Project logoWorld Heritage Emblem


ICRAUnesco Logo            Copyright© Bath Heritage Watchdog:  2011-15.

Bath - A World Heritage Site

Valid CSS!

The material on this website has been produced for public information, and may be freely quoted in pursuit of the Watchdog's aims, but not used in any distribution produced for sale or financial gain without the Watchdog's written permission.
All extracts must acknowledge the Bath Heritage Watchdog as the source.


The Bath Heritage Watchdog began at a public meeting on 14th November 2006, where it became clear that there was considerable support for an organisation that would fight to preserve notable buildings and structures, and to oppose inappropriate developments that might put them or Bath's World Heritage status at risk.  Given the encouragement from that meeting, it was decided to set up a formal organisation. If you are interested in the remainder of the history, it can be found on the Constitution page.

One of the priorities was to create this website so that those interested can keep up to date. It will be updated as often as necessary. Links to other pages of this website will normally replace the page you are reading.  Links to other websites will normally open in a second window.

Don't forget that Watchdog is staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers, and this website, leaflets and display materials all cost money.  Please use the Fund Us button occasionally so that we can continue to provide these services.

Next Meeting

The next meeting has been postponed.  In view of the Prime Minister's announcement on 12 March 2020 that the Coronavirus status has been upgraded to a "pandemic" and as a result public screening for the virus has now ceased and is replaced by self-isolation taken on trust, coupled with the news reports that the majority of the deaths have been of elderly people with other health problems, it has been decided that it would be irresponsible to continue public meetings which could put some members at avoidable risk.

For the foreseeable future Watchdog will be adopting the "work from home" advice and communicate by e-mail.  Public meetings will resume when they can once again be held without putting at risk the health of those attending.

There were no reported availability problems with the planning website this week.
We have ceased to update the diary, which we are leaving as a historical record.

Our Website.  In slow time we are examining a redesign to make specific subject matter easier to find and to follow.  Meanwhile, this front page has grown large and slow to load, so we have put all the entries before this current year into an Old News page, pending a proper redesign.




