We wish you well with an exciting project. This was county councillor Rosemary Brown’s message to HAG on 19 September after approval of our application to transfer Conigre Hill car park to community ownership.
The decision by Bradford on Avon Area Board, which Rosemary chairs, was unanimous. Wiltshire Council property and legal officers had recommended approval of the transfer subject to four conditions:
1 We must set up a community organisation that can own land
2 A covenant will restrict the land to community use — if that’s breached the land reverts to the council
3 The community will take over the costs of maintenance
4 We must preserve parking for the congregation of Zion Baptist Church.
As we made clear to the Area Board, your steering committee can see no problem with any of that. But ultimately, of course, it’s for the hillside community to decide.
From this point, according to John Price, the council officer in charge of transfers, it’s “a normal conveyancing process”. The legal papers for this could be sent to us within weeks of the Area Board decision, and local solicitor Graham McCloy has agreed to represent us (subject to our agreeing his quote, of course).
On 20 September, we filled in and sent off the forms to set up a suitable community organisation (to read any of these, click the headings under Legal stuff on the right). For short, you might want to refer to this as HiCIC (“high-kick”) rather than the full official title we’ve requested, “Bradford on Avon Hillside Community Interest Company”.
That procedure might take until towards the end of the year. But the idea is that then we’ll all be member/directors (see Director’s responsibilities briefing on the right).
We wil be holding a reportback meeting at Zion Baptist Church at 12.15pm on Sunday, 14 October. So please come along then to ask questions, sign up and have your say on how the car park will be run. As Rosemary said, it’s going to be exciting!
It was a win, win situation for the Hillside Action Group at the meeting of the Bradford on Avon Area Board on 18 July.
Councillors agreed to support both the removal of the current 23-hour limit on Budbury Place car park, subject to one small caveat, and to back our application to transfer Conigre Hill car park to community ownership.
That isn’t the end of the story, of course. Wiltshire Council’s Strategic Property department will now have to prepare a technical assessment*.
Malcolm Hewson, Wiltshire councillor for Bradford South, thought that “there may be a reason for not doing it” when this assessment comes back (on 19 September, we hope) and said he was “open-minded” about the precise vehicle – a community interest company – we’ve proposed that the council should transfer ownership to.
But he expressed “strong support” for our application. And councillors Rosemary Brown, Trevor Carbin and Linda Conley agreed.
According to Peter Dunford, the council’s community area manager, the council’s legal team will also be involved in the assessment. Officers will visit the car park and examine the title deeds.
John Price, the county’s senior estates officer who handles asset transfers, says the timescale can’t be guaranteed “as we haven’t yet seen what little gems are hidden in the deeds”. After that, he said, “it is the usual legal process”.
To find out more about how the council handles applications like ours, click Process flowchart under More info on the right.
The Budbury Place caveat is that Malcolm and Rosemary – in response to requests from a number of HAG members on Tory – want any new sign that goes up to make clear that overnight camping is now allowed.
Once again, it’s not yet clear how long all this might take. But – maybe with a little help from the above reminder of our 2007 campaign, which we showed in our presentation to the Area Board – we’re making progress!
* In consultation with something called the voluntary & community strategy unit.
That was the response of county and town councillor Malcolm Hewson to an outline of our plan for transferring Conigre Hill car park to community ownership. Other councillors were equally supportive at the Community Area Transport Group meeting on 25 June.
Group chairperson Rosemary Brown, who represents north Bradford on Wiltshire Council (Malcolm sits for the south ward that contains the car park), also backed the plan at the meeting in Trowbridge. As did town councillors Gwen Allison, who chairs the planning and development committee, and Janet Repton.
Janet, who has lived on both Tory and the Conigre Hill end of Newtown and well understands our parking problems, said “it would be a wonderful thing to maintain this [the car park] for the community”.
So on the to Area Board meeting at Winsley in three weeks’ time*, when we will make our formal transfer application. We will go there with the full support of the town council’s planning and development committee, at its meeting on 3 July.
