Sold – now comes the reactions.

The Min has been sold – and at an agreed price both parties say they are happy with.

It’s been snapped up by Versant Developments & Homes Ltd – a Winchester-based company established five years ago by its one Director – Frank Mountain.

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The Mineral Water Hospital – now known as The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – was put up for sale by the Royal United Hospital who will be putting the proceeds towards a purpose-built replacement now under construction at the main Weston site.

I spoke on the telephone to Frank Mountain this morning (Tuesday, September 5th) who told me how his company was keen on heritage and liked doing up old buildings.

He was well aware of The Min’s Grade 11* listing and told me: ‘It’s a beautiful building and we are very excited about working with it. It is early days and we are considering a number of options for it. We will respect the fabric and l can tell you we will not be changing the external facade.’

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Some of the company’s current projects include listed buildings.

Mr Mountain said the funding was in place and they would take over the building from the NHS at some point in 2019.

Whatever they do with the historic building will involve planning permission and there’s talk of luxury accommodation but also looking at retail – including ‘an upmarket arcade of some kind.’

‘We will be looking at every aspect of this development and consulting with all parties. We are keen to get into dialogue with everyone connected with this building,’ he said.

That will include talks about the future of the Medical Museum which is currently housed in the hospital chapel.

Our telephone conversation took place as he queued for a morning coffee on the way to work and – just as he had to cut us off to pay – he quipped: ‘I like doing up old buildings and sympathetically too. In fact l have just bought a Grade 1 listed house for myself which dates back – in parts – to the 16th century.’

In a statement the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are delighted to confirm that we have exchanged contracts with Versant (Mineral Hospital) Ltd for the sale of the Mineral Water Hospital. We are confident the sale will be for the benefit of our patients and the Trust. We look forward to working with Versant until the sale is formally completed.”

Gordon Isgrove, Regional Senior Director of GVA, the Trust’s commercial property adviser handling the sale, said: “The marketing of the property attracted a huge amount of interest from national and international organisations from the development sector. We are pleased to have agreed a sale with Versant following a competitive sale process.”

Bath Preservation Trust has reacted to news of the sale with the hope that the new owner ‘has the imagination and commitment to Bath to deliver something which will continue to benefit the whole community.’

A statement continues: ‘Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) notes the news story about a sale of the Min and looks forward to any formal announcement from either vendor or purchaser. We intend to continue to take an active interest the Min and how its future will be determined.

BPT last week heard that, disappointingly,  our application to have the Min registered as an asset of community value was unsuccessful. As we said at the time, we will continue to campaign for:

  • the existing public assets within the Min (the museum and archives, the Roman Mosaic and the paintings which tell a significant story of Bath’s history) to remain within public ownership and/or publicly accessible;
  • there to be an element of public access and public benefit in whatever development comes forward for  this historic building;
  • the development plans fully to respect both the Grade II* listed status and the scheduled ancient monument designations; and
  • any new owner to recognise the central role of the Min to the history of the City.

We hope that any developer has the imagination and commitment to Bath to deliver something which will continue to benefit the whole community.

We would like to remind the developer that the entirety of the building is covered by its listed status and all changes will be subject to listed building application considerations. We are concerned that the developer has apparently only stated that ‘we will not be changing the external façade’.

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The Min – built 1738-42 by John Wood the Elder.

We regret that B&NES Council has remained silent on the role and expectation for the development of this large, complex and significant site. We have earlier called for the Council to prepare a development brief for this site and we reiterate that statement: failing that we would urge the developer to enter into an open, collaborative process with stakeholders to develop such a brief.

We would draw the developer’s attention to the adopted Council policy which states that

Where development viability assessments are required developers should demonstrate that the policy requirements, including to sustain and enhance the District’s historic environment, have been considered and reflected in the land or site value. [Placemaking Plan Policy HE1]

The implication of this is that whatever the developer has paid for this site, they will be expected to deliver a plan which fulfils planning policy, not least in respect of the historic environment.

While BPT cannot formally ask for a review of the decision not to list the Min as an asset of community value, it is possible to make a further application which attempts to meet the perceived weaknesses of the earlier application. This would then apply to any future on-sale of the Min by Versant Properties. We are currently considering the likelihood of success for such an approach.’

Dr Roberta Anderson – who is Project Director for Bath Medical Museum – which is currently housed within The Min – said of the news: 

‘Yes, I’ve seen that and find it interesting as far as BMM is concerned. I shall be writing to Mr Mountain today to introduce myself.’