Bath Preservation Trust is calling on BathNES Council to look beyond its plans for the Milsom Quarter and develop a “city-wide masterplan.”
Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) says it welcomes the Milsom Quarter Masterplan – the Public Consultation for which is just closing (15 July 2022) – but is calling on Bath and North East Somerset Council to come up with a long-term Masterplan strategy for the whole city.
CEO of Bath Preservation Trust, Alex Sherman, says: “We think the plan in isolation is good, but has the potential to be excellent. Developing a vision for one part of the city highlights the more pressing requirement for a strategy for the whole of Bath so that this masterplan, and others, are not considered in isolation. We need much more integration with a vision for the future of Bath as a whole – this masterplan should sit alongside a comprehensive overarching strategy or strategic plan for the development of the city, which includes city-wide public realm, transport and movement, commercial vision and sustainability. That vision does not currently exist, and it really needs to.”
The current condition of the wider public realm is one area which requires urgent attention. BPT strongly encourages that this masterplan should be accompanied by a robust and compliant streetscape maintenance strategy that sets out the approach and timetables for essential and overdue repairs to hard landscaping and guideline complaint materials. This must be implemented and enforced by the Council, with a consistent city-wide approach.
Another of the observations BPT makes about the Milsom Quarter plan is its disproportionate emphasis on fashion-led renewal. The retail industry is fragile with little evidence that consumers are returning to the High Street in the numbers necessary to facilitate significant growth, hence the currently highly variable occupancy rates in Bath. Alex Sherman again: “The ‘build it and they will come’ approach needs a solid understanding of the market and the potential for private investment, which is not there right now. Also, Milsom Quarter represents the communal heart of Bath in the present day for major events and civic functions, and more should be made of this in the vision for the area.”
BPT is also concerned that the long-term vision for Bath City Centre fails to protect the character of historic Walcot Street. The Cattlemarket site is the gateway to Walcot Street and deserves development that responds to the character of Walcot and protects views to Bathampton Down. The visualisations in the masterplan fail to illustrate a locally distinctive or heritage-sensitive response, nor do they show a form of development harmonious with Walcot Street.
BPT also suggests that Bath and North East Somerset Council is missing a huge opportunity to lead on sustainability. Given that a high percentage of property within the masterplan area is within the Council’s ownership this is a significant opportunity for B&NES to lead by example to facilitate and undertake sustainability retrofits, switch from gas to electric, and introduce micro-renewables on an impressive scale. This longer term, city wide approach is required if Bath is to reach net zero by 2030. Targets won’t be met unless B&NES take direct climate action for its own buildings and land.