Challenge to flats decision scrapped
PROHIBITIVE costs have forced a heritage watchdog to cancel a judicial review challenging a decision to approve the building of student flats at Bath Cricket Club.
The bill could have run into tens of thousands of pounds if Bath Preservation Trust had lost the case, so it is instead launching a “fighting fund” for future legal challenges.
The charity opposed Bath and North East Somerset Council’s “flawed and unjustified” decision to approve plans for 136 student flats at the club.
Donors backed the legal challenge but the trust concluded the financial risk was too great.
Its chief executive, Caroline Kay, said: “There is a wide body of opinion in Bath that the council made the wrong decision, a decision that we saw as unjustified, flawed and not in the interests of people of Bath as a whole or the character of the World Heritage Site and, importantly, against the recommendations of its own officers.
“However it is financially prohibitive for small but informed civic charities like ourselves to compete against the financial resources of developers or public authorities determined to fight their corner.”
She said the trust did not believe the student block would “liberate” accommodation for family housing “despite the claims made by some councillors in their justification for this development”.
Bath Cricket Club has permission to build 136 student flats and redevelop its indoor training facility, which, along with a 128-space car park, forms the footprint for the new building. It will be on stilts, so 108 parking spaces can be provided at ground level.
B&NES Council officers had “significant” concerns about flooding, the loss of trees and the design of the scheme in the city’s “green heart” when the plans were submitted.
But planning committee members approved the development in March.
A trust spokesperson said: “Although donors had contributed to the challenge, the donations were not sufficient to cover the potential tens of thousands of pounds costs and liabilities (in the event of losing the case), since the outcome of the case could not be guaranteed.”
The fighting fund “will be ring-fenced and used only to launch future legal challenges”.
B&NES Council declined to comment. Bath Cricket Club had not responded to a request for a comment at the time of going to press.