Cllr Rhys Taylor calls to support Upper Bangor business community

2139025_bf726c82Councillors are calling for Upper Bangor to become a Business Improvement District following the implementation of the scheme on the High Street. 

A business improvement district (BID) is a defined area within which businesses pay an additional tax (or levy) in order to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. The BID is often funded primarily through the levy but can also draw on other public and private funding streams.

Bangor is one of nine areas (shared with Caernarfon) that will receive funding from the Welsh Government to make improvements within the designated area.

Business Improvement Districts (BID) have been formed across the UK with up to £1m a year raised in bigger towns and cities to drive economic development – with businesses in control of how the cash is spent.

Businesses vote on a BID Proposal or business plan, and BIDs must seek re-approval after a fixed term, of up to 5 years. The BID levy is typically set at approximately 1-2% of the ratable value. BIDs are business let and see businesses working in partnership to improve the business community in a geographical area.

“Unfortunately Bangor’s BID doesn’t extend as far as our business area in Upper Bangor, and I want to change that, drawing on experience from the High Street to support our area,” said Cllr Rhys Taylor.

“This would make Upper Bangor a welcoming place for visitors and residents, and would keep Upper Bangor as a thriving business community.”

Some of the things that have happened elsewhere are;

  1. Car parking & Transportation
  2. Safety & Security
  3. Marketing/PR & Events
  4. Cleansing
  5. Supporting & Attracting Business

Both Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil have succeeded following becoming Business Improvement Districts.

 

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Letter of Opinion: Some Gwynedd Councillors have no idea.

Gwynedd Councillors don’t seem to understand the current student accommodation situation in Bangor at all, or the impact that further developments will have on prices for students.
There is foundation to the claims that there are student rooms empty, despite what Plaid Cymru Cllr Dyfrig Jones claims.There are currently 135 properties with at least 1 room empty, and there are over 300 empty rooms across Bangor. These are the properties of landlords who are registered with the University, and not those landlords that are only licensed by Gwynedd Council, of which there are many more. 

This is 60 rooms, in addition to the 200+ rooms to be built on Dean Street by 2015, an additional 21 rooms by on the High Street for September 2014, and the additional 400 rooms being built by the University, meaning less first year students moving into the private sector.

And these are in addition to the recent developments, and other planning applications in the pipeline.

Students do bring economic benefit to the area, but when there is a surplus of student accommodation in Bangor, this argument doesn’t hold water. Not only is this development unnecessary, it does not meet the potential for a site like Ty Glyn, but it also means that accommodation prices for students will rise, with some private providers already pricing rooms at £120+ per week.

Furthermore there is also a deep rooted problem with affordable housing in Bangor, meaning that people struggle to afford properties in Bangor, limiting the number of students who remain in the area which creates economic need and graduate-level jobs, the number of people coming to work and live in Bangor, and the number of families that can live in Bangor.
These issues are paramount in maintaining the character of the City of Bangor, and stimulating the local economy, something which Gwynedd seems to have forgotten.
Bangor Liberal Democrats are working with Gwynedd Council Officers to ensure that the new Joint Local Development Plan for Gwynedd includes stronger policies on student accommodation, to ensure fairness and quality of provision in Bangor and across Gwynedd.
This is another example of Councillors who are removed from issues faced in Bangor, making decisions on our behalf, and not acting in the best interests of the people of Bangor. It’s high time democracy returned to Gwynedd, where local people are empowered to make decisions which directly effect their communities and character of their communities.
Rhys Taylor
Liberal Democrat Councillor, Bangor

Arfon Lib Dems 2013 Roundup

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Arfon Liberal Democrats’ 2013 roundup

In Bangor we’re continuing to work hard for our local community, we’re also providing a strong, centre-ground voice in Cardiff Bay and in Westminster, doing our best to create a stronger economy in a fairer society, reigning back the Tories and holding Labour to account.

Nadolig Llawen, a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda. / Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Arfon Liberal Democrats.

Upper Bangor Councillors call for Sunday street cleaning

Upper Bangor Councillors are calling for additional measures to be taken by Gwynedd Council to keep our community clean.

Councillors have seen an increase in complaints about litter from residents, and have seen an increase in waste and litter on Holyhead Road and around Upper Bangor following an increase in late night licensing.

