From 21 June, Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council’s updated ‘Local Plan’ policies for planning and land-use will be examined by a Planning Inspector who will assess whether they are positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national guidance for delivering sustainable development.
However, Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) believes if some of the policies aren’t changed then Bath’s residents will lose valuable Green Belt land forever and see overdevelopment of housing at the former Bath Spa campus on Sion Hill, along with unchecked purpose-built student accommodation and high ‘hidden’ carbon emissions in construction. BPT is calling for these policies to be challenged and made far more ambitious.
BPT believes the new Park & Ride site policy should be scrapped, whilst modified policies for embodied carbon, the redevelopment of the Bath Spa campus at Sion Hill, and purpose-built student accommodation must be put in place.
Despite objections, BPT is strongly supportive of the other policy updates which respond to the threats posed by climate change. It believes they will go a long way towards meeting local and national climate emergency obligations to achieve net zero emissions by 2030 and 2050, however it makes no sense for the Council to make such strong gains in some areas, whilst ‘giving away’ the Green Belt and other more climate friendly options.
BPT also thinks there is no need for the land to be removed from the Green Belt at Park & Ride sites to enable the broadening of the use of these facilities as MMTIs (Multi Modal Transport Interchanges) – the long-term plans for the park and ride sites are achievable whilst still within the Green Belt. BPT has evidenced this, working with an expert planning consultant. BPT also feels MMTI’s would be more successful if promoted in more accessible locations in the centre of the city.
A new ‘embodied carbon’ policy which favours the retention of buildings rather than demolition, is welcomed – but it must be more ambitious, applying to all types of development, including smaller sites and with more demanding targets, in line with other Councils and the RIBA. The current targets are already easily achievable and will have little impact to reduce these dangerous emissions.
Sion Hill is an important and much-loved area, nestled in the fringes of the city in the green setting of the World Heritage Site. BPT recognises the opportunity provided at the former Bath Spa University campus as a location for much needed new and affordable housing, but it must not be over-developed, nor harm the setting and views into Sion Hill and the surrounds. The proposal increases the previously agreed capacity by 67% – an unacceptable amount which constitutes significant and unnecessary over-development.
Bath thrives in part because of its important and valued student population, which brings vibrancy and marks the city as an international academic centre. However, BPT believes all residents should be concerned about the proliferation of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and the current policy does not adequately manage this problem. BPT has repeatedly called for PBSA developments to be limited to campuses or specifically linked to University growth numbers. The current policy fails in this aim and should be much more specific.
BPT’s CEO, Alex Sherman said “We welcome the Council’s forward thinking in most areas of its policy change, particularly in response to the Climate Emergency. But some of the proposals just don’t make sense or appear to fit with the Corporate Plan. I urge our policymakers to reconsider and to be more ambitious for Bath and its’ residents and hope our constructive comments will be listened to and incorporated. Please do as much as you can to reduce carbon emissions, ensure appropriate, sustainable growth and please don’t sacrifice Green Belt land.”
Full copies of BPT’s responses to the LPPU Public Examination can be found below:
Bath Preservation Trust | 01225 338727 | email@example.com