Councillor Simon Fisher said there that our plan was “an excellent initiative — just the sort of thing we should be supporting”. Former mayor Isabel Martindale thought it could, if successful, become something of a trailblazer for other projects in the town.
What will happen next? If the Area Board shares CATG’s favourable view, the application will be referred to council officers for their view – we expect the legal, planning and strategic property departments to be involved, as well as parking and highways.
In other words, we’ve a little way to go yet. But we’re getting there!
* Wednesday, 18 July at Winsley Village Hall
We now have a date to apply for the transfer of Conigre Hill car park to community ownership – or rather, a couple of dates.
On Monday 25 June we’ve been asked briefly to outline our ideas to the Community Area Transport Group*. This is to prepare the ground for formally submitting the application to Wiltshire Council, via the local Area Board on Wednesday 18 July**.
Thanks to everyone who has responded to our proposals so far – at the well-attended open house on 20 May, directly to the steering group, by sending us an email or by clicking the car park survey link (under Feedback on the right).
You’ll find some answers to the questions we’ve been asked by clicking the more Q&As link (under Pages on the right).
Please note that phrase “some answers”. There will be many issues we just can’t settle at this stage, and won’t be able to unless and until the council indicates whether it’s likely to favour a transfer.
Indeed, even then it won’t really be up to us to come up with complete answers. It’ll be up to the community. Because the whole point of the proposed transfer is to make sure that Conigre Hill becomes, and remains, a real community car park.
So please, please let us know what you think!
PS A previous post – We’re on the right lines! – reports a helpful response from the Asset Transfer Unit, a government-funded body tasked with helping local residents’ groups like ours keep council assets in community use.
* The CATG is where community groups, town and parish council representatives and county councillors get together with council officers to discuss transport issues. That meeting starts at 4pm in County Hall, Trowbridge.
** The Area Board starts at 6.30pm in Winsley Village Hall.
Our proposals for a community asset transfer of Conigre Hill car park are on the right lines, according to an informal response from the government-supported Asset Transfer Unit. We have been promised further, more considered advice from the ATU within the next couple of weeks.
The ATU is run for the Department for Communities and Local Government by Locality, a network of community-led organisations based near the City of London. Our contact is Stephen Rolph, Locality’s development officer.
Stephen’s general reaction to our transfer plan and consultation exercise is favourable. He said in a phone call that, while there are clearly practicalities we haven’t yet been able to go into in detail, we “seem to be very much in the right area”.
The practicalities he had in mind were to do with operation and management of the site, such as how exactly double parking would be arranged. But Stephen said that what we were doing – “putting out some general principles, setting some preparatory ground rules” – is “reasonable at this stage”.
Locality doesn’t really have a detailed awareness of the issues with community car parks as such. But some of their larger, long-established members have had to take on car parks as part of wider schemes such as affordable housing. So we hope to be able to tap into this experience.
There’s always somewhere to park on Conigre Hill – no problem. That’s what estate agents now tell new home buyers or renters on the hillside terraces, Newtown and Market Street.
Well, maybe that advice used to be true. But hillsiders haven’t been able to rely on it since free parking was scrapped elsewhere in Bradford on Avon. So perhaps it’s time to do something about it.
What residents could do is ask Wiltshire Council to transfer control to a community-interest company we run ourselves. This would not only help stop spaces being blocked by non-residents but also stop the council selling off the site for redevelopment.
Although the council says it doesn’t intend to sell Conigre Hill car park, there have been two attempts to build houses on it over the last few years. And the government has asked all councils to draw up lists of assets they might be able to sell off.
At the same time, part of the government’s localism agenda is to “make it easier for local people to take over amenities and keep them part of local life”. The county council, too, aims to “promote the transfer of assets it owns to community groups”.
We believe our plan would fit in well with these policies. We calculate that – for £3 per member per week – we could both finance the transfer and maintain the car park much better than now.
As you know, households on Middle Rank, Tory and other parts of the hillside have no direct vehicle access to their homes. Conigre Hill has been our lifeline for the last half-century.
Please help us keep it that way.