 07951 342740