Ho­tel bid re­fusal was right choice

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Bath Chronicle - - OPINION - Jane Sam­son

I com­mend the Plan­ning Com­mit­tee for re­fus­ing the de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted by ty­coon prop­erty de­vel­op­ment com­pany The Fra­grance Group for the Min­eral Wa­ter Hos­pi­tal.

It would have turned it into yet an­other lux­ury ho­tel with a mas­sive, greedy ex­ten­sion tak­ing up all the avail­able space be­hind the ex­ist­ing build­ing and mak­ing the lives of neigh­bour­ing res­i­dents un­ten­able.

Coun­cil­lor Rigby said: “For some of the (neigh­bour­ing) flats on the lower floors, you’d have to stick your head out of the win­dow and turn it around to see any sky what­so­ever.”

At the on­line Zoom plan­ning meet­ing, rep­re­sen­ta­tions were made against the de­vel­op­ment. One was de­liv­ered pow­er­fully by He­len Wil­mot, an im­pres­sive lo­cal res­i­dent and cam­paigner who spoke out about the ap­palling im­pact on res­i­dents and the loss of birdlife. The sec­ond was about the im­por­tant eco­log­i­cal as­pect of habi­tat de­struc­tion.

There was a third rep­re­sen­ta­tion - an ir­refutable le­gal sub­mis­sion (with a state­ment of in­tent to go to Ju­di­cial Re­view should the law be bro­ken) by a le­gal plan­ning pro­fes­sional, qual­i­fied to ad­vo­cate in the High Court.

This be­came the ‘ele­phant in the room,’ nei­ther re­ferred to nor re­ported sub­se­quently. So, for the pub­lic record, here is a sum­mary:

The sub­mis­sion re­ferred to BANES Lo­cal Plan 2016 - 2036 which states that: “Vis­i­tor Ac­com­mo­da­tion Study shows re­duced mar­ket po­ten­tial or fur­ther ho­tel de­vel­op­ment in Bath.

“Some lim­ited ca­pac­ity for bud­get ho­tels but not be­fore 2021 and no more mar­ket ca­pac­ity for high end ho­tels dur­ing the plan pe­riod (low growth) or un­til the sec­ond half of the Lo­cal Plan pe­riod (high growth).”

Any ‘harm,’ what­so­ever, to this im­por­tant, listed build­ing would need to be bal­anced by over­whelm­ing pub­lic ben­e­fit to make the de­vel­op­ment le­gal. This is ir­refutable and based on ex­ten­sive case law. There is no pub­lic ben­e­fit in the ex­ist­ing ap­pli­ca­tion.

“The Ap­pli­cant might as­sure you that bring­ing the build­ing into use is a pub­lic ben­e­fit.

“If this was the truth then no de­vel­op­ment on any listed build­ing could ever be re­fused. This point has been tested by the Court of Ap­peal and the duty of de­ci­sion mak­ers is to do no harm - not bring the build­ing into use.

“There is no pub­lic in­ter­est case to over­whelm the strong pre­sump­tion against grant­ing per­mis­sion in

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this case. You do not have the dis­cre­tion in Law to per­mit this de­vel­op­ment with­out an over­whelm­ing pub­lic in­ter­est case. A fail­ure to com­ply with Statute and the Lo­cal Plan would be to err in law and could re­sult in a Quash­ing Or­der at Ju­di­cial Re­view.”

This was a David and Go­liath con­fronta­tion and rightly, He­len Wil­mot won the bat­tle.

It is time that ty­coon prop­erty devel­op­ers are told that they can­not in­flict greedy and detri­men­tal de­vel­op­ments on the res­i­dents and the city of Bath and it is time for the coun­cil to start abid­ing by its Lo­cal Plan and act within the law.

Mean­while, ‘high-end’ ho­tels con­tinue to be waived through the plan­ning process while lo­cal guest­houses and small, fam­ily-run ho­tels go out of business.

In an age of pan­demic and eco­nomic down­turn de­mand is more likely to de­crease than in­crease for high-end ho­tels. If you want to fight for the long-term fu­ture of the Min, we are set­ting up “Friends of the His­toric Min”.

Any­one in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing this can sign up at https://friend­soft­he­his­toricmin.org.uk/wp-lo­gin. php?ac­tion=regis­ter.

The Assem­bly Rooms look­ing fan­tas­tic in the early au­tumn sun­shine. By Chris Gib­bons

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