Whilst takeaways have been reminded to ensure that outside their properties are maintained, we recognise that waste and litter cannot be wholly addressed by businesses, and are calling for Gwynedd Council to take further action to ensure that Upper Bangor is clean and tidy, and welcoming to visitors and residents alike.

Bangor Focus Team, September 2013

Your Upper Bangor Councillors have been pursuing many issues across the area recently, particularly around late night licensing and waste. We have;

  • Proactively fought to defend the right of residents to a peaceful community, ensuring that there is a balance between local business needs and the needs of local residents.
  • We have worked with the council to realise local licensees’ licensing conditions, particularly around public nuisance with regards to the dispersal of people and clearing outside their properties.
  • Communicated issues with parking in Upper Bangor, concentrating on cars and delivery lorries parking along Holyhead Road, and parking in areas such as Snowdon View, The Crescent and College Road.
  • Communicating safety issues with parking that impacts upon emergency vehicle access.
  • Notifying the council of areas where waste and litter have gathered in Upper Bangor, ensuring that the area is kept clear. This has also meant requesting that the Council write to local businesses to remind them of their license conditions and the council’s licensing objectives.
  • Requesting information on the legality of selling tickets and exchanging money for entry to nightclubs.

Call to clean up our streets.

1016963_155524024642454_2057426502_nBangor Lib Dems have been working with the council to clean up the streets of Upper Bangor. Cllr Rhys Taylor has been in discussions with the Council’s Principal Housing Officer, the Council’s Senior Manager for Waste and Recycling, and the Highways Department on a range of various issues.

Issues with broken paving stones, food waste stains, poor management of business waste, ad landlord neglect have all been high on the priority list of the local Liberal Democrat team.

We want to ensure that Upper Bangor is accessible, clean, and welcoming, whilst also supporting local businesses in opening up avenues of communication between the Council and local businesses ensuring that businesses have sufficient provisions to dispose of their waste and possibly making collection arrangements with the council.

Bangor Liberal Democrats working hard on HMOs.

Liberal Democrat Councillors in Bangor are working hard to ensure that HMOs in the area are properly managed and allow sufficient room for families, couples, the elderly, and workers to live in the Bangor community, as the number of family homes continue to decline in areas such as Upper Bangor.

When Bangor City Council set the council tax precept for 2013/14 it was noted that there were considerably fewer number of council-tax paying properties in Bangor year on year, an issue of concern for many as council services are stretched further and demand increases – particularly where the decline in council-tax paying properties is due to the increase in HMOs.

As part of the current consultation Bangor Liberal Democrats submitted a response to the consultation on the matter of the proliferation and management of HMOs in Bangor. Bangor Lib Dems believe that the current policy does not go far enough to protect the traditional community of Bangor, whilst also ensuring that standards of HMOs are maintained. Gwynedd’s current policy reads as follows;

“The accumulative effect or over provision of this type of accommodation (HMOs) can affect the social character of an area and lower its environmental quality. This situation can further worsen as families move out in order to seek a better living environment.”

Arfon Liberal Democrats support Bangor Councillors’ commitment to ensuring that whist there is adequate provision for students, we must safeguard the needs of the community that remain in Bangor for 365 days a year in supporting our local businesses, economy, schools, and also provide a vibrant community.

There is also ongoing work with various Officers in Gwynedd Council on tackling the result of the proliferation of HMOs including waste, noise pollution, and a rapidly reducing number of dwelling homes in areas such as Upper Bangor and Garth.

Below is the consultation submission made by Bangor Liberal Democrat Councillors;

Anglesey and Gwynedd Joint Local Development Plan.

Submission on Houses in Multiple Occupation

Councillor June Marshall,

Menai Ward, Bangor.

 

  1. 1.     Background

 

1.1  The City of Bangor is very proud to be the home of Bangor University and we are very conscious of the many benefits which have accrued to the City due to its presence.  The University has contributed immeasurably to Bangor’s economy, culture and amenities.  We welcome the students who come from all over the world to live and study in this beautiful part of Wales. They bring vibrancy to the city and give us the opportunity to learn more about other lives, languages and beliefs.  But there is also a potential downside to the influx of large numbers of students.  Over the last forty years the University has grown from 3000 students to c.12000. This nearly doubles the population of Bangor in term time and has led to a massive provision of student accommodation, primarily by turning family houses into student Houses of Multiple Occupation.