Cleveland Bridge - Last updated 25 October 2020.
According to the Chronicle the 21 October Planning Committee gave listed building consent to the repairs to the Cleveland Bridge.  From the quotes in the article and the comments that follow it, it is clear that the need for repairs is not disputed, but the type of repair, reinforcing an earlier upgrade to the weight the bridge could carry and narrowing the carriageway, is more controversial.
What appears to have been overlooked in the past is that Cleveland Bridge is listed Grade II* which puts it in the most important 5% of all listed buildings, so the earlier reinforcement should not have been approved because it was harmful to the character of the bridge.  However it was permitted and that allowed the largest lorries to cross the bridge.  That in itself does not justify repeating the harmful upgrade.  It is also worth noting that just because a bridge could physically carry a weight, it doesn't automatically follow that a lower weight limit cannot be imposed.
This tacit expectation of continued use of the bridge by the largest lorries brings the into question intention to reduce the width of the carriageway.  The existing width is extremely tight according to the Ward Councillor, so a narrower carriageway might make it virtually impossible for two juggernauts (whose width includes the rear view mirrors which protrude further than the vehicle body) to pass each other.  The traffic heading towards Cleveland Place frequently queues back from the traffic lights leaving vehicles stationary on the bridge.  If the narrower carriageway does prevent two lorries passing each other on the bridge, gridlock will result.
For these reasons the permission to repair the bridge allows work to start, but it does need some design variations to be considered;  it will be too late once the current design is completed and found wanting.  Other listed bridges have had weight limits imposed to preserve them so why should Cleveland Bridge be any different?
Wansdyke Business Park - Last updated 25 October 2020.
We note that the Consultation Response from Highways includes a recommendation that the applicant should contribute towards the introduction of a Resident's Parking Zone in the area.  The residents in that area have already been consulted four times in the past about the introduction of a RPZ and for every one of those four times the majority of residents consulted have said that they don't want one.
Highways are therefore not in a position to assume that the residents will agree to a RPZ, especially if the reason for asking is for the benefit of a planning applicant rather than the surrounding population.  This section of the Highways opinion needs to be revised because planning decisions need to be based on facts not conjecture.
It is also worth noting that there have been complaints in the press that the original promise by the council when Residents Parking Zones were first proposed that the price of the parking permits would always be pitched at the break-even point of the enforcement costs, and this promise has never been adhered to yet no area which agreed to a RPZ has ever been asked whether they still want to keep it when price rises are to be imposed.  Effectively, those who require a permit because they live in a RPZ are being treated as cash cows.  Either those with RPZs should be asked if they still want to keep it now that the prices have gone up, or else asking for a fifth time those who previously refused to agree appears to be harassment.
The Rec - Last updated 17 October 2020.
There has been a lot of speculation and comment in the Chronicle about the outcome of Bath Rugby's legal challenge to the 1922 Covenant on the Recreation Ground and their subsequent response to it.  We researched what the Judge said concerning the 1922 Covenant, and what the Tribunal ruled on the Charity Commission Scheme to establish exactly what the legal position is.  It differs somewhat from the claims and assumptions in the Press.
Taking the Covenant issue first, the case issued by Bath Rugby was under a 1925 Act, and the Judge ruled that the Act was not retrospective, so the position of the 1922 Covenant had to be evaluated according to the legislation at the time it was made.  Bath Rugby's CEO is suggesting that they are considering an appeal, but the Judge established that there are legal precedents that confirm that a pre-1925 Covenant is not nullified by a later Act.  Thus suggesting an appeal is only a face saving statement and if it is pursued to court the appeal will fail.
The suggestion is made that only one person is in a position to benefit from the existence of the Covenant.  It is true that one person defended the Claim in court, yet the Judge clarified exactly who is and who is not covered by it and there are about 150 addresses documented in the Court papers that meet his definition of "neighbourhood".  Bath Rugby made much of their earlier mailshot producing no response, but that is irrelevant;  a Court Claim only needs one Defendant, at the time the case is heard.
Next we looked at the Tribunal's ruling on the Charity.  It declared that the Rec is required to be an open space eventually but that the footprint currently occupied by Bath Rugby (including the additional temporary East Stand) is the limit of what is to be allowed to not be an open space for a maximum duration of the remainder of the current lease, with the additional proviso that the East Stand must be removed for three consecutive months each year leaving its footprint an open space.  Furthermore, the Freehold of the Rec is held permanently in trust by B&NES (or any future replacements) and the freeholder is barred from influencing the policy of the Trustees;  and Bath Recreation Ltd merely deliver the expectations of the Charity Commission's Scheme as modified by the Tribunal.  The Tribunal ruled that Bath Recreation Ltd as Trustees could only approve alterations to the status quo (colloquially called a land swap) for the land currently leased to Bath Rugby and only for the duration of the time remaining on the current lease, which cannot be extended.  Therefore their authority only goes as far as leasing, not selling, some or all of the land currently leased to Bath Rugby, in exchange for land of equivalent value to the Charity.  The Charity Commission Scheme requires that the part of the Rec not leased to Bath Rugby must remain an open space.
In that scenario, the expectation of building a stadium outside the currently leased footprint, with or without an underground car park, now has three different judgements (including the High Court ruling in 2002) ensuring that it cannot go ahead.
Hartwell's Planning Application Refusal - Last updated 18 October 2020.
In view of the interest being shown in the appeal against the Chronicle reported  refusal of the 19/01854/OUT application which the Oakhill Group has appealed, we have added it to our Applications page for easy access to the application files and the appeal documentation.  There is no Watchdog file to reference;  we did not comment because everything we wanted to say at the time had already been adequately covered by other objectors.
The new Destructor Bridge - Last updated 11 October 2020.
The new Destructor Bridge was finally opened to traffic on 7 October 2020 according to the council website.  This is only 4 years after it was put in place, and there is no hint of why it was pedestrians only for so long.  It will also carry a non-existent bus route.  There used to be a bus route serving the Western Riverside, essential for the viability of the Western Riverside it was claimed originally, but so few passengers used it that it was discontinued.  It remains to be seen whether that scenario has changed.
The bridge will carry traffic from the Lower Bristol Road to the Upper Bristol Road, which is the opposite direction to the route with the old bridge in place.  The "elephant in the room" is that the old bridge had to be replaced because it would not support the two-way traffic flows through the Western Riverside, hence the one-way arrangement is another oddity.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 4 October 2020.
We mentioned in our now time-expired item on Heritage Open Week that there would be a Heritage Walking Trail on one of the days with a few supporting exhibits in Sydney Gardens.  We have now received feedback from the Cleveland Pools Trust reporting that they had a team of socially distancing volunteers in the Gardens, a few people turning up in Georgian costume (who were happy to be photographed), and more than 80 groups trying out the walking trail.
The Cleveland Pools Trust would appreciate feedback from trail walkers on their short website survey.  The Walking Trail goes along publicly accessible routes, so despite it no longer being an organised event, the map of the route is able to be printed from the Cleveland Pools Events page, and again it would be appreciated if any of those following it complete the survey.
Mineral Water Hospital - Last updated 27 September 2020.
There is an article in the Chronicle reporting on the Planning Committee's discussion on the application for the conversion of the Mineral Water Hospital into a hotel.  The minutes of the meeting are not yet available but the outcome, to refuse permission, is in the online planning file.
We note that the Decision Notices made no comment on the area behind the current building being included in the Historic Buildings list as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  Nevertheless one of the reasons for refusal was the loss of trees and unacceptable development within the garden area, though it would have been a more powerful reason if the Decision Notice had included reference to Placemaking Policy HE1, Section 7b which states "Alterations, extensions or changes of use, or development in their vicinity, will be expected to have no adverse impact on those elements which contribute to their special architectural or historic interest, including their settings".  A construction in the preserved space does have a serious adverse impact.
The other reasons for refusal quoted on the Decision notice also reference the proposed rear extension, noting that it fails to respond to the character of the surrounding townscape and that its size and bulk cause unacceptable harm to the amenity of nearby residential properties.
The oddity in the Chronicle report of this planning application is the assumption by the case officer that securing an optimum viable use for the building outweighed the impact on neighbours.  This was the first planning application lodged for this building, and thus it is too soon to assume that it was optimum and no better application is possible.  Furthermore Policy D6 (quoted as one of the reasons for refusal) does not allow "significant harm" to amenities, and many of the nearly 200 objections spelled out exactly what harm would be caused, and there is no doubt that it would be significant because it would be lifestyle changing.
The word "significant" is open to interpretation, but it is a big stretch of the imagination to believe that more hotel beds, which are already over-provided in central Bath, justify the very significant loss of natural light and garden views for the established nearby residents.  Overriding the case officer's recommendation was a very sensible outcome in this instance.
Twerton Radial Gate - Last updated 20 September 2020.
Because of the impact on the craft on the river, there are several articles in the Chronicle concerning the failure of the Radial Gate at Twerton (wrongly described as a sluice is a number of them).  The key ambiguity is one article describing the failure as a software problem that mistakenly opened the gate wide, and another describing it as a mechanical fault.  The fact that it could be corrected by manually closing the gate does suggest that it is a control mechanism problem rather than an engineering problem.
Anyone who has written software will know that it is impossible to prove the absence of the last bug, so the failing software option is feasible.  Anybody who has studied Greenhalgh's original method of controlling the Radial Gate at Pulteney Weir will know that he designed a counterbalanced gate so that there was no inbuilt bias to open or close, and the time and amount of opening was decided by a float measuring the water height and managed by the water flow.  Provided there was routine maintenance to ensure that the river silt did not clog the control mechanisms, it was entirely self-controlled.  Why that self-controlled gate has now got a mains supply has never been explained.  It could however explain why the similar Twerton radial gate is not self-controlled either.  Someone has decided that they know better than Greenhalgh how to control the river, and that decision has come back to bite them with a vengeance.
One thing we do know is that the Environment Agency is really keen on removing the radial gates.  When we argued with them that the Pulteney Weir Radial Gate was there for a specific flood relief purpose they replied that it can't be important because there is no evidence of the river silting up as it flows through Bath, and a weir would do just as good a job.  That  makes as much sense as claiming that there have been no traffic accidents in a street since it was pedestrianised!  Of course the river isn't silting up in Bath;  that is what the anti-flood scheme still in place was designed to prevent.  But outside the flood prevention area there is lots of silt.  Near Keynsham there is just half the depth of river than there used to be, primarily because when the Environment Agency was made responsible for the River Avon, one of the first things they did was sell off the dredger that had been maintaining all the river depth to Greenhalgh's design.  Certainly the flood plain alongside the river between Bath and Keynsham seems to be flooding more often than it used to.
Replacing the Radial Gates with weirs remains the Environment Agency's policy (and one that the council appears to support), and we have to wonder how much their failure to properly manage the Radial Gates contributes to that decision.  We do think that replacing them with weirs will eventually result in Bath flooding again like it used to, but unfortunately it won't be soon, and therefore the real culprits won't have to carry the can.
Problems with online meetings - Last updated 6 September 2020.
The minutes of the Planning Committee meeting held on 26 August are now available, and this reveals the urgent need to decide on a proper protocol for meetings that are subject to communications disruptions.
The first application to be determined was 18/0516/REG04 (Land to the rear of 89-123 Englishcombe Lane), which was originally declared to be urgent during the July meeting because "there was a large grant for ecological mitigation work associated with the application and the mitigation work had to be carried out during September and October".  The reality is that this only matters if planning permission is granted; no mitigation is required if the application is refused.  The other unresolved issue is that ecology is being transferred from a site owned by the council (hence the REG04 application) to a site that is privately owned, and the council will have no control over whether the private owner will properly preserve the ecology transferred, unless the destination site is compulsorily purchased to retain council control over its long term future.
Skip forward to the August meeting, and the minutes note that "Cllr. Eleanor Jackson lost connection to the meeting for part of this item and was therefore unable to vote".  The vote was close, in the absence of Cllr Jackson's vote the result was 5 for and 4 against granting permission.  Yet earlier in the minutes it is recorded that Cllr Jackson felt that the application should be refused due to poor design, and bearing in mind that the design would not be improved by further discussion in the meeting it is reasonable to assume that her vote would have been against, leaving a split vote and the minutes would then have recorded the Chairman's thoughts in reaching a casting vote decision.
Some might wonder if a council short of funds would be inclined to give consent just to get the mitigation grant, and disqualifying a vote against would therefore be advantageous.  Why else would a vote be taken with one member not taking part when the option was there to defer the vote to the end of the agenda when the discussion could be reprised and a full vote taken?  It is worth noting that Cllr Jackson spoke during Agenda Item 2 so the lost connection was short lived and a properly represented vote later would have been possible.  It is also worth noting that the application was to permit, though subject to reaching a S106 agreement, and past timescale examples of such agreements suggest that the deadline of October for mitigation funding is unlikely to be met, because planning permission will not be granted to relocate anything from the site until after the S106 document is prepared and agreed.  It looks as though corners were cut in the planning committee to ensure that a decision was made quickly, and then Conditions were imposed that wreck the ecological timetable and show that there was time to debate and vote properly.  This was not their finest hour.
It is for these reasons that there needs to be a policy discussed and agreed for the proper procedure to be followed when on-line connections are dropped during a meeting.  The need to work online is going to remain for a while yet, and making decisions on the fly is always going to find somebody prepared to suspect a hidden agenda, whatever the eventual outcome.  At least if there is an agreed and published policy, the meeting would be able to show that it is following the policy.
Abandoning Ship? - Last updated 6 September 2020.
In the summer, after having spent (wasted?) money to move Bath's Tourist Information from a prominent location with enormous footfall in Abbey Churchyard to a virtually invisible location in Terrace Walk, Visit Bath, who operated the facility, decided to close it because it had been consistently losing money.  This rather curious description reveals that unlike Tourist Information Offices in almost every visitor destination in the country, someone had decided to run it as a profit centre rather than as a public service.  This is a classic outsourcing folly.  Whoever made that decision should be ashamed, but they probably are not.
So now we have a World Heritage Site which, according to a recent UNESCO report is a designation that attracts 4,500,000 visitors a year, has no enquiry point with information on what is worth seeing.  What it would cost to keep the information centre open must be a tiny fraction of the spend from so many visitors.  A mobile phone app is no substitute for personal opinion, and not everybody has a smartphone in any case.
Then while researching something else we stumbled on another rather curious decision. Tucked away in an apparently hidden corner of the council website is the news that the council has decided to virtually abandon Bath as a location for council business.  The parts of Lewis House that accommodated Planning and Building Control amongst others are exporting the functions to Keynsham instead.  The item claims that the ground floor "will continue to deliver public-facing services" which overlooks the services provided to customers by Building Control when they were on the first floor.  When most of the developers and architects are not in Keynsham, that omission isn't ideal.  Leasing part of Lewis House for university use is also a bit provocative, in a city where many of the permanent residents are already feeling crowded out by the universities and their students.  With the recent changes to the way Government funding is distributed to Local Authorities, every student residence and university building makes a bigger hole in the council's budget.
Dick Lovett’s Mini dealership - Last updated 6 September 2020.
Student parkingA week before the refusal of the Reserved Matters planning application, this week's new application was submitted, indicating that the applicants expected the outcome they got.  It is another submission for this site, which has a similar description.  We haven't yet examined the new application to see how different it is from the one refused permission, but we do hope the Case Officer doesn't suggest student parking can be suppressed when High Court Case Law EWHC 4084 (2015) states categorically that it can't.
In any case, previous attempts to insist that students can't bring a car to Bath have failed.  This photograph of the road outside the Twerton Mill site was taken on a quiet day, because usually the area beside the railway has no spare spaces.  Nevertheless, even on a quiet day, there are plenty of cars defying the restrictions.  Students obviously know the restriction can't be enforced, even if the Council officers don't.
Dick Lovett’s Mini dealership - Last updated 30 August 2020.
One of the planning applications before the Planning Committee on 26 August was the reserved matters following the approval of an outline permission for the site in 2010.  The Chronicle reports that the plans were "ruled out" though it doesn't give the voting figures.  The parts of the Case Officer's brief to the Committee that Watchdog had difficulty with were firstly the claim that students bringing cars can be controlled by a suitably worded condition in their leases, which we have debunked by our assessment that it would be unenforceable, backed up by High Court Case Law EWHC 4084 (2015) which ruled that such a condition would be invalid and therefore unacceptable in planning terms.
The second difficulty is as reported by the Chronicle that "the development will not have any significant adverse impacts upon the environment or local residents beyond that already anticipated by the outline planning permission" which is substantially what is provided in the Committee Brief, but which completely overlooks the events of the intervening 10 years which has provided a lot of other local student accommodation, bringing a real parking headache for the area because as we anticipated, the students have brought cars regardless of the expectation that they wouldn't and these cars litter the area and cause the permanent residents in the locality substantial difficulties during term times.
It is also worth pointing out that there are currently so many surplus student bedrooms in so-called Purpose Built Student Accommodation that some of it can be rented by anybody via AirBNB.  It is therefore good news that such unsightly buildings in materials not according to the normal palette for Bath did not secure permission.  The planning file shows that the application was refused because it failed to comply with two Core Strategy policies and four Placemaking Plan policies.
Jones The Bootmaker - Last updated 30 August 2020.
The applications for 19 Cheap Street, 19/04327/AR and 19/04347/LBA, were both refused by the Case Officer but unusually only 19/04327/AR was challenged by an appeal.  Equally unusually the Appeal Decision was for a split decision, with the vinyl street numbers on the fascias facing Cheap Street and Abbey Churchyard permitted but all the rest of the signage covered by the application dismissed on appeal, despite the Appeal Inspector noting that they had already been installed.  This brings some interesting complications for the applicants, because now they have street numbers permitted on the Advertising application but refused on the Listed Building application which they did not appeal, so technically they cannot be installed or left in place without a successful Listed Building application.
Likewise, because the advertising refused on appeal is already in place, Enforcement should require their removal, but they know that the street number vinyls which technically have insufficient current planning permissions to remain were nevertheless considered acceptable as advertising by the Appeal Inspector, and therefore would be difficult to refuse if a retrospective Listed Building application is submitted for them.  Common sense suggests that because the council doesn't charge for listed building applications but has to bear the cost of processing them, it isn't something to be insisted on.
Our expectation is that Enforcement should insist on the prompt removal of the elements of signage refused by the Planning Inspector, plus the repair of any damage caused by installing them without permission, but to accept that the street number vinyls are "de minimis" harm in the Listed Building scenario and they can remain.
Lewis House - Last updated 23 August 2020.
Hidden in the council website is an item on the leasing of the accommodation in Lewis House. It focuses on the two floors to be leased  to the University of Bath, but also mentions that the two floors above them are to be marketed as office space.  It claims that the ground floor will continue to deliver public-facing services, which isn't quite true because Building Control used to have an area on the first floor where the public could seek advice or submit plans, and where will that be when the University moves in?
So now we have the only city in B&NES becoming visitor unfriendly, without a Tourist Information facility and without proper council offices.  What a way to manage a World Heritage Site.  UNESCO will be pleased (- not;  see World Heritage below).
World Heritage - Last updated 2 August 2020.
We were copied a Press Release, subsequently put online, announcing that UNESCO has published a new report:  the first to examine the cultural, environmental and financial benefits to UK life from these diverse UNESCO projects, and their active contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Following the chain of links we found the report itself, and its key finding "Investment in the UK’s UNESCO designations would increase cross-disciplinary work and enhance their contribution to the UK economy and society, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.".  However it is over 50 megabytes and is in ZIP format, so anybody wanting to read the full report will have to download it from this link and then unpack it into a readable format.
The report is UK wide and information about Bath is scattered amongst the text.  We noted that the UNESCO designation is a contributory factor in attracting 4.5 million visitors (a number only exceeded by the Lake District and the Jurassic Coast), has contributed to just over £25 Million of Heritage Lottery Funds being granted for Bath projects, and has led to the establishment of the UNESCO Chair in Higher Education Management University of Bath this year. According to the report "Their UNESCO status helps them to unlock research funds and attract additional income and other non-financial resources such as human capital and information access".
With all these ongoing benefits, we have to wonder why the council repeatedly puts the UNESCO designation at risk.  For instance, the UNESCO Monitoring Report on Bath resulted in the World Heritage Committee expressing concern that whilst Phase 1 of the Western Riverside development was acceptable, Phases 2 and 3 were not, and the council was strongly advised to redesign the later phases.  Not only did the council ignore this, but it has promoted the design of the phases which they were advised to redesign as acceptable models for planning applications for other developments, spreading the what they have been informed is an undesirable appearance (and this isn't the only example of the council skating on thin ice).  Dresden had its World Heritage designation removed for insisting on building a bridge which the World Heritage Committee frowned on, so perhaps the council should start to reflect on the impact of a similar punishment being inflicted on the City of Bath unless they take World Heritage seriously.
Plumb Centre, Locksbrook Road - Last updated 2 August 2020.
We notice that new drawings have been lodged on the application that has already been refused and was the subject of an appeal.  The legislation indicates that the Planning Inspectorate is expected to evaluate the decision as made against the documentation considered in reaching that decision, in the light of Government Policy as published and local planning policies.  We can't see any legislative support for redesign during the appeal process;  nor have these drawings been lodged on the currently open alternative planning application.
Belvoir Castle - Last updated 26 July 2020.
In June 2018 we raised objections to the planning applications 18/02499/FUL and 18/02500/LBA which proposed to demolish the skittle alley and repurpose the garden of the Belvoir Castle in order to build apartments (originally proposed as 10 but later reduced to 9 to avoid the obligation to provide affordable housing). Despite our objections and numerous others and a report by the case officer strongly recommending refusal, the proposals went to Committee on 26 September 2018 and the case officer's recommendation was cast aside by a "Delegate to permit" decision.  In April 2019 that delegation resulted in a S106 Agreement and a Decision Notice to Permit.
In August 2019 we reported that a Judicial Review of the decisions had been granted.  The wheels of justice ground exceedingly slowly after that such that we have only now been informed that the decision was made on 9th July 2020 following a hearing that took place in November 2019.  The Watchdog objections featured as relevant input to the hearing, which was why we were informed of the outcome.  Apparently the grounds for quashing the council's planning permission were: (a) The council erred in law by failing to provide sufficient reason for their decisions overriding the case officer's objections to flood risk and published council policy (the council conceded this point); (b) The council erred in law by taking into account immaterial considerations; (c) The council acted irrationally in concluding that the public benefits overrode the material considerations in the case officer's report.
It is interesting to notice that the Flood Risk Sequential Report which government policy makes mandatory was not delivered by the planning applicant, and yet the Environment Agency nevertheless accepted the Flood Risk Assessment.  The EA needs to raise their game, because the Judicial Review accepted that the council was allowed to ignore that flawed Sequential Report because the EA were the experts providing advice, who on this occasion hadn't adhered to government policy.
We have had a look at the two planning applications and at the time of writing this there is no mention of the outcome of the Judicial Review on either of them, though we assume that the council will re-evaluate the applications in due course.
By our reckoning, this is the third Judicial Review the council has lost, having previously been found wanting on accepting the loss of social housing at Foxhill, and having approved an extension on the Cedar Park Nursing Home for irrational reasons.
Homebase - Last updated 19 July 2020.
We were tipped off that there was a closing down sale at Homebase, and that this was reported in a Chronicle article. We were aware of the planning application 20/00259/FUL so we had a look at the documentation, which revealed that the Homebase lease expires on 31August 2020 after which there is an extant planning permission to demolish the building.
When we looked at the comments lodged on the planning application it was littered with criticisms from council consultees that insufficient information had been provided in some specialisations, and there were also (at the time of writing this) 14 support, 134 objection and 5 neutral public comments on the planning website with a lot of criticism about the design of the proposed replacement which was too tall, too densely packed, too cramped and too lacking in outdoor amenities.  Historic England is also critical of its design and massing and recommends improvements.
This suggests that there will be amendments and replacement drawings and there is no guarantee that the developer and the council decision makers are likely to quickly reach a compromise acceptable to both and capable of gaining planning permission.  It looks as though once Homebase has closed its doors for the last time the site will lie derelict for a while.  Undesirable though that might be, it is still preferable to granting planning permission to anything the public might consider a disgrace in a central location in the World Heritage site.
Wansdyke Business Park - Last updated 12 July 2020.
This planning application has attracted some strong criticisms of the Travel Plan from the Highways Department comparing the claims with the relevant council policies, most of which we agree with.  For instance it is unwise for the Travel Plan to quote from a traffic and parking survey which is 9 years old to reach a conclusion that there are no parking issues around the site, when everybody who lives near there can see the reality for themselves:  that the area is flooded with commuters parking at no cost rather than paying for parking in the centre;  that the introduction of residents parking in Bear Flat has created a new demand from visitors and shoppers who would previously parked in Bear Flat;  and that the significant increase in the number of local HMOs in conjunction with parking not being provided at any Purpose Built Student Accommodation has resulted in a very significant demand for student parking during the academic year.
The Highways report wrongly assumes that "students are prohibited from bringing a car into the City Of Bath" when there is High Court Case Law (EWHC 4084 (2015) is the reference) which established the principle that planning conditions could not restrict the lawful activities of a tenant beyond the boundary of the development in question.  This is in addition to our assessment that a restriction on parking on the streets of Bath was unenforceable, when we looked at the law that was extant before the High Court considered the situation and clarified it further.
World Heritage - Last updated 28 June 2020.
There is an item in The Chronicle commenting on the arrangements that will be in place when the Roman Baths is once again open to visitors, though with a pre-booking system in place to control the numbers in order to provide proper social distancing.
Coincidentally we have been provided with a link to a new UNESCO Report which finds value in UNESCO designations as the UK emerges from Covid-19 restrictions.  Some of the report covers areas which we are already aware of, such as Heritage Lottery Funding being available for restoration projects (such as the Cleveland Pools we mention below) though were were a little surprised that UNESCO's assessment that over the years this has totalled more than £25Million.  The other item that was news to us is that the University Of Bath now has a UNESCO Chair in Higher Education Management.  How this fits in with the World Heritage Management Plan, the Roman Baths Archway Project and other similar initiatives is not explained, but this overview provides a Commitment from the Government Heritage Minister to encourage future visits, and also a link to the full report for those interested in the details.  We have downloaded the report for our archives.
Edward Colston's Statue - Last updated 21 June 2020.
Although Bristol is outside our remit, the fact that both Bath's MP and Bath's Council Leader have been quoted in the Chronicle does bring the issue more local.  The fact that Edward Colston's statue was Grade II listed gives it a heritage value too, which we think needs to be more prominent.
Taking the MP's comment first, ("Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse has said that having Edward Colston’s statue still standing in Bristol in 2020 was ‘indefensible.’") the Grade II listing brings the statue under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, and whether it should have been there in 2020 is a decision under the control of the Secretary of State and not the local MP.  The role of an elected MP is to uphold the will of Parliament as expressed in the extant legislation, whatever her privately held opinion might be, unless she can command a majority in Parliament in favour of change.  In the same vein, the listing entry not only describes the statue, it identifies where it is required to be, so the Mayor of Bristol is also allowed to hold a personal opinion but he has a civic duty to restore the statue to its original place to accord with the listing entry created in accordance with the Act, and he cannot legally move it anywhere else.
12 JULY 2020 UPDATE:  Deliberate flouting of the listing is a criminal offence which, according to the Act, could attract a custodial sentence.  At present, the statue is undergoing restoration, but the speculation in the local news on television is that the graffiti will be left, which is also an offence under the Act.
The Council Leader's comment ("Councillor Dine Romero said she will bring people together to 'confront this historic evil'") is less definite, seeking a dialogue rather than a stated outcome, but again the legislation must also be heeded too.  It is perhaps worth mentioning that judging the past by the standards of the present is not going to change the past.  For instance 60 years ago it was perfectly legal to drive on an open road outside a built-up area at 100mph or more, but it isn't today.  120 years ago, the emphasis was on the vast sums of money that Coulson spent on improving the lot of poor Bristolians, and that is why Colston's statue was commissioned.  At that time, it had been recognised that the way his money had been earned was perfectly legal during Colston's lifetime, and it is what Colston did with it which stood him apart from other rich businessmen.  If every building that Colston had sponsored was demolished now there would be large swathes of derelict land in Bristol, and it is not helpful to pick and choose which parts of Colston's life should justify protests.
Update 21 June 2020:  The statue has been retrieved from the river and is currently undergoing restoration.
The Rec - Last updated 31 May 2020.
In the Chronicle is a rather woolly confirmation that the applications to extend the temporary permissions for the East Stand used by Bath Rugby have been given permission for a further two years.  This doesn't mean that they can remain in place permanently for the two years as the article claims, because the Rec is covered by a charitable scheme, overseen by the Charity Commission and implemented by the Trustees.  The scheme has been under the scrutiny of two levels of Tribunal and the final decision by the Level 1 Tribunal is obligatory.  Therefore the Trustees have to ensure delivery of Clause 4(5)(b):  "The lease must not permit the tenant use otherwise than as a site for a temporary stand (usually referred to as ‘the east stand’) or playing pitch or access areas and must require the site to be available as open space for use for the purposes of the charity for at least three months in each year. The three months shall be consecutive summer months. The site, including all grass surfaces, shall be made available at the start of the three month period in a condition that is immediately suitable for the playing of sports and the use of the land for leisure purposes."  Planning permission is required by the Town and Country Planning legislation, but it does not override other constraints.  Therefore despite the planning permission, it only grants permission for the East Stand to remain in place for 9 months of each year for a period of two years.
43 Upper Oldfield Park - Last updated 31 May 2020.
We objected to the first version of 19/04909/FUL which was for a dwelling and garage in part of the garden of the building given planning permission as a result of an appeal against the refusal of 14/04547/FUL.  We pointed out that there were several conditions attached to the appeal consent:  banning the use of the entrance onto Junction Road;  maintaining a root protection fence around the area protecting the roots of the landmark tree in the Norland site next door until the landscaping had been completed;  and requiring the landscaping to adhere to the layout defined in 11/05409/COND.  When these Conditions were ignored by the Applicant, an Enforcement Notice was raised which required the landscaping to be delivered.  We pointed out that because these Conditions were the requirements of the Secretary of State, a Local Planning Authority did not have the authority to override them until they had been delivered in full.
The original scheme was subsequently amended taking the upper storey off the garage, and we repeated our objection in principle.  It therefore comes as a surprise that according to the applicant's latest email the Case Officer agreed to revisions to the proposal;  revisions for which we have just been notified we have three weeks to comment on.  Of course we will reiterate our objection in principle, but in view of the Government's current Coronavirus advice that those from different households need to maintain "social distancing" of at least 2 metres, the rump of the garden between the flats and the fence marking the proposed development is insufficient for the residents of 14 flats to share, yet it is supposed to be a communal garden.  Perhaps in the current climate this unauthorised truncated garden deserves a Health and Safety investigation.
Bath Quays Bridge - Last updated 17 May 2020.
The first two parts of the bridge arrived as forecast on 12 May.  The Chronicle published photographs of it though they seemed to be more interested in a lack of PPE and social distancing than the bridge itself.  The remainder of the bridge should arrive on 19th May.
The arrival provoked questions about why the contract wasn't let to a British company.  The council has explained that they opted for "best value" and as the tender process is going to be Commercial-In-Confidence we will probably never know how that was arrived at.  We can say that until 31 December 2020 the UK must follow EU regulations and they include an obligation to give any company in the EU the right to respond to a UK tender invitation, and the UK cannot show a preference for any one or group of EU states while evaluating the tenders submitted.
Impact of Student Accommodation - Last updated 3 May 2020.
In this week's Chronicle is a report that the coronavirus could leave the council with a significant budget deficit.  This is partly due to the income generating facilities like the Roman Baths being closed as part of the coronavirus lock down, but there will be other consequences if the lack of tourists is looked at from a wider perspective.
The council's own officers are repeatedly warning the planners that Bath is already over-subscribed for hotel bedrooms, yet more and more hotels which are not needed are applying for and receiving planning permission.  The lack of tourists must by threatening the future of many existing hotels and guest houses; and the lack of tourists spending money must be putting a strain of retail and restaurant businesses.  The hotels permitted but where work is not yet completed provides an ideal opportunity to land-bank sites, removing any leverage the council might have had to allocate those sites for what is really needed, which is family homes and social housing.
Watchdog has been concerned for some time about the amount of student bedrooms being approved, because too many areas are becoming socially unbalanced by replacing permanent residents with students.  Whilst there is now some legal limitation on converting more domestic properties into HMOs, they are still being approved on the fringes of the excluded areas, and there seems to be no restriction on how much Purpose Built Student Accommodation is permitted, despite the evidence that there is so much already built that rooms applied for as student accommodation are being advertised for holiday lets and "AirBNB" accommodation.  The council needs to bear in mind that if they had not been so ready to say "Yes" to student accommodation, they could have had other uses for those sites and received a Council Tax or Business Rate income from them which would have reduced the current deficit.  Perhaps this is the time to introduce a policy of refusing all applications for student accommodation, and all applications for further hotels on the grounds that they are now unaffordable to the council budget.
Virtual Library - Last updated 3 May 2020.
While looking for other information for this week's website update, we came upon details of how the council's library service is dealing with Covid-19 and their how to install suitable software and how to use it advice from a PC (other devices will be similar).  After that the reader can go straight to the lists of publications supported by the library; this is the featured book list.
Strictly speaking, this is outside the Watchdog remit, but we have members who are considered vulnerable and are being shielded at home and this information might be useful to them.
Mineral Water Hospital - Last updated 5 April 2020.
The Chronicle reports that following nearly 100 objections to the Applications to convert the Mineral Water Hospital into a hotel, the design has been modified, reducing the height and appearance of the proposed extension, and reducing the number of rooms from 190 to 167.
The applicants claim that their alterations produce a design that "enhances the significance of this important Grade II* listed heritage asset".  This just proves that they simply do not understand the significance of a II* listing.  To qualify for a II* recognition, the Secretary of State has to regard the whole building (not just part of it) as one of the best 5% heritage assets in the country.  That is why anything proposed which demolishes any part of the listed structure should be wholly exceptional and only permissible if it provides public benefit which exceeds the loss of heritage.  No hotel will meet that criterion.  Therefore, as the Bath Preservation Trust point out, if the building is to be converted into a hotel, it must do so within the building as it currently exists.
Everybody who objected before needs to object again, pointing this out.
Sydney Gardens - Last updated 22 March 2020.
The planning applications for Sydney Gardens were given planning permission this week.  Although we had recognised that maintenance of the railway structures through Sydney Gardens were the responsibility of Network Rail, and we had agreed with Network Rail that the necessary repairs and maintenance would be delivered as part of the electrification work, we were concerned that when the electrification scheme was postponed the maintenance work appeared to have been postponed with it.  For that reason, we had recommended that the council and Network Rail agreed to a programme of maintenance aligned to the completion date for the restoration of Sydney Gardens, as a public benefit to offset the harm to the listed Gardens, as defined in the NPPF.
In evaluating the planning applications, the Case Officer assessed that the substantial public benefits from the additional features being added to the Gardens more than offset the less than substantial harm to the heritage asset (mainly caused by the encouragement in the Equalities Act to improve accessibility), and therefore the restoration of the railway structures need not be conditioned to obtain public benefit.  Although disappointing, we cannot argue against that conclusion, and we are encouraged by the report that discussions between council, Historic England and Network Rail are already taking place on a voluntary basis and will continue.
More on Student Accommodation - Last updated 15 March 2020.
Bath City Football Club.  The Chronicle reports that the planning application was refused by the Planning Committee.  There were the inevitable complaints about the decision, but Twerton is within the World Heritage boundary, and the description of the World Heritage City is that buildings are of a human scale.  Seven stories of student accommodation amidst an area which is predominately two or three stories should never have been proposed, and that alone would have been justification for refusal.  An environmentally unfriendly pitch and streets unsuited to the transport needs of over 300 additional students are additional nails in the coffin.  There were the expected protests that 800 letters of support were not heeded, but it is not a popularity contest, and  the planning regulations require decisions to be made purely on planning policy grounds.  This was a good decision;  if the football club wanted to secure planning permission, it should have proposed a development which could be approved.
Former Hartwells Site.  The Chronicle reports that the planning application was refused, contrary to the Case Officer's recommendation to "Delegate to Permit".  Despite the large site being available for development, there was not enough affordable housing proposed, and what there was consisted of apartments when the characteristic of the surrounding area is for properties with private gardens.  Even the properties which were not for students were apartments, and the limited parking provided was all in one place so that it would have been a tidy walk in the rain with shopping bags for those living there.  The student accommodation produced the usual unproven claim that it would release HMOs back to housing, when those who live near HMOs know that the internals of HMOs have been modified to cram in as many students as possible and are now unsuitable for normal housing.  Also, the Core Strategy requires new student accommodation to be provided on campus, not in Newbridge.  This looks like a "tick box" development rather than a planned community, and refusing it was a good decision.
