What future for Foxhill? A personal view.

The regeneration of the Foxhill area by the Curo Housing Association is a major development that will bring big changes to this part of Bath. It will both add to the city’s housing stock – via the redevelopment of the old Admiralty site (now Mulberry Park) – and transform much of the existing surrounding area.

It will both add to the city’s housing stock – via the redevelopment of the old Admiralty site (now Mulberry Park) – and transform much of the existing surrounding area.

The proposals will be debated – and approved? – at a meeting of the B&NES Development Management Committee in the Guildhall next Wednesday, the 26th of July.Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 08.55.21

Bath Newseum has always welcomed contributions from other people and – with that in mind – is publishing an article by Nola Edwards – who is the chair of the Foxhill Resident’s Association.

What follows is a personal view she expresses on behalf of her Association. In fairness, it is followed by a statement from Curo and a copy of a briefing that was prepared, by them, for councillors in B&NES.

In an email Nola says:

“You may like to know that the plans for Foxhill are likely to go before the DMC on Wednesday 26th July at 2.00pm

We have launched a poster campaign in Foxhill, I had a scout round today and there were over 120 Save Foxhill posters on display in people’s windows.”

I hope you will read both accounts – for and against the proposals – and make your own minds up on the subject.

Bath Newseum is always interested in both comment – and articles – from its followers.

Nola Edwards writes:

“Regeneration, it sounds such a nice word, it speaks of rebirth, renewal of reincarnation into a newer better version of the original form.  Regeneration is a misnomer when applied what is happening to council estates up and down the country. Too often the reality of regeneration is of requisition, razing to the ground and replacement.  Housing estates and their communities are being destroyed and supplanted with more expensive properties for sale with the majority of social homes for rent lost.

The Department for Communities and Local Government presides over the Estate Regeneration National Strategy and Curo includes the following quote in their submission to BANES planning department.

The Government is committed to the regeneration of its post war housing estates. In an article published by DCLG (10th January 2016), it is stated: As we tackle this problem, we should learn the lessons from the failed attempts to regenerate estates in the past. A raft of pointless planning rules, local politics and tenants concerns about whether regeneration would be done fairly all prevented progress*

Curo have not failed in heeding this observation. Tenants and homeowners concerns about fairness have been totally disregarded.

The plans for the regeneration of Foxhill have followed a pattern perfected by developers specialising in estate replacement.  Common themes are: the landlord cuts back on routine maintenance, a practice known as managed decline.  Reports are commissioned portraying the area for redevelopment in the worst possible light and then heavily relied upon to justify demolition.  A consultation takes place but questions are posed in ways that give the developers the responses they seek.  The developer attempts to engineer local engagement in a way that stifles opposition from local people.

 

two Cornish houses

Two Cornish houses

 

This has been the experience of the residents of Foxhill.  When Curo purchased the MOD site adjoining our estate locals paid little attention to how Curo might develop it.  So when many of us attended an exhibition in April 2014 to see what the extension to our estate would look like we were appalled with what we saw. This was the first time that the majority of us found out about the proposed regeneration. 

 

Flat, Selworthy house 2

Flat in Selworthy Road

 

We were presented with a fait accompli 542 of our homes simply did not exist in the illustrations.  Many of us were shocked and immediately sought answers from Curo and BANES. Individuals struggled to make sense of what was happening.  Homeowners and tenants alike were bewildered and didn’t know where to turn.  Foxhill residents consider themselves to have been tricked; a questionnaire which we believed to be about the MOD site had been used to justify the destruction of our estate.

Fortunately for Foxhill, one individual helped us find our collective voice.  During the 2015 general election, Mike Arkell was campaigning on the estate, he was so upset by what he was hearing on the doorstep that he set about making a difference.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mike and his wife Siobhan Foxhill Resident’s Association was founded.

FRA has been engaged with both Curo and BANES since 2015, we have campaigned tirelessly to change Curo’s proposals. We want to see investment to revitalise our existing estate through a programme of planned maintenance, renovation and where there is agreement with those directly affected some replacement of housing stock.  None of our objections have resulted in a softening of Curo’s   approach.

