Thursday, 19 March 2015

Urban Permaculture

Last year I was fortunate to complete a one year course organised and led by permaculture teacher Sarah Pugh.

The course, based in Bristol, was called "Practical Sustainability".  It was taught by over 40 guest tutors as well as Sarah, all of them well-known practitioners in areas such as green building, energy systems, and group dynamics.

Sarah is passionate about applying the principles of permaculture, a method of growing food in co-operation with nature, and in using these techniques to create resilient and sustainable communities in a post-carbon world., particularly in urban settings.

Sarah was one of the founders of Transition Bristol, and has been a key player in the green and sustainability movement.

Last year she spent a few months in the America, looking at the best examples of urban permaculture, and she is about to return with a photographer to continue her research.

The result will be a book, giving examples of best practice from here and around the world, and offering techniques for growing food efficiently and ecologically - the permaculture way.  It will also include, for the first time in any major structured reference, practical solutions to the problems Sarah has been addressing on her Practical Sustainability Course - protecting and rebuilding urban soils, reconnecting marginalised and fractured communities, revitalising local economies and sharing resources, making creative use of waste streams, revaluing local skills and feeding communities with healthy, nutritious food that doesn’t have a detrimental carbon footprint.

With her broad experience of teaching, sustainability, and her contacts with many of the UK, and now America's leading experts, the book promises to be a goldmine of experience, inspiration and practical encouragement for anyone interested in growing food, or understanding more about how to make their lives more sustainable.

The foreword is to be written by Rob Hopkins, founder of the transition towns movement.

She needs abut £5000 to fund the initial production costs of the book, so she has started a Kickstarter campaign.  For £30, you can buy a copy of the book, which is excellent value - for this, you also get an acknowledgement in the book credits.

She still needs a few more backers.  To sign up go to her Kickstarter page.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Update on the Listed Building Issue with the Council

The Council withdrew the Listed Bulding Application it had submitted to itself to regularise the design of the stall, and to which many of you submitted very encouraging support comments.  No reason was ever given for this.

Following the withdrawal I spoke several times to the Council's cabinet (the senior elected representatives) at their bi-monthly meetings, asking them to intervene to ensure that published Council policy was being correctly followed.  These meetings are attended also by the Chief Executive of the Council and the Council solicitor.  The Tory prospective parliamentary candidate for Bath also wrote directly to the Chief Executive.

Month after month they declined to intervene.  I finally asked that they either "put up or shut up" either take enforcement action against the stall in line with council policy, or formally withdraw their objection to the stall.

This was a course of action that had been requested by Bath's sitting MP and the local ward councillor three years ago, and one which the Planning Officers had  continually refused to consider.

In November they finally did follow their own procedures and took a report to DC committee seeking authority to take enforcement action against the stall.  After a brief discussion, DC committee voted by 8 votes to 2 against authorising enforcement action.

We are very grateful to members of the committee for seeing sense in this matter.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

We Need Your Help - Please Comment on the Listed Building Application for Our Stall

Update:  Due to yet further BathNES Council incompetence, the application was registered under the wrong heading and has had to be re-registered.  The links to the application and the comment form have been changed, and the new links are shown at the end of this post.

View The Guildhall Market in a larger map

The interior of the market is available on Google Streetview via the image above, or a larger version is available via the link just below the image.

This is a view of our market stall in Bath's Historic Guildhall Market.  The Council have refused to grant Listed Building consent because they say the stall adversely affects the historic and architectural character of the market building.  They say the stall is "too enclosed", and insufficiently like a market stall.  

In the 1700s, the market before the current one was part outdoor, part covered and was far larger than the current one, with hundreds of stalls. These photos were taken shortly before it was demolished to make way for the new market. Some of the stalls even in this older market were enclosed.

Historically, the new market was designed to have small shop-like units as this picture from opening day in 1863 shows.  

The windows shown in the illustration are still visible in some of the stalls today.