Student Accommodation - Last updated 8 March 2020.
Although we didn't comment on either of them (there were so many other public comments covering our concerns that we had nothing new to add), both the Bath City Football Club and the Hartwells Site applications include student accommodation, and both Committee Reports include an assumption that an S.106 agreement will ensure that students occupying the accommodation can be banned from bringing a car to Bath.
As we mentioned last week in the context of the Plumb Centre (see below), the High Court judgment EWHC 4084 (2015) established the principle that Section 106 agreements could not restrict the lawful activities of a tenant beyond the boundary of the development in question, so a "No Car" policy is now worthless because Case Law overrides it.  We have therefore brought the Case Law to the attention of the Ward Councillor for Twerton.  Effectively the High Court has interpreted the S.106 clause in the legislation that specifically identifies "the site" as being wholly contained within the application boundary.  Anything outside the boundary (for instance a "No Car" restriction) is outside the scope of S.106 and cannot be part of a planning agreement or a planning Condition.
EWHC 4084 was not a Bath court case, it merely exposed the general principle of where a planning application ends.  It is perhaps worth noting though that EWHC 4084 resulted in the associated planning permission being quashed because the S.106 document strayed outside the scope of S106.
Unusual Appeal - Last updated 8 March 2020.
Jones the Bootmaker has appealed the refusal of advertising consent 19/04327/AR but not the associated listed building application 19/04347/LBA which was also refused.  So even if the appeal succeeds, there will be no permission to install the signage on the listed building.  From the Appeal Inspector's point of view, both planning refusals ought to be considered together because an appeal against just one is a waste of time.  The signs have already been installed, so unless there is an appeal against the listed building refusal before the window of opportunity expires early in June, an enforcement notice can be issued to remove the unauthorised signage.
Bath Preservation Trust - Last updated 1 March 2020.
Although she is not leaving her job of Chief Executive of the Bath Preservation Trust until July, Caroline Kay has just announced that she is leaving so that the Trustees have time to arrange a replacement.
We wish her well in whatever she chooses to do next.  We have had an excellent working relationship with her, and hope that her replacement keeps similar lines of communication open.
Cleveland Bridge - Last updated 1 March 2020.
The Chronicle reports that the Government has provided the money needed for the Cleveland Bridge repairs out of their "Highways Maintenance" fund.  It will ensure that there is no undue delay in starting the repair work.
However, we doubt that police spot checks will be sufficient to keep over-weight lorries from using the bridge, and although the number using the bridge is significantly reduced, there are still some who have been seen going over the bridge when they shouldn't.  When there were traffic restrictions in Combe Down while the stone quarries were stabilised, there were width limits as well as weight limits and these proved successful.  Something similar coupled with ANPR cameras to collect the registration numbers of offenders should avoid any risk of a heavy lorry and part of a weakened bridge ending up in the Avon.
Plumb Centre, Locksbrook Road - Last updated 1 March 2020.
There have been a lot of support comments for the Genesis Gym in the last week, which emphasise that the gym is a valuable local asset.  What all of them overlook is that the gym is currently operating, and if the application is refused it will remain open.  However, if the application is approved, the current gym will be closed down and demolished along with the Plumb Centre and there will be a hiatus while the site is cleared, the new construction erected and fitted out so that the gym can be re-opened.  We wonder where the enthusiasts for the gym are going to go for their exercise in the months when it doesn't exist?  They also seem to have overlooked the fact that the student accommodation will result in students parking their cars in the area:  our assessment that a restriction is unenforceable has now been reinforced by Case Law after the High Court judgment EWHC 4084 (2015) established the principle that Section 106 agreements could not restrict the lawful activities of a tenant beyond the boundary of the development in question, so a "No Car" policy is now worthless because Case Law overrides it.  Some of the gym users travel a distance and if the planning application succeeds they are likely to find there is nowhere to park when they arrive.
Fairfield Arms - Last updated 23 February 2020.
Although we did not specifically object to the planning application we noted that what we would have objected to was amply covered by those 187 objectors who did.
We are pleased to see that the planning decision recognised the importance of retaining this community asset and refused permission on that and five other grounds for refusal.
Student Accommodation - Last updated 16 February 2020.
The public consultation that was mentioned in a Chronicle Item did take place, and the feedback we received is that exhibitors would talk about the plans for the redevelopment of the Regency Laundry building which were on display but they appeared deaf to the criticisms of the scheme from the public.  The proposal is to replace it with Purpose Built Student Accommodation, an idea which didn't go down well.  It is expected that a planning application will be lodged in a month or so.
After the exhibition the Chronicle has published another article which makes it clear that the usual lie that a PBSA will alleviate pressure on HMOs came from the developer, when everybody knows that the council has a policy that PBSAs must not provide parking, and that makes HMOs the destination of preference for any student intending to arrive with a car, a cheaper option with a greater luggage carrying capability than public transport.  We have been informed (though we haven't checked if it is true) that the PBSAs currently in existence have spare student accommodation which in total exceeds the number proposed for the Regency Cleaners site.  If it is true, then the claims that the new development "will provide much needed accommodation" appears to be wishful thinking.
The Core Strategy is specific that in future the Universities are supposed to provide additional student accommodation on campus.  This has been largely ignored by the council and the universities, and the University of Bath even had the brass neck to get planning permission for Wessex Building to be student accommodation, and then after it was built it was converted into offices and the council did nothing about it until it was out of time to enforce changing it back to student accommodation.
The public comments associated with the Chronicle article are mostly against the proposals.  We hope that as many as possible make their feelings known to the council when the planning application is eventually raised.  Our recent Neighbourhood Balance item (below) makes our position clear.
Meanwhile the planning application for the Co-op Scala is our new one for this week, and that also includes student accommodation.
Planning Website - Last updated 2 February 2020.
We had no warning that the planning website was going to be updated so this weeks alterations came as a surprise, and we haven't had time to exhaustively test the new presentation to see if it behaves like the previous format.  We have ensured that the links on the Watchdog website still deliver the same information, as far as possible in the revised format, but we are still unsure whether the Weekly List facility is exactly the same as we used previously, and we have already expressed our disappointment that the map occupies far too much of the screen when it is the words which we think are more important.
Neighbourhood balance - Last updated 2 February 2020.
There have been a couple of Chronicle articles about the proportion of student accommodation in Bath, based on letters submitted.  One was last week and another is this week.  The gist of both is that there are already more than enough student beds and the council should not approve any more.  We recognise that the council is required to make planning decisions in accordance with council policy, but that doesn't mean that they have to approve everything that is applied for.
The Core Strategy expects universities to provide student accommodation on campus, and this can, if the council wishes, be interpreted as accommodation for students for the duration of their course, and not just for the first year.  The council also has a policy of maintaining a balance of population types in any area, so this can be used to refuse more Purpose Built Student Accommodation anywhere in Bath, because the City of Bath now has a greater proportion of students to non-students than any of the places reputed to have a large number of students which we have examined as comparisons; even the Gleaming Spires" of Oxford have a lower percentage of students than Bath has.
It is also worth debunking a few assumptions.  The calculation in the "Government Grant" that councils are reimbursed for the loss of council tax from Student accommodation is no longer applicable, so every student HMO or PBSA is a demand on council services and a loss of council income that a normal residence would generate.  The assumed student numbers in the Local plan are dreadfully underestimated.  According to the figures quoted on the University of Bath website, just their numbers last year were more than double the estimate of the total student population of both universities in 2020 used to inform the Local Plan; and the best figures we could find for the University of Bath were that in 2017 that university was only a few students short of the total council estimate for 2020.  Nevertheless, so much PBSA accommodation has been approved that there are vacant beds to be had.  At least one of the PBSA's has advertised AirBNB rooms available.
The council's assumption is that because the Universities limit the number of cars allowed in, there will not be a need for parking for student cars, yet a car is cheaper than public transport for home to Bath journeys and more luggage can be carried, so whether a car can be used for travel to university is irrelevant.  It only needs a comparison to be made during term time and out of term time to assess just how many student cars are taking up residential parking spaces, and the clause in the tenancy agreements that cars will not be brought to Bath is therefore completely ineffective.  Finally, once a HMO has been recognised as an HMO, owners are then applying for extensions in order to cram in even more students, and if given consent the house that was once a family residence is modified so that it can never afterwards be a family home and the assumption that PBSAs will release an HMO back to residential use is just a soundbite that will never be delivered.
Whilst we can show that it is possible with current policies to refuse further student accommodation of any type, we are not optimistic that it will be heeded.  After all, the council's estimates of the number of hotel and guest house rooms needed in future had already been exceeded when further hotel accommodation has been given permission, against Departmental advice.  It does look as though the planners are afraid to say "No".
The Rec - Last updated 26 January 2020.
Court Case.  We have been notified that the High Court hearing to decide whether the 1922 Covenant on the Rec which forbade the erection of any building for the purposes of trade or business which could be a nuisance to the neighbourhood is still current and enforceable, originally arranged for 6th February 2020, has been postponed, at least until March but possibly as late as April 2020.
We wonder whether the Claimant is having second thoughts.  Between the court case being threatened and today there have been Tribunal hearings to clarify for the Charity Commission how the charitable land should be handled.  This has resulted in a definition of the exact land area that Bath Rugby is allowed to use until the expiry or surrender of the 1995 lease, plus the definition of the size and position of the temporary extension of that area to accommodate the East Stand for nine months of each year with the requirement that for the remaining three consecutive summer months the grass surfaces must be restored in a condition suitable for playing sports or leisure uses.  Furthermore the Trustees are required to limit their use of the land swap ability to land defined in the 1995 lease, and lasting for no longer than that lease has left to run.  The Trustees must also not show any undue preference for any sport or organisation and not use the Recreation Ground otherwise than as an open space;  and they are required to accompany any variation of the 1995 lease (which cannot have its expiry date extended) with a Condition that Bath Rugby Club must "minimise disruption to local residents and to users of the charity's land".  This takes the 1922 Covenant a bit further, because "disruption" has a wider scope than just building on the Rec and also covers parking problems, litter and anti-social behaviour.  Effectively, the subsequent legal clarifications have rendered irrelevant whether the High Court decides the 1922 Covenant should be nullified or retained.  The legal proceedings have also required the Trustees to not allow any structure on the open space of the Rec outside of the 1995 leased area plus the nine-monthly use of a defined additional area for the temporary East Stand.
Planning Applications.  In the new applications this week are applications from Bath Rugby to extend the temporary permissions currently held but due to expire later this year.  Some may wonder when a temporary arrangement goes on too long and effectively seems permanent, but our research suggests that there is no suitable alternative under current planning law.  Both the 1st Tier and 2nd Tier Tribunals did not express an opinion on whether or not the 1995 lease expiring in May 2070 was appropriately agreed, which leaves the Trustees free to argue in the courts that it was not appropriate and should be nullified, but realistically they are unlikely to do that and lose the income from the lease and also expose the council to a damages claim from the beneficiaries of the lease.
Planning permissions for building work are permanent, so the council as "Custodian Trustee" under the Public Trustee Act 1906 cannot be a manager of the Trust land but cannot by action or inaction prevent the Trustees from carrying out their duties.  Therefore temporary permissions must be given for a stand that has to be removed for three consecutive summer months each year but is allowed to be erected each year for the next 50 years "in association with the lease" if the leaseholder chooses.  Similarly, those buildings which were in place when the 1995 lease was agreed are only supposed to remain until the lease expires in 2070, but any additional building work must be given temporary permissions so that the Trustees can return the Rec to an open space at the end of the lease.  When the 1906 Act and the 1990 Act are mismatched, temporary permissions are the easiest practical arrangement.  We shall examine the renewal requests to make sure they are not outside the areas over which Bath Rugby has a lease or Tribunal agreement to use, but we will not be criticising the temporary nature of the permissions sought.
Sydney Gardens - Last updated 19 January 2020.
Our first look at the Sydney Gardens planning applications shows that they are reassuringly similar to the proposals discussed at previous consultation events.  However the restoration of the gardens with the aid of lottery funding will not fully recreate the leisure garden character if a number of "visitor attractions" in the form of the views of the railway which Brunel created specially to entertain users of Sydney Gardens continue to show the neglect currently visible.
We had a verbal agreement with Network Rail that the cast iron pedestrian overbridge would be restored as part of the electrification of the line.  Whilst electrification has not yet taken place, the bridge remains a listed structure and as such the current state of neglect cannot be left indefinitely.  It is the last Brunel cast iron bridge on the line and it therefore must be maintained in good condition.  Technically this should have been classed as maintenance rather than being deferred with the electrification work.
Buddleia rootsLikewise, Network Rail have cut back some (but not all:  the Beckford Road Bridge is untouched) of the vegetation growing on the listed railway structures as part of their trackside clearance work.  However they do not appear to have made any attempt to kill the plants, they are merely pruned, and will regrow.  We discovered in the past that a similar cutting back exercise near Bath Spa station encouraged regrowth and until Network Rail complied with our request to kill and remove the Buddleia, its powerful roots continued to damage the structure it was growing from.  The same future damage will occur in Sydney Gardens.  This picture shows the stump of one of the bushes, left behind after the pruning, and illustrates the damage to the listed stone which the growth has already caused, and there are other similar examples and damaged stone elsewhere in Sydney Gardens.  This and other cut back bushes in Sydney Gardens need to be killed, removed and the root damage made good.  Network Rail had already agreed to do this work in their Electrification workshops and again these are maintenance issues rather than electrification dependent.
It is unfortunate that the recent application from Network Rail (19/03211/LBA) was given consent before the recent pruning of the Buddleia took place, because that application would have been an ideal place to add a condition that trackside vegetation on listed structures should be killed and removed rather than being cut back.  There are currently no other planning applications from Network Rail where such a condition can now be added, but the current Sydney Gardens applications have been submitted by the council, and it is possible to add a Condition to those applications when given consent, that the council agrees with Network Rail a maintenance programme of vegetation removal and restoration of listed railway structures within Sydney Gardens, to be completed within the timescale of the activities in the applications being given consent.  Whilst the work in Sydney Gardens is claimed to be an overall improvement, there are nevertheless some parts of it which under a recent High Court clarification (The Bradford Case) leaves the work in the less than substantial harm category and Paragraph 196 of the NPPF expects some public benefit to be provided to offset it.  Maintenance and repair of listed structures is that public benefit.
Cleveland Bridge - Last updated 12 January 2020.
Watchdog supported the repairs to the Grade II* listed Cleveland Bridge, but expressed our concern that when the delay between identifying that repairs were needed (apparently the defects were serious) and plans being submitted to carry out the repairs spans a gap of several years, the probability that some of the defects may have got worse needs to be borne in mind.  That comment seems to have got us onto the list of those to be kept up to date on developments.
We have now received a copy of an information notice informing operators of large goods vehicles and coaches that from 3 February 2020 there will be a weight limit of 18 Tonnes on Cleveland Bridge and alternative routes for over-weight vehicles will be indicated by "Diversion" signs.  As a policy, making sure that the heaviest lorries (up to 44 tonnes) should not go over the bridge, is sensible.  However, it is not uncommon to read of large lorries taking unsuitable routes when following their SatNav, and the Cleveland Bridge will still be shown as a normal route on any SatNav that has not been updated.  Therefore we recommend that ANPR cameras are set up to monitor the bridge and any vehicles that do not observe the new weight restriction are pursued.  That approach will convince operators that the restrictions must be observed.
There are mixed feelings about the published weight limit.  However when we took into account that the fire station is just south of the bridge and a fire engine full of water would weigh just under 18 tonnes, it does seem sensible to allow the shortest route to Fairfield Park and Larkhall, at least until work on the bridge makes this weight undesirable.
Website Statistics - Last updated 5 January 2020.
For the first update of 2020 we have produced our usual "End of year" report of our activities during 2019.
Like last year we have also examined the continued loss of family homes as they are converted into HMOs.  We have also looked into what the planning legislation says and have identified a number of issues arising last year from the council's failure to comply.
The Bath Rugby Plans - Last updated 15 December 2019.
In our item on Bath Rugby's plans for the Rec on 10 November 2019, we pointed out that there are many legal obstacles to their plans.  Nevertheless there seems to be a concerted effort to impoverish those who would oppose the plans.  To strengthen the arm of the affected residents who are prepared to attend court to prevent decisions being made in default, we have been provided with an appeal for a "show of hands" in the form of a trivial sum towards those residents because the number of supporters is considered to be important.
We have responded to the appeal and hope that others reading this will follow the link, read the explanation, and do the same.
More "Garden Grabbing" - Last updated 8 December 2019.
On 3 November 2019 (for Application 19/01391/FUL - see below) we pointed out the planning objections to building in the garden of Kennet House.  Along similar lines there is a new application 19/04909/FUL this week for another development in a garden, this time at 43 Upper Oldfield Park.
Aside from the NPPF specifically excluding residential gardens as "previously developed land" or "potential windfall sites", this property is also covered by an Enforcement Notice which attempts to complete a set of condition attached to an Appeal Decision, that nobody should be allowed to live in Number 43 until the landscaping scheme for the shared garden has been delivered, and that the entrance from the site onto Junction Road should not be used.  It is also part of the Conditions of the Appeal decision that the root protection area for the protected pine tree should continue to be fenced until the landscape scheme is installed and only arboriculture or landscape works can be approved within it with building, plant or any storage use of the area forbidden, and if that expectation had been met it would have physically prevented the construction of part of this new proposal.
The Conditions were laid down by the Planning Inspectorate which is part of central Government, so it is a moot point whether a Local Planning Authority can approve anything which undermines or contradicts the requirements of central Government.  The fact that the applicant has so far ignored all the Conditions attached to the Appeal decision that Charters could be built does not remove the requirement to deliver them, which is what the Enforcement Notice set out to do.  We hope that the planners will refuse this latest application on that basis and ban all future alternative use of the area required to be a shared garden, permanently retained.  We would not expect any appeal against such a refusal to be treated favourably by the Planning Inspectorate after their previous decision was treated with such contempt.
Visitor accommodation - Last updated 1 December 2019.
Bath is being targeted by an advertising campaign encouraging more Airbnb properties.  Meanwhile, Royal National Hospital For Rheumatic Diseases (still known locally as the Mineral Water Hospital) has submitted planning applications to convert the buildings into a 169 bedroom hotel.
Taking those in order, we have had reports from some living near student HMOs that some have not remained empty during the summer months this year and that the people seen moving in and out during August did not look in the right age group to be students and seemed to have stayed for a week before being replaced by others.  The assumption being made is that these are likely to be holiday lets, whether Airbnb or not.  Student HMOs are exempt from Council Tax and Holiday Lets are not, so we think that student HMO licences should either ban the use of the building by anyone other than students, or else some arrangement needs to be made for charging Council Tax for those two months when the students are not in residence and the property is available for other uses.  The council should look into this as a matter of urgency.
Watchdog has maintained for some time that Bath is saturated with cafes and restaurants and that each new one that opens is either followed after a relatively short interval by another similar business closing down or the new venture fails.  The same problem now seems to be growing in the hotel and guest house sector.  Airbnb use must take trade away from existing Bed and Breakfast and Self Catering properties in Bath, and hotels will soon be vying for the insufficient number of visitors compared to the number of available bedrooms.  The council's Case Officer looking at the planning application for Bath College's Allen Building noted that other hotel developments previously approved and in some cases now taking guests would satisfy the forecast growth in tourist bed requirements at least until 2025.  Despite the Allen Building already having permission (from Application 17/01588/FUL) for conversion into offices for which there was a "pressing need", the planning committee approved the demolition and replacement of the Allen Building by a 198-bedroom hotel which they were advised would all be surplus to requirements.  Now add the plans for the 169 bedrooms proposed for "The Min" and if approved the total supply will exceed the 2025 demand by almost 50% and even the 2030 forecast demand will be considerably exceeded.  Hotels and Bed and Breakfast properties which fail as a result will produce quite a shortfall in business rates.
Homebase Site - Last updated 24 November 2019.
One of the new decisions published today was Application 19/04643/DEM which came to the conclusion that prior approval is not required.  This conclusion is contradicted by the latest issue of the National Planning Policy Framework which clearly indicates that the impact on the World Heritage Site must be taken into account.
Section 184 of the NPPF states:  "Heritage assets range from sites and buildings of local historic value to those of the highest significance, such as World Heritage Sites which are internationally recognised to be of Outstanding Universal Value.  These assets are an irreplaceable resource, and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations".  Section 194 of the NPPF clarifies:  "Any harm to, or loss of, the significance of a designated heritage asset (from its alteration or destruction, or from development within its setting), should require clear and convincing justification. Substantial harm to or loss of:  assets of the highest significance, notably ... World Heritage Sites, should be wholly exceptional".  (The underlines are our emphasis).
Demolition in a World Heritage Site is clearly outside the scope of the Permitted Development relaxation of planning controls.  When there is no approved replacement for what is to be demolished, a derelict site clearly visible from many places within the World Heritage Site must be classified as substantial harm, and as such the Local Code of Corporate Governance requires "Using formal and informal consultation and engagement to determine the most appropriate and effective interventions/courses of action".  Tourists don't expect to see weeds and rubble behind heras fencing from the viewpoints they are guided to.  Furthermore, because of the impact on the World Heritage Site and the significant size and location of the plot, it is required (by Government pre-decision planning guidance) that ICOMOS(UK) should have been consulted and offer their opinion, and that did not happen.
It also appears that the building is a "specified building" because Application 15/02153/VAR was given planning permission without a time limit which has so far been unfulfilled, and therefore Permitted Development is not permitted according to Section B.1.(c).  The Officer's Delegated Report does not mention this.
Section 97 of the Town And Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority to revoke a permission given:  "If it appears to the local planning authority that it is expedient to revoke or modify any permission to develop land granted on an application made under this Part, the authority may by order revoke or modify the permission to such extent as they consider expedient".  In this case, there are material considerations;  it seems justified because no consideration was given to the preservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site, and no recognition was given to a previously approved planning application which is still current and has not been delivered.  We recommend that Section 97 action is considered as a matter of urgency, before the bulldozers move in.  Demolition should only take place as part of a planning permission granted for further development of the site.
Facadism - Last updated 17 November 2019.
The publication of the book "The Creeping Plague Of Ghastly Facadism" (ISBN 099574016X for those wishing to buy a copy) by The Gentle Author on 31 October 2019 is the culmination of an on-line blog followed by lecture events.  It is primarily a gallery of the most notorious examples of facadism (often referred to in the architectural press as "Deathmasking") in the Spitalfields area of London.  After its publication, the BBC and various architectural websites have picked out samples from the 122 page book, and some of them echo planning decisions and surviving facades in Bath.
We have put some of the Gentle Author photos alongside Bath examples in a Facadism section of our Public Realm web page.
The Bath Rugby Plans - Last updated 10 November 2019.
The Chronicle reports that a Residents Association has issues with the quality of the information provided by the Stadium for Bath team.  In reply, the applicants state:  "It is our intention that all Pulteney Estate residents are informed with factual information so that they may make informed decisions regarding the project."
Perhaps they would like to start the factual information by quoting the expectations of the Tribunal looking into (and endorsing) the Scheme proposed by the Charity Commission.  It said:
Trustees shall ensure that the land made available under any agreement with Bath Rugby for the site of the East Stand and for any other use that restricts free public access to, or the use of, any part of the Recreation Ground as open space, shall not exceed in surface size the maximum extent of any grant that has been approved by the Commission for the erection of the East Stand on a temporary basis since 2002 (which the Upper Tribunal clarified as 1042 square metres).  All such land shall be returned to open space and made available to the Charity for its own purposes for a least three consecutive months in the summer of each year in a condition that permits the playing of other sports for the full three month period.
This was further clarified by the Charity Commission:
The objects of the charity are the provision, with or without charge, of land in or near Bath, including but not limited to the Bath Recreation Ground, for use as outdoor recreational facilities for the benefit of the public at large and in particular for use for games and sports of all kinds, tournaments, fetes, shows, exhibitions, displays, amusements, entertainments or other activities of a like character and the maintenance, equipment or lay out as the trustees shall think fit of such land and always provided that
(i) the charity shall not show any undue preference to or in favour of any particular game or sport or any particular person, club, body or organisation, and
(ii) the charity shall not use the Bath Recreation Ground otherwise than as an open space.
In summary, the Rugby Club is restricted to the use of the area defined in the 1995 lease plus temporary use of 1042 square metres where the East Stand can be erected for nine consecutive months of a year, a concession that has temporary planning permission from 15/05237/FUL which expires on 30 May 2020.  The Trustees are forbidden by the objects of the Charity to allow any construction on any other part of the Bath Recreation Ground, because that must be retained as an open space.
That is factual information, all in the public domain.  It remains to be seen whether Stadium for Bath do inform the Pulteney Estate residents of it.
Planning Application Updates - Last updated 3 November 2019.
There are a couple of new submission documents on existing open planning applications which merit further comment:
Land North Of Kennet House (19/01391/FUL).  Historic England have commented on the revisions to the original plans, pointing out that their advice to the earlier submission has not been followed up.  Their advice was to consider whether any type of new dwelling could be erected on this site without adverse consequences.  In the absence of such considerations the advice has now been turned into a specific objection, and the use of the word "object" gives them the legal right to ask the Secretary of State to call in the application for ministerial consideration if the planning committee is inclined to give consent.
The Chivers House Site (18/03797/FUL).  In March 2019 the planning application was considered by the then Development Management Committee, and despite detailed objections (quoting reasons from planning policy documentation) from Planning Policy, Economic Development, Housing, Highways, Urban Design, Landscape, Arboriculture, and Conservation, alongside specific advice from the Viability Assessor that some level of affordable housing is viable, and a specific warning from Historic England that "Landmark" buildings in the Western Riverside development were intended to be exceptional and not a yardstick for other developments and therefore the potential impact of the views of this development on the wider area of the World Heritage Site and Conservation area needs to be given great weight, the Committee ignored all this advice and recommended approval for the flimsy reasons the Minutes record.
A new drawing has been lodged in the last week addressing the minimum viable affordable housing criticism but nothing else.  It is not clear whether the new drawing should allow additional comments.  The website page says the comment period is closed, but the Customer Charter says that the public are allowed 14 days for additional comments.  Our "Make Comment" link on the Full Set page still gives access to the comment form for those who want to comment.
The fact that despite insisting that affordable housing could not be provided it became possible once the council consultant challenged it, does raise some doubts about whether other claims can be taken at face value, and whether some of the original DMC Members might have given too much weight to the applicants claims and too little to their own council specialists. Eight specialist Council Departments specifically objected to the plans and none focused on affordable housing, which shows that there are significant planning policy reasons to refuse still not addressed.  We think that because no planning decision has been issued yet, it would be sensible for the entire planning application to be re-considered by the new Planning Committee set up since the Local Elections.
More False Reporting of the Rec Plans - Last updated 27 October 2019.
In a new Chronicle article it is claimed that "the ownership is still being disputed" when the question was cleared up long ago.  In 2002, an Appeal in the High Court recognised that when the Rec was purchased in 1953 by the (then) Bath council, the terms of the sale made it clear that the Rec was intended to be charitable land protected by covenants accepted as part of the transfer of ownership, and it recognised the lease of 17 October 1933 allowed the use of 3.7 acres at the western end of the Rec as a football ground for amateur matches.  That ownership transferred to Avon County Council and then to Bath and North East Somerset Council.
On 24 April 2014, the First Tier Tribunal (Charity) cherry-picked a bit on what it thought was important in the 2002 Judgment but stopped short of arguing against it, and officially defined the council as "Custodian Trustee" under the Public Trustee Act 1906 of the land transferred to the council in 1956.  This makes the council the permanent holder of the Trust land but without the authority to manage it.  That role goes to the Trustee arrangement set up by the Charity Commission, with no Trustee able to serve more than two consecutive 3-year terms.  This original ruling was further clarified by the Upper Tribunal (Tax And Chancery Chamber) on 18 May 2015 which increased the amount of additional land that can be occupied by the temporary East Stand by 6 square metres and required the East Stand space to be reverted to open land for three consecutive months in the summer.  All this is in the public domain;  we found it with internet searches, and the Chronicle could have done the same.
Also in the documentation we found is the ability of the Trustees to arrange a land swap, but only for the land described in the lease of 1995 which was to allow the professional Bath Rugby to continue to occupy the pitch and buildings previously used by the amateur rugby team.  The objective of the potential swap (which isn't compulsory but if it takes place it will expire on the end date of the 1995 lease) was to allow the option of other open land to be made available to the public to compensate for the business use of the west end of the Rec, because the 1995 lease would otherwise have to be declared as in breach of the Trust objects and the covenants on the Rec that it shall not be used other than an open space.
One thing is abundantly clear:  the Trustees are barred by the Charity Commission supported by the 2014 Court Order, from agreeing to any building or construction on the land outside of the 3.7 acres allowed in the original transfer of the Rec because the objects of the charity forbid it.  Likewise, planning permission for any such building or construction cannot be granted by the council without the council being in breach of Trust and therefore in breach of two separate Court Orders.  Legally, the idea of a stadium on the Rec is a dead duck because the series of legal rulings ensure that a Judicial Review will quash any planning permission, yet it continues to be promoted.
Homebase Site Consultation - Last updated 20 October 2019.
As a result of a planning application (which resulted in a decision that an EIA was not required because it dismissed the flood risk on old information despite the Environment Agency updating the 100-year level, and which did not check how the proposals would impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site) it is apparent that over-high buildings of the type that the UNESCO Mission to Bath was vehemently opposed to are expected to be proposed (the World Heritage Site is supposed to consist of buildings of "human scale").  It looks as though the residences are predominately one and two bedroom apartments, of which there is already an over-supply because Crest Nicholson changed their Western Riverside plans and what would have been a terrace of houses and gardens is now a block of apartments, now almost finished.  What Bath is left short of is 3-bedroom houses with gardens, for families.  The public reaction has been largely unfavourable.
The site owner, reported to be Guild Living, has not reassured anybody when their spokesperson refers to "any future redevelopment" rather than the scheme being shown to the public, and then "aspiring to deliver a unique retirement community" (our emphases) in buildings that are too tall to be attractive to those old enough to retire.  The elderly are wary of living in anything higher than ground or first floor because of the fears of being trapped upstairs in the event of a power cut disabling the lifts or a fire below them leaving them out of reach of the available fire service ladder.  We looked up Guild Living in the Companies Register and it is described as "Activities of other holding companies not elsewhere classified", it has existed for less than a year and has just one Director.  It looks like it might be a public front for another business.
It is also worth noting that the Hinton Garage site was given planning permission for a very similar retirement scheme (which they called "Assisted Living"), the garage was demolished and the land has remained derelict ever since.  In conjunction with the verdict of the Judicial Review of the extension of the Cedar Park Care Home which has accompanying evidence which showed that currently there is a small over-supply of beds; whether they are called care, assisted living or retirement does nothing to change the public impression that there is no requirement for the facilities about to be exhibited and something else will be built instead or the site will just be land banked in the expectation that it could be sold on for a profit at a later date.
If Homebase has chosen not to renew the lease, it doesn't alter the fact that this is a serviceable building with a fair sized car park, and the site could be easily reused for another retail operation.  Our view is that nothing should be demolished until a planning permission is granted for a change of use and a specific replacement design is approved.
Bath Rugby - Last updated 13 October 2019.
We were curious about how the planning application, for Bath Rugby's request for a decision on whether an Environmental Impact Statement was necessary for a development on the Rec, fitted in with the reported feedback on their exhibition which made it clear that there would be an impact, thus leaving open the question about why bother to ask when the answer was already known?
Then we wondered what the Scheme for the charity Bath Recreation Ground said the objectives of the charity were, so we obtained a copy of the Scheme.  We summarised that research in an item on our The Rec page.  In a nutshell the Trustees are obliged to keep every part of the Rec as open land apart from the areas occupied by the Bath Sports and Leisure Centre and the area leased to Bath Rugby in 1995, and they can be sued if they commit a breach of that trust.  Then we looked at the obligations of the council as "Custodian Trustee" and discovered that they were immune from being sued unless they condoned the breach of Trust, which would be obvious if they give planning permission for anything built on what should be open land.  The planning legislation treats Local Authorities as a single unit, so the Custodian Trustee is guilty of condoning a breach of trust if the Planning Committee or any staff using delegated authority grant planning permission for a development on land required to be kept as open land.
Thus Bath Rugby is entitled to ask for planning permission, but the council will be in breach of trust if the response is yes.
Recreation Ground - Last updated 6 October 2019.
We have been informed that the Crowdfunding page has been refreshed and will now remain current for nearly a month.  We are happy to continue to draw attention to their Crowdfunding scheme which is gathering funds to set up a legal challenge.
The crowdfunding page is, and it has already passed the validation sum milestone, so all sums now offered will be recorded on the website.
One of the group is also collecting messages of support, so whether or not you wish to offer money, use this link to send an e-mail message, and that collection of messages will also form a public petition to show the court of the amount of public opposition to the loss of the public use of the Rec.
Clean Air Zone Consultation - Last updated 29 September 2019.
Although not strictly part of Watchdog's remit, the Clean Air Zone does indirectly have an impact on Bath's heritage by the probability that non-compliant vehicles may try to avoid the charging areas and thus divert unsuitable vehicles through residential Conservation Areas unsuited to such traffic.
When we saw the Chronicle article which indicated that a further consultation has been set up, and we failed to find this in the "List of Consultations" on the council website, we searched for where the consultation is reported to save readers the trouble.
The Chronicle article and the council website both show a map which includes the alterations to the zone as a result of the earlier public consultation, so there might be new points to make on what is or is not amended.  One point that stands out to us is that the Sainsbury's supermarket in Green Park is inside the zone as is Waitrose, but Morrison's is outside it.  We wonder if the council could be accused of unfair business practice because the statistics show that the London Road does have high levels of NO2 and could justifiably be part of the zone.
Bath Rugby - Last updated 29 September 2019.
A decision on the planning application 19/03133/SCOPE has been made, and the decision is that an Environmental Impact Assessment is required as part of any future planning application for a stadium on the Rec.  For those interested, the Decision Notice explains not only that an EIA is required, but also what it must cover, and provides in an Appendix the consultation responses that led to this level of detailing.  We have no reservations about the decision; it was obvious that anything built on the Rec would have a significant Environmental Impact that would need to be properly assessed.
However, when we read the report in the Appendices from the Environment Agency (who own the Radial Gate; the council only manages it) we were horrified by the statement "This could for example result in the radial gate being removed".  Whether this is the personal view of Mark Willitts who commented on this planning application, or the formal position of the Environment Agency, is not clear.  What is relevant is that exactly how the Radial Gate contributes to the effectiveness of the Bath Flood Defence Scheme as designed by Frank Greenhalgh, is explained clearly in his document "Bath Flood Prevention Scheme" which was lodged in the Bath Reference Library.  The sluice gate is a balanced mechanism actuated by floats which are controlled by the upstream water level, and provided the flotation chambers are kept clear of silt there is little to go wrong;  no electrical or hydraulic mechanisms are necessary, leaving so little to go wrong that the suggestion that it is coming to the end of its life looks difficult to justify.
Nevertheless, this ignorance of what the Radial Gate is for has a long history, because in 2000 there was a suggestion that it should be replaced by a weir and the Bristol Avon Local Flood Defence Committee commissioned a hydraulic study from Bristol University and this resulted in consultants Lewin Fryer in conjunction with the Environment Agency issuing "The Hydrolab Report (Project 2281)" in March 2003.  That report concluded that if the current Sluice Gate were ever removed an alternative sluicing mechanism would have to be installed otherwise the flood protection provided upstream of the Radial Gate would be lost.  When the Environment Agency was part of the study that reached the conclusion that a sluice was essential, it is disappointing that they now appear to be taking the opposite point of view, without any proper research.  We can only suggest that either of the documents in italics in this section are made essential reading, both for the Environment Agency staff, and for Turley who wrote the EIA assessment in the planning application and falsely described the Radial Gate as "installed in the 1970s to assist with flood management but no longer fulfils that role", when it is an essential part of that role as the Hydrolab Report proves.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 22 September 2019.
