All of our candidates and supporters share the belief that with determination and hard work we can come together to improve the lives and prospects of all residents in Bath and North East Somerset - but we all have our individual reasons for getting involved with BIG. Nola Edwards is our candidate for Combe Down, and this is her story.
When Nola Edwards opened a letter from Curo in 2013, she could never have imagined that 5 years later, she would be spearheading a Judicial Review that would overturn their plans for Foxhill, resulting in an extraordinary reversal of policy by the housing development company and B&NES Council.
In the letter, Curo informed residents they were now living in a regeneration zone but gave no indication that they intended to demolish a large part of the estate. It later emerged that in Nola’s case, that meant the offer of a smaller house, with a smaller garden that she would only own two thirds of. Not a great deal, in other words.
Nola moved to Bath in 1981, living in a flat in Grosvenor, then in Moorlands, before acquiring her small house in Foxhill, where she brought up her daughter on her own. She worked for City of Bath College (once better known as The Tech) for 27 years, until a succession of cuts prompted her to find work at Bayntun’s Bookbinders.
When it became clear that CURO/B&NES’s plan was to demolish 542 homes, resulting in net loss of 256 homes for social rent, it would have been easy for Nola and her neighbours to feel powerless against the combined political and financial muscle of a big company and a Council. But the lesson that Nola learned from her experience is that a mixture of determination, good PR, and – most importantly – working together, can achieve miracles.
When Foxhill Residents Association was set up 2 years after the original letter, Nola found herself first as Secretary, then as Chair. But it was hard to generate interest in the wider community of Bath until Curo’s cable car proposal infuriated the residents of Widcombe; at which point Nola convinced them that Curo’s plans were in direct opposition to the values they believed in.
The cable car was scrapped in July 2017, but that same month planning permission was granted (by a majority of 5-4) for Curo’s redevelopment. Nola and the FRA asked for the matter to be called in by central government, but Sajid Javid declined to overrule the local decision.
“Which left us with only one choice,” says Nola. “Unless we were to give up the fight after all these years, we had to apply for a Judicial Review.” A Judicial Review costs thousands of pounds, but crowdfunding raised enough money to see them through – including a cap of £14,000 with the Council, saving us (the taxpayer) a significantly larger sum.
The rest is history. The Judicial Review was successful; planning permission was overturned, and Goliath retired from the field of battle.
Nola holds no grudges. “It was always about doing right by my friends and neighbours in the area. Curo thought they could get away with anything because people wouldn’t fight back. They didn’t like it when we did, but at the end of the day the right choice was made. And more importantly, people have discovered that if you fight long enough and hard enough, you can move mountains.”
Which is why she has decided to stand as a candidate for BIG in the forthcoming May 2019 elections. “The next mountain is to take back control of the Council for ordinary people, so we can make decisions for everyone’s benefit.”