Here is a drawing made around 1900, showing an early Marks and Spencers stall that used to be in the market.  Again, you can see that there is a glazed upper part over an open counter below, very much like our stall.

A fresh application for Listed Building Consent has been submitted to the Council, and we need the help of all our friends, customers and supporters to make sure that it is passed this time.

If you don't know the market, please explore it via the Streetview link above.  Compare our stall with all the other stalls. Notice that our stall is the only one "open" enough for the Google Team to be able to take pictures inside.  

If you think our stall is attractive, and a welcome addition to the market, if you think it is just as "open" as the majority of other stalls, if you think it fits well both historically and architecturally, if you think the Council is behaving unreasonably in refusing to grant Listed Building consent, then please take a few minutes to support the application via the Council's website.  

The full application can be found at

Direct Link to the comments form is

Every comment counts.  You might choose to make some of the following points in your comments.

  1. You have read the application. The architect says and his drawings show that the way the stall is built makes it a temporary structure that does not alter the building. You do not see why Listed Building consent is required.
  2. The application says that the Council have no Conservation Area appraisals, or Listed Building management plans, and that the case officer “did not wish to have any form of pre-application discussions with regards to the application”. You fail to see how the Council can make any reasonable decisions under these circumstances.
  3. According to the architect, the stall has more open space than the previous stall on the same location (UNItee T-shirts) , and no objection was ever made to that stall. You fail to understand why the Council have objected to this stall.
  4. By your own observation it is more open than the majority of stalls on the market, and you cannot understand what the problem is.
  5. Looking at the market on Google Streetview, it is the only stall that was open enough for the Google Streetview cameras to take photographs from inside as well as the outside.
  6. The previous market on the site, dating from the 1700s, and this market have always had enclosed stalls. Stall 36 is very similar in presentation to the stalls shown in the central area in the 1863 engraving from the Cheltenham Gazette, and also to the early Marks and Spencers Penny Bazaar that operated at the other end of the market from 1895 to 1911. To say that enclosed stalls are not part of the historical character is absurd.
  7. The sash window units are similar in style and function to the original window units that can still be seen on each side of the entrance to original stalls such as those now occupied by Gillards Tea and Coffee or Parkers Veg and Bakery.
  8. Architecturally, the stall is a warm and welcoming sight as you come in through the Grand parade entrance. It's style and colouring are entirely appropriate for the Victorian architecture and complement it very well.
  9. The stall is very well constructed, using traditional materials and craftsmanship.
  10. Market stalls have traditionally been designed and constructed to meet the individual requirements of the goods they sell. The design of stall 36, reminiscent of a traditional apothecary, is entirely suitable for the natural health and skin care products sold.

Thank you for your support.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Tale of Two Market Stalls

The photo shows two market stalls in Bath's Historic Guildhall  Market (taken from Google Streetview).

According to the local Planning Department,one of these two stalls is completely acceptable in Planning terms - it "causes no harm".  Even though it was constructed without Listed Building Consent, enforcement action is not expedient, and no Listed Building Application is required.

The other stall, according to the same Planning Department, is "too enclosed and too much like a shop".  The Planning Department are insisting that the stall is unacceptable in Planning terms, and that a Listed Building application must be submitted.

Can you tell which is which?

Friday, 11 October 2013

See Inside Guildhall Market Now on Google Maps

Bath's Historic Indoor Market has become one of the latest building interiors to be featured on Google Maps.   The market can now be explored by anyone with Google Maps or or a web browser

The easiest way to see the interior is to navigate to the location of the Guildhall Market (for example at, and then to drag the little orange streetview man to the centre of the market.

View My Saved Places in a larger map

The photographs were taken in May this year, but it has taken until now for them to be stitched together and published by the Google team.