We visited Cleveland Pools during Heritage Open Week, and discussed progress since the confirmation of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant in December 2018.  We learned that in June 2019 Anna Baker had been engaged as Project Director, and that led to an invitation to tender for Main Contractor, Stage 1 being issued in August.  The tenders have been received and are currently in an evaluation exercise, with the successful tenderer to be announced soon (those interested in the outcome should look at the Cleveland Pools website from time to time).
We also learned that Sam Grief has been appointed as "Community Learning and Volunteer Officer" (we think of her perhaps as a community liaison officer) and she is due to start work on 7th October.
Recreation Ground - Last updated 22 September 2019.
We remember that when the plans were prepared for the Western Riverside we mocked up pictures of the impact that the development would have on the views, and we discussed these with the UNESCO World Heritage Monitoring Team when they visited Bath, and they asked to take a copy of our main overview away with them to supplement their report.  So we know how powerful such mock-ups can be;  they don't have to be architecturally detailed provided the heights, location footprints and visual impacts are completely accurate.
This is why, when we were sent a file of visual impacts of the proposed stadium and they looked accurate to the information made public so far, we recognised their importance in informing the ordinary public who might have difficulty in assessing the visual impact of planning application drawings.
It was accompanied by a note asking if we could give some publicity to the fact that there is a campaign to challenge the scheme being run by a handful of people (who can be contacted via that website) and who are desperately underfunded and under-resourced and who have next to no knowledge of how to leverage social media.  We can't help with the social media issue because Watchdog has no presence there either, but we are happy to draw attention to their Crowdfunding scheme which is gathering funds to set up a legal challenge.
The crowdfunding page is, and it has already passed the validation sum milestone, so all sums now offered will be recorded on the website.
Oldfield Park Scala - Last updated 15 September 2019.
We attended the Consultation event and saw the exhibition material which is now viewable on-line at for those who couldn't attend, and there is also a link on that website to a feedback form.
Effectively the exhibition shows that the Co-operative store will be made into a smaller footprint, and some parking spaces will be lost. In part of the car parking area some residences are proposed, whilst part of the newer extension to the original Scala cinema building will be demolished and student accommodation for Norland College will built in its place.
Our members who currently use the Scala and go there by car reported that those who were at the exhibition to answer questions from the public regarded the loss of some parking spaces as unimportant.  They seemed impervious to the news that when the current parking area is full, drivers arriving will only wait a short time before giving up and going elsewhere;  yet that is the reality, and reducing the parking spaces is likely to result in fewer customers in the store at peak times, reducing turnover and profits.
A planning application will eventually be issued, but at the moment the developer is seeking public feedback which might modify the plans in development.
Jews Lane Old Bakery - Last updated 15 September 2019.
One of the planning permissions granted this week was for the development of the Old Bakery site.  We wonder about the legality of requiring no parking on site for students, which rules out disabled students and therefore is an offence against the Equalities Act.
The planning permission included the proven unenforceable condition that students will not bring cars within 1km of the site because their tenancy agreement says so and the management team will do checks during office working hours, detecting absolutely nothing because students won't be using a motorised vehicle during those hours in any case.  Those who live near students already know that car use is almost always after normal office hours.
Even in the unlikely case that a student is detected using a vehicle during office hours, having a clause in an agreement and being able to enforce it are two very different things.  We debunked the effectiveness of this clause in the Tenancy Agreement in July 2018 and nothing has changed since.
A Welcome Survivor - Last updated 01 September 2019.
Part of ceilingAccording to the Campaign for Real Ale (usually abbreviated to CAMRA), 18 pubs a week were closing on average in 2018.  When one of those pubs was The Grapes in Westgate Street, its future looked in doubt, and Watchdog had concerns over what might happen to the decorative Jacobean ceiling (dating to 1683 according to the Historic England description) on the first floor if the building was converted to other uses.  Despite it having some protection from its Grade II* listing, the original proposal was that the first floor would have included the ceiling as part of a 5-bedroom HMO which would have put it beyond public view and at the mercy of the HMO residents.
Luckily, the HMO accommodation was never created, and a later planning application included the first floor as part of the pub to be reopened, with hotel rooms above.  The intention is that the public should be able to view the first floor accommodation as part of the Public House function.
It did reopen as a pub in August, with a gallery of photographs on the Chronicle website.  Closing as a pub, and re-opening as a pub under new management is good news at a time when nation-wide the loss of pubs has slowed a bit but still continues.
Southgate Plaques - Last updated 18 August 2019.
We attended the unveiling of the plaque remembering Winnie Troutt at the beginning of July.  We understand that Guy Henderson, the Southgate Shopping Centre Manager, has been pleased with the public reaction to it and has welcomed a suggestion for another plaque, this time to Stothert and Pitt (who had a business premises in Newark Street before moving to their building in Lower Bristol Road), to be installed in an appropriate location.
If it is eventually installed, we will add it to our Bouquet entry.  For now, we have been provided with a mock-up of the expected design, which is currently being shown to companies who might make it in metal.  We think some readers might be interested in it.
Update:  We have been informed that the wording will be cast in upper and lower case, so that the style matches the Winnie Troutt plaque.  We haven't yet been provided with a revised mock-up.
Belvoir Castle - Last updated 11 August 2019.
We have been informed that the High Court has accepted an application that a Judicial Review of the consents to replacing the listed skittles alley behind the Belvoir Castle with residential accommodation, is appropriate.  Watchdog was astonished that the planning consents were given after we had pointed out the legislation protecting listed buildings defines the skittles alley as part of the listing, that there is visible evidence of past flood events of significant depth, and that the design of the proposed development is a fire risk not acceptable under building regulations, whilst the waste collection methods are a health and safety hazard.  It is also worth noting that very few of the councillors who made the decisions about to be reviewed are in the new Planning Committee set up after the recent Local Elections.
The council has indicated that it would not oppose a decision to quash the planning consents (18/02499/FUL and 18/02500/LBA) but they cannot speak for the applicants who might want a full hearing (at their own expense).  We have no information yet on what their view will be, but we can't imagine they will win if our concerns about the high risk of flooding, fire risks and health and safety hazards are included in the court papers.
Flood Risk Assessments - Last updated 4 August 2019.
The news on TV of flash floods in the north of England seems to have awakened memories of the last occurrence in Bath in 1968 when torrential rain overnight ran off the hillsides and overwhelmed the drains lower down the hills causing flash floods.  Although this eventually swelled the river and spread the flood, which resulted in the council commissioning Greenhalgh's flood protection scheme, those who lived through the flash flood were adamant that some of the city streets flooded first and then the river overflowed.
The juxtaposition of the national flood news and our article on Elizabeth Park seems to have brought attention to the Environment Agency's Flood Zone Map of the area which was was created a few years ago.  Our article on Elizabeth Park with our photos and those pictures that followed in the Chronicle where one clearly shows that the land has been sculpted to flood progressively whereas the Flood Zone Map shows it all at the same high risk flood level, led to the suggestion that the Environment Agency's data is now out of date.
We looked at the area generally, and discovered that the requirement to minimise the flood risk to the new properties being built had resulted in raised ground levels on much of the Western Riverside which as a consequence no longer reflected the flood risks as identified by the Environment Agency.
However, when we examined other planning applications adjacent to the river there were some other glaring differences between the indicated Flood Zone and the real risk.  In particular, the application for 1-3 Brunel Square had a flood risk assessment which showed the appropriate section of the Environment Agency map and used that to claim that the development was in an area where "the majority of the site is within Flood Zone 1".  The EA map does show that, but the area identified as Flood Zone 1 is that part of the station area where the ramp up to the platform level car park used to be.  That was demolished some years ago.  A view of the area now shows that there are steps down from Dorchester Street to the vaults 1-3 Brunel Square and yet there is a Flood Zone 2 area which includes Dorchester Street and the railway station forecourt.  It is not possible to go downwards from a Flood Zone 2 location and thus improve the flood risk!  It is also worth noting that Brunel's diaries reveal that the construction of Bath Spa railway station was delayed because the site was flooded when work was due to start, so there is documentary evidence that the vaults on which the station and tracks are supported have their footings in ground likely to flood.
Some developers will not be familiar with a location and others might happily quote the Environment Agency Map knowing that it gave a better assessment than the location genuinely merits now.  Given that there is visible evidence that the EA maps are out of date in some places (particularly where the raised ground level of the Western Riverside now acts as a dam between water running off the southern slopes and the river where it previously ended up;  and also where other developments have changed earlier land contours), some checking of accuracy needs to take place.  Whilst ideally the Flood Zone Map should be updated to reflect changes since they were published, the more practical approach would be for those handling planning applications to go along to the site and make their own judgement about whether the EA flood risk assessment is still valid.
Western Riverside - Last updated 28 July 2019.
WizzybugIn the printed copy of the Chronicle was an article on some of the public art in the newly completed Elizabeth Park, but we couldn't find it online.  We did find an earlier article informing of the date of the opening of the park.  Crest Nicholson invited us to attend, and we went along.
The opening of the park was to be marked by a series of events during the afternoon and evening.  After the guided tour and presentations we have covered in our illustrated write-up of that time in our Elizabeth Park piece on the Western Riverside web page, there were musical acts and later in the day a film projected onto a screen with rows of seats facing it for those who wanted to watch it.  We stayed for almost 2 hours, but it was still too light then for the film to start so we don't know what was shown.
Although not part of the Crest Nicholson event, we chatted to the representative of Designability, a charity based at the RUH in Bath who have created the Wizzybug, which is described in detail on their website.  Designability have crowdfunded enough to make a small stock of Wizzybugs which are then loaned at no cost to those with disabled youngsters (target age range 18 months to 5 years) who need them.  They had an example there (see picture) which those interested could study (and operate if they wanted to).  There are very few motorised mobility aids for the very young, particularly aids that are easily adjustable as the child grows, so despite it being outside our remit, we are giving it and the charity a small plug here.
Bath Rugby Club Scoping Application - Last updated 21 July 2019.
Although the public cannot comment on Scoping Applications, they are available on-line for the public to read, and therefore we can examine the documents and comment on their contents on this website.
The Designated Heritage Assets is incomplete, because there are two additional Scheduled Monuments:  the Sawclose, and the Assembly Rooms (which is also a listed building but the Scheduled Monument designation was added as a wartime expedient to secure Government funding for bomb damage repairs).  The assets scoped out should not list the Old Police Station (because it has dining tables in the street which will have a view of the proposed stadium), nor the Guildhall Market (which has glazed doors giving views equivalent to Newmarket Row).
The other oddity in the scope is the removal of the Radial Gate.  The purpose of the Radial Gate is to reduce the risk of flooding upstream from the location, whereas the function of the weir alongside it is to reduce the risk of flooding downstream.  Therefore, removing the Radial Gate and replacing it with a weir will provide greater flow capacity downstream, but increase the flood risk upstream, threatening the properties in part of the Forester Road estate and along St John's Road, which is contrary to Paragraph 163 of the NPPF.  The Environment Agency, who own the Radial Gate, ought to know how the Radial Gate functions;  if not, then they haven't sufficiently understood Greenhalgh's design.
The Covenants On The Rec - Last updated 21 July 2019.
Following our mention last week of the associated leaflet we were contacted over the comment in it "Lawyers for Bath Rugby and a mystery off-shore company want rid of these restrictive covenants" indicating that the leaseholder, his agents and the current Trustees cannot legally apply to have covenants removed.
We looked back at the High Court hearing in 2002, and it is clear that the Judge considered the 1922 and 1956 Covenants were voluntarily entered into when the then council could have challenged them at the time it took possession of the land, and consequently it was ruled that the land defined as The Recreation Ground is a charitable trust and the Covenants are binding in perpetuity on the owner, the Local Authority, currently known as B&NES, the Claimant in that court case.
It looks to us as an unqualified observer that if the High Court so ruled, then only the Local Authority can challenge it as an Appeal, and a lesser Court cannot overturn it.
Planning Committee - Last updated 7 July 2019.
On 3 July, among the applications being discussed by the Committee were the Cedar Care Homes applications which had been before the Committee of the previous council and had been given consent.  Those decisions were subsequently reviewed by the High Court which quashed the decisions as irrational.  Consequently, the applications were before the current Planning Committee to consider the original applications as modified by a Viability Review and a small number of revised drawings.  As before, the Case Officer had recommended refusal.
The Viability Report was almost certainly prepared in response to the High Court's observation that there had been no evidence that the viability concerns originally put forward by the council were valid.  The applicant's report was subsequently analysed by consultants employed by the council, and criticised by a further assessment by Thrings Solicitors.  The council's review was hampered by the applicant withholding key information with which to properly assess viability, so only a broad comment was possible, pointing out a current over-supply of beds would reduce to a small under-supply by 2022.  What none of these reports mentioned though it is a significant fact, is that even if there is a forecast under-supply there is no specific requirement for the additions to be provided in this particular listed building.
The committee refused the applications, identifying the scale, design and location of the development being unacceptable, and the consequential adverse impact on the landscape setting also being contrary to planning policies.
Winnie Troutt - Last updated 7 July 2019.
We received an e-mail of thanks for our Bouquet on this subject, and an invitation to attend the formal unveiling of the plaque on 3 July.  The unveiling was done by a former Bath Councillor, Patrick Anketell-Jones.  Those who read the Western Daily Press on the following Saturday will have seen a lengthy illustrated article on it, but unfortunately we cannot find it on-line.
Although we took a camera along for some photographs (two of which we have now appended to our bouquet), we were pleased to see Richard Wyatt there recording the event for his Bath Newseum website, which also includes a video clip.
Bath Postal Museum - Last updated 7 July 2019.
The Bath Postal Museum moved into the basement of the Head Post Office building, a building that was opened on the corner of New Bond Street in 1927.  The co-location made sense at the time the museum moved in.  Unfortunately, the Post Office function has been moved upstairs in W H Smith in Union Street.  We were not happy about the decision to move the Post Office into a pedestrianised street (see our 21 April 2019 comment below), but it has gone ahead regardless.  The Bath Postal Museum is a separate organisation and it has not moved.  The Post Office's memorial plaques commemorating the deaths of local postmen in WW1 and WW2 will move into the Postal Museum, to be formally re-dedicated in a few week's time.
The message from the Bath Postal Museum is that they have not moved with the Post Office, and visitors continue to be welcomed.
Roseberry Road - Last updated 23 June 2019.
We were critical of the plans for the Roseberry Road site, but the planning application was given consent.  Since then we have watched the development as work progressed, and we haven't changed our minds about the appearance of the street frontage.
However, one of our members went along to the unveiling of the memorial on the river side of the development, and reported back that the developers had funded the memorial and that the new building at the back of the site and overlooking the memorial garden (now named "Mary's Walk") was more attractive than the streetside buildings.
We still think the development could have looked more in keeping with historic Bath, but we do applaud the developers for finding a space to commemorate the wartime victims of the location, and for generously funding the memorial.
Bath Victorian Spa Quarter - Last updated 23 June 2019.
We received an e-mail from the Roman Baths Archway Project announcing the launch of a website that tells the story of the former spa buildings in Swallow Street.  As they explain "While the buildings have had an interesting and varied history, we believe it is the stories and personal experiences that make this project truly come to life", hence their approach with the assistance of Bath Spa University students:  "We have pooled together stories from first-hand accounts like the Victorian Spa's visitor books, newspapers, and oral histories, and presented them as an interactive and multi-sensory timeline".
The website starts modestly, but it offers opportunities for public comment, so it is clearly intended to grow over time.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 16 June 2019.
The article about the Cleveland Pools in the Chronicle draws on the recent update to the Cleveland Pools Trust's own website where there are also details of the posts open for job applicants, and (on their home page) the residual sum that needs to be met from donations to avoid drawing on the loan offered by the Architectural Heritage Fund.  It seems that the last of the hurdles on the way to delivery has now been cleared.
Fashion Museum - Last updated 16 June 2019.
A statement on the council website which gave the basic facts led us to another Chronicle item that explains why the National Trust has given the council notice that they are invoking a Break Clause in the lease for the Assembly Rooms.  The council is now looking for a new home for the Fashion Museum (formerly the Museum Of Costume).  Neither article considers the loss of council income if the museum has a spell where it is not open to the public.  It is also important to remember that many tickets are a combined ticket for the Roman Baths and the Fashion Museum so any new location needs to be close enough for that combined ticket offer to remain feasible.
We do wonder whether the National Trust has misjudged the situation.  Many of those who visit the Fashion Museum do so because they have the combined ticket, and while there they also look at the areas of the Assembly Rooms that are not part of the Museum.  Despite the apparent attractiveness of what is described as an "immersive experience" the Assembly Rooms are a bit out of the way, and without the draw of the Fashion Museum on a combined ticket, the footfall might not be as high as the National Trust imagine;  and many of those who do make the effort are likely to be NT members with a membership card that allows entry without payment.
Planning Committee - Last updated 16 June 2019.
The minutes of the first Planning Committee meeting are now available.  There were 10 Councillors in attendance, so there does appear to be a risk of a tied vote with the Chairman then casting a deciding vote.  Cllr Matt McCabe was elected as Chairman and now bears that responsibility.
Land fronting Kennet House - Last updated 9 June 2019.
Each week we look at a set of planning applications to keep up to date with the latest consultation responses.  This week we noticed that 19/01391/FUL has a response from Historic England which analyses the impact of the proposed development and specifically uses the word "object" in its evaluation.  This is a significant assessment, because the use of the word "object" gives Historic England the legal right to ask the Secretary of State to call in the decision for his own determination if the Local Planning Authority ignores the stated objection and is inclined to grant permission.  This planning application now looks dead in the water.
Winnie Troutt - Last updated 26 May 2019.
We have move this item to our Bouquets page with additional and larger photographs.
The New Council - Last updated 12 May 2019.
It is early days for the consequences of the recent Local Elections results that gave the Lib Dems an overall majority on the B&NES council to be revealed, but there is a Chronicle item on "7 things to expect from the new Lib Dem council" for those who would like a "heads up" on what might follow.  What the priorities will be and which of these will be delivered and in what form remains to be seen.
Watchdog is non-political and is concerned only on preserving the heritage within the World Heritage Site, so we have read the "7 Things" purely on that basis.  The only heading we are initially concerned with is the reliance on social media sessions for input about how the council is run.  The elderly probably have more dependencies on how the council is run than the average resident, yet they are the least likely to have a social media presence.  This needs to be borne in mind as policies are developed.
Bath City Farm - Last updated 5 May 2019.
Watchdog as an organisation has not openly supported Bath City Farm other than recognising that it is a well liked community facility which is free for the public to visit.  However, we do recognise that some Watchdog members do support it as individuals.
That is why we gave some publicity to the fact that the Farm has been vandalised and they are now fundraising to repair the damage and provide some precautions against it happening again.
The latest Chronicle news item reports that the Farm is delighted with the support given so far, and the article has retained the link to the fundraising page in case others might wish to help.  It also repeats the wish that anybody with helpful information should inform the police.
We are happy to bring the Farm's desires to a wider audience through this website. 
People Don't Do Their Homework - Last updated 28 April 2019.
The Chronicle reports that the Bath Preservation Trust has come under fire from people who preferred showing their ignorance to the electorate to finding out the facts.  Georgian properties lose more heat from draughts through badly fitting sash windows than they lose through the relatively small areas of glass, and the BPT has published a booklet on how to make such properties energy efficient without adversely affecting the appearance.  Why did none of the critics ask the BPT before delivering incorrect assumptions to their audience?
There are methods of draught proofing windows that are effective yet invisible; and well designed secondary glazing doesn't have the double reflection problems that conventional double glazing does.  Also, there are solar panels that look just like welsh slate and replacing slates with these doesn't ruin the appearance of a listed building like the more commonly seen panels above the roof surface.  As for why we can't have solar streets - why not read the World Heritage Management Plan?  If you want to be elected to the job of looking after a World Heritage Site, then you have to comply with the rules that Central Government signed up to protect.  Similarly, Heritage is a concept enshrined in Acts of Parliament, and describing heritage as a constructed concept is not going to repeal that legislation (which is different in England than it is in Scotland, so Edinburgh is not a valid comparison).  The Chronicle article does name names of the candidates, so if anybody wants to know if their potential candidates are the ones who don't know what they are talking about, it is easy to find out.
On a similar though retrospective line, there is a Chronicle article on the Bath Blitz.  It doesn't make any specific reference to the Old Labour Exchange, but that building does fit into the category of people not doing their homework.  The building was listed because it was the last "make do and mend" repaired building in the country (not just in Bath) that was still fit for use in its wartime repaired state.  If the people in the planning committee who were deciding on what happened to the building had taken the trouble to ask why the BBC programme "The Forgotten Blitz" brought so many visitors to the adjacent Premier Inn to admire the resourcefulness and skill of those who kept the stump of the original building in use in difficult times, they would have discovered a class of tourists fascinated by how the repairs had managed to last so long and wishing to photograph it from the upper windows of the hotel.  Instead, the people too lazy to find out if their assumptions that only the exterior walls were of interest were correct, voted instead to replace a unique wartime relic with student accommodation, and thus replace a charity doing valuable work with the disadvantaged with a shop that very few are interested in.  Did anybody vote for the Committee Members with the expectation that they would seek to destroy unique heritage, after having evicted a charity contrary to the Equalities Act?
Planning Oddities - Last updated 21 April 2019.
This week's planning decisions have revealed some significant planning anomalies:
W H Smith was granted permission for new signage, except that the signs granted permission have implications that typical business signs do not.  W H Smith was given permission to add "POST OFFICE" to its front elevation.  The case officer has recognised that this is part of a series of merging Post Offices with W H Smith shops, but hasn't taken the next step of examining the implications of moving the Post Office from a building specifically designed for a Post Office with a private loading yard for handling valuable letters and parcels, into a high street shop in a pedestrianised street without a suitable vehicle-usable rear access.  We recommended on 17 February (see below) that Highways should be asked for their comment, and since then it has been suggested to us that the Police might have a crime prevention concern too.
The snag is that Use Class A1 not only covers a retail establishment but also Post Office services, so there won't be another planning application for moving the services of the Main Post Office into another building in an unsuitable location and with inadequate security arrangements for valuable items posted.  This really should have been given a wider consultation before the decision was made.  Even though logically it should be the Post Office that is responsible for not thinking through the local implications of its "one size fits all" relocation policy, it is very possible that in the event of a successful theft the press would blame the planning system that did not concern itself about the local risks of theft when granting permission.
The Belvoir Castle decisions are a clear example of procedural failures.  After the DMC granted "Delegate to Permit" permissions the planning applications were reopened for public comments and some members of the public did supply further comments.  This meant that procedurally the decisions had to be returned to the DMC to discuss and evaluate the points newly raised, and then either repeat the decision made before or make a different one.  That did not happen, and the officer delegated to permit made no mention of the new points either.  Thus the additional comments made were overtly disregarded.  We understand that one of the Local Councillors (who does not sit on the DMC) is currently exploring whether these procedural shortfalls require the Secretary Of State to call in the decisions for his own determination because the Local Authority did not correctly deal with them.
As Others See Us - Last updated 14 April 2019.
We had a report this week from a member who was walking through Bath on Thursday morning and was stopped by a visitor who was checking that Terrace Walk was where she thought it was, because she wanted to get the tour bus there.  Our member was heading that way anyway so walked with the visitor, chatting.
The visitor said she was from Australia and had arrived in Bath by train having spent time in Edinburgh and York.  Unfortunately her impressions of Bath were not good.  In making her way to her accommodation at the Green Park student block she was shocked to see the number of young people (who did not look like homeless people) drinking on the streets, and she was having to avoid the pools of vomit everywhere.  As she was travelling alone she did not feel safe and was really disappointed that Bath as she had experienced it did not match the image given in publicity.  [Visit Bath please note].
gull strewn rubbishOn Terrace Walk (and the surrounding area) there were a large number of rubbish bags which had been and were in the process of being ripped open by seagulls, and food and litter strewn all over the place.  Gullproof bags weren't used and some of it looked like commercial waste. She could not understand why the city was allowed to be like this.  Our member provided this photograph;  some of the ripped bags and scattered contents were just outside the newly relocated Tourist Information centre, which is probably the worst possible place to make a tourist feel that Bath values them.  We were provided with a second photograph which we haven't used, of similar gull damage to rubbish in Pierrepont Place.  That picture shows rubbish that is more obviously commercial waste.
Our member discovered that the visitor had an interest in Jane Austen so she was recommended a visit to the Jane Austen Centre (which she knew about) and then the Fashion Museum.  Jane Austen would have enjoyed promenading during her stay in Bath so a visit to Sydney Gardens was also suggested because it was likely to have been somewhere where Jane Austen would have walked.  The final recommendation before they parted company was to join one or more of the Mayor's Guides walks because they would show her more of the real parts of the city that the tour buses did not reach.
Our member ended their report with:  "She was a lovely lady and I felt totally ashamed that someone who had come from the other side of the world had such a bad image of the city".
We couldn't have put it better ourselves.  It does seem that Edinburgh and York gave the Australian tourist a much better impression than Bath did, and that is something the new council after the elections on 2 May should examine as a priority.  We also wonder how the Green Park student block can provide rented accommodation for tourists and still claim to be exempt from Business Rates.  This too needs investigating.
Bath Recreation Ground - Last updated 31 March 2019.
The recent planning application 19/00860/REM from Bath Rugby shows the club's contempt for the legal position that the council is responsible for maintaining the Rec as an open space favouring no particular sport.  It is not surprising therefore that a number of objections have already been lodged pointing out that if it is not restored to an open space it is the council, not Bath Rugby or the company currently acting as trustees, who will be financially liable for any court fines for failing to deliver the covenants that were intended to preserve the out of season views across the World Heritage Site.
Keeping a Dog and Barking Oneself - Last updated 24 March 2019.
The planning application for the Chivers House site (18/03797/FUL) went before the Development Management Committee on 13 March 2019.  The main pre-meeting brief included noting a discrepancy between the developer's insistence that if affordable housing was included the development would not be viable, and the independent viability assessor's estimate that having discussed with the Applicant's Agent the original estimate of 23 units of viable affordable housing had been downgraded to 17 units.  We wonder at the description "independent" if the Applicant can influence the outcome, but nevertheless the lower number was still a Policy CP9 discrepancy (though the Minutes describe it as a benefit!).  Alongside this, Planning Policy pointed out that the development did not meet Policies B1, B3, B5, ED2B, CP5 and ST7;  Economic Development reported that the loss of an Employment Site that is in high demand cannot be justified in economic development terms;  Housing objected because Policy CP9 requires 29 affordable dwellings;  Highways objected because Policies ST2 and ST7 were not met;  Urban Design objected on the grounds of poor quality public realm, the buildings are too high for the location, and too bulky, and in the wrong materials;  Landscape objected on the grounds that the communal amenity space was insufficient, and the surfaces were neither safe nor legible nor designed for anything other than cars:  Arboriculture considered that the retained tree would be at risk and no attempt had been made to improve the green infrastructure;  Historic England warned of the adverse effect the height and scale would have on the World Heritage Site (which they say should carry great weight) and views into and across the Conservation Area, so that they concluded there was potential for harm to the wider historic environment.
The Applicant made a late offer of 17 shared ownership units, and the Case Officer raised an update to the pre-meeting brief withdrawing the objection that there was no affordable housing, but warned "However, it is considered that the multiple and significant remaining conflicts with the development plan, including its poor design, lack of parking and impacts on the local character as well as the World Heritage Site and Conservation area, weigh heavily against the proposal".
The minutes of the meeting reveal that the shortcomings were mostly ignored, and the Chronicle article includes a few things that were not minuted.  That article points out that Cllr Crossley compared it against student accommodation (which was completely irrelevant) rather than heeding the advice of the council officials and statutory consultees, and sufficient of the DMC then followed his lead and voted to approve, hence our title for this piece.  A similar thing happened to the application for Cedar Care home and the High Court quashed the planning decision with just over £34,000 in costs against the council after the Judge was particularly scathing about decisions being made on personal opinion rather than published policy.  A B&NES statement after that High Court decision promised "we will be undertaking further training with members in the light of the judge's comments".
That went well didn't it?  The Chivers House decision looks equally irrational and therefore similarly vulnerable to a Judicial Review.  However, Section 97 of the Town and Country Planning Act allows a Local Planning Authority to revoke a permission given, making reference to the development Plan and other material considerations that the DMC clearly didn't consider;  but how much easier would it be to just bring the application back to the next DMC meeting and re-assess it before a decision is actually issued, or even the meeting afterwards which would be after the Local Elections and the Committee membership might be different.
Clean Air Zone - Last updated 10 March 2019.
Watchdog is only following the Clean Air Zone consultation from a heritage point of view.  Bath stone is limestone and it is therefore susceptible to acid rain, and it is NO2 and CO2 that contribute to the likelihood of rain becoming acidic.  Therefore the potential spread of damage because of rat runs around the proposed Clean Air Zone is something we have been concerned about, because the majority of rat runs would have been longer in distance and time than the more direct routes being avoided.
The results of the Cabinet meeting are now summarised on the council website.  There are some changes to the scheme as offered for public consultation.  The most significant one is the decision that with additional traffic management at Queen Square the zone could be amended to a Class C CAZ so that it will not matter if private cars are compliant or not, they will not be charged to enter the zone.
That decision by the Cabinet will be welcomed by many, but we have two residual concerns.  The first is that the additional traffic management in Queen Square is likely to raise the pollution levels around Queen Square's Grade I listed buildings in order to reduce the pollution levels in Gay Street which has Grade II listed buildings.  We therefore want to see this impact monitored and measured.  The second concern is that although the spectre of rat-running through residential areas north and south of the river to avoid CAZ charges is considerably reduced by the exemption of private cars from the charges for entering the CAZ, there will still be some rat-running of LGVs and vans (and perhaps an occasional HGV) through residential streets which are not suitable for such an increase in larger traffic.  As well as locally increased pollution from such traffic, there is also likely to be some minor damage such as broken wing mirrors or minor scrapes to residents' cars parked along these roads.  A width and weight limit control of such streets needs to be considered.
21st Century Sack of Bath - Last updated 24 February 2019.
We have started to assemble a "rogues gallery" of council planning decisions which are contrary to national legislation or guidance and/or contrary to local plans and policies.  We will add to this gradually, but for this first bite at it we have identified all the reasons why the current demolitions on the  Newark Works site are unauthorised.  Unfortunately, the Secretary of State who is ultimately responsible according to the legislation, ignores reports of Local Authority law-breaking and is as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
We will gradually add to the Sack Of Bath page.
A pat on the back - Last updated 24 February 2019.
Betfred signageWe have in the past raised Enforcement cases where unauthorised work has been carried out and the outcomes vary.  So it is only right that when Enforcement persuade the offending business to raise a planning application to cover the work already done, and then the criticisms of the drawings supplied were also accepted and better replacements were offered, we acknowledge it.  Well done Betfred!
Enforcement closed the complaint 17/00545/ADVERT when the advertisement application was given consent, but we waited until it had been installed.  With hand painted lettering on new real timber, it now does credit to the listed building. 
Post Office - Last updated 17 February 2019.
The recent planning applications for the W H Smith premises in Union Street were for the addition of Post Office signage to the building.  We have commented on the applications just as signs on a listed building because that is our remit.
But we do suggest that Highways has a good look at the implied Post Office use and the practicalities of getting what might be high value parcels away from a pedestrian street providing opportunities for opportunist thieves, towards parked transport where the choice appears to be either carrying them to Stall Street, Cheap Street or Upper Borough Walls, none of which are suitable for parking a lorry, or else loading from the back door of W H Smith onto Parsonage Lane, a very narrow medieval street which would be totally blocked to other traffic by any stationary lorry.
The original Main Post Office building has an integral loading bay (and a bus stop immediately outside for customers) which cannot be replicated for the W H Smith alternative.
Planning Policies - Last updated 17 February 2019.
The planning decision made this week was to refuse the application to construct a terrace of HMOs in the grounds of 43 Upper Oldfield Park.  It was interesting to note that the reasons for refusal, comprehensive as they were, nevertheless focused almost entirely on Local Authority policies.  This does call into question why the references to national policies, particularly the observation made in the Watchdog objections, that the location of the application is contrary to the Government guidelines in the NPPF that garden grabbing is not acceptable, and also to the extant Conditions applying to the entire plot which accommodates the building now referred to as "Charters" which included fencing off the Root Protection Zone of the pine tree until the approved landscaping has been completed, did not form part of the reasons.  Furthermore, the council's Arboriculturalist was concerned about the impact of the development on root damage to the pine tree and also had concerns about things dropping from the canopy, and this did not appear in the reasons for refusal either.
The applicant has a history of appealing many decisions to refuse, or else raising a new almost identical application, and it would have been useful to have a complete set of refusal reasons in the Decision Notice so that separate communication of additions to the Planning Inspector in the event of an appeal would not have been necessary.
Maid of the Bridge - Last updated 10 February 2019.
Watchdog took an active interest in the restoration of Victoria Bridge, and watched as it was dismantled, and then later we watched as it was reassembled with some slight modifications to the supports to the roadway, because modern stress analysis replaced Dredge's trial and error modelling approach and that showed that under some weather conditions Dredge had stresses on the metalwork that could be avoided.  It is interesting to note that Dredge described it as a taper chain suspension bridge but by today's techniques it is recognised as a double cantilever.
Because the bridge as re-erected wasn't identical to the one removed, there was some wrought iron "hangers" left over.  We were party to the early discussions about how the iron could be re-used, and saw the early sketches of "Maid of the Bridge" (a neat pun about the sculpted figure of a maid which would be literally made from the left-over parts of the original bridge).
The sculpture itself was officially unveiled last November, but the latest Chronicle article this week is based on an interview with Anna Gillespie, the sculptor who had the original idea.  We are posting the link because it is interesting to read the sculptor's description of her work, and for those who are outside Bath and read this have an article with a photo of the sculpture being lifted into position.
Christmas presents - Last updated 20 January 2019.
Rather belatedly we have caught up with the good news that two projects in Bath have benefited from the Heritage Lottery Fund's December 2018 allocations.
The Chronicle reported on 17 December that a £2.7 million grant had been awarded to Bath's Sydney Gardens to go towards restoring the park to its former glory.
The Chronicle reported on 19 December that the Cleveland Pools Trust have been awarded £4.7 Million towards the restoration of the Pools and their return to public bathing.
These are not gifts, but awards that can be claimed against expenditure towards achieving the aims as expressed in the separate applications.  Nevertheless, provided the projects adhere to the aims they put forward, they will be able to claim their expenses back, up to the limit of the awards.
Annual Report for 2018 - Last updated 6 January 2019.
As has been our custom at the start of each calendar year, we have once again prepared a report of the statistics for 2018.
East of Bath Park and Ride - Last updated 6 January 2019.
Over the Christmas break there was a Chronicle article on an alternative suggestion for an east of Bath park and ride.  Two things were particularly noticeable in that article.
The first is that "Campaigners were delighted this week to receive assurances from across the political spectrum that the meadows would be protected";  a statement which would be more encouraging if such an undertaking had not previously been made in 1994, only for it to have been conveniently forgotten just after the following Local Elections.  Even the 1994 undertaking was just re-iterating the condition that accompanied the planning permission for the construction of the Batheaston Bypass that sought to ensure that no future developments would be approved along the route of the bypass "to compromise the integrity of an oxbow lake and wildlife reserve specifically constructed as mitigating environmental features".  The wildlife now occupying the area of Bathampton Meadows previously targeted as a park and ride location is in a foraging area for the Greater Horseshoe bat, which ought to give the location legal protection, but that too was conveniently forgotten.  It remains to be seen whether the current assurances survive long after the 2019 Local Elections.
The second is that the alternative suggestion of using one carriageway of the Batheaston Bypass would provide 100 parking spaces.  The full length of a carriageway would accommodate far more than that, which leaves the question of who opted for just 100 herringbone spaces, and why?
An odd mismatch - Last updated 2 December 2018.
We note that there is a letter from the Secretary of State's Casework Unit on the file of 18/02499/FUL (The Belvoir Castle, 32.33 Victoria Buildings) stating that the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the Secretary of State's intervention.  For a typical FUL application, that would be a reasonable response to make.
However we notice that there is no similar letter on the associated 18/02500/LBA.  This omission could be significant, because a LBA application identifies a planning application that covers a property on the Listed Buildings Register which makes that application of national importance, and being located near the middle of a World Heritage Site, it is potentially of international importance.  A recent High Court ruling now requires the Secretary of State to give specific detailed reasons why anything of more than local importance should not be called in so we will watch with some interest whether that legal obligation is met for the LBA.
Have the rules changed? - Last updated 2 December 2018.
When a planning application is received for a listed building, it was part of the arrangement that the LBA and the FUL and/or AR associated with it should be considered together.  This was part of the revised instructions when Conservation Officers ceased to determine the LBAs and Case Officers became responsible for all delegated planning decisions.  We have not been advised that this has changed.