 

Retirememnt bungalows

Retirement bungalows at Foxhill.

 

FRA conducted a survey which established that the retirement bungalows in Foxhill are in sound condition, are popular and house thriving communities.  FRA have campaigned for the bungalows to be removed from the regeneration zone and left alone. Our calls remain unheeded the bungalows are earmarked for demolition and replacement by flats occupying a greatly reduced footprint.

 

One of the green areas where children play

One of the green areas.

 

FRA insists on recognising that the existing Foxhill Estate and the former MOD site are two separate developments.  Curo claim them as a single entity in order to reduce the number of social homes for rent that they are obliged to build.  Curo proposes to demolish 542 homes in Foxhill and replace them with 707 units only 151 of which will be for social rent.  Bath is an area where median wages are too low to meet the costs of private rent and the loss of truly affordable homes is unforgivable.

 

Cornish houses

Cornish houses on the estate.

 

There is a strong community in Foxhill, many tenants have lived in their homes for decades and the properties that have been bought under the right to buy scheme are mostly occupied by the people who originally rented them. There are 95 homeowners in the regeneration zone and they all live in fear of compulsory purchase orders.

 

Houses Foxhill Road

Houses on the Foxhill Road.

 

Curo make much of offering market value plus 10% to acquire their homes, in reality, this would leave homeowners at least £100,000 short of the funds to buy a new property in Foxhill.  The alternative on offer is shared ownership in a new build. I like all the other homeowners I know wouldn’t swap my home at any price; we simply dislike the high-density development that we can see being built on our doorstep.

 

Foxhill house

Even the flats have green spaces.

 

FRA objects strongly to the density of the proposed plans, our green estate where every house and the majority of flats enjoy the benefits of gardens is threatened with replacement by  hard landscaping and in some areas even the pavements will be removed in order to cram in the maximum number of units.

 

Dunster house flats 2

Dunster House flats

 

This would result in an uglier environment with poorer air quality and serious concerns about the safety of children playing near their homes or walking to school.

The regeneration plans for Foxhill have been submitted to BANES for consideration, planning reference 16/05219/EOUT

To date 249 objections have been submitted to the plans, over 100 are from residents of Foxhill, an area where people are very unused to engaging with planning issues. The wider community has been extremely generous in their support, the diversity of those who have rallied to our cause has been truly heartening,  people from widely differing social and political circles have all given advice, written objections and campaigned with us and for us in an effort to prevent an outrageous injustice.

 

playground in demolition area

Playground in demolition area.

 

People of all political persuasions disagree with that statement from the DCLG. Planning rules aren’t pointless, it doesn’t need me to emphasise the importance of good planning in the light of the horrific and avoidable disaster of Grenfell.  Local politics do matter and most of all people do deserve to be listened to and treated with fairness and respect.  Bath is a great place to live and the people of Foxhill want to stay here to enjoy our local community and continue to be a part of the mix that makes Bath the vibrant place that it is.”

Nola Edwards

Chair Foxhill Resident’s Association

*Curo, Planning Statement, Page 8

In a statement – issued to Bath Newseum – a spokesperson for Curo said:

“Curo developed this briefing for all B&NES councillors in response to specific enquiries from councillors requesting a concise summary of the key points of the outline planning application which is currently being considered.  It summarises information that we have shared publicly at exhibitions, workshops, group and one-to-one meetings with residents, stakeholders and council members. 

Curo is committed to putting residents at the heart of any regeneration in Foxhill.  That’s why we have put in place a comprehensive package of practical and financial support to make sure that no resident is out of pocket or disadvantaged as a result of the regeneration.  We understand how important it is for many people to be able to stay in the local area, so we are making sure that there are enough brand new homes for all those residents who want to stay. 

We’ve agreed with B&NES Council that new social rent homes at Mulberry Park and Foxhill will be prioritised for Foxhill tenants and we have put in place a rent guarantee for long-term tenants.  For owners, we are offering to buy their existing home at 10% above the market value or help them to move into a brand new home at Mulberry Park at no additional cost to them. 