We are very pleased to see  how good our stall Aranais looks;  we are fully wheelchair accessible, and ours is the only stall in the market open enough that the Google team were able to take photos of the inside of the stall

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Open letter to the Director of Planning and Transport

Dear Mr Trigwell,Following the article in the Chronicle about Stall 36 (Aug 8th) and subsequent letters, many readers have contacted me to ask why the Council is in dispute with us when they see that our stall is not significantly different to many others. When I tell them that you personally have written to me to say that many of the other stalls either do no harm in planning terms, or are freestanding and therefore require no listed building consent, but that you still insist that ours is too enclosed and not sufficiently like an outdoor market stall, they are astonished. When I also explain that several councillors and our MP have all asked you to take enforcement action against us in line with  the Council's own Planning Enforcement Policy, but that you have refused to do this, or to explain with reference to the legislation why you believe I have committed a criminal offence, they shake their heads in utter disbelief.

It is now three years since your staff raised these ridiculous allegations - three years in which you have threatened my livelihood on a daily basis. The time has come to either make your case and carry out enforcement action or admit you and your staff were wrong, and then do the decent thing and resign.

Yours sincerely,
Robert Morgan

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Who watches the watchers?

Just received a response to my latest Freedom of Information request from BANES Council, concerning charges made for the provision of planning pre-application advice.

The Government's Guidance on Charging says

Limitation to cost recovery

15. By providing a power to charge for discretionary services the Government’s aim is to
     encourage authorities to provide those sorts of services they would otherwise decide not to
    provide (or improve) at all because they cannot justify or afford to provide them for free or
   to improve them. The aim is not to provide a new source of income for authorities, but to
  allow them to cover their costs.
16. The 2003 Act therefore provides that for each discretionary service for which a charge is
   made using the new power, authorities should be under a duty to secure that, taking one
  year with another, the income from charges for that service does not exceed the costs of
17. The requirement to take one year with another recognises the practical difficulties local
   authorities will face in estimating the charges. It establishes the idea of balancing the
  books over a period of time (which may be a number of years – see paragraphs 21-23)
   without having to have detailed prescription either on the face of the Act or in secondary
  legislation. Any over or under recovery that resulted in a surplus or deficit of income in
 relation to costs in one period should be addressed by an authority when setting its charges
for future periods so that over time income equated to costs (see also paragraph 26).

Calculating the Costs of Provision and the Charge

18. Each Authority making use of the new power to charge will need to establish a robust
   methodology for assessing the costs to the authority of providing each discretionary
  service. Authorities are free to decide what methodology they wish to adopt. They may
 however find it helpful to draw on existing and familiar principles as set out in the CIPFA
Best Value Accounting Code of Practice (the Code). One option would be to use the
Code’s definition of Total Cost. As an alternative, authorities may wish to consider adding
 to Total Cost an appropriate contribution for Corporate and Democratic Core (CDC) and
Non-Distributed Costs (NDC), as those terms are defined in the Code, as a part of the
costs of provision.

The guidance (and the text of the Act itself) is quite clear; Authorities may make no more from the charges of providing a service than it actually costs them.

BANES make £150,000 per year from planning pre-application advice, charging £70 per hour.

Here is their response.  They appear to be claiming that "benchmarking" is a robust methodology for setting charges (in other words, ask a few other councils what they are charging and copy them).

“With reference to this mandatory guidance, please provide me with the information 
that shows how the Council has complied with the Act in respect of the provision of 
Planning pre-application advice, showing the methodology used, and the actual 
calculated costs of delivering the service for each year since the implementation of 
the Act”. 
We believe that we comply with the act. 
The Local Government Act says: 

“Calculating the cost of provision and the charge: 
18. Each authority making use of the new power to charge will need to establish a
robust methodology for assessing the costs to the authority of providing each
discretionary service. Authorities are free to decide what methodology they wish to
Charging rates were determined through benchmarking.  We hold information on pre 
application charges i.e. invoices sent, payment received , however no information is 
held which confirms whether the Council has made a surplus or a loss on these 
charges since they were implemented.  

This is the same Planning Department that is supposed to be holding us to account if we break the law. In their response they have only quoted part of the guidance, attempting to give it a meaning completely different from that intended by the full text.

Aren't they a bit hypocritical?