Yet during this week, we received notification that the AR for 8 Brunel Square (18/04571/AR) had been given consent on condition that work does not proceed until the associated LBA has been determined.  At the end of this week we discovered that the LBA for that address had just been through validation and was now open for public comment.  Until now, the LBA had always been evaluated before the other associated applications, so that a consistent set of responses could be given.  Because it hasn't happened this time, we have to point out that the decision on the AR cannot be used to pre-suppose an outcome on the LBA which is evaluated under different legislation.  It will be interesting to see whether the English Heritage objection to illuminated signage in this location, which they made at the time 12/03608/LBA (also granted permission this week despite that objection) will be echoed by Historic England against the latest LBA.
Herman Miller Building - Last updated 25 November 2018.
We commented on the Pets At Home planning application pointing out that the reason why the building was listed was because it was a very early example of the Mero roof structure.  Therefore the proposal to blacken the glass and thus reduce the visibility of the Mero installation would harm the significance of the listed building.  We also pointed out that darkening the glass on just one section would remove the external uniformity of the building.
Behind the scenes, Pets At Home e-mailed us to see if we would change our mind, and we pointed out in reply that with some rearrangement of the products inside and an improvement in the ventilation, neither the sunshine nor the heat would be a problem.
It all went quiet for a long time and then consent was given this week with a Delegated Report that failed to even mention that there had been an objection lodged.  It claimed that the planning application proposals "would be an acceptable alteration/addition to the listed building that would preserve the significance of the designated Heritage asset".  It won't, as will be obvious when the alterations are made, which is why we have replicated our planning objection in the link at the beginning of this item after it disappeared from the council's planning file.  It will save us doing an "I told you so" comment later on.
Post Office Move - Last updated 18 November 2018.
The Chronicle has published an article headed "Everything you need to know ..." about the proposed move of the Post Office from its current location in Northgate Street to W.H.Smith in Union Street.  However, it says there is a public consultation, but it doesn't say how the public can contribute to it (it isn't listed as a consultation on the council website), nor does it say where the consultation documentation can be found.
Our concern is how a post office, originally described as the "Main Post Office", and occupying a building specifically designed for the main post office can function adequately as an add-on to an existing business.
The current arrangement has a bus stop outside, and taxis can drop off those with limited mobility on the kerb outside.  The Union Street premises is in a pedestrianised street, so there are no nearby bus stops and no opportunities for taxis to deposit passengers by the door.  It therefore does not meet the Equalities Act for Accessibility. That Act specifically identifies as an offence any changes that reduce an existing level of Accessibility.  Moving from a building that has street level services to the first floor of W.H.Smith is not a like-for-like change.
The existing premises has a courtyard for vehicles within the building footprint so that vans can collect parcels and mailbags as required.  There are no similar facilities in Union Street and no explanation of how parcels and registered letters can get from the counter staff to the road vehicles which will carry them away.  The only possible vehicular route is Parsonage Lane which is very narrow and would be completely blocked by any vehicle that stopped to load.
Our members who use the Moorland Road post office which used to be in its own building but now occupies an area in McColl's, report that at Christmas time there are so many people queuing to post cards abroad and parcels to all destinations that at least a third of the goods in the shop are virtually inaccessible to those who want to shop in the Convenience Store that accommodates the post office.  Similar problems will arise in W.H.Smith, with the additional complication that Smiths doesn't have a vehicular road outside.
This looks very much like an convenient excuse to get the Main Post Office out of Northgate Street so that something more profitable can move in, and the peripheral damage to the public that use the current facilities is being ignored.  No wonder there is no useful way of commenting on the proposals
Litter Picking - Last updated 14 October 2018.
LitterWe were sent a set of photographs by a public spirited citizen who was taking the Skyline Walk and was appalled by the sight of the litter in Sham Castle;  so much so that he went back the next day with a rubbish sack and a camera and took before and after photographs, of the litter present and then absent after he had picked it up.  His message was that historic places like Sham Castle should be treated with more respect by the people who had left their rubbish.
We agree with that view, but we also think that this unsung hero should have some proper recognition for his initiative so we have awarded him a bouquet page.
On a more serious note, apart from the litter issue we have serious concerns that an area with a live electrical installation was left open to the general public.  This looks like a Health And Safety hazard.  There is a door just visible in the third row of photographs on the bouquet page, but the frame it would close against looks very badly corroded.  If it no longer allows the door to be secured in the closed position, then repairs are needed urgently.
Mopeds versus Maintenance - Last updated 7 October 2018.
The Chronicle was silent about the irrational behaviour of the Development Management Committee (see below) but it did feature another council initiative, the purchase of some electric mopeds.  The Chronicle article was largely a quote from the council's own website announcement.  The council calls the intended users Civil Enforcement Officers, but the Chronicle prefers to call them Ambassadors, and the average man in the street still calls them Traffic Wardens.
Leaving aside the obvious question of why use mopeds which require all Civil Enforcement Officers to hold a driving licence when electric bicycles are similarly pollution free and do not require a licence, we have to wonder about the financial implications, because the council is quoting a discounted price of £2500 per electric moped and a quick look around the electric models advertised for sale shows a wide range of brand new mopeds costing less than that at full list price.
We therefore wonder what the economic benefit is.  By definition, a moped is limited to 50cc and 30mph, and typically they achieve over 100mpg and don't clock up a high mileage so they have a relatively long life.  While accepting that they do create some pollution from the exhaust pipe, the amount per mile is insignificant compared with any other motorised vehicle on the road, and the trade-in value of the used mopeds is relatively low.  We concluded that this wasn't a decision made for financial reasons, but a "green credentials" vanity policy.  If the £7500 is readily available, it could be better spent dealing with the destructive weeds growing from the stonework of some council owned listed buildings.
Development Management Committee - Last updated 30 September 2018.
The meeting of 26 September 2018 was a clear indication that over half of the Committee members either hadn't read the papers or had no idea of the planning guidance and underlying legislation.  Yet the Government expectation of planning committees is that they understand the planning policies and legislative obligations against which planning applications are to be evaluated.  The DMC made decisions which fell far short of these expectations.  It is not the first time either:  the council declined the offer to revoke the planning permission for demolitions at Foxhill despite Curo agreeing not to pursue that plan, and thus had the decision quashed by the High Court on the ground that the decision was contrary to the Equalities Act;  and then had the planning permission for Cedar Park Care Centre quashed by the High Court because the decision to permit was irrational.  For a council short of money, this has totalled a very large sum squandered in legal costs.
Belvoir Castle.  It is disappointing therefore to see that by a narrow majority the applications for the Belvoir Castle were approved.  The discussion focussed on the need to keep the pub, almost to the exclusion of any other policy concerns. However, the marketing data for the Belvoir Castle shows trading figures which demonstrate that the pub is operating profitably in its current configuration and thus the argument that the pub needs planning permission to survive is completely irrational. Nevertheless, over half of the voting members of the Committee appeared to be persuaded by that false claim.
Thus, the Committee did not accept the case officer's recommendation to refuse.  This means that the fact that by the applicant's own documentation the development cannot comply with Policy H7 or the Equalities Act (or the building regulations based on it) was considered irrelevant.  The fact that the bin stores cannot get the bins to the street because each store has to first navigate a flight of stairs was ignored.  The fact that the residential floor level is over a metre and a half above the ground level of the only exit to the street and therefore in the event of a flash flood (as occurred in 1968) nobody outside could get in and nobody inside could get out was not considered important.  The fact that the ecological survey examined only the skittle alley and did not cover the other areas of the pub subject to building work, and only covered the summer despite bats having different winter and summer habitats and thus fails to comply with Statutory Instrument 490/2010 (The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations) and therefore make the granting of permission without a compliant survey unlawful.  The Committee Brief identified that Policies CP6, HE1, D6, D7, ST7 are not met, but none of these were considered important enough to be discussed.  Attention was drawn to the July 2018 re-issue of the National Planning Policy Framework which encouraged decision makers to give more weight to the views of those most affected by the proposed development, but this requirement went unheeded.
The fact that permitting the Listed Building Application despite clear evidence that it fails to conform to the expectations of Sections 16, 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act makes the decision unlawful, because although the Committee was free to discuss whether the Planning Application considered under the Town and Country Planning Act would result in the survival of the pub, the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act is only concerned with the fabric of the listed assets, and the total demolition of an entire section of the listed building structure (the skittle alley) is a "substantial harm" not a "less than substantial harm" as was assumed.  Therefore the Listed Building Application could not have been approved, and certainly couldn't have been approved based on the argument that it might save the pub (which didn't need saving).  It is a moot point how the loss of a currently attractive outdoor space laid to grass by building the proposed accommodation on top of it can ever improve the pub's trade from which its profits are derived.  It is also worth noting that the planning applications have already scared off one skittles team who played there in 2017 and won't play there in 2018.
This leaves three relatively cheap ways out of this irrational decision:
  •  Section 23 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act allows a Local Planning Authority to revoke a decision.
  •  Historic England can use its automatic right to refer the decision to the Secretary of State with a view to having the DMC decision revoked on the grounds of substantial harm to a listed asset.  Their advice that the views of conservation advisers should be sought resulted in the Senior Conservation Officer providing a detailed outright veto of the plans, a veto which the planning committee did not heed.
  •  The Environment Agency can use its automatic right to refer the decision to the Secretary of State with a view to having the DMC decision revoked on the grounds of an unacceptable evaluation of the Exception Test.  The fact that the elevated platform on which the Western Riverside is being built acts as a dam for water run-off affecting the application site is also relevant because it invalidates the flooding model currently in use.
Then there is the expensive route of a Judicial Review.  It is understood that the local residents are already actively exploring that option, and will be instructing a solicitor with planning expertise in the next few days.
Jews Lane.  The Town and Country Planning Act makes it clear that making false statements in a planning application are a criminal offence.  When the local Ward Councillor who lives very near the development site asked for a site visit because the transport statement looked inaccurate, the DMC refused to defer for a site visit.  If it is subsequently shown that the transport statement was inaccurate, that decision not to defer could be interpreted in any claim against the council as proof of the council condoning an illegal act.
We also notice that the transport statement maintains the fiction that a rule in a tenancy agreement is enforceable and the Committee brief included a draft Condition requiring compliance with it.  We have examined and debunked the assumption that it is enforceable in our item "Student Cars - Last updated 15 July 2018" below.
20mph Zones - Last updated 16 September 2018.
When Bath's 20mph zones were being proposed in 2014 and were open to public consultation, we pointed out:  "the council has a policy to de-clutter the streets.  Yet 20mph speed limits require not only signs at all entry and exit points but also repeater signs at many locations between, thus adding clutter.  How can the council embark on a course of action which completely opposes existing council policy, without re-visiting that policy?  Additional clutter and World Heritage are not ideal companions."  Although we didn't say so at the time (it was outside our remit) there were Government and other credible statistics available then which indicated that introducing 20mph zones would probably increase the incidence of serious injury and fatality accidents.  The council at the time went ahead regardless.
This week, the failure of 20mph zones to improve road safety has been exposed to the national press by responses to Freedom of Information Requests (see typical articles in The Telegraph, The Sun and by a motoring pressure group).  B&NES is one of several councils to admit that the rate of people killed or seriously injured went up in more than half of the new zones, but say that it would be too expensive to remove the 20mph signage.  Perhaps so, but a request to the police not to set speed traps on roads which the council now recognises as wrongly limited to 20mph might allow drivers to watch the road ahead more than their speedometer and improve the accident rates at very little cost.
HMOs - Last updated 9 September 2018.
On the council website is an announcement on the changes to the national regulations for HMO licensing, and the council's thoughts on how it might be further extended in Bath City.
There appears to be an overlap with other permitted uses when the proposal "to extend the scope of licensing to cover HMOs which house three or four people in two or more separate households in Bath City" would also encompass the situation where a couple let a spare room to a lodger, or even two rooms to two lodgers (the maximum permitted by the tax regulations).  We hope that when the plans are published as a policy, that a suitable exclusion clause is added so that owner occupiers who take in lodgers are not classed as residents of an HMO.  This is important, because those properties which became HMOs before the HMO Use Class C4 was introduced did not have to retrospectively apply for a different Use Class, so there is no easy way to identify which properties are older HMOs to be caught within the scope of the council's extension of the revised regulations, and which properties are owner occupied dwellings with lodgers, which ought to fall outside the scope.
Belvoir Castle - Last updated 19 August 2018.
After our objection to the proposed development of the Belvoir Castle, which would replace the Grade II listed skittle alley with 10 apartments, we have had some supplementary information provided to us.  The first reported that because the Western Riverside is being built on an elevated platform, the lowest point of the road beside the skittle alley is just a few metres north of the end of the current skittle alley, and every direction from there is uphill.  There are just two standard sized kerbside drains to take any rainwater away.  Thus in the event of torrential rain similar to that downpour producing the flood in 1968, water that overwhelms the two drains will quickly rise to the road level outside the only exit from the proposed development.  This confirms our expectation of floodwater preventing those inside the development being able to leave when such a flooding event recurs.  We also notice that one of the other objections confirms that the skittle alley did flood, confirming our assertion.
Archway Project - Last updated 12 August 2018.
We have had a progress report from the Archway Project, informing us that they are preparing a new set of videos on archaeological excavations.  They are not available yet, but later they will provide updates on the Roman Baths social media channels and their website.  We are publishing the website link here for those who want to keep an eye on it themselves.
National Planning Policy Framework - Last updated 5 August 2018.
An updated version of the NPPF was issued on 24 July 2018, and with it came a reminder of the associated Planning Practice Guidance, and an overview of the main updated content.  Taking this last item first, the advice is "The new rules will also make it easier for councils to challenge poor quality and unattractive development and give communities a greater voice about how developments should look and feel."  This indicates that greater weight should be given to local comments on developments that directly affect them, and if the council does that then the NPPF will support that approach.  Of those where Watchdog has taken a particular interest, the most obvious candidates for heeding local concerns are The Rising Sun in Lymore Avenue where the residents opposite the proposed development are very concerned about its impact on them;  and the development replacing the skittle alley in the garden of the Belvoir Castle with dwellings which will have a serious impact on the amenity of Park View residents.  For proposals which are not in line with what local communities want, the framework "ensures councils have the confidence and tools to refuse permission for developments that do not prioritise design quality and do not complement its surroundings".
In the revised NPPF we discover "Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless ... an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements" and in the Planning Practice Guidance we read "The World Heritage Committee Operational Guidelines ask governments to inform it at an early stage of proposals that may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the Site and before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, so that the Committee may assist in seeking appropriate solutions to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value is fully preserved. Therefore, it would be very helpful if planning authorities could consult Historic England (for cultural Sites) or Natural England (for natural Sites) and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at an early stage and preferably pre-application."  These constraints should have been heeded, but there is no indication that they were.
Bath Rugby persists in presenting its plans for building on open space which is not just any open space but an open space that was deemed to be charitable open land by the High Court (Bath and North East Somerset Council v HM Attorney General [2002]) which recognised not only the charitable status but also the applicability of the covenants in the 1922 Conveyance and also the later 1956 Covenant that recognised the Lease dated the 17th day of October 1933 so long as the Bath Football Club shall remain their lessees under the said Lease, and included the condition "The Corporation will not use the Recreation Ground otherwise than as an open space."  The Charity Commission notes "The Rec was registered as a charity in November 2002. BANES is the trustee of the Charity and delegates authority to manage the Charity to a Trust Board."  Although changes in Trustees have taken place since, with the conclusion of the First Tier Tribunal in 2016 about who the Charity Commission should recognise as the official Trustees, it does not supersede the High Court ruling that the council is the owner of the charitable land and is bound by the covenants associated with that land, and carries the ultimate responsibility for what the Trustees do in the name of the council.  If the Trustees grant Bath Rugby a larger footprint, the council ought to refuse it according to the NPPF definition of "existing open space" or else the council can be sued for not upholding the 1956 Covenant.
In addition, the World Heritage Committee Operational Guidelines require the Government (represented by DCMS) to be alerted at an early stage of decisions that would be difficult to reverse, and there is no indication that in the case of the Rec the council or DCMS is complying with that obligation.  We have been tipped off that some local residents have short-circuited this inaction by going straight to UNESCO's UK agent, ICOMOS UK with details of the latest Bath Rugby scheme.
Rugby Stadium - Last updated 22 July 2018.
Flooded  sports centreIt is interesting to note that the on-line Chronicle has featured two articles on the proposed new rugby stadium, one in favour and one against, both written by the same person, thus positioning the media right on the fence between them.
There is also a third article on the idea of raising the pitch and having car parking beneath "similar to parking under the leisure centre".  The Leisure centre floods (see picture), as the Rec does (it is described as Zone 3b, Active Floodplain), and a silt floor left after such an occurrence will take a lot of cleaning up.  Then there is the proposal to remove the Radial Gate "because Bath hasn't flooded since it was put in" (a concept which makes as much sense as Highways choosing to remove a set of traffic lights because there haven't been any accidents there since they were put in) and there will be more flood events if the radial gate is removed.  We have seen the document by a former Bristol Avon Local Flood Defence Committee member which was ignored during the council's Strategic Flood Risk considerations, and that explains exactly why the radial gate has reduced the flood risk, We also note that under the Water Resources Act 1991, it is the National Rivers Authority that has the final decision on whether the Radial Gate can be removed, not the council.  The same Act also leaves the final decision on the proposed new bridge in the remit of the NRA.
The problem with raising the pitch is that there has to be a supporting structure constructed beneath it, and that supporting structure will occupy space that would otherwise have been occupied by flood water.  So raising the pitch automatically reduces the water storage capacity on the Rec and increases the risk of flooding elsewhere.  Furthermore, an underground surface strong enough to support parked cars is unlikely to have the soak-away characteristics of the land which currently forms the Rec.  The NPPF requires "safeguarding land from development that is required for current and future flood management.  We would expect the Environment Agency to veto any idea of developments on an active flood plain which increase to potential flood risk elsewhere.
One of the public comments on the proposal to raise the pitch asks why, if it can be done on the Rec, it couldn't be done on the Lambridge pitch instead, thus flood proofing the playing surface and creating the east of Bath Park and Ride beneath it.  It is a very good question.
Planning Oddities - Last updated 22 July 2018.
Three weeks ago there was a planning application for advertising to be mounted on 1-3 James Street West.  The previous (refused permission) application for this site was accompanied by the necessary Listed Building planning application, and they both appeared on the list of new applications at the same time.  This latest advertising application arrived without an associated Listed Building planning application despite it being necessary, and after waiting three weeks there is still no sign of it.  We trust that the Case Officer will not determine the advertising application until the Listed Building one has been submitted and the public have had an opportunity to comment on it.
This week's new applications list includes one for 43 Upper Oldfield Park, applying to build "5 residential units for student or healthcare worker accommodation" in the garden of the main house.  There are two major anomalies here:  the first is that because the application to sign off the Condition requiring the landscaping to be delivered before the main house is occupied was withdrawn, there is an Enforcement Notice on the main house requiring the landscaping approved with the approval of the main house to be delivered, and it can't be and also have the 5 residential units built on part of the site for landscaping so the minimum required is an approved planning application to amend the landscaping drawing ahead of this latest application being determined;  The second is that student accommodation can be applied for without a parking provision, but healthcare workers may be required to work shifts and travel to or from work outside the hours when public transport is available so they will require a parking provision, and thus the two potential uses are mutually exclusive.
Student Cars - Last updated 15 July 2018.
There is an interesting article in the printed Chronicle this week, though it wasn't on-line then and it is now.  In essence it warns students about a ban on bringing cars to the city, and expects a termination clause in tenancy agreements to be sufficient to enforce it.  It will be interesting to see how that works in practice.
Some students will bring a car.  For many of them, it is a far cheaper home to university journey than by public transport, and it allows them to carry rather more than is possible in a suitcase on wheels.  For some of them who take employment during term times to offset some of their tuition fees, it allows them to get back to their Bath accommodation after working later than the buses in Bath do serving the area where they live.  However, there are more students than available HMO rooms so some of them will inevitably be renting Purpose Built Student Accommodation, and almost all of these have a clause forbidding the use of a car.
This leads to an interesting scenario.  There isn't much the PBSA business can do other than go to court if they terminate a tenancy and the student refuses to leave and becomes a squatter.  There are some mandatory conditions where a court will automatically grant a Possession Order, such as a rented house being sold with vacant possession and the tenant after being served notice doesn't cooperate with the hand-over date.  But terminating a lease just to leave a room vacant or available for somebody else is an application for a Discretionary Possession Order, and the judge decides whether or not to grant it.
One consideration is that virtually all the PBSAs threaten to make a student homeless if they bring a car, so there is a serious shortage of car friendly lets, and if a student is forced to use a PBSA because that is the only vacant option to homelessness, is he or she signing the agreement under duress?  If so, does it make the "no car" condition an unfair contract term, and therefore unenforceable?  If one judge decides it is an unfair contract term, then the others are likely to adopt the same position thereafter.
The other consideration is that if the use of a car allows the student to take up the offer of evening employment, would a judge consider issuing a Discretionary Possession Order, making the student both homeless and unemployed (because employee records normally need a residential address)?  We suspect that few judges would think it a valid outcome for somebody parking a roadworthy vehicle in a legal parking space.
Finally, there are a number of PBSAs providing cluster flats, where several students share a group of rooms.  A Discretionary Possession Order is for a unit of accommodation not a person, so would a judge put several students out of their accommodation just because one of them has a car?  We suspect not.
The council places the onus on PBSA management for enforcing their "car free" policy that they insist goes into each S106 Agreement (because there are minutes of a council meeting stating that position).  That PBSA management has to pay a court fee for applying for each Discretionary Possession Order, whether it is granted or not.  Are they more likely to risk their money gambling on a judge granting the Order, or turn a blind eye to the car condition being ignored?  The row of student cars parked along the Lower Bristol Road suggests the latter.  If the council tries to enforce the S106 clause and the PBSA management responds by applying to the court for a Discretionary Possession Order and the judge doesn't think it is justified, what can the council do then?
Also, Residents Parking Zones don't fix the problem, because there are specific hours of Residents Parking enforcement and outside of those hours it is unrestricted parking.  So how many student cars are parked overnight in Residents Parking areas and moved in the morning to a Park and Ride which is free parking if the student doesn't pay to ride into Bath?  A student with a car won't normally use the car to go to university because of the restricted parking on campus, and will normally have a bus season ticket which is valid for all buses apart from the Park and Ride services, so any Park and Ride site is usable provided any bus other than a Park and Ride service is used from there;  and Bath Spa University buses go right past the Newbridge Park and Ride.
Termination clauses sound like a powerful weapon until the improbability of them being effective is examined.
North Parade - Last updated 1 July 2018.
Among the decisions made last week was one giving permission for Abbey Hotel in the bit of North Parade by "Bog Island" to add a mobile bar to the 12 tables and 48 chairs in front of the hotel.  It was disappointing to read that the rather crude looking mobile bar was considered to not harm the setting of a Grade II* listed building, despite it being positioned right in front of the entrance and Historic England expressing their concern about the extent of street furniture and clutter in the area and recommending published advice which should be read before determining the application.
It is also sad to see that despite The Bath Society having taken the Government to both the High Court and the Court of Appeal to establish the legal principle that protecting listed buildings and conservation areas should be the primary consideration when evaluating planning applications affecting them, the relevant sections of the Act are just quoted with no apparent thought given to their significance.
The other shortfall is in the council's policy of encouraging street furniture in almost any location where it is requested.  Residents of Bath are therefore discovering more and more parts of the public highway which are no longer available for pedestrians to use.  Perhaps the time has come where use of the public highway by businesses must be rented not given away, and the additional trading area should be part of the Business Rates calculation, so that the public have some form of return for their inconvenience.
Foxhill Outline Planning Decision - Last updated 24 June 2018.
Hot on the heels of the High Court Judgment that the planning permission for Cedar Care Home should be quashed (see below) comes this week's Chronicle report that the outline planning decision to permit demolitions on the Foxhill Estate granted to Curo in July 2017 should similarly be quashed.
The Foxhill planning decision was even more finally balanced than the Cedar Homes one, because the Committee vote was tied, and planning permission was granted by the Chair's casting vote.
Watchdog has observed the planning process for over ten years.  The casting vote system has been in existence for the whole of that time, and whilst the rules say that the Chair's casting vote can be used as the councillor sees fit, by convention prior to this current Committee the casting vote has always been used to vote against an application.  We have even attended a meeting where there was a tied vote with the Chair's normal vote being for an application, where his casting vote was against it.  This was explained at the time by the simple logic that if the vote was tied there are equal arguments for and against, and if the casting vote were to be for the application then only a court case can undo it, whereas if the application is refused then the applicant can re-submit the application having taken into account the comments of the Committee and such a replacement application can be determined on its merits.
The current Chair doesn't follow that convention, arguing that the rules do not indicate any presumption on which way the casting vote should be cast;  this isn't the only application where the casting vote was for rather than against.  However it is the most expensive occasion because it left the council spending a significant sum of money (council tax money that could have been spent on something more advantageous) trying unsuccessfully to defend that one vote which normal convention would not have made in the way it was.
It is also worth noting that two out of two High Court challenges of DMC decisions have seen the council lose, which indicates that extant legislation and planning policies carry more weight than personal preferences or prejudices in the courts when assessing the validity of council decisions.  Those who believe in the future that the council has made a wrong decision will be emboldened by that.
Royal View - Last updated 17 June 2018.
Among the decisions made this week was permission for the signage for the café to be installed in the ground floor of "Royal View".  We noticed from the Case Officer's report that nobody commented on this application, either for or against.  We are not surprised by that.  The building was given permission despite the constraints in the Western Riverside SPD that should have led to its refusal.  We did try to tell the architects that when we were consulted about the plans, but they wouldn't listen, and apparently those who later voted to permit didn't take any notice of the SPD either.
Since construction was completed, the comments overheard on Victoria Bridge vary from puzzlement about how the building got permission, to outright horror that it is totally alien to the character of Bath.  We have heard many nicknames too, and perhaps "Wedding Cake" is the most complimentary of some rather critical descriptions.  Watchdog came to the conclusion that nothing anybody could do to the building (apart from demolition) would make it less (or more) of an eyesore than it currently is, and didn't bother to comment.  We wish the successful applicants well in their enterprise, but their café isn't ideally placed for casual passing trade.
Cedar Care Home - Last updated 10 June 2018.
We noticed an article in the Chronicle that "the planning permission" (it is not stated whether it is 17/01542/FUL or 17/01543/LBA or both) granted for an extension to Cedar Care Home had been challenged in the High Court, and the High Court had quashed the permission.  Quashing a permission is not the same as refusal, it merely resets the situation to what it was before the decision was made.  Thus the DMC has to re-list the applications on a future agenda and reach a decision once again.  They will be guided in that process by the full text of the High Court Judgment.  They might also ponder over why the applications had been the subject of "third party requests" (note the plural) to DCLG for the Secretary of State to call in both applications.  This was doomed to failure, because the SofS never calls in anything unless it gets headlines in the national daily press and makes him look bad, but perhaps the High Court Judgment might make his gatekeeper ponder on whether sending out his standard refusal letter without mentioning the fact to the SofS is always a good idea, particularly when there are multiple requests on one subject.
We looked back on the minutes of the relevant meeting and they make it obvious that no heed had been paid to the Case Officer's report.  Earlier applications (15/04344/FUL and 15/04345/LBA) were refused on the grounds of over-development of the site and wrong materials for a listed building. One of the DMC members then submitted a written comment against the replacement applications that claimed (amongst other things) that "the application addresses the points raised in the first refusal".  How an even bigger addition to the host building using the same rejected materials addresses the overdevelopment of the site is not explained, but the fact that a DMC member can be so blind to the information in front of him does suggest that rather than the "training" suggested by "a B&NES council spokeswoman", he should be replaced by somebody else, one who can read and understand planning applications (or even the meeting brief which stated that "the differences between the previously refused and current scheme are very marginal and do not improve the overall quality of the design, scale or use of materials").
The incompatibility in the planning application between the Placemaking Plan requiring more outdoor amenity space when more beds are provided, and the development which removed some of the existing outdoor amenity space in order to construct the extensions which would house additional beds, was noted by the Case Officer but not by anybody minuted in the DMC meeting.  It was also notable that no differences between the consideration of the two applications had been discussed, yet the FUL application had to be assessed against the guidance in the Town and Country Planning Act and the LBA application against the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act.  The Case Officer's report identified the significant differences, yet nobody is minuted as taking any heed of the listed building observations.
We trust that before the applications are re-considered, the training proposed by the council will have taken place, and the suitability of the current membership will have been reviewed.  The six DMC members who voted to permit despite the adopted planning policies indicating refusal, and the eight who voted to damage the listed building despite the guidance in the Act which is supposed to protect it, have wasted a substantial amount of council taxpayers money.
Footnote:  While looking at the DMC meeting minutes from September 2017, we noticed that the next item on the agenda also had a Case Officer's well-argued reason for refusal based on planning policies and a specifically relevant SPD, and again the DMC don't appear to have read the meeting brief when they overrode the recommendation to refuse.  It wasn't a good meeting.
The Allen Building - Last updated 10 June 2018.
A week ago we reported that the Allen Building of the City of Bath College already has an extant planning permission 17/01588/FUL for conversion to offices within the existing structure, which is scarcely mentioned in the Officer's brief yet that reuse could be delivered quickly and it contributes to the target for office accommodation in the North Quays Development Plan.  We also reported that the fact that reusing an existing building which already has the appropriate planning permission is far more sustainable than demolition, site clearance and new construction, was not recognised in the Case Officer's report either.  In addition we noted that five of the council's specialist Departments, one statutory consultee and seven recognised and respected local organisations were firmly against granting planning permission, yet the Case Officer recommended "Delegate to permit", causing us to comment that a more striking case of keeping a pack of dogs but barking yourself is difficult to imagine.
Flooded streetWe disputed the accuracy of the flood risk assessment with this picture which shows that the area has badly flooded in the past.  We also know that the builders on the Old Labour Exchange site were surprised that they found (and preserved) the slow flow of an underground river through the original basement when they built the student accommodation above it, showing that their water level is only about two metres below the pavement level.  This rather invalidates the claim of "no springs or other issues in the immediately surrounding area" in the Allen Building Flood Risk Assessment.  Reality is more telling than any modelling results.
The minutes of the DMC meeting of 6 June are not available yet and we didn't attend the meeting, so we were pleased to read the Chronicle Summary which reported that the DMC overrode the Case Officer's recommendation and voted to refuse planning permission.  We support that decision and consider it very safe:  there are more than enough valid points in the seven objections from local organisations plus those of the council specialists to successfully fight any appeal against a refusal.  It will be interesting to read the DMC minutes when available to see whether any of the Watchdog comments featured in the decision making.
An interesting aside is the observation in the Chronicle report that the Allen Building was "previously owned by Bath College".  We checked, and discovered that the extant permission for offices was granted to Bath College, yet the application to demolish it to build a hotel was submitted by Dominvs Project Company 8 Ltd.  It looks as though Bath College applied for a planning permission with no intention of delivering the offices, merely to inflate the price they could ask for the site; and they sold it to a development company who had no intention of delivering the offices either.  This rather reinforces our suspicion that the hotel design had been carefully arranged so that with minimal alterations it could be used as Purpose Built Student Accommodation.  There are a number of competing hotels in the area which might make it difficult to attract an operator for what the DNC described as an ugly looking building, and there is a very good financial return from a PBSA.
Argyle Street - Last updated 27 May 2018.
It was unexpected that the false statement in the planning application 18/01417/FUL (that the building listed as Grade II when the Historic England records show that the entire terrace from Laura Place to Pulteney Bridge is Grade II*) was not noticed, despite Watchdog's objection pointing it out and planning legislation warning it is a criminal offence to mislead in a planning application.  It is also significant that nowhere in the planning application does the size of the proposed "umbrellas" get stated, yet without any indication whether they are tiny or huge (and the "Location" drawing, if correctly to scale, indicates that they are each 2 metres across), planning permission was considered unnecessary; and this despite their presence being recorded in every future photograph of the Grade I Pulteney Bridge, which must be one of the most photographed views for tourists.
It is one of the quirks of the planning system that if they had been placed in the grounds of No.17 they would have required Listed Building consent but because the public can walk past this location the impact on listed assets is not considered.  A device for the benefit of a few cafe customers appears to take precedence over the memorable views of thousands of tourists.  Bath deserved better.
Milsom Street - Last updated 27 May 2018.
It was disappointing to note that despite quoting from the objections of both Bath Heritage Watchdog and Bath Preservation Trust to 18/01022/REG03, more weight was given to the opinion of bba architects & planners who quote correctly the text of Policy CR3 and then fail to note the associated explanatory text "Enhancing Bath's central shopping area, to maintain its competitiveness, diverse offer and reputation for independent and niche retailing" and "Local Plan policies protect the centres from changes of use" and then think it through.  Firstly they note that HAY was the business that vacated the shop, but make no connection with the HAY shop still trading next door.  The obvious assumption is that the business wants to trade in the street but at a lower cost.  Then they assume that a bowed shop-front is a disincentive to retail use, yet there are nearby bowed shop-fronts (in Old Bond Street for example) which disproves this.  They still regard 39 Milsom Street (3 doors along) as a bank when it has planning permission granted 2 years earlier to operate as a restaurant, and certainly the close proximity of another restaurant will prevent No.36 from making "a positive contribution to the vitality, viability and diversity of the centre".  The existence of a bus queue immediately outside the property will not enhance the view of A3 customers either.
They also point out that there are four other properties in Milsom Street and several in Milsom Place which are similarly currently vacant and unwanted.  Clearly there are other influences at work that prevent these vacant premises being let;  and also inhibit similar applications to turn them all into A3 use.
The clue is perhaps the rent of "£90,000 per annum exclusive subject to upward only rent reviews".  To this figure must be added staff costs (including pension provisions), Business Rates (an unstated but unlikely to be small sum) and all other operating costs.  This suggests that unless the renter has a high profit margin, there won't be enough income to service all the outgoings.  The fact that Jamie Oliver's famous name wasn't sufficient to make Jamie's Italian viable in this location does lend some weight to the Watchdog view that Bath has reached its saturation level for A3 uses.
Time will tell whether the availability of A3 use will make this property attractive without a more realistic expectation of the rent for what is just a long, thin shop.  £690 per square metre per annum is a lot to find.
Mixed Views on Universities - Last updated 20 May 2018.
There are mixed messages in the press about the value of the University presence in Bath.  On the one hand there are councillors who think the University of Bath has been the salvation of Bath despite the University paying only a peppercorn a year for rent of the site it occupies.  On the other hand, other councillors are concerned at the impact of the student accommodation on the council finances.
This last point has only recently become true.  The Government Grant to councils originally included a calculation that increased the payment to offset the loss of Council Tax that could not be collected from student accommodations.  This worked while the full grant was paid out, but recent years have seen the amount that was paid by the Government reduced gradually, and finally the funding basis for B&NES was changed completely.  The consequence is that student HMOs and Purpose Built Student Accommodation now provide no council income at all.
There are a couple of elephants in the room associated with the salvation of Bath view.  There are two universities and a college in Bath, which account for a higher percentage of the population than even the "dreaming spires" of Oxford accommodate.  In order to house this already large and always increasing proportion of the population, offices, factories and other locations that could provide employment and therefore business rates are being demolished to provide accommodation for students, which under the more recent Government policies make them financial parasites.  The knock-on effect is that many dwellings that could house families and pay Council Tax are unaffordable to such families who thus have to live outside Bath, but are profitable as HMOs;  and  places of employment for the reducing number of permanent residents are now increasingly outside the city, adding to the volume of commuters and subtracting their spending power.  Meanwhile, a number of Bath traders see a significant proportion of their customer base disappear each summer, and some of them do not survive until the students return for the Autumn Term.
