Today we have announced that we do not intend to proceed further with our Judicial Review of Bath Cricket Club’s proposed student housing development. Instead we will be initiating a ‘fighting fund’.
The Trust initiated the Judicial Review because it believed the Council Development Management Committee erred in law in their decision making. In particular the Trust was dismayed at the weight of public benefit the Committee claimed would be brought by the development, which some Councillors deemed to be greater than the harms stated by the Council’s own planning, conservation, urban design and landscape officers who had all recommended refusal. BPT’s legal advice affirmed there were grounds for pursuing the case further.
However, it is apparent to the BPT Trustees that the financial risks to charitable funds of moving to the next stage are too great for BPT to continue. Although donors had contributed to the challenge, the donations were not sufficient to cover the potential tens of thousands of pounds costs and liabilities (in the event of losing the case), since the outcome of the case could not be guaranteed.
As the recently-published (November 20th) Raynsford Review of Planning states, ‘There has been a significant loss of public trust in planning’. Part of this lack of trust is due to the balance of power between developer and community. As the report concludes, the professional duty of planners (and planning authorities) to deliver public benefit should be reinforced. The review “received a significant body of evidence from planners in both the public and private sectors about pressures to act in a way that posed serious questions about compatibility with the Royal Town Planning Institute’s code of professional conduct and suggests adopting a “do no harm” expectation, similar to that applying to the medical professions.
Caroline Kay, our CEO said ‘There is a wide body of opinion in Bath that the Council made the wrong decision, a decision that we saw as unjustified, flawed and not in the interests of people of Bath as a whole or the character of the World Heritage Site and, importantly, against the recommendations of its own officers. We received considerable support in attempting to challenge the decision. However it is financially prohibitive for small but informed civic charities like ourselves to compete against the financial resources of developers or public authorities determined to fight their corner in making these sorts of challenge.
More particularly, we do not believe that the accommodation provided in this student block will liberate a single bed in an HMO, let alone a whole house, for family housing despite the claims made by some by councillors in their justification for this development. Purpose built student accommodation is beyond the means of many students and so does not help the housing crisis. We will watch closely to see if the Council’s claims are justified.
In terms of the other claimed benefits, we hope that cricketers young and old, not just members of Bath Cricket Club, are able to enjoy the new cricket facilities in due course if this development does go ahead, but very much regret that the club could not conceive of a more restrained and less overbearing way of providing new sports facilities, one that would be of genuine benefit to Bath residents and of a scale, massing and design that BPT would have been happy to support.
As a consequence of this process, BPT is today launching a Crowdjustice ‘Fighting Fund’ to assist the Trust with future challenges of this sort: if you would like to donate to this, please do so HERE.