Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

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.

1 comment for Hobson’s Choice on the Min

  1. Jane Samson says:

    There’s a lot at stake here. Do you continue to allow multi billionaire developers to set the terms for ‘viability’ and run rampant with over development in a UNESCO World Heritage City? Or should the council set the terms? They do in other local authorities. Why not here? We need to stop thinking in the short term. In allowing the developers to exploit Bath as a cash cow, we are killing the golden goose. Liverpool has just lost its World Heritage Status. Stonehenge has had a warning. Just a matter of time. The monstrosity of the Rec development will be tipped for approval by city planners soon.
    And what about Bath residents who feel that the city is no longer a place for them? Who feels side lined? What us there for them? Fine if you have plenty of money… What about diversifying the local economy so we are not so reliant on the tourist industry, which as we have seen in the pandemic is vulnerable? So many big issues, so many big questions.

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