Furthermore, the Leader of the Council informs the press that the council doesn't want any more student accommodation except on campus, a preference that is included (but not currently enforced) in the Core Strategy, but he doesn't seem to have taken any steps to ensure that the Development Management Committee use that policy to refuse applications for additional PBSAs unless they are on campus.  Meanwhile, those who make their profits from providing PBSAs suggest that universities couldn't afford such developments, completely overlooking the fact that if they make a profit from PBSAs then so would universities.
With the council's newly acquired financial penalties of a large student population, it is imperative that the university-council relationship is reworked as soon as possible.  Step one should be an assumption of zero growth in the university intake unless accommodation for the increase is provided on campus, sufficient for the entire duration of the university courses.  That is the only way that the council's targets for places of employment and affordable residences nearby can be delivered.
Pollution in Bath - Last updated 13 May 2018.
The council website section covering this subject has recently been updated with additional public consultation events, and a newsletter which includes updates to the clean air zone boundary.  Although not obviously connected with heritage, the pollutants created by vehicle emissions can contribute to acid rain, and Bath stone is a carbonate that is susceptible to acid.  We therefore have more than a passing interest in the scheme.
Nevertheless, there are some reservations about the criteria being used to judge what is a "higher-emission" vehicle.  Whilst recognising that there has to be a starting point, the reliance on Euro standards is flawed.  There are vehicles which were engineered to meet the standards for the Euro test but cannot achieve similar results under normal driving conditions;  and there are vehicles which were first registered before the Euro test came into force and therefore were never tested against the standard which they would have comfortably met had they been tested.  The first category will get an exemption they do not deserve, and the latter group will be penalised when they don't deserve it.  The final unfair category is "Vehicles within the disabled passenger vehicle tax class" which are effectively the vehicles obtained through the Motability scheme, yet disabled passengers have a personal Blue Badge which can be displayed in any vehicle used for their transport.  This discriminates between the disabled who are registered keepers of a vehicle and those who who are normally passengers rather than drivers.
The other oddity is that the press (and the 2016 annual survey) emphasise that London Road is one of the most polluted roads in Bath yet it is almost entirely outside the Clean Air Zone.  This means that deliveries to Morrisons are outside the zone, yet Sainsbury's in Green Park Station, although on the edge of the zone, cannot be accessed from any direction without entering the zone.  There has to be an argument about unfair competition as a result of these arrangements.
The council is encouraging feedback on the scheme, and have now published an e-mail address for such communications.
World Heritage Day - Last updated 22 April 2018.
Crowd sceneWorld heritage Day 2018 was be on Sunday 22nd April in Royal Victoria Park.  One of our members went along and afterwards sent us some photographs and a short report.  This photo shows that the event was well attended.
The Ermine Street Guard demonstrated weaponry and military manoeuvres which will have looked mostly familiar to those who had seen them in previous years, though the archery demonstration was new and the trebuchet had been set to a lower power to suit this year's ammunition melons which represented the rocks which would have been used in battle.  There were also a number of stalls (out of shot) providing information and things to do.
Zizzi's Appeal - Last updated 25 March 2018.
There was an interesting observation in the document describing why the appeal against the 17/04521/AR refusal was dismissed.  The applicant had indicated that the planters seen on site were what was going to be remaining on the site, not the ones in the submitted plan.  The Appeal Inspector noted that those on site were more subdued than the ones refused planning permission, but nevertheless he had to deal with the submitted plans which showed what he considered were unacceptable planters.
Others thinking of appealing planning refusals should note that an appeal is against the planning decision, not what could have been submitted instead;  and that the Appeal Inspector will deal only with the drawings submitted to the planning process, regardless of any variations subsequently introduced into the appeal process.
Loss Of Shops - Last updated 18 March 2018.
This week's new applications contains another clutch of proposals to convert buildings into cafes and restaurants.  However Bath seems to be saturated in such eating establishments, to the extent that each new business appears to be followed a relatively short time later by an existing similar business closing down.  Cafe's and restaurants are now competing for a fairly static number of customers.
Whilst that in itself doesn't give grounds for refusing the applications, there should perhaps be warnings given to applicants requesting pre-application advice that the saturation point exists and they may be opening a short-lived business.
From the council's perspective, the gradual erosion of shops could have an impact on the number of visitors looking for cafes and restaurants, and the loss of a shop needs to be taken more seriously than it has in the past.
Pickford's Site - Last updated 11 March 2018.
We notice that the S106 Agreement still retains the "Motor Car Condition", which our research suggests is unenforceable.  If a student does not comply with the Condition but nevertheless refuses to vacate the accommodation, the only way of forcing the student to leave is by a County Court Judgment.  Our enquiries to the Clerk of Court revealed that such an application would be classed as a Discretionary Possession Order, and although the decision on whether or not to issue an Eviction Notice is at the discretion of the judge hearing the case, it was considered very unlikely that a student who is up to date with the rent due and has not committed a parking offence with the choice of parking space would be viewed by a judge to have committed an offence heinous enough to be made homeless.
University of Bath - Last updated 18 February 2018.
Following the article in the Chronicle informing that Councillors are questioning the peppercorn rent that the University pays for the land it occupies and the subsequent discussion on how Wessex House could be built for student occupancy but then reused as offices without planning permission (application 99/00365/FUL for Change of use of levels 6-9 Wessex House from residential accommodation to offices was withdrawn and was never resubmitted), the University of Bath applied for a Certificate of Lawful Use (17/06221/CLEU).
We examined the relevant legislation and the documentation submitted, and discovered that whilst the University is a charity and is totally exempt from council tax for student accommodation, it is required to pay 20% of the assessed Business Rates for office accommodation.  The Financial Statements for 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 showed no such Business Rates payments.  Therefore we argued that the application as submitted did not prove the business use of the former student accommodation for 10 years.
The case officer took a different view, concluding that as the Financial Statement 1999-2000 reported the conversion as completed in 2000 then there was more than 10 years of evidence and the current use was lawful.  Clearly, failing to pay the Treasury its dues is not significant in planning decisions.
Our real concern though is the statements in the Delegated Report "planning permission was not and is not required for changes of use of University buildings" and "changes to the use of buildings located within a university campus are not considered to require planning permission given that universities are considered to constitute a single planning unit".  This is in direct conflict with the Core Strategy "the strategy seeks, in accordance with saved Local Plan Policy GDS.1/11, the development of about 2,000 study bedrooms and 45,000 sq.m of academic space at the Claverton Campus" and the Placemaking Plan "Development on campus should contribute to the full spectrum of the University's needs, including academic space, all the accommodation space that is needed for the growth in the intake of first years from 2011 and a major share of the accommodation space that is needed for their subsequent years of study".
If the University has Permitted Development Rights to change the use of any building on campus, then the Core Strategy and the Placemaking Plan are undeliverable because any student accommodation could be altered into offices and classrooms once built.  Either the Case Officer is wrong or the Full Council which endorsed the policies are wrong.  This cannot be allowed to fester, and a meeting of the Full Council needs to discuss and agree and then publicise which viewpoint is to take precedence.
Bath North Quays - Last updated 11 February 2018.
The letter in the Chronicle commenting on the lack of affordable housing in the North Quays development raises an interesting point:  How can the council have a target of 30% affordable housing and then sit back and do nothing when it is claimed that it would cost too much to provide them.  The obvious conclusion is that either the preferred developer is not able to meet the constraint that is council policy, or that the design put forward is wrong.  Any outline planning application that does not accommodate the 30% target should be refused outright.  Another developer or another design is required.
Any sign that the council has a policy it can't be bothered to enforce will lead to a series of other developments requiring affordable housing going to appeal using the argument of victimisation.  Bath deserves much better than that.
Marks and Spencer - Last updated 4 February 2018.
As an aside to the permission now granted to the M&S planning application, we notice that Metro Bank is so similar to Metrobank that a breach of trademark dispute is likely to follow.
Norland College - Last updated 14 January 2018.
Norland classroomAlthough the conversion work is not quite complete, the Oldfield Park building which was the former 6th Form House associated with Hayesfield School is now Norland College, and the Principal invited local residents to an open evening to hear a potted summary of the 125 years Norlands had been in existence, apologies for the time it took to get the building work done, and the plans for the future now that this building supplements the York Place building which will remain in use.  As we have members living in the area who went along, we had first hand assurances that unlike the other universities, the College will run its Degree course with no plans to increase its intake of students, which will stay at its current level.
After the introductory speech, those attending were free to explore the building and talk to the staff.  Those who used the building when it was part of Hayesfield School noted that the internal structure was virtually unchanged (though nicely redecorated and furnished, see picture), and the new extensions connected seamlessly to the original building.
Student HMOs - Last updated 10 December 2017.
As a secondary investigation, we did examine the Government's calculation for rectifying the loss of council tax from student HMOs.  It is wrapped up in the Government Grant calculation identifying the loss of Council Tax income based on the number of student households as notified by the council, assessed at Band D rates.  These notional losses are added back into the Government Grant calculation which deducts the potential Council Tax income on the assumption that all properties are occupied and paying their due.  While the Government was paying the full residue of the entire sum needed by Local Government, this was a fairish calculation provided the council's figures are supplied accurately (only fairish because student HMOs might be larger properties than Band D).  Recently, the Government has been arbitrarily reducing the Government Grant by a percentage of what was calculated as actually needed, and every such reduction leaves B&NES failing to get sufficient credit for student-occupied properties where they cannot collect Council Tax.  This is in addition to the stresses on funding services;  stresses which would have applied had there been no students in Bath.  Yet there are a lot of students in Bath, and each student-occupied property not paying Council Tax is now a contributory cause of the reduced services caused by the reduced budget.
Bath Libraries - Last updated 26 November 2017.
The Chronicle article has some interesting conflicting views.  The mobile library was saved only because of the combined opposition by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors which forced the Cabinet to preserve the mobile library service, yet the council leader claims the council have listened to the people rather than being forced to listen to the other councillors.  The people won't get asked about the principle of shedding the branch libraries until after the decision was made not to fund them:  the council website already describes them as "community libraries".  This is another "consultation" over a decision that has already been made.  The forecast savings of £200,000 are of a minor scale best described as rounding errors in the types of sums in the council's spreadsheet, and they will take nearly 18 months to show because they are offset by a £275,000 bribe to make the decision look even vaguely acceptable.
One thing that appears to have been overlooked is that the branch libraries are mostly wheelchair friendly in that the books and staff are at street level.  Forcing such users to get to a main library and then navigate to an upper floor is certainly not within the spirit of the Equalities Act, and a judge might decide it is not within the letter of the Act either.  If the Save Bath Libraries campaigners carry out their threat to seek a judicial review, the council's legal costs will eat up all the claimed savings and more.  This doesn't look like something that has been thought through.
Pickfords Site - Last updated 19 November 2017.
We mentioned on 5 November that the Committee overruled the Case Officer on the original application with very detailed objections (about the height, bulk, massing and external appearance failing to comply with the then draft of the Placemaking Plan;  and that the loss of the industrial business would have an unacceptable impact on the local economy, again failing to comply with the then draft of the Placemaking Plan).  We said that these are reasons which must still apply because the alterations between the original refused application and the current one are minor and inconsequential, and the adopted Placemaking Plan is very similar to the draft.
The excuses mentioned in the Chronicle for not repeating the refusal were tenuous, and came nowhere near overcoming the loss of industrial business nor the height and bulk, and the alterations to the appearance were minimal, and yet the objection that it failed to comply with Placemaking policies was never reviewed in detail.  We also notice that a late objection from a site neighbour was omitted from the Update Report despite it being received three days before the update was written.  This was a Development Management Committee which appeared to be trying to avoid the cost of an Appeal hearing, and hoped to do so by approving something that really didn't deserve to be approved in the form presented.
Wansdyke Business Centre - Last updated 12 November 2017.
One of our members who lives near this location informed us that the two appeals against the council's refusal of permission to replace the Wansdyke Business Centre with a mixed use site (16/02749/FUL and 17/00955/FUL) were dismissed.  Armed with that news we found a Chronicle article reporting it.
The dismissal for the earlier application was more substantial than that for the second application.  The Appeal Inspector noted that the planning policies that formed the basis of the council decisions had now been superseded by the more recent Placemaking Plan and the appeals were evaluated against the most recent policies.  The developments were favoured by some of the new policies and opposed by others, which left the Appeal Inspector reaching a balance between conflicting policies.  That balance came ultimately to the conclusion that the reasons for approving the appeals were outweighed by the reasons for dismissing them.
It was disappointing to see that although the Appeal Inspector noted the local residents' concerns about the inability to enforce the S106 constraint that students occupying the proposed accommodation could not bring a car, and the expected resultant demands on the already limited parking in the area, he still believed that the S106 constraint had weight and was enforceable and as such it formed part of the appeal evaluation.  None of the permanent residents believe it.
Bath Cricket Club - Last updated 22 October 2017.
It was no surprise to read in the Chronicle that the developer wishing to build student flats on the Cricket Club car park claims that student flats are "the only viable alternative".  It is part of the role of developers to try make planners doubt their grasp of regulations in order to influence planning decisions in their favour.  It does not make the claim true, and our research confirmed that it isn't true.
We looked at the Environment Agency's website and their advice is very clear that student accommodation (along with dwelling houses, drinking establishments, nightclubs and hotels) is not permitted on flood zone 3 land without complete compliance with the NPPF advice on such applications.  The fact that there are wardens to look after the students makes no difference, as the Environment Agency has already carefully spelled out to another developer attempting similar accommodation elsewhere in Bath.  It is clear though that the claim that there are no other viable alternatives is false.  The Environment Agency website also conveniently listed what would be permitted: "Buildings used for shops; financial, professional and other services; restaurants, cafes and hot food takeaways; offices; general industry, storage and distribution; non-residential institutions not included in the 'More Vulnerable' class; and assembly and leisure such as amenity open space, nature conservation and biodiversity, outdoor sports and recreation and essential facilities such as changing rooms".  Thus the gym and cricket school might still be possible if the student accommodation element is withdrawn.
We also note that in the event of a flood (which might last several days) all 142 students could be accommodated by the University of Bath, which suggests that sufficient spare accommodation is already available elsewhere and perhaps this development is not as essential as the developer claims; and profitability for the Cricket Club is not part of the NPPF description of the Exception Test.
Obituary - Last updated 8 October 2017.
MBE PictureWe were saddened to read the obituary to Major Anthony Crombie in the Chronicle.  The article hints at "landmark case law", which he referred to as ensuring that the Government recognised the need to comply with its own legislation passed by Parliament.  So certain was he that he was right that he refused to accept the first verdict against him, and he won on appeal. That established "The Hammercrest Verdict" into case law, requiring planning decisions to give precedence to preserving or enhancing Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings over perceived benefits from proposed developments.  This success was instrumental in him being nominated for the MBE he was subsequently awarded. (Our picture of Major Crombie with his MBE was taken from the Order of Service for his funeral).
Tony, as we knew him, was a leading light in The Bath Society, and we met him regularly in the Bath Society Meeting Room in Green Park Station along with others from heritage backgrounds to discuss the issues each was interested in and the actions they were taking.  This allowed exchanges of views and suggestions and advice, to the benefit of all.
These meeting ceased when the Bath Society Meeting Room could no longer be used, but Tony's wise advice lives on: "Research meticulously, prepare thoroughly for what would follow, and if the matter is likely to be over an extended period then don't expose all your weapons in the early stages".
We particularly remember Tony's generosity in allowing the Bath Society Meeting Room to be used by others.  Of particular help to Watchdog was his support for our links with the Architectural School of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA.  Students of classical architecture were allocated projects designing areas of Bath for modern functionality in Georgian architectural styles.  Their projects were presented every two years from 2009 to 2015 and covered the Western Riverside, Kingsmead, Manvers Street and Narrow Quay.  Tony allowed the Bath Society Meeting Room to be used free of charge for public exhibitions of the first two of these when the output was brought to Bath.  If the Bath Society had retained the use of the Meeting Room after 2012 we are sure he would have hosted the other two as well.
Rest in peace, Tony.  We were privileged to have known you.
The Rec - Last updated 1 October 2017.
There was an interesting letter in the Chronicle this week where the writer fears losing a famous view if Bath Rugby build a new stadium.  We think he has a point.  Bath is a World Heritage Site and many visitors arrive for a complete experience, not just a look at some Georgian buildings and a wander round the Roman Baths.  Scenery is every bit as valuable as the bits the council promotes, and the Mayor's Guides confirm that the view the letter draws attention to is very popular with the tourists.  It was also featured in the City Trail booklet which has not been actively promoted for some time.
For years the Rec has hosted rugby matches, and the number of spectators has always been more dependent on the results on the pitch than the quality of facilities used by the spectators, so the letter writer has a sound basis for hoping that Bath Rugby could continue on the Rec as it currently does.  What he doesn't emphasise is that with a season of limited duration and home and away matches played in that time, there are not many days when a match is played on the Rec.  He could then have made a telling point that a stadium built and in use for a handful of days a year would ruin a popular view every single day.
It is perhaps also worth mentioning that the High Court, in its 2002 Judgment made it clear that the council is ultimately responsible for the Recreation Ground which it holds in trust, and the observation of the Covenants which applied to it on the date that the responsibility started, and that while the Charity Commission might have established that it will deal with the Trustees, the High Court's position that the Trustees are agents of the council and thus the council bears the responsibility for the actions of the Trustees, remains unchanged.
Former Herman Miller Building, Locksbrook Road - Last updated 24 September 2017.
This week we noted that planning permission had been granted for Planning Application 17/02033/FUL.  The Delegated Report contains an odd contradiction.  The damage to the listed building caused by the rooftop addition is acknowledged:  "the pavilion continues to harm the significance of this designated heritage asset by virtue of its bulk and its high profile position on the riverside elevation which is considered damaging to the clean simple roof line of the building.  This harm is considered to be 'less than substantial harm' in NPPF terms but harm nonetheless."  The justification for this harm was that it brings the listed building back into active use.
The problem with this conclusion is that earlier in the report the principle of this educational use was not for discussion because "the use of the building by Bath School of Art & Design for academic purposes has commenced" so it had already been brought into use.
Our comments at the public consultation, repeated in our comments on the planning application, made it clear that a roof top extension was a vanity project because there was ample space to put the functions it contained in an extension that did not destroy the original listed plan form.  We remain unconvinced that "from a functional perspective a roof top extension is the most logical and feasible option" had really been thought through.  There was no public benefit from harming the listed building with a rooftop extension in an incompatible style when options existed for providing the same facilities without such harm.  Bath deserved better.
Mineral Water Hospital - Last updated 10 September 2017.
Last week we reported on the attempt to by the Bath Preservation Trust to have the Mineral Water Hospital declared an Asset of Community Value under the Localism Act 2011 and the outcome that it had been turned down by the council.  The Chronicle reported that the BPT has urged the council to bring forward a development brief for the site as a matter of urgency.  We support this initiative.
The latest news is that the Mineral Water Hospital has been sold to Winchester-based Versant Developers & Homes, and it is important that the buyers are made aware of the constraints they will be under (it is both a Grade II* Listed Building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument) before they start to make plans for what to do with it.  The council needs to prepare a development brief quickly to ward off inappropriate planning applications and potential appeal processes..
Green Park Station - Last updated 3 September 2017.
In our comment on the planning application for the anti-pigeon netting in the Train Shed of Green Park Station, we pointed out that the proximity of the netting to the hot flue of the Pizza Pod would be a fire hazard.  The drawings were not updated after that comment was submitted, and as a result the drawings forming part of the planning permission granted, which showed the netting installed above the current location of this flue, and the interior of the Train Shed with the Pizza Pod not in place, are now legally part of the implementation.  We had reported the unauthorised structure to Enforcement, so perhaps something will now be done to pursue 16/00303/UNDEV which is currently awaiting investigation.
Right and Left Hand Mismatch - Last updated 20 August 2017.
Amid all the local press reports on how polluted the Bath air is and the expressed desire for it to become cleaner, we have the very recent introduction of speed management tables at intervals along Lower Oldfield Park, thus ensuring that vehicles slow down for the humps and speed up between them, which is the style of driving that creates the maximum amount of exhaust pollution for any given distance.  One local member queried whether the right hand knew what the left hand is doing, hence our title for this paragraph.
Public Consultation - Last updated 20 August 2017.
Visitors to the consultation would have seen an outline of the suggested development in the grounds of the new flats at 43 Upper Oldfield Park, some elevation sketches, and a page of explanatory notes (of the 11 residential units containing 18 beds) to take away.  These would be in place of the landscape plans (rotated so that south is at the bottom) provided to the Planning Inspector dealing with the Appeal for 43 Upper Oldfield Park.  These links provide to readers all the information that was made available to those who did attend.
The stated aim of the event was to listen to the public's comments, so that the designs could be amended in the hope of creating a planning application more likely to be supported by those interested enough to comment on it.  Thus the information in the links above must be regarded as a first draft rather than final intentions.
Our quick straw poll of the local residents afterwards reveals that the development would be in a dangerous place on a busy road which already has a bad reputation for minor accidents.  There is an expectation that the construction phase will be chaotic regarding the impact on traffic flow, and risky in terms of additional accidents if there is any vehicular access to the site once built.
Dorchester Street Telephone Boxes - Last updated 6 August 2017.
We raised an Enforcement Case because planning application 06/02656/LBA had a Condition that no work should commence (on removing the station ramp) until the eventual location of the listed telephone boxes was decided.  Application 08/04795/COND positioned all 5 in a row in what is now known as Brunel Square, and this was approved on 2 November 2009.  Four were initially installed in a row outside The Graze and remained there for a while, after which they have been moved several times, adorned with advertising, decorated with flowers (having removed the windows) and one has been repainted.  In short, these listed telephone boxes have been mightily abused.
Normally when an Enforcement Case is raised, one of three things happened:  it could be ignored (as our initial complaint that they had been moved from The Graze was), or it gets registered but ultimately we are told that action will not be taken, or else it gets registered and pursued.  On this occasion though, we got a Case Number for our second Enforcement complaint, that the boxes were being "officially" vandalised, and that resulted in a reply that a legal opinion was being sought.  Later we received an update that Historic England had advised that once the boxes were removed from their original address, they were no longer listed, which is a strange reason because the address where they were first moved to continued to be the original Dorchester Street, and they were then illegally moved to where they currently are (and all we asked is for them to be put back).  Historic England have said that because they are moved items, they would ask the Secretary of State to delist them.  The council has asked the site manager of Southgate to keep them on site somewhere because the public has an affection for them, which is interesting because as far as we can discover they never formally ceased to be the property of BT.
The Watchdog archives reveal that English Heritage (as they were then) were realistic in recognising that they had to be removed in order to construct Debenhams, and were content with the plan to reinstall them opposite their original position in what was eventually renamed Brunel Square.  Nowhere in their comments was there any warning that moving them from one side of the road to the other would lose them their listing.  So this looks like an arbitrary decision by Historic England, because the listed building legislation does not cover this situation; it does not say anything about whether or not moving a listed item from one side of the road to the other is a significant event.  The corollary to this is that the full set of listing entries cover a number of items that could reasonably be moved such as historic gates, huts and other telephone boxes.  So now, for consistency, Historic England has to continue its arbitrary policy and delist any of these that are removed from their original address, so gates sent away for repair will lose their listing and therefore need not be replaced.  The whole policy is a new can of worms unless Historic England rapidly rethink it.
The clue to what led Historic England to make the delisting decision is their reported verdict that "having considered the change in location as well as the lack of visual relationship with any listed buildings in their current location, Historic England have confirmed that they do not consider the kiosks  to be listable in their current position".  It is patently obvious from that statement that they were not shown the supporting evidence from our Enforcement case.  Our enforcement case was that they were required to be moved to their new position outside the Grade II listed vaults beside the Grade II* listed Bath Spa Railway Station, and we provided the link to a drawing from 08/04795/COND showing the exact position in support of this.  They were illegally moved afterwards (ie without permission from an essential Listed Building Application) and their illegal new position is not what Historic England should be commenting on; they should be considering the appropriateness of continuing the listing entry in respect of where they should legally be sited.  Somebody has either deliberately misled Historic England, or else somebody has mischievously allowed Historic England to pursue a false assumption.  If it is now too late to reverse the wrong decision to delist the telephone boxes, Historic England should now insist that they are placed in the position identified in 08/04795/COND and then create a new entry for them in that position.
The other unanswered question is who decided that our simple request ("Can you put the phone boxes back please") ought to be attacked with a sledgehammer approach of seeking legal advice (and no doubt guiding the advice behind the scenes), because this is not something that Enforcement would do under their own initiative when they had the simple alternative of telling us it would not be expedient to enforce.  Someone clearly has a vision for Brunel Square that doesn't include the telephone boxes and didn't want anything left to chance.  The sad thing is that Historic England went along with it and introduced their own interpretation of the legislation which now puts a significant number of listed items around the country at risk of suffering unintended consequences from what would until now have been reasonable maintenance activities.
Enforcements - Last updated 23 July 2017.
We have recently notified Enforcement of several instances where changes have been made that should have had planning permissions beforehand but none were applied for.  Enforcement have responded with case references (see our Enforcements page) that were not all in the categories we expected from the details we had provided.  In the past, we have simply let Enforcement know and they have changed it.  However this time we received the comment "The complaint will be investigated as reported regardless of the description" without an explanation of why Enforcement have not co-operated this time.  We have therefore noted on the Enforcements page those where we believe the allocated case number has used the wrong category, so that those who want to monitor specific types of case have more accurate information.
Bathampton Meadows Park & Ride - Last updated 16 July 2017.
The front page headline on the latest issue of the Chronicle announced that the proposed Park and Ride on Bathampton Meadows would no longer be pursued.  Watchdog is happy that common sense has finally prevailed, and that the various reports that the council has been party to that showed that a Bathampton facility would not have any measurable effect on the traffic volume entering Bath from the east nor the pollution levels along the route, have finally been given some credence.
The Chronicle online has helpfully provided a timeline of how the current decision came about.  Unfortunately, it doesn't go back far enough.  In 2004 there was a study, jointly commissioned by the Government Office for the South West (who represented the Secretary of State) and B&NES Council, entitled the Bristol Bath to South Coast Study.  Amongst the investigations this study covered was the question of whether Bathampton Meadows was a suitable site for a Park and Ride.  It came to the firm conclusion that it was not.  The report, and therefore that decision, was adopted by B&NES.
The 2009 planning applications to expand the Lansdown, Newbridge and Odd Down Park and Rides also proposed a new Bathampton facility, and despite all the Government guidelines intended to protect Green Belts, World Heritage Sites and locations subject to flooding, planning permission for the Bathampton proposal was granted with only three members of the planning committee voting against it.  That decision influenced the ensuing local elections, such that the Liberal Democrats promised not to build that Park & Ride if they took control of the council, and they were elected in sufficient numbers to honour their promise, and so the extant permission time expired.  But the Conservatives regained control of the council in 2015, and putting the Bathampton Meadows back on the table won them no friends.
So we cannot criticise the decision now made to abandon the plans, only wonder why it took so long to do so and why so much money was squandered on a scheme that twelve years earlier in a study part-funded by the council, the council had formally recognised that the site was unsuitable.
K6 Phone Boxes - Last updated 11 June 2017.
On 28 May we reported that we have been allocated an Enforcement Case Number for the unauthorised works to the listed K6 phone boxes that ought to be in Brunel Square and we have updated our Enforcements page accordingly.  We were awaiting further developments.  We were not expecting the further developments to be yet more abuse, so we have sent a photograph taken last week to Enforcement showing the council's Parks Department adding vegetation to one of the boxes.  This is intended to bring to the council's attention that unauthorised works are still going on.
HMO Consultation - Last updated 28 May 2017.
Part of our comments on the council's consultation on HMOs looked at the Article 4 Direction and its effectiveness,  This particular Direction removes Permitted Development rights to convert a residential property into an HMO, thus ensuring that every such conversion in areas that meet specific criteria has to be preceded by a planning permission.  Effectively, it is a legal instrument to amend extant legislation, and as such it gives the council additional control over HMOs.
What it doesn't do is place any legal obligation on the council to recognise the reason why the Article 4 Direction was considered necessary; to accept that some areas of Bath have reached or exceeded saturation level as far as the number of students are concerned.  That is because the planning legislation is based on properties, not population.  However, HMOs typically house 6-8 adults compared to 2-4 adults in a corresponding residential property and from a straw poll of residents in the Oldfield Park area it is not just the number of properties devoted to HMOs that unsettles them (by limiting the opportunities for families to move in with the social benefits of friends for resident children and car sharing for school runs) but also the impact on local traders when a significant proportion of footfalls go home at the ends of term.
There is no excuse for ignoring the impact of student populations on the demographics of an area.  It is noteworthy that in the case of the Wansdyke Business Centre (17/00955/FUL), not only are the two local councillors against it because it will make the local imbalance of population groups even worse (contrary to policy CP10), and the Parks Department considers the student units will be affected by shading (from the tree canopy in the SNCI designated green corridor) that is likely to minimise natural light levels in these units, but also the University of Bath states "The extent of student occupation in Oldfield Park is detrimental to the public image of higher education and inappropriate for a residential neighbourhood" and "The University would not seek to secure this property to accommodate its students"  Effectively the University which would have been the prime user of the proposed student accommodation has recognised it would be bad PR for the University and therefore they have expressed no interest in it.
K6 Phone Boxes - Last updated 23 April 2017.
The red K6 Telephone Boxes that used to stand in Dorchester Street before the Southgate Shopping Centre was built, are supposed to be erected as a group of five (as described in the Listed Building description) in the environs of Bath Spa Station.  We raised an Enforcement case when they were moved elsewhere, and since then one of them has been partially repainted in yellow without listed building consent.  So far, we have not been allocated an Enforcement Case Number, so we have reminded Enforcement that a number is still awaited, and that we expect all the phone boxes to be returned to the station precinct and arranged in the correct sequence.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 16 April 2017.
We were pleased to see that the Development Management Committee granted permission for the restoration of the country's only surviving Georgian Lido.  We did note that there were concerns expressed by the nearby residents, but we have difficulty reconciling their concerns about increased road traffic with the plans put forward by the Trustees.
The Trustees have already secured permission for a river landing stage, which should provide a route for construction materials initially, and visitors eventually.  The streets around the entrance to the site are part of an established Residents Parking Zone, so very few Bath residents will attempt to arrive by car, and any that do will only do so once and discover that they need a suitable permit.
The Trustees have undertaken to keep the local residents informed, and hopefully that process will reassure them that the concerns voiced so far are somewhat exaggerated.
South Quays Planning Applications - Last updated 9 April 2017.
On 5 April 2017, the Development Management Committee granted permission to 16/04819/REG13 which included the demolition of buildings curtilage listed with the Newark Works.
We checked with the National Planning Casework Unit whether they were aware of the threat to listed buildings from this application.  They replied that they had received and noted the application 16/04818/EREG03 but had no record of any notification of 16/04819/REG13.  We have their e-mail stating this.
The council is the owner of the land, is the applicant for the works covered by 16/04819/REG13, and has taken it upon itself to determine this application without reference to the Secretary of State.  This is therefore an unlawful decision, having failed to comply with Section 82 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
We therefore expect "The Commission" as described in the Act (Currently Historic England) to ask the Secretary of State to call in this unlawful decision for his own determination.  We also expect the Secretary of State to overturn the decision because the planning authority did not have special regard (as defined in the High Court Case Law from the "Hammercrest" appeal) to the desirability of preserving a listed building or its setting, and did not heed paragraph 132 of the NPPF which required great weight to be given to the asset's conservation, in a World Heritage Site where such assets are of the highest significance.
We recognise that the council had already ignored EU directives on competition in designing offices specifically for BMT (which BMT confirmed by pulling out after the roofline was altered), but now that BMT have withdrawn from the scheme the council has no excuse for unlawfully ignoring the extant UK legislation to conserve listed buildings.  Luckily the council can revoke their consent under Section 23 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and if they do this quickly enough it would save the expense of a public inquiry.
Former Hinton Garage - Last updated 9 April 2017.
We reminded the Development Management Committee that the Planning Code of Conduct states:  Your role is to make planning decisions openly, impartially, with sound judgement and for justifiable reasons  and asked that the draft minutes should be amended to include the justifiable reasons before the draft minutes were signed off as a true record.
We acknowledged that within the rules the Chair was entitled to vote again and to vote whichever way she thought appropriate, but pointed out that there was a long history of the casting vote being used either to refuse an application or to defer a decision for further information.  That is why we were asking for a minuted explanation of why the long-established convention was considered inappropriate on this occasion.  We were told that there was no legal obligation to provide such an explanation, and it would not be provided.
It is true that there is no legal obligation.  However, by deliberately withholding that explanation rather than explaining it "openly", it does leave open to speculation the reason why it was decided best to withhold it.
Coal Wagon - Last updated 2 April 2017.
On 1 April 2017, the coal wagon discovered in one of the sealed off vaults under the platform of Bath Spa Station was installed in the Museum of Bath At Work and unveiled amid speeches by the key players who had ensured its restoration.  Watchdog was invited along, and we took photographs (some of which are on our News Summary page).  The restorers had retained as much of the original material as possible, which included the engraving "GWR" which could be traced with the fingers but unfortunately wasn't clearly visible in the photographs we took.
South Quays Bridge - Last updated 12 March 2017.
As expected from the overstated public benefits and the understated heritage harm in the Committee Brief, the council has permitted it own application, rather than admit it needed improvement.
The design of the bridge was chosen on the basis of the design of the span before any consideration was given to how it would impact on the heritage or the flood protection scheme, thus creating a square pegs and round holes mismatch.  The people who understand heritage (Urban Design, Conservation Officers, Heritage England etc) were all very clear that there would be better solutions that did not demand the demolition of the landmark arches, but the Committee considered itself more knowledgeable than the experts (offered as the most charitable of the possibilities).
Bath deserved better.
South Quays - Last updated 12 March 2017.
The "Bath Quays South" development has also attracted the attention of the national press.  In an article in the Sunday Times dated 12 March (which we can't reproduce verbatim for copyright reasons) and Headed "Threat to Bath's heritage status" it highlights the large development of office blocks and flats as a likely trigger for UNESCO to send another Mission to Bath, as they did in 2008.  Historic England consider this a real risk.  Their planning director believes that it is not too late for the local authority to avert a potential threat.  A quote from the Bath Preservation Trust emphasises that economic growth is important but it should not be pursued "at any price".  The council has said that planning applications would be refused if there was "Identifiable harm" to the city's heritage.  The article draws a comparison with Dresden in Germany, which recently lost its World Heritage Site designation because of inappropriate development.
We remain sceptical about the council's claim, because the decision on what is identifiable harm rests with the council, and as can be seen with the decision on the bridge above, there is no recognition of identifiable harm if the council decides it wants something.  A similar example is a more modest planning application for the building on the corner of Union Street and Cheap Street, right in the Georgian heart of Bath, where despite the clauses in the legislation intended to protect listed buildings and conservation areas requiring "special attention" to be paid to protecting or enhancing the character (and this was clarified in court as being of primary importance) the council has reissued a considerably weaker guidance than the earlier Shopfronts Guide, and the Development Management Committee regarded this guidance as having supremacy over the extant legislation; and therefore inappropriate "bus stop" style signs will now adorn a prime shop front.
A Heritage Organ - Last updated 5 March 2017.
Although much of this website is concerned with architectural heritage because that tends to be what is current from week to week, we do take an interest in heritage in a broader sense, hence our industrial research presented to the public at each of the Industrial Heritage Days that have been held.  So when some of our members were chatting to the organist at St. Mary the Virgin at the bottom of Bathwick Hill, we discovered that the organ was historic and important, and it was in dire need of restoration.