 

1.2   It is not easy to give an exact number of HMOs in Gwynedd.  Many do not have planning permission and not all are licensed.  But the impact is clear.  There are whole streets and roads in Bangor with just one or two family houses and some streets have no family houses at all.  Unless there is a change of approach to prevent more dwelling houses from being converted into HMOs, the situation will deteriorate still further.

 

1.3   The problems caused by the present situation are immense:

 

  • Increase in noise and disorder
  • Increase in rubbish
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Loss of affordable houses for residents
  • Families are driven out of student areas, leading to further HMOs and an unbalanced population.
  • Loss of revenue for both Gwynedd and Bangor City Councils
  • A large floating population which does not engage with the local community
  1. 2.     Is there a need to provide more Houses of Multiple Occupation in Bangor?

 

2.1   The main need for HMOs in Bangor is to accommodate students.   The need undoubtedly increased over the past 40 years but there is compelling evidence that the need is now fully met and will not increase in the near future. In fact it is likely that student numbers will decline:

                Evidence on Student numbers:

 

  • The latest figures available (2012-13) show that the number of students attending Bangor University fell by 200.
  • This is in line with national trends, which show that most Universities are showing a decline in admissions.
  • This trend is unlikely to improve while University fees of £9,000 per annum continue to be charged.

 

2.2   At the same time, the supply of purpose built students accommodation has increased:

 

  • Neuadd Willis I and Neuadd Willis II on Bangor High Street now provide high quality purpose built student accommodation for a considerable number of students.
  • Student accommodation has also been built on the site of the former N and F shop on Bangor High Street.
  • Planning permission has been granted for 30 student rooms at Plas Llwyd, behind the High Street.
  • The University intends providing 600 rooms on the St Mary’s site and 120 at Neuadd Garth.
  • There is planning permission for student accommodation on the corner of Dean Street.
  • The former Jewson’s Yard remains undeveloped.  While the previous planning application for student accommodation was refused on appeal, it is probable that the developers will revise their plans and produce an acceptable scheme.

 

2.3  There are signs of over-provision of Houses of Multiple Occupation.

 

  • Student houses remain without tenants for 2013-14, even at this very late stage in the academic year.   (Evidence:  an unprecedented number of advertising signs still showing rooms to let, numerous newspaper adverts still offering student houses to let.)
  • Some student houses remained empty during the last academic year.

 

 

3      Gwynedd Council Policy

 3.1  Policy CH14 refers to Houses in Multiple Occupation in the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan.

 

“Policy CH14 – conversion of dwellings into flats, bed-sits or multiple occupancy dwellings.

Proposals to change the use of dwellings or other residential buildings into flats, bed-sits or multiple occupancy units will be approved provided they conform to the following criterion:

the development will not result in the overprovision of this type of accommodation in a specific street or area where the accumulative effect has, or is likely to have, a negative impact on the social or environmental  character of the street or area.”

 

3.2. Unfortunately this policy has not been sufficiently strong to prevent many more family houses being turned into HMOs.  It is extremely difficult to prove that one house becoming an HMO will result in overprovision of HMOs or will be likely to have an adverse impact on a street or area, when there are already a number of HMOs in place.  Consequently, the number of family houses has been, and continues to be, chipped away.  The only hope of preventing the situation from deteriorating further is to have a very strict policy which would not permit any change of use to an HMO once the percentage of HMOs in a street exceeded a fixed amount.  This would have to be agreed, but should be – I would propose – a meaningful figure such as 10%. Furthermore, it should only be possible to convert a building, of any sort, into an HMO if the applicant could show that no harm would ensue.

 

3.3.The work of Planning Officers and Planning Committees in Wales in controlling the proliferation of HMOs would be much helped if the Welsh Assembly Government were to introduce a similar planning regulation as exists in England whereby HMOs are placed in a separate class use (C4).

 

3.4.Of course, it is essential that any policy on HMOs has to be enforceable.  The current situation allows landlords to by-pass the planning system very easily, by claiming for example, that all the tenants share a rent book and live as a family.  The system needs to be tightened up, provided this can be done within current legislation.

 

  1. What are the risks if no change is made to Gwynedd’s policy?

 

  • Further proliferation of HMOs.
  • Further loss of family houses.
  • Further adverse impact on the residents and environment of Bangor.
  • Empty properties leading to vandalism and disrepair.
  • Investment landlords will seek alternative tenants for their HMOs, with the very real danger of leading to further problems as has happened in Rhyl.