Hobson’s Choice on the Min
PLANNING approval – at the second attempt – for the conversion of Bath’s Royal Mineral Water Hospital has done nothing to weaken opposition to the development.
Objectors argue that the decision by Bath & NE Somerset Council to approve the amended design was illegal, since planning law requires that no harm should be done listed buildings unless there is an overwhelming public benefit. In this case, they say, there isn’t one. With this in mind, they are taking legal advice, and there’s talk of challenging the legality of the decision at a judicial review, but this would be an expensive gamble: the cost for each party for a one-day High Court hearing would be £25,000 to £40,000 … with no money back for the loser.
In approving the application, the council pushed aside its own 2016/2036 Local Plan, which said there was no capacity in Bath for more luxury hotels, and ignored its Visitor Accommodation Study, which found ‘reduced market potential’
There was, the study found, ‘some limited capacity for budget hotels, but not before 2031 and no more market capacity for high-end hotels during the plan period. ‘We cannot predict how the pandemic will affect our tourist industry over the next few years – but it is extremely unlikely that there will be growth.’
But councillors and planning officials were faced with a Hobson’s Choice: all of the multi-million bids for the building were for hotel conversions; there were no community or social alternatives such as a concert hall or exhibition. The options being a high-end hotel the Bath does not need or a Grade II Listed building at the heart of the historic centre left to rot.