The rock band "Muse" recorded their album "Origin of Symmetry" in Real World Studio in Wiltshire and in St Mary the Virgin, Bathwick in 2001.  Matt Bellamy always wanted a real church organ on the track "Megalomania".

Their online record shows: As we drove back through Bath, Matthew's saying "there must be a church with an organ - look, there's a church! let's stop there, I'll bet they've got an organ." So we drew into this church about 7 o'clock one evening, walked straight into the church and there was a guy playing the organ. Matthew went straight up to him and said, "can I have a go?" And the guy says "certainly". Matthew sat down and started playing this huge church organ, in St Mary's church in Bath, right in the centre of Bath.

The vicar of the church insisted on seeing the lyrics to the song before allowing them to record the organ.  Although none had yet been written for the song, Bellamy proceeded to write out some "positive", "nice" lyrics for him and he allowed them to record the song.

Our subsequent researches revealed that in September 1814 the foundation stone was laid on land donated by the Pulteney family for a church designed by John Pinch, dedicating the church to St Paul.  Yet before the construction had advanced much the church was being referred to as "St. Mary the Virgin" and it was under that name that it was dedicated when the building was completed.
The original organ, by Gray of London (and reputed to have done duty as a temporary instrument in Westminster Abbey) was replaced in 1878 by one built by Father Henry Willis, a famous organ builder, responsible for such famous instruments as St Paul's in London as well as Canterbury, Durham, Winchester, Lincoln, and Exeter cathedrals among numerous others.
The organ in St. Mary's is the only example in the city of the work of Father Henry Willis. The musical tradition of the church dates back to the late 1800s, and the organ is currently to this specification for those interested in the details.
The organ was last overhauled in 1980, but it really needs a full restoration now to replace the parts (especially the leathers) that are failing.  The church is currently mounting a series of organ recitals (there was one last Thursday and the next is on 12th April) to raise some money.
We encourage those who enjoy organ music to go along and contribute their entrance charge to the fund raising.  Everything helps.  But our member who is knowledgeable about pipe organs thinks that ideally the church also needs a benefactor or two to contribute larger sums towards what will be a substantial cost for a full restoration.
Update:  The item above elicited an informative response from another organ enthusiast who provided some additional information on the Gray & Davidson instrument that was removed from St Mary's in 1878.
After its removal, it was transferred to a United Reform Church in Salisbury, where it remained in use until the 1970s.  It was then taken to Germany, and it is now in the Staatsliches Institut für Musickforschung, Berlin where it was fully restored by E F Walcker in 1986.  It can be seen and played at this music museum (which translates as "State Institute of Music Research").
Kingsmead Square - Last updated 5 March 2017.
Among the permissions granted this week was the one for tables and chairs in Kingsmead Square.  The application ensures that there is room for the fruit and vegetable stall, but it does wrongly assume that it is a permanent fixture, and it isn't.
Those with local knowledge will have seen the stall brought to site each day and assembled in position and stocked.  The reverse happens at the end of trading with the stock removed then the stall dismantled and taken away.  From the drawing submitted showing the locations of the tables and chairs, this looks problematic for the stall holder unless the tables and chairs in front of the stall are removed for the durations of the arrival and departure times of the stall.
Green Park Red Wheel - Last updated 29 January 2017.
Magazine BannerThere is an article on the award and installation of the Green Park Red Wheel in the Issue 125 (Winter 2016) edition of the Transport Digest.
For copyright reasons we cannot reproduce the article itself, but we are happy to give the magazine a mention so that readers who want to read it know which edition to look for.
Batheaston Park & Ride - Last updated 22 January 2017.
In a triumph of pointless dogma over common sense, a report has been prepared asking the Cabinet to choose between Sites B and F, both of which are on Bathampton Meadows.  There does not appear to be an option for the Cabinet to refuse both, despite neither being able to show that they will reduce traffic into Bath, largely because a lot of that traffic doesn't stop in Bath and thus wouldn't use a Park and Ride!  This is perhaps arguable in Court as maladministration.  As most of the Cabinet don't live in Bath, they are not likely to challenge the inadequate report in front of them.  Perhaps they should unearth the earlier Council promise that nothing would in future compromise the wildlife reserve specially constructed alongside the Batheaston Bypass as mitigating environmental features to offset the damage caused by the Bypass.  Both the sites proposed are part of that reserve which is supposed to be inviolate.
The locations chosen are both in Green Belt land, both in the de facto buffer zone of the approach to the World Heritage Site and both are essential winter feeding grounds for Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, the Greater Horseshoe Bat.  The Greater Horseshoe Bat is unique in the local bat population in that it is the only one that doesn't properly hibernate;  in milder weather feeding daily, and even in the coldest weather it will feed at dusk every few days.  As a consequence, it needs to feed throughout the year and in winter food is scarce.  Whilst the council may be able to design lighting that they claim (falsely, because the impact of car headlamps is never included) to be compliant with the legal obligation to maintain in 'favourable condition' the bat conservation objectives, they cannot claim that the removal of a significant foraging area during winter scarcity is favourable to the bats.  A Bristol University study described it as the rarest mammal in Britain and advised that protection of nursery roosts and prey populations is essential.  Thus both of these sites are ecologically unsuitable.
For car parking on Green Belt land, it has to be shown that there is no better alternative.  The report writers cannot claim that there is no better alternative because their tacit assumption is that every vehicle destined for the east of Bath Park and Ride comes from the east, whereas much of the traffic actually heads into Bath from the Motorway Junction 18 and there is land in that location that could accommodate a Park and Ride without encroaching on Green Belt or spoiling the views from an AONB.  Thus there is a better alternative and that should rule out the intrusion into the Green Belt.  However, that doesn't support the dogma that the Bathampton Meadows WILL be used regardless of the level of opposition, a dogma which has ensured that an up-to-date traffic analysis has not been conducted.  The figures currently being used assume that the MOD is still occupying four large sites and employing some 5,000 daily commuters into Bath.
Anyone using a bus into Bath from the east will be aware that there are some places where heavy lorries alongside the bus lane that leave enough room for traffic to progress in the opposite direction, make the bus lane too restricted for a bus to pass the lorry.  Unless the Park and Ride buses are narrower than normal, a faster ride into Bath cannot be guaranteed.  Nor can the claims to reduce pollution along that road be considered significant.
It is perhaps worth noting that so far the determination to deliver a Park and Ride on Bathampton Meadows has cost in excess of a million pounds, and if the Council had not squandered that money they would not now be seeking to move the Central Library to save some of it.
Trams - Last updated 8 January 2017.
We were sent a discussion document on the possibility of trams being re-introduced to Bath.  Whilst there are examples of tram systems successfully operating elsewhere (mostly overseas), no account seems to have been taken of the rather unusual characteristics of Bath.
The examples of the trams that operated in Bath showed trams that had less seating capacity than a modern double-decker bus.  Even so, because central Bath is built on vaults raising the road levels above the underlying natural ground level by an amount that varies between 3 metres and 7 metres depending on location, and because these vaults are over 200 years old and designed to carry the weight of a loaded horse drawn wagon, some of the tramway routes had to be strengthened by steel props.  The council installed such supports under part of Stall Street and around "Bog Island" because they owned the vaults in those locations.  Legally, every vault belongs to the owner or tenant of the building incorporating the vault, so every additional strengthening has to be the responsibility of a population of mostly private vault owners and few of them are likely to want their vaults wrecked historically for the benefit of a tram line above.  Without all the additional strengthening, larger trams to give the carrying capacity forecast would be out of the question, because any damage to a vault underneath would be the responsibility of its owner to repair and many of these would need Listed Building Consent with the delays associated with the planning process preventing the tram route from being used in the interim.  To change that needs an Act of Parliament.  Smaller trams, to be compatible with the existing vaults beneath, would require more trams and therefore more drivers to provide the required carrying capacity, and that would not bring the expected economies of scale.
Similarly, the electric wires cannot be attached to the buildings, because the older properties in Bath have most of their structural strength in the Party Walls and the building front is a low stress infill, not designed to be pulled towards the street.  That is why the original Bath tramway had the wires supported by roadside poles and not the architecture.  It has to be borne in mind that the poles and wires had all been removed before the Act protecting listed buildings was introduced, so the visual impact is an issue now whilst it wasn't before.
Finally shopping habits have changed since the Bath trams ceased to operate in 1936.  Instead of a myriad of small shops each collecting from local wholesalers, we now have centralised bulk stocks and large multi-drop delivery vehicles.  Vehicles on pneumatic tyres can steer round them as they unload; trams can only go where their rails take them, and if an articulated lorry is in the way, those services would have to wait.  Road closures for Utility repairs could also halt affected routes for the duration of their works.
We are sceptical about the practicalities in respect of Bath.
Foxhill Estate - Last updated 11 December 2016.
Having attended some of the public consultation sessions at Foxhill, Watchdog is aware that the local reaction to the new development on the former MOD land (now called Mulberry Park) was much more welcoming than the Curo plans for the existing estate.  Now that an outline application for the existing estate has been submitted (16/05219/EOUT) it has become clear that the loss of social housing let at below market rates is not being offset by similar numbers of properties at similar rents for those displaced.  The Chronicle reports that the council are aware of this and object to it.  Hopefully they will insist on like for like replacements for any affordable housing demolished, because Curo is a housing association and it needs to behave like one.
Red Wheel in placeGreen Park Station - Last updated 4 December 2016.
The Green Park Station Red Wheel plaque was installed on the front of the station on Monday 28th November and formally unveiled the next day.
This photo shows it in its final position.
Steam Crane - Last updated 27 November 2016.
Those who have been watching the gradual restoration of the Stothert and Pitt steam crane at the "Homebase" end of the Western Riverside development may have noticed that little progress has been made recently.  We have been in touch with the restorers and they assure us that they have all the necessary materials to complete the job and they do intend to finish the restoration, but they do need good weather on the days when the manpower is also available.  Unfortunately, a dry spell with biting cold winds immediately after a very wet spell has forced the current pause in activity.
Enforcements - Last updated 27 November 2016.
We are grateful for the tip-off that unauthorised works have taken place on two listed buildings, in Quiet Street and York Buildings.  The Enforcement complaints we subsequently raised have now been allocated Case Numbers and we have logged them on our Enforcements page.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 13 November 2016.
We made no secret of our dislike for the planning application, arguing that the real value of the former Labour Exchange was the survival of the last still usable "Make Do And Mend" repaired building in Bath (and as far as we have been able to establish, in England too) and the ability to see just what was possible with limited materials and manpower.  Despite this historic survival, planning permission was granted, and work started.
The Chronicle now reports that the external work has been completed and the scaffolding has been removed.  As we expected, the new construction doesn't sit comfortably within the historic facade which is very obviously now a deathmask.  The responsibility for this rests with the council who should have followed the expectations in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act that they would refuse permission, and not Iesis who built what they were wrongly given permission for.
Onega Place - Last updated 9 October 2016.
On 6th October 2016, Watchdog went along to the public consultation event for the redevelopment of the Onega Place site on Upper Bristol Road. The site is bordered to the east by Victoria Bridge Road and to the north by Upper Bristol Road, with the River Avon towpath to the south.  The current occupants are the Halfords workshops.  The site is allocated for residential redevelopment in the Council's Housing Land Supply Report.
The proposed scheme is for the demolition of the present industrial buildings to make way for a new residential development comprising 49 apartments and a ground floor café unit together with associated landscaping and public realm improvements.
The exhibition was of the emerging proposals and was advertised to those living and working in the area for their feedback, before preparing a planning application for submission later this year.  We met and discussed the plans with the developer, the development consultant, and the architect, as well as the PR company who issued the invitation.
We were pleased to see a development of residences rather than student accommodation; and the inclusion of a cafe on the towpath was a nice touch.  We left feedback on improving the design and expressed our concerns about the loss of employment for the Halfords employees.
PaintingIndustrial Heritage Event - Last updated 25 September 2016.
The Saturday 24th September event was well attended (see picture) and there were two exhibitors who came along for the first time.
Even the regular exhibitors had new material on show, so any visitors who had attended the previous events had something to look at that they had not seen before.
On this occasion there were no other competing events and the weather stayed fine, so there was a steady flow of visitors this time rather than the groupings before and after the other events (or the showers).
The organiser reported that he had received requests for another future event and he would start investigating the options for 2017.  Whilst the Twerton Football Club premises was convenient for display space and for parking on Away match days, it isn't cheap and the "help yourself" refreshments were no real substitute for a manned bar, so there is a value for money consideration.
Sydney Gardens - Last updated 21 August 2016.
We went along to the original consultation on 2 June and fed in a number of suggestions.  Having subsequently examined the Stage One Masterplan and having recognised that a number of our suggestions are now incorporated, we decided to allow the scheme to proceed to a lottery bid without further input.  Whilst we are clear in our own minds what we would like to see in the gardens, we cannot predict what the Heritage Lottery Fund will deem important.  We have to trust that the exhibitors have a better grasp of that scenario than we have.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 7 August 2016.
After our item on Cleveland Pools on 24 July, the Cleveland Pools Trust has been in touch to thank us for our continued support and to ask us to clarify that the Heritage Lottery Fund regulations are based on reaching milestone points set by the HLF, and that although the HLF have awarded a maximum sum, it will be paid in stages and only if specified milestones are reached.  The Trust appointed a Project Team that met the skill set required by the HLF and that released some initial money, but the next milestone is their public appeal.
The Trust has to show public financial support of at least £600,000 by a date in November to secure the next milestone payment, and we have been asked to clarify that "near enough" isn't good enough.  If there is any shortfall at all in the fundraising appeal (either not enough money, or enough money but not by the milestone date) the HLF money will dry up completely.
On that basis, we make no apology for repeating the link to their current fundraising appeal which is doing well but still has a way to go in order to meet the release milestone for the next grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Colonnades - Last updated 31 July 2016.
The Development Management Committee met on 27th July, and that agenda included the two applications for the Colonnades.
Watchdog reminds Committee Members that before each meeting our web page Next DCC is updated to give easy reference to our comments on the planning applications on the agenda.  In this particular case our detailed research and analysis extended to seven pages, which was abbreviated in the Committee Brief to 13 one-line bullet points, omitting our Health and Safety concerns and quoting two of them wrongly.  "Lack of clarity within the submission" does not really convey the problem that there are contradictions between the drawings, and whatever is built cannot possibly comply with the standard Condition that states that the development must be only in accordance with the specified (but inconsistent) drawings.  "Impact on the spring in Parade Gardens" is the wrong way round.  The spring exists within the development red-lined area and is positioned to create havoc with part of the proposed electrical installation, yet the plans before the Committee make no mention of it.  Blocking a spring simply diverts it somewhere else, and that unpredictable new location could be somewhere even more damaging.  We assume that not all of the Committee Members read our full comments because by a majority of six votes to four the Committee agreed to permit the application without allowing for a deferral and further investigation, and thus they have voted for a development that cannot be built to comply only with the drawings as approved.  The old proverb "More haste, less speed" comes to mind.
If any of the Committee Members were early risers and tuned into BBC Radio Bristol that morning, they would have heard a spokesman for the Bath Small Business Focus Group saying how worried he was about the impact on the businesses in Grand Parade and Bath Guildhall Market that would result from extended works in the area, and asking for more details on construction methods before a decision is made.  He also said that none of his museum or restaurant contacts had expressed any interest at all in an underground location close to a river that poses some risks of flooding.  They would also have heard from a spokesman from the Abbey Residents Association suggesting that until the council has more detailed information on how the development work which would be taking place alongside other major projects at the Abbey and the Roman Baths, would affect the residents in the area, and how the operation of the facilities once opened would have noise, waste and other potential adverse impacts controlled to protect residents, then any planning decision would be premature. The Chronicle report shows that there was an attempt to defer a decision to give time for such concerns to be explored but it failed to get the necessary support  This poses the question of why the majority thought that they knew all that they needed to know when there were so many unanswered questions.
Whilst we recognise that the Committee permission was subject to a substantial number of Conditions requiring details of various parts of the development to be separately defined and approved, the normal public planning consultation facilities do not operate on Conditions, and therefore the council cannot fulfil its obligations to allow those affected to make their representations on the details once submitted.  Committee Members should have recognised that Conditions are normally signed off at Case Officer level. Members have approved a development where the very public visible appearance will be approved without them or the public having any further say in what it will finally look like.  Bath deserved better.
We Offer Congratulations - Last updated 24 July 2016.
To the Council's Parks Department for Green Flag Awards for five parks and green spaces.  One or two of the national awards might be earned by paying special attention to particular locations, but earning five indicates a standard of care applied widely, and the Parks Department should be proud of its success.  We recognise that there is another unsung party to these awards, and that is the public who use them and keep them award winning by looking after the facilities and disposing of their litter responsibly.  They too get our congratulations.
To the Cleveland Pools Trust for getting on the Open Palace Programme and thus attracting visitors from around the world to view the site and the restoration plans.  This opportunity for publicity and word of mouth advertising can only bring benefits, from visitors interested in the restoration progress, and from those who follow the restoration with the intention of using the Pools once they are opened to the public.
Sydney Gardens - Last updated 5 June 2016.
On 2nd June there was a public exhibition in Sydney Gardens which we only found out about a few days beforehand so we couldn't advertise it as part of the last update.  It should have been better advertised.
That said, we did manage to go along.  It was a preliminary to developing an application for Heritage Lottery funding for restoration and improvements to the gardens.  The public were presented with a range of ideas with the emphasis that these were only ideas and not proposals.  The object of the consultation was to gauge public opinion on what would be popular and what would be unpopular.  There was also scope for the public to put in their own ideas to supplement those already on display.  To that end, the public were offered red "No" and green "Yes" stickers for simple responses and Post-it notes for ideas and qualified comments.  All seemed to be well used.  There were also people supporting the exhibition who were able to explain, clarify and discuss what was being presented.  They encouraged new thoughts to be committed to Post-it notes.
We noted that the area around the railway was not mentioned in any of the lists of ideas.  Until Network Rail finalise their designs for the electrification of the line through the gardens, it was thought best not to make assumptions about what might be possible in that area.
Among the more popular ideas were the provision of better play facilities for youngsters and a maze of a similar style to that by Pulteney Weir.  An area for more formal "keep fit" activities  for adults got a mixed reception, with some strongly in favour and some expressing concern that too much organised activity would harm the tranquillity which the gardens currently offer.  Drinking fountains for people and for dogs, and free public toilets were popular suggestions, as was the inclusion of a cafeteria.  One thing that was proposed in the new ideas from the public is the banning of cycling, amid fears that playing children and moving cycles invited accidents.  The gardens are not so big that cyclists can't be expected to dismount and walk through.
Among the less popular ideas was almost total public veto on the demolition of the Victorian ladies toilet.  Although fenced off and now difficult to view behind the overgrowing plants, they clearly are still held dear and the desire for restoration rather than removal was strong.  The idea of a formally planted orchard fell on stony ground too, because if there is one thing the gardens are not short of, it is trees.  The idea of a wildflower area got some support.
The retention of the tennis courts by Sydney House was strongly argued as essential, whilst the suggestion of additional entrances to the gardens and the widening of some of the existing ones was widely rejected.  The removal of the gate between gardens and canal towpath was universally vetoed, and the suggestion of an additional gate with ramped access for wheelchair and pram transfers between canal and gardens got a very mixed reception.
We were assured that the consultation material and the results of the consultation would be published (we were not told where, but we assume it will be somewhere on the council website.  Provided we are informed when that happens we will report where to find it.
Brunel Square - Last updated 29 May 2016.
Scattered phone boxesWe were tipped off by a member that the red telephone boxes in Brunel Square were being placed on a low loader which then drove off.  A bit of detective work afterwards found two by the goods entrance to Southgate bearing advertisements for businesses in Brunel Square, and three scattered around Brunel Square rather than in a row as they previously had been, with one of them bearing no advertisements, the feature which identified it as the one that previously had been by the goods entrance to Southgate.  We have since been provided with the photo which shows clearly how widely the three in Brunel Square are now scattered.  These are listed "K6" telephone boxes, so we investigated further.
The listing text identified them as "Five K6 Telephone Boxes outside Bath British Rail Station" and further clarified that they were of two different types:  "Central kiosk by W Macfarlane, Saracen Foundry (Glasgow), remainder Carron, (Falkirk) Stirlingshire".  So the obligation is not just to have all five in one place outside the station, but to place them in a specific sequence.
We dug further.  The listed building consent for the work to create Brunel Square required:  "No work shall commence on the items specified below until full details are submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority:
j) The re-erection of the 5 telephone kiosks
Strictly speaking, until there was a written agreement about where all five would be placed (and only four have been installed in Brunel Square so far), the work to the listed buildings should have been held back.  Perhaps, as this did not happen, we can look forward to Brunel's ramp being reconstructed?
On a more serious note, we have raised an Enforcement Case to attempt to get all five reinstated in a row, as the listing text requires.
The Lansdown Bomb - Last updated 15 May 2016.
This site has a complicated planning history, with a planning application raised in 2013 which was refused, with this refusal appealed, plus a similar but not identical planning application submitted in 2015 which is still under consideration.  The appeal for the 2013 application was allowed in February 2015 subject to conditions which were accepted as met to the extent that development could commence, in a decision dated November 2015.  We assume therefore that the work on site preparation is based on the 2013 application, and the intention for the construction phase is to build the scheme described in the 2015 applications if these are approved.
So we looked carefully at the 2013 documentation and found a sentence in the archaeological survey "The upper tennis court was constructed in the 1960s, apparently on the site of a World War Two bomb crater".  In the Ground Survey Report that formed part of the application to have the Conditions signed off we find that "The Screening against the Zetica regional bomb risk map (Avon) indicates the site to be in an area where the bomb risk is high", yet the condition ("No development shall take place until a site investigation of the nature and extent of contamination has been carried out in accordance with a methodology which has previously been submitted to and approved in writing") was signed off sufficient for the work to start without any mitigation measures being set out and agreed.  Those mitigation measures should have detected the bomb in a safe manner.  The act of physically unearthing it could have caused an explosion and the fact that it didn't is fortuitous.
Now that the bomb has been removed and destroyed in a controlled explosion, we hope that a "Lessons Learned" investigation takes place.  This might not be the last unexploded bomb buried in land which might be developed in future.
Green Park Station - Last updated 1 May 2016.
The Red WheelLike Bath Spa Station which was honoured with a Red Wheel by the Transport Trust in 2013, Green Park Station has now been similarly honoured.
The Green Park Station Red Wheel plaque was formally unveiled at a ceremony in the meeting room in the Green Park Station building.  Watchdog is grateful to Cllr Neil Butters for the invitation to attend the ceremony, allowing us to take this photograph and to include a summary of this event with additional pictures on our website.
The unveiling ceremony took place ahead of the installation of the plaque, so we hope to supplement that summary with further details once the plaque is installed on the station building.
Industrial Heritage Event - Last updated 10 April 2016.
The CrowdThe event was well attended (our picture is just a sample of those attending), and we noted among those who came the Mayor of Bath, the Leader of the Council and at least one other councillor who spoke to us.  Those exhibiting had a lot of public interest and the consensus was that they would like another such event in about six months, so we will keep in touch with the organisers and bring to you the date when one is chosen.
We did take the opportunity to chat to the other exhibitors.  Some were there just to provide some informative history, which included ourselves, the Sweetland Organ display and the Bath Blitz exhibits along with several others.  Other exhibitors like the Cleveland Pools Trust and the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust were raising awareness in the hope of encouraging volunteers and donations.
The Mineral Water Hospital facilities are facing relocation to the Combe Park site, and that will entail the closure of their museum unless another home for it can be found.  The museum currently uses the Mineral Water Hospital's former Chapel and is not a NHS feature, purely a volunteer operated visitor destination (open Monday and Wednesday from 10am to noon, and Fridays from 2pm to 4pm) and despite the extensive range of exhibits and the fact that the National Mineral Water Hospital was the first ever hospital to take patients from anywhere in the country (hence the "National" in their original name), and the fact that it pioneered a number of medical and surgical treatments we take for granted today, there is no room for it at Combe Park and the volunteers are seeking some more constructive assistance.  Their wish list includes somebody to develop a website for them (bearing in mind they have almost no money) so that if the physical exhibits can't be shown then at least they could survive as a virtual museum;  but better still, somebody who will provide them with a permanent exhibition space so that they can carry on as they are.  It occurs to us that if the NHS facilities leave the current buildings then there will be a new use for the listed buildings, and a condition for any change of use could be the inclusion of a hospital history space (Planning officers conducting Pre-application Assistance please note).  There was such a condition attached to a planning application in Combe Down to ensure that there was public access to local quarrying information, so there is a precedent for such an approach.  There is much more to Bath's history than Roman and Georgian architecture and we are happy to raise awareness of other history that Bath should be proud of.  If there are any readers of this item who can assist the museum, then we have contact details (which we don't want to put online in case it attracts spam phone calls) and if anybody wishing to assist contacts us using the email links on our Contact Us page we will be happy to pass on the details.
"A"-Boards - Last updated 21 February 2016.
After we reported in January that the council intended to crack down on unauthorised advertising, we have been observing the central area now and again for any indications that this policy is making a difference.  There does seem to have been a reduction in the number of banners attached to railings, and this is welcomed.
We have previously criticised the "road blocks" made up of "A"-Boards in Union Street advertising businesses in Northumberland Place and The Corridor, and there does not seem to have been any reduction in the number of these.  We also remember that the inclusion of hanging signs in The Corridor as part of its refurbishment was controversial because there is no historical basis for such signs;  and the planning permission for these (in Application 12/05083/LBA) was based on the promise in the planning documentation to "remove A frame signs to improve the visual identity of The Corridor".
That promise has not been honoured.  On Wednesday when we looked, there were 11 "A"-Boards along The Corridor footway and a twelfth visible but out of the way having been placed on the doorstep of a unit, in addition to the usual clutter at the Union Street entrance.  What a pity that the Decision Notice accepted the promise in the planning documentation in good faith and did not include a Condition requiring the removal of "A"-Boards once the hanging signs were installed.
American University Studies - Last updated 14 February 2016.
Watchdog has always supported the Architectural School of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, providing photographs, local knowledge, and other information that may be requested as well as supporting any presentations that are subsequently made in Bath (like the Kingsmead designs presented in May 2015).
However, we have received an e-mail from the course Professor explaining that there will be no similar presentation in Bath in 2016.  He explains:  "I was preparing another 'Bath campaign' with my new students, but changed my focus around October, when a proposal I made for a Refugee Housing development in Greece received attention in the press.  Because of the urgency of the crisis in the Aegean, I was compelled to ask my students this time around to help produce a masterplan and designs for the refugee project instead.  The team will present the refugee proposal at a conference in the Vatican this June".
When we searched we did find references to articles in the architectural press from last September when the world's architects had been issued with a challenge, asking why architects were not more involved in the migration crisis, and inviting them to offer a solution to those countries suffering from an influx of refugees exceeding their ability to accommodate them.  We also found articles which revealed that as well as the Notre Dame design other architects responding to the migration crisis include charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Article 25 and Urbana de Exteriores.  Unfortunately these articles are only available to registered readers so we can't provide links.  We also found a short article that that anybody can read which appeared in the Church Times, covering the Notre Dame ideas.
For those who are interested in the details, we were provided with an explanatory booklet, currently being considered by the UN, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the EU, and the Greek Government.  The booklet came with the advice: "I attach a brochure that illustrates and describes the project.  Please feel free to share with anyone who is interested".  We are sharing it with our readers with a caution that because of the number of illustrations it contains it could take a while to download for anybody with a slow internet connection; and a text only version is also provided for such readers.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 24 January 2016.
After our mention of the former Labour Exchange last week (see "Deathmasking" below), we had our attention drawn to the Chronicle article on the building.  We were reminded that the entire building was listed, not just the façade, and that what is about to take place destroys the last untouched "Make Do And Mend" wartime repaired building that was still fit for use some 70 years afterwards.  As such it was unique in Britain, and now - as it was put to us - the last remaining dodo is about to be killed.  Like the dodo, only pictures will remain, to the regret of those who will later wish otherwise.
In the article the emphasis is entirely on the frontage, which shows how little the council which permitted its destruction knew about it, because the wartime cobbled-together roof was also a unique survivor of what remained possible when there were severe shortages of materials and craftsmen, as was the patch on the corner.  That the council did not value the building has been obvious ever since the abortive proposal to turn it into a "Wet House" was mooted.  The blitz survivors will never forgive the destruction of their unofficial war memorial; and we have been told the name of the person they blame, but we will not quote it here.
Deathmasking - Last updated 17 January 2016.
Deathmasking is a derogatory term used in architectural circles for the process more properly known as façade retention.  Façade retention, done properly, retains the entire façade and outer shell of a building and modifies the inside, so that externally it still looks like the historic structure.  It is still undesirable to do this to a historic building, but where it is necessary it can leave something that fits properly into the street scene.  A successful retention can be seen in Bath Street, where the exterior of the former Royal Baths now forms part of an internal space which was initially "The Colonnades Shopping Centre" then "British Home Stores" and now "Primark" with each new occupant placing their own character on the interior but leaving the outside virtually unchanged.
Where façade retention becomes a "deathmask" is when the exterior appearance does change, and the retention of the façade is an uncharacteristic token gesture on a building that fails to retain the character of the original.  We have in the past pointed out that the treatment of the former Labour Exchange in James Street West on the corner of Milk Street is in the worst possible taste because the retained façade will be dwarfed by a glass and steel structure emerging from within it and towering above it.
Last week, the Development Management Committee failed to understand how façade retention is supposed to work, and has approved a development  of the Bath Press Site where the new structures will again tower over the façade in an uncharacteristic design.  Our informant from that meeting told us that instead of looking at whether the application is appropriate for a Locally Important Building (and this designation cannot be disputed because its picture adorns the front of the council's draft Locally Important Buildings Policy document) the Committee members became obsessed with the clock in the façade.  There were issues of traffic, parking, impact on nearby listed buildings, conflicts with policies retained as part of the Core Strategy, Clauses in the Planning Acts and associated Case Law, and headlines in the Chronicle expressing concern about dwindling stocks of commercial premises which should have been discussed by the Committee; every one of these subjects more important than whether the clock would keep time (nice though that would be).  On the sidelines, the new premises the Bath Police moved to is within the red line defining Crest Nicholson's Western Riverside Outline Planning Permission, so the security of tenure for the police is doubtful and the Bath Press site would have been a more practical relocation, but it would have had to have been designed with the parking of the specialist vehicles the police use in mind.  Unfortunately such joined up thinking is scarce.
Whether the Committee isn't minded to take its role seriously or whether they are simply inadequately trained is not obvious, but performances like this and the earlier decisions on the Upper Oldfield Park flats contrary to planning Case Law suggest that it isn't currently fit for purpose.
Unauthorised Advertising - Last updated 17 January 2016.
We were pleased to read in the Chronicle that the council is to crack down on unauthorised roadside advertisements.  Whilst the article places emphasis on roadside banners, it should also cover unauthorised A-Boards and cycles used as advertisements.  Likewise, although the emphasis is on the control provided in the Town and Country Planning Act, the restrictions in Section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act are also relevant.
If anybody wishes to follow the link to the Government Guide, then the one printed in the article does not work:  use this one instead.
Fracking - Last updated 13 December 2015.
On the website of Ben Howlett, Bath's MP, is a report of confirmation from the Minister at the Department of Energy & Climate Change that Bath and the surrounding area including the Mendips will not be subject to any fracking activity in the future.  This appears to be good news, though the reason for this assurance (that there is believed to be no shale gas to be found) rather than a commitment to preserve Bath's hot springs for posterity, doesn't offer the same degree of permanence.
As with any Ministerial statement, the choice of words needs to be studied.  Bath and the surrounding area is free from shale gas exploration we are told.  However, shale gas is not the only reason for fracking;  in the USA it is also a technique used for oil extraction.  Currently the Government is not actively pursuing fracking for oil, but that doesn't mean that it won't at some future time.  So we went looking round the Ministry website for information on oil, and we found a map "Onshore Oil and Gas Activity" which shows locations for future assessment, and the area between Trowbridge and Westbury shows there.  We think that location is too close to Bath for comfort.  Perhaps Bath's MP could seek reassurance that such a location is to be deleted from the list of possible licences.
A-Boards - Last updated 29 November 2015.
Following our piece on A-Boards last week where we identified some locations where the council policy was not obeyed and not enforced we were provided with some additional photographs.  The number of pictures made it impractical to continue to report them on this page, so we have created a Rogues Gallery on our Public Realm page to put them all together.
Meanwhile, we were also informed of Statutory Instrument 783/2007 which is entitled The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007.  It is a complex document, but having examined all the clauses about what does and does not require advertising consent, we came to the conclusion that although the council has an informative document on advertising and has prepared a policy for the acceptable number, size and position of A-Boards, it doesn't remove the obligation within the Statutory Instrument whereby any business which wants to deploy an A-Board must first obtain Advertising Consent to do so.  The council will then look at the number, size and position applied for and decide whether the adopted policy indicates approval.  Without that express permission, A-boards become an offence under Section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 which despite its apparent age is still current and has relatively recent updates via the Criminal Justice Act 1982 and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.  Section 28 of the Act makes the placing of A-Boards (amongst other things) on the footway a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 or by up to 14 days in prison.
Sawclose - Last updated 1 November 2015.
Although many planning permissions are granted with Conditions requiring an exploration of the site's archaeology, it is very rare for the results of that to be made public.  It is common to find that there is an application to sign off the Condition, but mostly those findings are submitted to the council on physical media such as a CD and therefore the public never see it.
The exploration of the Sawclose is therefore wholly exceptional in that the archaeologists placed an invitation on their website inviting the public along on 31 October to see their dig in progress.  The response surprised them:  they had anticipated a couple of dozen visitors yet by the time we left, still with an hour to go, nearly 100 people had been in.  We have put on our News Summary page an outline of what was there to be seen.  What we couldn't do is recreate the very interesting presentation that was given at intervals during the open period, though we have hopefully reproduced some of the key points.
While there we were saddened to notice that the little Weigh House is now just a pile of stones.  It wasn't in the way, because the plans as approved show that location as just an empty space, and so in our comments on the planning applications we recommended that it be retained as a symbol of the earlier use of the Sawclose (even if it didn't have a public use, it could have been used to store overnight the tables and chairs which will inevitably clutter up the area in due course), but neither the developers nor the planning committee gave it a second thought, and now it is gone.  Also gone is the historic doorway that was installed in the modern Clinic building.  The archaeologists would have been very interested in it as a possible clue to what used to be on the site, but the Clinic building and its anachronistic doorway had long gone by the time they started work.  The only crumb of good news is that the stone from the demolished boundary wall and Weigh House was taken away for reuse as building stone rather than being smashed into hardcore as so often happens.
This item is therefore a tribute to Cotswold Archaeology for considering the public and making the arrangements for access to the site and then fielding the wide variety of questions asked of them.  It wasn't a widely advertised event yet it got a surprisingly good response, which shows that there is a lot of public interest in what is under the visible surface of Bath.  It would be wonderful if other explorations were to be similarly exposed to the public.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 4 October 2015.
We have now seen the draft minutes, which reveal that of the ten potential members of the Committee, only nine were present, and one of those left the meeting before the debate and vote because Oldfield Park's councillor declared a disqualifying interest.
No mention was made in the minutes about the harm done to the Conservation area (which has a legal emphasis) and the motion was supported by the grounds of "much needed housing" (which doesn't have a legal emphasis).  Other than that we know that the debate was just "a short discussion" though there is no indication of what was discussed, after which eight councillors voted to bring the whole planning process into disrepute, and created a precedent for unauthorised developments that could come back to haunt them.  Historic England had asked that the application be determined in accordance with National and local policy guidance.  It wasn't.  Bath deserved better.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 27 September 2015.
We pointed out last week that everything the Liberal Democrat Council did before the election concerning this development was based on avoiding the harm that the building (erected without planning permission) does to the Conservation Area.  Since the Local Elections, the enthusiasm from the now Conservative Council to uphold that legislation in respect of this development has not been evident.  As we said last week "We cannot understand how the council can now reach a diametrically opposing view:  the legislation is unchanged and the relevant Supplementary Planning Document remains in force".  When they are available we will read the minutes of the planning meeting with interest to see how this shift in position was justified.  One local person said to us, tongue in cheek, that when the Development Control Committee was renamed the Development Management Committee, the attempts to properly control disappeared.
It is the same Local Planning Authority as far as the outside world is concerned, and the legislation remains unchanged.  The Enforcement decision followed by the completely different stance reflected in the latest decision has been published world-wide by the Chronicle, and its readers can be forgiven for assuming that the council is completely muddled (particularly when most other councils have a different Local Election timetable to B&NES so they won't be aware of the change in administration).  That said, we do hope that is because of a difference in people rather than party politics:  people can be educated but politics tends to be less adaptable.
Park and Ride Consultation - Last updated 20 September 2015.
There appears to have been very little new research into needs, capacities and volumes, yet the closure of the MOD sites and the employment opportunities they provided will have made a significant difference to the travel profile from the east.  The demolition of other office accommodation, to be replaced with mostly student accommodation with conditions banning the use of a car, should also have been factored in.  Finally, reference is still being made to a new station which no longer features in Network Rail's plans, so all assessments of desirability based on such a station are now skewed.
The other factor that has not apparently been considered before preparing the inappropriate short-list is the impact of illumination (both vehicle lights and car park illumination) on wildlife.  In winter it gets dark mid-afternoon so at some times of the year a park and ride will be servicing an after-dark rush hour.  These sites have always been dark, so to now illuminate them will have an adverse effect not only on protected species but also on other species they currently feed on.
The initial reaction is that reliance on previous studies of potential Park and Ride sites (paid for from council taxes), which effectively dismissed all three sites as unsuitable, without reworking the usage profiles, renders the short-list now being consulted on totally unscientific.  Some members have described the consultation as a farcical waste of money.  That is perhaps an extreme view, but it can certainly be criticised as unprofessional.
Industrial Heritage Day - Last updated 13 September 2015.
Watchdog was just one of the organisations who exhibited at the Industrial Heritage Day on Saturday 12 September 2015 at the Bath City Football Club, and we added new items to our already extensive range of exhibits.  The Mayor of Bath came along and spoke to every exhibitor, which was very much appreciated.
Horse Tram ModelThe surprise exhibitor was Ipswitch Transport Museum which brought a section of timber from one of Bath's original horse-drawn trams and a model of the tram as it would have looked (pictured).  These trams were in use from 1885 to 1894, and the remains of one of the original Bath trams has been discovered in Ely.  The Ipswitch Transport Museum plans to restore it, and we have exchanged contact details with the museum to assist with their restoration research.
Given that the date of this Industrial Heritage Day, chosen half a year earlier, was then found to clash with Bath City FC playing at Home, the University of Bath's Open Day and the parade that formed part of the Jane Austen Festival, we were agreeably surprised at how many people came to see what was on display and to discuss the exhibits with the exhibitors.  All this was despite the press release not appearing in print, only online.  Clearly there is a lot of public interest in Bath's industrial heritage, which suggests that it should perhaps feature more prominently in Bath's tourism publicity.
The Chronicle reported the day as a "huge success", which was our view too. We have been informed that so many of the visitors asked for another similar event that there are now provisional plans for a repeat.  No date has been chosen yet, but we understand that April 2016 has been suggested.  We will publicise the date once decided.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 2 August 2015.
We received a note on the subject of this development and we thought initially that we should just reproduce it here as public feedback to the decision makers;  an expression of the level of concern that this development has raised.  It said:

