Plans to develop former Bath & North East Somerset Council offices and turn them into six energy-efficient apartments aimed at first-time buyers are a step closer, after a challenge to a cabinet member’s decision was rejected.
A decision by the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for Resources, Councillor Richard Samuel, to sell the offices at Newbridge Hill at below market value to the council’s own property company Aequus, was called in.
However, after consideration the council’s Corporate Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel dismissed the appeal.
Councillor Samuel said: “Our priority must be to provide affordable homes for first time buyers, and I am pleased the panel recognised this and upheld the decision. Given the nature and location of the property if we dispose of it on the open market, without restriction, there is a significant risk it will be developed into a luxury single dwelling home, student or holiday lets. These would have little or no social value to the area and simply wouldn’t be in the best interests of our residents.”
The property, 117 Newbridge Hill, in Bath, is a large Victorian building previously used as offices by the Children’s Services Team. It is now surplus to council requirements and has been empty since 2019.
In a separate single member decision council leader and shareholder of the housing development company Aequus, Councillor Dine Romero, has approved Aequus Construction Ltd’s proposals to develop the property into apartments by in line with its Business Case.
Councillor Romero has also approved the creation of a charge over the site and associated work in progress in favour of the council; and agreed that ACL may enter into an associated commercial loan agreement with the council.
The council is therefore applying additional conditions, formally known as voluntary conditions, to ensure that the development meets the wider strategic aims of Bath & North East Somerset Council. These include:
- The provision of apartments (rather than a luxury home) aimed young professionals and first-time buyers; and
- improved sustainability and energy efficiency; and
- prohibiting student accommodation, holiday lets or Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
The proposal from ACL, and which adheres to the conditions, would see the scheme deliver the following key outcomes:
- six quality apartments in Bath targeted at professional workers and first-time buyers, potentially attractive to key workers at the nearby RUH. A local resident-only period would be provided for early release sales.
- sustainability, energy efficiency and space standards will be improved.
- the site will be developed immediately using local contractors within 12 months of the freehold transfer. The site will not be land banked.
- the site will be covenanted against future use as holiday lets or HMOs.
- Aequus’ total gross returns to the council is predicted to be between £599k and £807k excluding additional Council Tax payments.
Councillor Dine Romero, council leader, said: “The offices have lain empty for almost two years and it’s important the building is brought back into use. Residents tell us Bath needs more low-cost, sustainable homes and that’s what this scheme will provide. It will help us to deliver on our priorities, to tackle the climate emergency and provided affordable homes for first-time buyers. “
To view the background to the decisions visit: