Another threat to Bath’s Green Belt

Coming up early next week, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s updated ‘Local Plan’ policies for planning and land use will be examined by a Planning Inspector who will assess whether they are positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national guidance for delivering sustainable development. 

However, Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) believes if some of the policies aren’t changed then Bath’s residents will lose valuable Green Belt land forever and see over-development of housing at the former Bath Spa campus on Sion Hill, along with unchecked purpose-built student accommodation and high ‘hidden’ carbon emissions in construction. BPT is calling for these policies to be challenged and made far more ambitious. 

In a press release the Trust says:

‘BPT believes the new park and ride site policy should be scrapped, whilst modified policies for embodied carbon, the redevelopment of the Bath Spa campus at Sion Hill, and purpose-built student accommodation must be put in place. 

Despite objections, BPT is strongly supportive of the other policy updates which respond to the threats posed by climate change. It believes they will go a long way towards meeting local and national climate emergency obligations to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 and 2050, however it makes no sense for the Council to make such strong gains in some areas, whilst ‘giving away’ the Green Belt and other more climate-friendly options. 

BPT also thinks there is no need for the land to be removed from the Green Belt at park and ride sites to enable the broadening of the use of these facilities as MMTIs (Multi-Modal Transport Interchanges) – the long-term plans for the park and ride sites are achievable whilst still within the Green Belt. BPT has evidenced this, working with an expert planning consultant. BPT also feels MMTI’s would be more successful if promoted in more accessible locations in the centre of the city.

A new ‘embodied carbon’ policy that favours the retention of buildings rather than demolition, is welcomed – but it must be more ambitious, applying to all types of development, including smaller sites and with more demanding targets, in line with other councils and the RIBA. The current targets are already easily achievable and will have little impact to reduce these dangerous emissions. 

Sion Hill is an important and much-loved area, nestled in the fringes of the city in the green setting of the World Heritage Site. BPT recognises the opportunity provided at the former Bath Spa University campus as a location for much needed new and affordable housing, but it must not be over-developed, nor harm the setting and views into Sion Hill and the surrounds. The proposal increases the previously agreed capacity by 67% – an unacceptable amount which constitutes significant and unnecessary over-development. 

Bath thrives in part because of its important and valued student population, which brings vibrancy and marks the city as an international academic centre. However, BPT believes all residents should be concerned about the proliferation of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and the current policy does not adequately manage this problem. BPT has repeatedly called for PBSA developments to be limited to campuses or specifically linked to University growth numbers. The current policy fails in this aim and should be much more specific. 

BPT’s CEO, Alex Sherman said “We welcome the Council’s forward-thinking in most areas of its policy change, particularly in response to the Climate Emergency. But some of the proposals just don’t make sense or appear to fit with the Corporate Plan. I urge our policymakers to reconsider and to be more ambitious for Bath and its’ residents and hope our constructive comments will be listened to and incorporated. Please do as much as you can to reduce carbon emissions, ensure appropriate, sustainable growth and please don’t sacrifice Green Belt land.”

Full responses to the LPPU Public Examination can be found at www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk 

For your further information:

The Public Examination is the next step in the process for B&NES Council to approve their Local Plan Partial Updates. A consultation exercise was held at the end of last summer, inviting comments from the public and stakeholders. Bath Preservation Trust submitted detailed responses to the proposals, where it felt policies were unsound, were incongruent with other existing policies and plans, or where they would benefit from being more ambitious.

All comments were sent to the Public Inspector, who has responded with some further queries. Those organisations and individuals submitting responses have subsequently been invited to provide further and more detailed responses, having been able to see the points raised by other parties and by the Public Inspector.

The examination process will run over two weeks, in weeks commencing 20th June and 4th July.