High Profit Bath Press Site Fails to Deliver Affordable Housing

Today (16/11/22) B&NES Planning Committee will be making a decision on development proposals for the Former Bath Press Lower Bristol Road.

Redevelopment of the site will comprise of 247 flats and 30 townhouses, office floor space at ground, landscaping, car and cycle parking.

BPT welcomes the urgent regeneration of this site to provide much needed MIXED TENURE AND HIGH QUALITY AFFORDABLE HOUSING to meet local need. Despite the time taken to negotiate details of this proposal, the scheme under consideration is still one that would fail to deliver ANY affordable housing. This is contrary to Policy CP9 which applies a 30% MINIMUM affordable housing provision to this site.

The housing proposed is primarily comprised of Build to Rent flats. This is not affordable housing and without rent controls, the very high and rising rents in Bath do not help people who are starting out or on a middle income, who are not Key Workers and are not yet ready to buy a property, who need a rental property to afford to buy a home.

The Local Plan has already set out an identified need for the delivery of 3290 affordable homes by 2029 under Policy DW1. With the rising cost of living and Bath’s soaring house prices – up 13% in 2022, with an average house price 46% higher than the UK average* –  there is an ever-increasing demand for genuinely affordable housing within the district.  Maximum affordable housing must be delivered on remaining brownfield sites within the City.

The absence of any affordable housing from the scheme would fail to meet demand and the Council’s housing targets.

It remains unclear as to how a development site of this site could not viably deliver affordable housing (approx. 73 units) against a median market value of over £580,000 per dwelling. The previously permitted scheme proposed a 16% provision and it is unclear as to why this can’t still be delivered as a minimum.

BPT are urging the Planning Committee to call viability into question, and calling on officers to facilitate housing development that accords with Policy CP9 and brings the site in a mixed tenure housing use that contributes towards meeting local affordable housing need and makes a positive step in the right directions for Bath’s housing problems.

In bringing housing forward on this site, given the prominent chimney is recognised as locally distinctive landmark much more should be made of this feature in the overall design and appearance of the development. It would raise the quality of this housing development if greater consideration were given to sensitively integrating and better revealing the Non-Designated Heritage Asset which defines the site in views along Lower Bristol Road.

Despite claims by the applicant, the proposed enclosure of the chimney between Buildings J & G would be greater than previously permitted in the 2015 scheme. The proposed buildings would fully enclose the chimney up to third floor level with limited set back between the upper floors and the chimney itself. The proposed roofline would sit higher alongside the chimney than the historic form of the building.

The consequential enclosure of the chimney would therefore detract from its clear and prominent legibility as part of the original Press building, with resulting harm to a NDHA. The site is a key gateway into the City and new development here must be more sensitive to the distinctive character of the local area, and reinforce and sustain the contributions of its heritage to the local community and future residents.

bath preservation trust, bath uk, local plan, somerset