We will continue to work with residents individually and through groups such as the Residents Regeneration Panel and the Foxhill Residents Association to understand and address any concerns they may have.

We want to deliver the shared ambitions of the Foxhill Regeneration and Development Charter that was adopted by B&NES Council in 2016. These ambitions for high quality homes, improved connections, open spaces and community facilities have guided the development of the outline planning application.  They will ensure that existing and new residents benefit from being part of a vibrant neighbourhood with great facilities for all.

If any resident would like to discuss their situation and how the regeneration may affect them, they can contact Curo or tpas, the independent resident advice service:

Tpas independent advice service

T: 0800 731 1619

E: foxhill@tpas.org.uk

Here is the copy of the statement that was issued to Bath and North East Somerset councillors:

Foxhill Regeneration Why regenerate Foxhill?

  •   One of the 11% most deprived areas in England
  •   Significant social and economic deprivation in comparison to CombeDown ward, Bath and nationally (source: ONS)
  •   Higher turnover of tenants in Foxhill compared to rest of Curo stock
  •   The area’s physical isolation, poor connections and negative reputationcontribute to poor social and economic indicators.Foxhill has worsened from among 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in England in 2004 to 11% most deprived in 2015. Failure to address these issues will see continued decline for Foxhill compared to wider area.Regeneration proposals
  •   700 new homes (30% affordable in line with planning policy)
  •   Four times more green space
  •   Improved connections to Mulberry Park/Combe Down
  •   Access to new community facilities, education and employmentopportunities at Mulberry Park.Affordable homes
  •   Currently: 414 social rent homes in the proposed regeneration area
  •   No net loss of affordable homes – across Foxhill and Mulberry Park wewould deliver 415 brand new affordable homes – 315 social rent and 105 shared ownership. Consultation so far suggests this would be sufficient for the tenants who wish to stay in the area.
  •   New homes will be built to modern standards, adaptable to meet the community’s needs over time. The homes will be energy efficient, reducing residents’ energy bills and addressing fuel poverty.Support for residentsCuro is committed to supporting local residents and community cohesion, enabling residents to stay in the local area if they choose.For tenants who need to move:
    •   Priority on new social rent homes at Mulberry Park and Foxhill
    •   Rent guarantee for long-term tenants
    •   £5,800 Home Loss paymentFor home owners who need to move:
    •   Offer to buy existing home at 10% above market value
    •   Equity share in a higher value new home at no additional cost. Unlike shared ownership, the owner pays no rent on the sharethey do not own

 

For both:

  •   Disturbance payments to cover the costs of moving
  •   Dedicated Curo staff to support residents
  •   Independent Advisor service available for residentsThe benefits
  •   Local people will share the social and economic benefits of regeneration such as improved access to education, training and employment, new community facilities and shared spaces.
  •   High quality, sustainable homes to meet local housing needs
  •   A varied, integrated community with homes across a range oftenures and property types
  •   Foxhill integrated with the wider community through improvedtransport and infrastructure links
  •   Sustainable long term future for FoxhillThe processCuro has undertaken extensive consultation with residents through workshops, public exhibitions, group and one-to-one meetings.The outline planning application, submitted in October 2016, identifies the maximum number and types of new homes, and key design features e.g. building heights. If the application is approved, Curo will work with residents to develop reserved matters applications on a phase-by-phase basis. This could include proposals to demolish and rebuild some homes and also to retain some homes.

    In March 2015, the Mulberry Park and Foxhill area was designated as a Housing Zone by central Government. The designation brings additional support from the HCA and confirms its status as a nationally significant housing project.

    The HCA’s ATLAS team has facilitated a series of workshops between Curo and B&NES Council members and officers to develop a ‘charter’ for Mulberry Park and Foxhill. This charter was adopted by B&NES Council in October 2016.

    We have also secured over £1M funding from the HCA and DCLG to support delivery of the project, including funding an independent resident advisor service.