Not impressed by officials’ Min efforts
I write in dismay at yet another grossly inadequate implementation by planning officers of the most recent ‘public consultation’ regarding the plans of billionaire property developer the ‘Fragrance Group’ to convert the Mineral Water Hospital into a luxury hotel with a massive extension on the back which would severely impact nearby residents. The first that I and many others heard about the new planning application was through the Somerset live article written by Local Democracy reporter, Stephen Sumner that was published a full two weeks after the new planning application had been submitted. Disappointingly, it did not publicise the planning reference number, nor the link to the planning website.
On speaking to the relevant planning officer I was told that advertising the application in the local paper ‘exceeds statutory requirements.’ Adjoining and nearby neighbours of the Min had notifications delivered. However, these are multiple-occupancy buildings and residents inform me that because a lot of ‘junk mail’ comes through the door, important notifications more often than not end up being binned, without being read. Many of the residents, some of whom are vulnerable, do not have access to the internet and also report that they feel powerless and voiceless. They have lost the motivation to challenge the development and have no confidence in process or procedure. The planning officers know this because they have been told many times, but none of this is taken into account.
Statutory regulations state that site notices (laminated A4) of the Listed Building Application and the Planning Application (crucially including the planning application number and a link to the planning website) must be visible in the immediate vicinity of the Min.
The planning officer told me that the notices had been attached to the railings at the front of the building, but on inspection, we discovered that the Planning Application had been removed.
Despite the planning officer being informed about this by others, and myself, nearly two weeks later it has still not been replaced (apparently due to home–working in the pandemic). I doubt if this ‘reasonable’ delay in properly notifying the public will be take into account, as it should be. An extension of two weeks to the consultation period should be granted, but will it?
Over the course of the last application, 189 Bath residents had submitted objections, all passionately opposed the application on multiple grounds.
However, I was told, “being previously signed up for notifications against the old application would not trigger a notification for a new application”.
Less than the minimum is being done to publicise this new application. There is no consideration afforded to vulnerable residents without access to the internet and without will, nor resilience. Neither they, nor Bath citizens who care passionately about the outcome of this application, matter.
The optics of this are very bad and the council should take notice. Whose interests are they looking after? What will be done about it?
Planning reference: 21/01752/ FUL. www.bathnes.gov.uk/webforms/planning/search.html