National Trust to secure Bathampton Meadows?

Looking down on Bathampton Meadows from the side of Solsbury Hill.

Saved from becoming a park and ride, now the future of Bathampton Meadows as a green space and wildlife habitat could be secured in a deal with the National Trust under proposals to be considered by Bath & North East Somerset Council.

A report, to be considered in a single member decision by Councillor Richard Samuel, cabinet member for Resources, states that transferring ownership of the 24-hectare site to the National Trust would ensure more of the land is opened-up to the public while being protected in perpetuity for future generations. The report says improvements in land management would also bring environmental benefits.

(There’s no mention in this press release about whether only NT members would be able to access the mMeadows for free?)

The deal would form part of the council’s ambitious Bath River Line project which aims to transform the ten kilometre stretch of the river corridor from Newbridge to the west of Bath to Batheaston to the east.

The proposal is aligned with the council’s policy on Community Asset Transfers, the aim of which is to help secure community benefits in line with the council priorities and objectives.

The report before the cabinet member says the transfer of the freehold interest in the meadows would secure social and environmental benefits and also support the council in addressing the climate and ecological emergency.

To secure these community benefits for the future, it is recommended that the transfer contains restrictive covenants limiting and restricting the use of the land to agricultural/grazing uses in perpetuity and that a further restriction  be imposed that no buildings or other structures are to be constructed erected on the land, again in perpetuity.

Councillor Richard Samuel said: “I know residents care deeply about the future of Bathampton Meadows. In this report I am being asked to carefully weigh up the long-term social and environmental benefits to residents and to our area of this transfer against the loss of a capital receipt from the land.”  

Under the proposed Community Asset Transfer the National Trust would pay a peppercorn for the freehold of the land and work to maximise the benefits of the site including:

  • working with local communities to increase access
  • creating recreation and volunteering opportunities
  • developing a range of community programmes and events
  • working with partners to create an accessible active travel route
  • encouraging walking and cycling
  • increasing health and well-being benefits
  • improving habitats and biodiversity

The report also identifies as a benefit of the asset transfer the National Trust’s statutory power to declare land “inalienable”. This means it cannot be voluntarily sold, mortgaged or compulsorily purchased against the charity’s wishes without special parliamentary procedure.

The National Trust would also be able to work with neighbouring landowners, such as Avon Wildlife Trust, to develop a joint management plan, supporting the delivery of a Nature Recovery Network.

Councillor Dine Romero, Leader of the council added: “Bathampton Meadows is of huge significance to our communities and beyond. Securing its future is crucial to our Bath River Line project which we are developing with support from the West of England Combined Authority. We want to improve the towpath, parks, open spaces and public realm next to the river to benefit our communities and nature and support sustainable transport infrastructure.

Transferring Bathampton Meadows to the National Trust would help us to meet those objectives while supporting our commitment to tackle the climate and ecological emergency and achieve carbon neutrality in Bath and North East Somerset by 2030.”

To read the full report please visit https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=31836&PlanId=399&RPID=31353503