Those who lived through those terrible nights when Bath was bombed have long regarded the survival of the old Labour Exchange as the unofficial memorial to those who were killed and a reminder to those who survived of how lucky they were.  It also stood as a tribute to the ingenuity of the workmen who managed to salvage the wrecked building in the face of severe shortages of materials and bring it back into use.  This was why it was eventually listed.

That B&NES couldn't respect the building as one cherished by Bathonians is disgraceful.  That they couldn't wait until all the wartime survivors had died before finishing off what Hitler failed to achieve is truly heartless.  For the council to then proclaim its part in the desecration of this war memorial in gaudy signs plastered on the front of it is really rubbing salt in the wounds.

Part of signageWhen we noted the words "proclaim its part" we went along to have a look.  There are two large signs now installed on the front, one of which shows the pictured admission of participation.  Illustrations of the proposed development on these signs show the red front door in the facade, except that between these signs that red door has now been painted black, and the windows are blocked off and painted in the same funereal colour.
There are extant planning permissions for this building but none of the plans approved included these alterations.  It remains a Grade II listed building and any alterations like these which change the character of the building must have listed building consent.  None has been applied for, and certainly none has been granted.  Digging deeper we found that the extant permissions included several Conditions that said that approvals for various detailed things must be secured "prior to the commencement of development" and these have not been secured so no work at all should have taken place to date.  Unauthorised work to a listed building is a criminal offence and by putting its name on signs that are unauthorised, the council is now party to that offence.  We have raised an Enforcement case accordingly.
Taking a more tangential look at this development there are several adverse comments in the Chronicle about the use of this site for yet more student accommodation, and an article announcing the launch of a campaign to say enough is enough and student numbers (now approaching a quarter of the population of Bath even without counting the 5,000 City of Bath College or the 240 Norland students) should in future be capped.
Fracking - Last updated 26 July 2015.
Originally the Government announced that Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest would be protected areas as far as fracking was concerned.  It looked as though this would protect the sources of the hot springs.  However, the draft regulations have been now published, with a press release, and this makes it clear that such areas are not wholly exempt, they are just restricted down to 1200 metres and fracking is permitted below that depth anywhere in the country.  In order for the hot springs to be warmed to the temperature at which they emerge from the ground, it is likely that they have some part of their route below that depth, and therefore there could be a significant risk of disrupting the flow or contamination of the water on its way to Bath.  The current assumption is that it takes the hot springs a considerable number of years to traverse from source in the Mendips to its emergence in Bath, so if such disruption or contamination occurs it will not be evident quickly, and by the time it is evident it will be irreversible.  This draft legislation as written is therefore a direct threat to Bath's historic waters because it removes the opportunity to refuse planning permission, even for World Heritage Sites.  We have traced an on-line petition.  Whilst the council and Bath's MP can make authoritative comment on the draft legislation (and it is imperative that they do so), the ordinary citizen only has the petition route to making their feelings known, which is why we are providing a direct link to the petition website.
RIP Charlie Ware - Last updated 26 July 2015.
We have moved our obituary for Charlie Ware placed here last week to a new page on our recreated original campaign website for Churchill House because it was too big to leave on this "Headlines" page.  We have not only placed the link to the Chronicle article on that new page, we have also added the link to the article printed in the Western Daily Press on 15 July after it was brought to our attention.
River Avon Options Study - Last updated 21 June 2015.
On Thursday 11 June we attended the public consultation at the Guildhall.  The study had examined two locations: Pulteney Weir and the Twerton sluice gates.  There were experts on hand to describe and discuss the exhibits on display.
Three options had been put forward as possibilities for the Pulteney Weir location with visitors invited to discuss the pros and cons of each.  At Twerton, there was only one fundamental design with minor variants.  The council in conjunction with the Environment Agency had provided feedback forms and a "ballot box" style container for them once completed, so that comments could be submitted privately and anonymously if desired.
Update:  We were told that the exhibition material will soon be put on-line on the council website and that public feedback could be sent to the e-mail address on that page.  Last week the exhibition material was not there, but it has been made available since then and this link will retrieve it for you. we hope that readers who could not attend the public consultation will examine it and make your views known.  The exhibitors are hoping for as many opinions as possible.
American University Designs - Last updated 31 May 2015.
For those who could not attended the events on 22nd May in Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute (BRLSI) in Queen Square, we have put together an outline of the presentation.  As time permits we will supplement this with an overview of the spoken commentary that went with the slides on display.
American University Designs - Last updated 24 May 2015.
Those who attended the events on 22nd May in Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute (BRLSI) in Queen Square to hear the speakers from the University of Notre Dame and to view the drawings prepared by the architecture students were treated to talks which focused more on the rationale behind the designs than the designs themselves.  This drew on published research into the geography of neighbourhoods, and the various components which in combination give a measure of the sustainability of any given development, with some interesting conclusions relevant to Bath.
Professor Richard Economakis of Notre Dame concentrated on the principles of good urban design and how that was embodied in the student projects for the Western Riverside in 2009, Kingsmead and Green Park in 2011, Manvers Street in 2013 and the latest project for what he called Narrow Quay which roughly equates to the area referred to by the council as North Quays.  Dr. Christopher Miller of Judson University, Illinois took a more academic approach, examining the science behind good building design and the indicators to commercial viability which guided his Masters Thesis when he was a student at Notre Dame, a thesis which covered a hypothetical development he called Market Bridge that Bathonians would recognise as the Walcot Street Cattle Market area.
Also on display for those who wished to browse through it was a newly published book "Durability In Construction", already on sale in the USA and soon to become on sale in UK book shops.  A booklet "Graduate Studio Masterplan Proposals for the Restitution and Improvement of Bath's Historic Urban Fabric" was donated to those present who could make good use of it.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 3 May 2015.
Upper Oldfield Park flatsWatchdog has not taken an active part in this planning activity, but has kept in touch with the local activity group fighting the development, and they informed us that the Development Control Committee meeting of 29 April 2015 voted to enforce the removal of the Oldfield Park flats.  The minutes of the meeting are not yet available but the Chronicle reports the enforcement decision, though it mostly focuses on the developer's viewpoint on the decision.  However there are anomalies between the Chronicle's report of the developer's claims and what appears in other documentation.  For instance, the press statement claims that the council insisted on a steel frame for the building;  the documents submitted with the planning application state that it was the developer's insurers who insisted on the steel frame;  the brief to the DCC states that the drawings submitted to Development Control differed from those in the planning permission, suggesting that the developer had decided before any question of a steel frame could have been raised by the council that what was going to be built was not what had been given permission.  We also note that the drawing submitted in the retrospective planning application (which was refused) differs from the appearance in our photograph (taken from Victoria Park), and the brief for the enforcement agenda item states that "the deviations are substantial".
The decision to enforce was also reported on the local TV news, with ITV interviewing the Chairman of the DCC who made it clear that building something unauthorised is entirely at the developer's own risk and the developer had been made aware of this yet carried on with the construction.
People in costumeWorld Heritage Day - Last updated 19 April 2015.
We went along to the World Heritage Day event on Sunday 19 April in Prior Park Gardens.  The weather could have been kinder because there was a chilly wind blowing, but the ground was dry and firm, even off the prepared paths.  There was period music both performed live on period instruments and from recordings for the dancing displays, a selection of period costumes for children to dress up in, and people wandering around in period costume (see picture) explaining the history.  There were stands featuring other heritage activities too, and the Cleveland Pools one was attracting a lot of attention (aided no doubt by a prime location near the refreshments cabin!).
For those who were interested in the work in progress in the splendid gardens, there were well-informed guides explaining what there was to see, and what the eventual aims were.
Everywhere we looked, people were enjoying the day out.  The organisers are to be congratulated.  The only minor drawback was that being Sunday, the buses to and from Prior Park were infrequent.
Shop Signs - Last updated 29 March 2015.
One of the things we would like to see on listed buildings is the business name hand-painted on the fascia, and if we comment on applications for new signage we always recommend this approach.  Unfortunately not all businesses want to do this and permission is sometimes given to mounted lettering.
Former Lush FasciaWhile the business trades in that premises this can look attractive, but problems are left behind if the business ceases trading or relocates.  The picture here is part of the fascia of the building that LUSH occupied until they relocated.  We emphasise that LUSH is just a recent example not a business we have any particular issue with, and we wish them well in their new premises.  However because their name is clearly readable in the photo despite the lettering being removed, we cannot avoid identifying them.
This was a shop on a corner and there are three other fascia panels apart from the one photographed which are in a similar condition.  All the fascia panels which previously bore their mounted lettering now look like well-used pincushions.
If permission is given in future to mounted lettering, it would be useful if it was accompanied by a condition requiring the fascia to be restored if the lettering is removed.  This is not a good residual look for any building.
Newark Works - Last updated 22 March 2015.
Among the decision noted this week was the one labelled "Bayer Building"  to mislead the casual reader into not noticing that it has an impact on the Newark Works too.  If the Secretary of State read the heritage statement, then the only reference to the Newark Works is "listed facade" when it is very clear in the definition in the planning legislation that there is no such thing as a listed facade, only complete buildings and other structures in its curtilage;  and when the applicant is the council, there is no excuse for not knowing that.  The Newark Works has its own listing entry, completely independent of the Bayer Building.
We made specific reference to this misleading description in Watchdog's strong objection, yet the SofS response makes no reference to our comment.  We have to assume therefore that the SofS was not sent that document.
As the SofS gave permission for "The Bayer Building" we now expect to see a REG13 application for the works to the curtilage of the Newark Works so that the council is not open to accusations of maladministration, because false or misleading descriptions in a planning application are unlawful, and the SofS cannot be seen to approve an unlawful application.
We also have to question why the SofS made no mention of the issues raised by Watchdog.  Can it be that the SofS did not receive all the relevant documents?  When the on-line planning system started to show a separate tab for Comments rather than list them among the document set, we queried whether there was a risk that the comments might not be seen by the SofS and were assured that procedures would be amended to ensure that did not happen.  The evidence suggests otherwise.
As Others See Us - Last updated 22 March 2015.
We were sent a cutting from one of last week's national daily newspapers criticising the Gypsy and Traveller Site nearing completion beside the Lower Bristol Road.  For copyright reasons we cannot reproduce the article itself (and it is not on-line and therefore in the public domain), but we can report the main gist.
Their main criticism was the cost, labelling it "Britain's most expensive", and the fact that it had been built on Green Belt land hadn't gone unnoticed either.  Implicit in the photographs which accompanied the piece is the evidence of the demand, as shown in the photo of the earlier illegal camp, far exceeding the supply in the form of the number of new residential units, though this inadequacy was not featured in the text, merely hinted.
If an ordinary resident had applied to build on Green Belt land it would have been refused on the grounds that the land should remain open space, so the council has not applied the legislation when selecting the location and then granting themselves permission to develop it.  That criticism is fully justified.
The cost is high, but it was offset by a substantial Government grant such that the connection between the full cost and the description of "a cash-strapped council" is unjustified.  However if the "Britain's most expensive" description is true, then it does leave an unanswered question of why something with a more typical cost wasn't the objective.  The mismatch of supply and demand is rather more worrying, and the outcome, given the provision of two caravan parking spaces beside each residential unit, could be one family in the unit and two others living in caravans parked in the spaces beside it.
This development is just beside the normal road route into the World Heritage Site from the west, and the impression this site will give to tourists arriving from that direction needs to be monitored and controlled.
Industrial Heritage Day - Last updated 8 March 2015.
Heritage DayWatchdog was just one of the organisations who exhibited at the Industrial Heritage Day on Saturday 7 March 2015 at the Bath City Football Club, and we were agreeably surprised at how many people came to see what was on display, with plenty for them to see and discuss with the exhibitors.  There was no official count of how many came through the door but it was several hundred according to the organisers; and this despite the press release not appearing in print.  Clearly there is a lot of public interest in Bath's industrial heritage, which suggests that it should perhaps feature more prominently in Bath's tourism publicity.
We have been informed that there will be another similar event in the future.  No date has been indicated yet.
Breaking News - Last updated 3 March 2015.
By a strange coincidence, one of the new planning applications this week was a listed building application for 1-3 James Street West, the little bomb-scarred building between Milk Street and Kingsmead North.
On Monday 9th March at 10am on the "Yesterday" channel (Freeview Channel 19) there is another repeat broadcast of "The Forgotten Blitz", a joint BBC Bristol and Bath Blitz Memorial Project production.  If you haven't seen it, it is worth watching or recording to watch later.  One of the locations featured in the programme is that very building, including a discussion led by Nick Knowles on its significance.
We contacted the Bath Blitz Memorial Project and we were informed that they had brought the building to the attention of English Heritage who subsequently listed it as a rare surviving example of the wartime "Make do and mend" approach to keeping going regardless of the destruction around and the shortage of materials.  In other words the importance of the building is its character exactly as it is now.  We were also informed that so many of the guests at the adjacent Premier Inn took an interest in the building that the Bath Blitz Memorial Project prepared and donated an Interpretation Panel for the hotel to display.
It is believed that some of the guests, having seen the broadcast of "The Forgotten Blitz" or having seen the articles on the programme in the Guardian, the Daily Mail or the Radio Times, came to Bath especially to see it; and while the Genesis Project occupied the building and offered furniture for sale, it gave the visitors a chance to see inside the building in its original 1930s livery as well.
It is difficult to imagine a more effective advertisement for Bath than an oft-repeated BBC documentary;  it is the type of publicity that money can't buy.  Yet the council wants to destroy the character of the building for the sake of a few more student flats which their own adopted Core Strategy rules against.  The council owns the building, the council evicted the Genesis Project from it, the council appointed a preferred developer, and the council has included a significant sum in the recent budget to fund the destruction; all this while hiding the planning application origins behind the preferred developer so that the council avoids asking the Secretary of State for permission to ruin a listed building.  Once its character is ruined, the people who arrive to see it and find it ruined will moan on the various Social Media services that they travelled all that way only to find that Bath couldn't care less about the heritage except the parts they can charge an arm and a leg to see.  Did nobody in the council think this through?  Mud sticks!
Our thanks to the member who brought the TV broadcast to our attention; and to the Bath Blitz Memorial Project for explaining the historical background.
The February DCC - Last updated 15 February 2015.
There were some substantial planning applications before the committee, and a quick summary of the outcome is:
MOD Warminster Road approved;  MOD Foxhill (now called Mulberry Park) was also approved.  The area beneath Grand Parade called The Colonnades in the planning application (which might cause confusion for those who remember the short-lived Colonnades Shopping Centre in Bath Street) was refused;  as was Pinesgate.
The Mulberry Park decision on the outline application came after the applicants reduced the height of the controversial 6-story blocks to four stories and thus made the layout and height profile more acceptable, a view also taken by the Committee Members.  The detailed styling of the individual buildings will be applied for separately, and the illustration in the news item should not be taken as an example of what was approved.  Watchdog did attend the public consultations and we pointed out that part of the site was too far from the proposed bus services for the elderly or infirm to carry shopping, but this was ignored.  The bus route provision is to be subject to separate review under Condition so hopefully this will result in those living in this part of the site being less likely to rely on car usage.
By contrast, the decision to approve the Warminster Road plans remains a mystery.  The Application Form applied for 189 dwellings and the drawings showed 204 dwellings, meaning that the application is inconsistent and fails to comply with planning law so it should automatically have been refused.  The Committee Report places considerable weight on a threat that the existing buildings could be retained and converted to residential, despite the Government guidance that each planning application should be stand-alone (and despite the fact that the conversion as described is not possible as permitted development).  The ten members of the Committee who voted to approve this have therefore condoned an unlawful application and a brief contrary to the extant guidance:  perhaps they will explain why they did this given their role is to make decisions strictly on planning grounds.  It now remains an outstanding question of how many will be built, and whether the council will enforce the applied-for 189.
One of our members found the news that the council has been awarded a New Homes Bonus allocation; and speculated that because so much potential residential development land had been given permission for student accommodation, perhaps any plan for dwellings had to be approved to safeguard the money.  Given the reservations that English Heritage had about the harm to important views, it remains to be seen whether the Secretary of State will be asked to call in this decision.  It will also be interesting to see whether when the development goes ahead it becomes Bath's latest nomination for the Carbuncle Cup.  (The Chancellor's Building at the University of Bath had the dubious honour of a place on the short-list last year, which isn't what is expected of a World Heritage Site).
Of the ones refused, the Pinesgate design was contrary to some policies in the newly adopted Core Strategy, and yet half the Committee wanted to approve it:  perhaps they should read the strategy that was adopted.
The Colonnades one was very sensibly refused, but despite the decision to protect the iconic views of Pulteney Bridge the council says it is still committed to the idea.  The most shocking thing in that article is not the stubbornness of refusing to accept that from the outset such a development was a bad idea, but the news that nearly £4 Million of council funds has been allocated in the draft budget to convert the Colonnades, yet the benefits were to go to commercial enterprise.  The expenditure of council tax should be for the benefit of the public not to provide a subsidy for business, and we hope the auditors question this budget entry very closely.
Victoria Bridge - Last updated 18 January 2015.
Although it had been possible for some days beforehand to cross the newly restored Grade II* listed bridge designed by James Dredge, there was an official opening ceremony conducted on Thursday 15 January 2015.  Amid speeches describing the restoration and acknowledgements of the contribution of the key people that ensured its success, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony which was filmed by the BBC for their "Points West" news item that evening.
Cutting the ribbonThree pairs of scissors wielded by two of James Dredge's descendants, Nigel Bridewell (left) and Stuart Dredge (second from right), and by Martin Veal (Chairman of the Council, centre) simultaneously cut the ceremonial ribbon watched by the Mayor, Cherry Beath (second left) , and Paul Crossley, the Leader of the Council (far right).  Crest Nicholson hosted the reception which followed.
At that reception, Paul Crossley introduced local artist Anna Gillespie who has been appointed to reprocess the iron from the bridge that was not in a fit state to be reused in the restoration, and will use it to create a sculpture to be named "Maid Of The Bridge", to be installed near the bridge once completed.
One residual anomaly is that the temporary girder bridge which kept the pedestrian route available during the restoration and has now been removed because the restored bridge is fully opened, is still the subject of planning applications which are still "Pending Consideration".
Planning concerns - Last updated 16 November 2014.
Over the last few weeks, members and local residents have raised some concerns about the planning processes.  Individually, the matters raised can be considered isolated oddities, but as a set they indicate that planning may not be getting the due diligence it deserves.  The recent conversations with us have included the following concerns and questions (which we are not in a position to answer but we can pass them on):
The flats under construction at 43 Upper Oldfield Park.  According to the Chronicle, work stopped for a while because the building was not to the approved designs, and a Stop Notice was issued and the applicant told that they must either build what was approved or gain planning approval for what was being built.  An application was later raised for the a revised construction and work has proceeded ever since despite the application still being in the public consultation stage.  Has the Stop Notice been revoked (which suggests that the decision to approve has been pre-determined) or has the council decided already that it will not pursue enforcement action even if the application is refused?
Haycombe Cemetery.  The proposal to widen the entrance was approved despite there being general recognition that it is a local heritage asset and despite the application not providing any justification for the damage to the appearance of the heritage asset.  The character of Bath is not just the age of the buildings but also the setting and styling.  Symmetry and rhythm are both important and the loss of symmetry in this case was not justified by any specific benefit, since the planning application failed to show a need for the changes proposed.  Pediments, avenues and line-of-sight buildings define vistas and the asymmetrical gateway if built will do a disservice to the Chapel Building.  Why was there no recognition of such characteristics when the World Heritage Management Plan is an adopted document?  Why was a decision made at all at this time when further justification for changes to a locally important building should have been requested first?
MOD Warminster Road.  The Application Form specified how many dwellings were to be constructed, yet the subsequent revised documentation has repeatedly varied the number. Why has the revised documentation been accepted as valid when it clearly is now for a different development and should be a new application?  Also, despite the various planning Acts making it clear that making false statements on a planning application is an offence, why has the applicant not been challenged over the description of some parts of the development which show the wrong number of storeys?
Cleveland House.  The minutes of the DCC meeting which originally discussed the latest application ended up discussing whether the changes affected the Conservation Area.  This is reasonable for the full application but it was also the motivation for the decision on the listed building application.  No discussion took place on the impact on the Grade II* listed building, nor on the planning basis which some DCC Members who wanted to approve the applications thus overturning the Case Officer's recommendation to refuse, were obliged to put forward as justification.  Yet what was proposed was the restoration of a previously refused feature which English Heritage said would have a severe adverse impact on the character of the building, and the DCC Members ought to have taken that into account.  As a Grade II* listed building the final decision will rest with the Secretary of State.  Almost certainly if approval is given, the Secretary of State, advised by English Heritage, would opt for a Public Inquiry to see whether any council decision to approve should be overturned, and the lack of consideration of the listed building impact would then be material evidence.  Why were the DCC Members not briefed on the potential consequences of ignoring English Heritage and the Case Law established to ensure that listed buildings are given the proper degree of protection in the planning process?
The former Labour Exchange.  According to the Chronicle article, the council had chosen a preferred developer for this building, and the planning application was submitted by this developer.  Why was there no public competition for choosing a preferred developer, when Local Authorities are obliged to follow EU competition directives for such appointments?  Does the appointment of a developer before a planning application is raised indicate an intention to pre-determine the permission?  If there is a council chosen preferred developer for a council owned building, then the council is effectively the applicant and the developer putting the application forward is the council's agent, so why were these applications not in the Regulation 3 series and eventually accompanied by a Regulation 13 one?  Was this an oversight or a deliberately chosen course of action hoping to avoid this development coming to the Secretary of State's attention?  As it stands, why has the council allowed the full application to get to the current fairly advanced stage when it is a listed building and no listed building application has accompanied it?
Bayer Building.  This listed building application included land curtilage listed with the Newark Works, which has a completely separate entry in the English Heritage register.  The Newark Works element should therefore have been a new and completely different application.  How was this anomaly allowed to be put forward in the first place, and why was the current document set not rejected at the validation stage?
There are other similar unanswered questions, but this list is already a bit long for this page.  In total, the indications are that the decision makers are either not properly trained or briefed, or else they are deliberately ignoring the obligations the legislation places on them.
Flood Defence Scheme - Last updated 12 October 2014.
We had our attention drawn to this week's Chronicle article on this subject, because among the pictures was this artist's impression.  Behind the Newark Works buildings that front the Lower Bristol Road there are currently some industrial buildings that are given group value with the main buildings by English Heritage, and thus become curtilage listed.  Yet in the artist's impression these industrial buildings have become taller buildings dwarfing the host buildings, and clad almost entirely in glass.  What these inappropriate designs have to do with flood protection the article doesn't explain.  Also where the artist got the design from isn't reported.  Should we assume that there is a covert plan to use flood protection as an excuse for a different scheme entirely?
Riverside Coach Park - Last updated 5 October 2014.
After we posted details of the Riverside Coach Park application (14/04195/EREG03) on our New Applications page last week we received several e-mails expressing concerns about the size of this documentation set.  At some 80 documents totalling over 200Mb, members were finding that it was a worry to those subject to daily data volume caps or monthly limits with a surcharge if exceeded.  Even for those without contractual limits, any with rural locations and slow connections as a result, would find downloading a real test of patience.
This is a Local Authority originated application, and among the documents is correspondence to the Secretary of State to accompany a CD of the documents, so somewhere in the planning system there must be a CD image.  It would be possible therefore for the council to provide such a CD, (if not free of charge then at cost) via the One Stop Shop for those who find Local Authority applications of this size problematical to view on-line.
It will take a while for us to understand the full ramifications of the application so we are not in a position to comment yet, but our initial observation is that is the first application we have ever seen with two distinct areas bounded by red lines.  Two non-adjacent land areas surely needs two separate applications? The Western Riverside plans had to be submitted as separate applications one for each side of the river, so this should be treated the same way, surely?
Street Clutter - Last updated 21 September 2014.
Our attention has been drawn to a news item published by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation concerning another university city, Newcastle.  The City Council has successfully applied to the Government for a "Regulation 7 Direction", which effectively bans the "To Let" boards that spoil popular areas.
To-Let boardsBath has successfully applied for the regulation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) to control the proportion of domestic housing converted to this use in future, but it doesn't affect those already converted.  In some areas, Oldfield Park especially, the advertising of these properties is a blot on the landscape as our photograph shows.  That picture was not taken this year, but it remains typical of the sight in many streets every year.
The value of the boards is limited as far as letting the rooms are concerned, since most of the research by those seeking accommodation is done on-line or through the universities:  students do not roam the streets looking for housing with a board outside, they already know what is available.
The main value of the boards appears to be the publicity the letting organisations get by the sheer number of their boards, encouraging landlords to place their business with those who are apparently more successful.  This isn't so much advertising as fly-posting.
This raises the question of why, when Newcastle can now restrict such advertising, Bath does not follow their lead.  We recommend that local councillors in the areas most blighted start to influence council policy in this direction.
Unnecessary illumination - Last updated 21 September 2014.
We were sent a photograph with the question why had we not objected to a recent planning application.  The simple answer is that we do not have the manpower to cover every planning application.  But the photograph raises some interesting issues so we have added a piece in our "We were right" series on our News Summary page.
Shopfronts Styling - Last updated 17 August 2014.
In the national newspapers this week was the news that the council responsible for Frinton-on-Sea had objected to the bright orange colour of the signage Sainsbury's wanted to put outside their new store:  The business was welcomed but the corporate orange colour wasn't.  Depending on which newspaper read, that council decision was either mocked or praised.  We did a bit of research.
Frinton-on-Sea had produced a Shopfronts Design Guide that not only covered the preservation of historic shopfronts, but guided the styling of new developments.  They took this approach after their enquiries indicated that a traditional character of the shopfront was beneficial to trade:  "The Town and District Councils believe that raising the standard of shopfronts will enhance the conservation area and contribute significantly to the vitality of Frinton's retail core and to the prosperity of individual businesses".  The news reports say that Sainsbury's want to have their store in keeping with the local area.
Frinton-on-Sea is a mostly Victorian and Edwardian seaside town in Essex which cared sufficiently about its character that it established a Conservation Area, identified the role that shopfronts contribute to its character, and is prepared to enforce its Shopfronts Design Guide through planning decisions.

Warning  Some of the links in this section are to large documents.  If you have a slow connection or have your internet usage limited by volume, you should be careful of these links.

Bath does not compare favourably with Frinton's determination.  Bath has Conservation Areas within a World Heritage Site covered by a WHS Management Plan and a World Heritage Site Setting SPD, it has a Supplementary Planning Document which identifies the character of each area throughout the city, it has a very comprehensive shopfronts guide still accessible on the council website in sections (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and at the time when Southgate was built but not fitted out it had a definition of an appropriate mandatory style of shopfront for a prestige development (a guide which has since disappeared from the council website).
And what happens?  The first Southgate shopfront which didn't comply with the Southgate Guide and went to the DCC resulted in the DCC deciding that not only was the application in front of them allowed to ignore the Guide, but the Guide should be withdrawn so that any style would be acceptable thereafter.  The City Wide Character Appraisal is almost completely ignored when planning decisions are made;  and outline planning was granted for the Western Riverside despite that SPD indicating that it should have been refused as non-compliant.  Unauthorised works affecting the character of a listed building in a Conservation Area are often "Not expedient to enforce", despite the Shopfronts Guide establishing the importance of signage and colour schemes.  The regrettable conclusion is that a World Heritage Site cares less about its character than a small, quiet seaside town.  There is little point in documenting planning standards if the decision makers regard them as unimportant;  Bath deserves better.
Unauthorised Pavement Clutter - Last updated 10 August 2014.
We were provided with some thought provoking photographs of the Bath that residents and visitors rarely see, and we were surprised at the impression that street clutter gave when looked at through a visitor's eyes, and how much of it had no right to be there.  We have put a more detailed report on our Public Realm page.
The Rec - Last updated 3 August 2014.
At the DCC meeting on 30th July, according to the Chronicle article the Committee voted to approve the Bath Rugby planning application for a temporary expansion of the seating capacity.  In our comment on the application we recommended that the additional rows on the East Stand should be lowered on the days when they are not required for spectators to minimise the impact on the views across the Rec.  At the time of writing we cannot tell whether that recommendation was heeded because the Decision Notice is not on the planning website and the Minutes of the DCC meeting are not available;  we can only hope that a suitable Condition will be part of the permission when issued.
Update, 10 August:  When the minutes of the meeting were made available they contained no Condition regarding lowering the additional rows.
Planning Conditions - Last updated 27 July 2014.
In a Chronicle article on a planning application for the former Rockery Tea Gardens which is going before the next DCC, there was an interesting quote (from Cllr Symonds):
"This was a very controversial application so conditions were imposed to protect residents and to minimise the environmental impact of the development.  These conditions have been removed without any contact with the committee that imposed them, with local councillors or with residents."  This isn't an isolated example.
(1)  The planning permission for the development of the former Beechen Cliff Lower School on Wellsway included a condition that an area of land had to be set aside as a communal garden, and maintained as such in perpetuity and all the hard and soft landscaping had to be in place before any part of the development was occupied.  The land was never landscaped;  initially it was just left derelict while the buildings were occupied, and later planning permission was granted for the derelict land to be built on.
(2)  The planning permission for 43 Upper Oldfield Park included a condition that the site entrance from Junction Road should not be used, because the DCC was concerned about the location being particularly accident prone.  A Case Officer later agreed to the use of a Junction Road access as part of agreeing a Construction Method Statement.
(3)   Permission for a dwelling in St Marks Road came with a condition that the on-site turning space was to be permanently kept clear for that purpose so that vehicles entering the site could always emerge facing forwards.  A Case Officer later permitted a raised patio to be built on it.
(4)   Plans for Southgate were very precise about the styling the shopping centre was supposed to display.  There then followed a series of changes, submitted as Non-Material Amendments thus preventing public comment despite several of them having a significant impact, and all approved at Case Officer level so that what was eventually built was nowhere near as good as the original permission.
We can find other examples but the above is sufficient to show that this is a general issue, not an isolated problem.
We agree with Cllr Symonds.  Such things should not happen.  It is now up to the Chairman of the DCC to get the rules changed, thus ensuring that conditions set by the DCC result in subsequent requests to change those conditions always going to the DCC.
There is also a need for enforcement action where necessary.  The conditions for the Twerton Mill site included several requiring "No work shall start until ... " yet work did start, and when this was reported to Enforcement, work was allowed to carry on instead of being stopped (and it is still continuing at the time of writing this).  So while the Chairman of the DCC is seeking to protect conditions set by the DCC from later incompatible decisions, he should also be ensuring that breaches in such conditions impose an obligation on Enforcement to act.
Post-war rebuilding - Last updated 20 July 2014.
Among the new decisions this week was what must have been an awkward conundrum for the Case Officer.  When Somerset Place was rebuilt after the war, only the front was restored entirely in character, leaving some of the rear elevations with an unadorned appearance and with too many stories to sit comfortably alongside the surviving originals, and therefore making horizontal lines that were uncomfortably uneven.  Watchdog was of the view that whatever was done to the rear elevation it couldn't look right and it wouldn't look worse, so we ended up with a neutral opinion and decided not to comment.  Two councillors also recognised the conflict and asked for the question to be referred to the DCC.
We believe that it would have been useful for the DCC to have that debate, but unfortunately the Chairman decided it wasn't necessary on the grounds that there was no history of balconies on that rear elevation.  Whilst true, there is also no history of this terrace having too many stories and the wrong materials on the rear elevation of some of the properties either.  But there is a history of post-war rebuilds of historic Georgian crescents being fitted with balconies on the rear elevation, as 1-6 Norfolk Crescent demonstrate.
We have no complaint about the decision reached by the Case Officer in those circumstances, but we do think the DCC Chairman should have allowed the Committee Members to discuss the issue with the option of a site visit, and arrive at a decision of principle which can be used as a future precedent.  Instead we see yet another planning inconsistency (was the Norfolk Crescent decision wrong or the Somerset Place one?) leaving a Case Officer at sometime in the future facing another "damned if you do and damned if you don't" decision to make, unless this applicant appeals and invites a Planning Inspector to make the decision that the DCC could have made much more quickly and cheaply.
Core Strategy - Last updated 13 July 2014.
On 10 July 2014, the council formally adopted the Core Strategy at the end of a fairly lengthy Examination Process for the original draft.  Details of the adoption, and links to the relevant documents, are available on the council website.  The Core Strategy and the retained policies from the 2007 Local Plan which are referenced by it are now the yardstick against which planning decisions are to be assessed.
Abbey Hotel - Last updated 13 July 2014.
The minutes of the last DCC show that planning application 14/00981/FUL for the Abbey Hotel's chalet was granted permission by the Committee despite the clear statement in the English Heritage consultation comments that they wanted it refused.  This is a Grade II* listed building so the Secretary of State should call in the decision for his own determination if English Heritage ask him to.  It remains to be seen whether English Heritage will.  In any called-in process the Inspector will look for sound planning reasons why the Committee overturned the Case Officer's recommendation to refuse, and the Minutes of the meeting look inadequate to meet this requirement.
HMOs - Last updated 29 June 2014.
Question:  When is a Council policy not a policy?
Answer:  When the Development Control Committee decide they know best.

According to the recently published minutes of the 4th June meeting, despite all the public discussion on the introduction of an Article 4 Direction to control the proliferation of HMOs, and despite all the administrative effort getting it adopted as formal policy, and despite the Case Officer's well reasoned argument to refuse on this first test case, the DCC effectively decided that because there were already so many HMOs in the location, another one wouldn't hurt.  This is exactly the situation that the Article 4 Direction was designed to prevent.  Now we know that the policy isn't worth the paper it is printed on.
There is a lot of student accommodation a short walk away from the test case, in Charlton Court and in Waterside Court.  When these were at the planning stage, the public was assured that purpose built accommodation would return HMOs to normal housing stock.  The same (now invalidated) claim has been made on every application for student accommodation since then, including two which are still currently open for public comment.  These applications will eventually go before the DCC, to the very councillors who believe that it is worth overturning established policy in order to lose yet another family home to gain a HMO.  It will be interesting to see if they pretend to believe the claims to restore family homes then;  because by their actions on 4th June we know that they don't.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 15 June 2014.
Among the new applications this week is one for the former Labour Exchange building, which had been anticipated after the Chronicle printed an article on the redevelopment plans.  We shall study the application in detail, but it is possible to give a first impressions comment after a brief look at the documentation.
Artist's impressionFirstly, it is HUGE.  Six stories sat right outside the new Premier Inn and far taller than the hotel (though the vistas offered try to disguise that), it has a totally inappropriate scale and mass for the location, and is likely to have a seriously detrimental effect on the amenity and trade of its neighbour.   Indeed it is disproportionate in a World Heritage Site that was commended for its buildings being of human scale.  The draft Core Strategy includes a building heights policy, and these plans defy that policy.  Premier Inns tried (and largely succeeded) to build a modern hotel that looked as though it belonged in Bath.  They now have a proposed neighbour with a design which fails to respond to the local vernacular, and is surrounded by a deathmask of the original listed building.
The Chronicle article says that the applicant is the council's preferred developer.  Given that the council own the site, the choice of preferred developer should have been by open competition, or else the council has broken EU regulations.  If this really was the best of the competitive entries, then we can only assume that it wasn't advertised widely enough nor specified with the Outstanding Universal Value of Bath as a constraint.  In short, it looks like either a sham or a shambles.

• Article 5. The conservation of monuments is always facilitated by making use of them for some socially useful purpose.  Such use is therefore desirable but it must not change the lay-out or decoration of the building.  It is within these limits only that modifications demanded by a change of function should be envisaged and may be permitted.
• Article 6. The conservation of a monument implies preserving a setting which is not out of scale.  Wherever the traditional setting exists, it must be kept.  No new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed.

It seems more likely though that this approach wasn't chosen because it was the best for Bath, but because it coincided with a hidden agenda.  In choosing this developer's approach, the council has effectively forced the Government to break Articles 5 and 6 of the World Heritage Convention.  This might be the clue to why a preferred developer was nominated.  If the council had raised its own planning application for a site which it owns, that would have required notifying the Secretary of State of the plans, and the breach of the World Heritage Convention would have been more obvious.
There is no sign yet of the listed building application that will also be necessary.  So this is a timely opportunity to remind whoever is preparing it that the entire building is listed and the legislation (quoted below) gives a clear indication that it should be refused.  There is no public good arising from this development that can outweigh the most recent use which was a community use to provide charitable rehabilitation services to the disabled and disadvantaged youth either.
Planning law  states that "Any listed building consent shall ensure for the benefit of the building and of all persons for the time being interested in it" and "In considering whether to grant listed building consent for any works the local planning authority or the Secretary of State shall have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses".
Case Law (Court of Appeal - Bath Society v Secretary of State for the Environment - February 6 1991) clarifies "The requirement to pay "special attention" should be the first consideration for the decision-maker: it was to be regarded as having considerable importance and weight. ...  Any detrimental effect was a material consideration"  Also that "this obligation was of particular importance where the site was of such universal value that protecting it is the concern of all mankind".
In simple terms the listing makes it clear that the currently truncated and patched up building is believed to be the last surviving wartime "make do and mend" building still fit for use, and is thus of national importance because of its current condition and appearance, and is of concern to all mankind because of its location in a World Heritage Site, and thus any redevelopment would be detrimental.  The current roof is at least as important as the facade.
We cannot see any circumstances where a decision to permit the proposed development can be made within the law, particularly when the Genesis Trust would happily occupy and use the building on a permanent basis, so there is no risk of it becoming derelict.
Green Park Offices - Last updated 8 June 2014.
In this week's new applications is a resubmission for the application to replace the office buildings alongside Green Park Station with student accommodation.  Those who commented on the earlier withdrawn application should note that such comments will not be carried forward, and if you want to have your views taken into account, it will be necessary to comment again.
We note that the accommodation is described as "cluster flats" which are self-contained units containing several bedrooms rather than the arrangement where each bedroom was a single unit.  In the past, cluster flats were to be counted as a contribution to the council's housing target despite housing students (whilst the single bedroom units did not), but we understand that during the core strategy process, all student accommodation was removed from the types meeting the housing target.  This means that every site (like this one) devoted to student accommodation removes an area of land that could have contributed to the housing target from the stock of available land, meaning that the need to meet housing targets will put pressure on the use of less desirable areas such as green belt land.
The idea that purpose-built accommodation would free up HMOs in residential areas is a complete myth.  Both universities wish to increase student numbers, and HMOs mostly involve structural alterations that make them unfit for anything other than HMOs, so any claims that this development would free up housing elsewhere cannot be believed.
Woolley Valley - Last updated 25 May 2014.
Woolley Valley is outside Watchdog's coverage area, but we are aware that some of our readers are interested in what is happening there.  So when we saw the Chronicle item about Golden Valley Paddocks having made yet another retrospective application for work undertaken in January we thought it might be helpful to give a link to the planning application.  When we found the application 14/01124/FUL we noted that it was not raised as retrospective, and thus the applicants have committed two criminal offences under the Town & Country Planning Act:  (1) having started work without prior planning permission;  and (2) having knowingly made a misleading statement on their planning application.
The council's planning file shows that the target date for a planning decision is 9 July 2014, yet the automated system has already blocked the use of the comments form, so we are adding a Make Comment link here for those who have tried to comment and have been frustrated by the blocked facility.
Hartwells Redevelopment - Last updated 18 May 2014.
Hartwells SiteHartwells offered what was supposed to be a public consultation on their plans for their Newbridge site, though only the immediate neighbourhood was informed, and by the time we had heard about it it was too late to attend.
We did an internet search to see if (like the Green Park, Foxhill and Bath Rugby consultations) the display material had been put on-line, and failed to find any reference to it except a petition against it.  So we are grateful for this picture that was sent to us so that we could see what was on display.
Watchdog's remit is to look at developments from a heritage point of view, so we have examined the picture just from that perspective.  Newbridge is within the World Heritage Site boundary, and currently those entering the WHS from the west see buildings that do not reflect the Outstanding Universal Value of Bath on the Lower Bristol Road but the Upper Bristol Road route is currently much more in character.  The buildings that Bath is famous for have three stories in a classic style when viewed from street level, topped usually with an attic storey with dormer windows within a pitched slate roof, visible or behind a parapet.
The design for the Hartwell's site and the style indicated in the recent Screening application for the old gasworks site are both alien designs moving away from the local vernacular.  This example seems to be following the trend set by the Western Riverside of being too tall, not in the proportions that characterise Bath, and rather featureless.  The roofline of the row facing the over-tall blocks is also out of character for the locality.
Looking back to the report by the UNESCO Mission to Bath, they thought that the first phase of the Western Riverside was small enough not to cause any great harm to the World Heritage Site, but asked that the later phases should be redesigned because to replicate the Phase 1 character over a wider area would cause significant harm.  Nevertheless, no redesign of the later phases took place, and there seems to be a tendency to use the Western Riverside as a model for other developments despite the warnings from UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee that widespread use of that style would be damaging.
The other, more indirect concern, is that with the proliferation of student accommodation on any available land the scope for providing employment opportunities gets progressively less, and pre-disposes to reliance on employment opportunities outside the city.  The lack of employment land impacts on jobs for residents and adds to congestion because residents who do not move out of the city to be close to their employment opportunities commute out of the city to their place of work, often by car.  All such issues impact on the WHS in that it becomes a less attractive place to live.  In addition, student accommodation does not count towards housing targets, so they become additional to rather than part of the Government housing targets, putting pressure on other available land to achieve higher densities, achieved by either greater height or closely packing, both of which would also be out of character for Bath.
Enforcements - Last updated 18 May 2014.
We are seeing an apparently increasing number of occasions where planning applications are submitted after the work which is applied for has been completed, or else the work starts during the consultation period for a planning application.  We are also reporting a number of occasions where work has been carried out without raising a planning application at all.  This is surprising when for a listed building, such work without consent is clearly defined in the legislation as a criminal offence, and one where the maximum penalty (albeit rarely used) is a custodial sentence.
At the same time, we are receiving a disappointing number of responses to enforcement issues we have reported confirming that an offence has been committed, but that it is "not expedient" to pursue it.  We can find no information on the B&NES website about what might or might not make a case expedient.  But we do have concerns that the failure to pursue clear cases of criminal activity is perhaps the cause of the high number of offences observed.  If the probability of being pursued for an offence is low, the probability of the offence being committed increases.  It follows that every "not expedient" decision has the potential to increase the number of offences committed and thus the subsequent workload of the Enforcements staff.
A further complication is the tendency for a planning application to justify what has been applied for on the grounds that something similar exists further down the street, and when we check we find that many of the example quoted has never been given permission.  We have no figures on how many such examples were Enforcement cases considered not expedient to pursue, but any that are may be causing false expectations of what is likely to be permissible; and we know of at least one instance where a decision to refuse was quite rightly given, and in the subsequent appeal process the Inspector has, in the interest of even-handedness, overruled the refusal because the council had turned a blind eye to the offence that was used as the comparison.  Of course there are other examples where an appeal Inspector has not taken that line, but nevertheless Enforcement staff need to be aware of the potential for their decisions to either reinforce or undermine the effectiveness of case officer planning decisions made afterwards in the same locality.
Newark Works - Last updated 4 May 2014.
In its article about the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg's, visit to the Newark Works, the Chronicle offers an interesting quote by the prospective new incumbent, BMT, that they "hoped the firm would not experience the same problems Dyson did when it tried to develop the site".  That very much depends on their expectations and the advice being given to them by the council.  The problems Dyson experienced had stemmed from the insistence by the council that they knew better than the Environment Agency, only they didn't and the Environment Agency had the plans called in for a Public Inquiry, which Dyson decided not to fight.
We also hope that BMT has not been advised to take a façadism approach to the Newark Works as appears to have been advised with the Old Labour Exchange.  Both appear to be contrary to the World Heritage Convention that the UK Government committed to, and this could become important.  Given the elapsed time since UNESCO's Mission to Bath in November 2008 and the scant interest that the advice of the 2009 World Heritage Committee was given in Bath afterwards, we understand that ICOMOS UK are once again taking an interest in Bath's current and future ambitions.  The promotion of the Western Riverside Design Codes for other developments in Bath is directly contrary to the World Heritage Committee's post-Mission recommendations.
So we looked in detail at what the UK Government had committed to doing.  The rather curious term "monument" in the following quotations is elsewhere clarified to cover a range of things including World Heritage Sites, Listed Buildings, features in Conservation Areas, associated landscape settings, and important man-made landscape features among others.
• Article 4. It is essential to the conservation of monuments that they be maintained on a permanent basis.
• Article 5. The conservation of monuments is always facilitated by making use of them for some socially useful purpose.  Such use is therefore desirable but it must not change the lay-out or decoration of the building.  It is within these limits only that modifications demanded by a change of function should be envisaged and may be permitted.
• Article 6. The conservation of a monument implies preserving a setting which is not out of scale.  Wherever the traditional setting exists, it must be kept.  No new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed.
• Article 7. A monument is inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the setting in which it occurs.
These are UNESCO's rules which the UK Government is duty bound to enforce, and the dereliction of the Newark Works is already in contravention of Article 4.
The Newark Works are somewhat special even in a World Heritage Site, because of the historical connection with the Canadian National Architect, a fact that resulted in VIPs from Canada appearing on UK television to protest against Dyson's plans;  another part of the world tried to defend part of a World Heritage Site because the local authority responsible for it was failing to do so adequately.  We can only hope that BMT's expectations involve reuse of the set of buildings on the Newark Works site (English Heritage not only listed the main building but recognised the Group Value of the associated buildings), because trying to do otherwise is likely to unleash a similar international protest.
We also found some meaningful advice on façadism in other publications.  This is from an English Heritage Conservation Bulletin:
"One of the more controversial issues in building conservation is façadism: the situation where a historic façade is preserved, but an entirely new structure is constructed behind.  The relationship between public front and private interior is gone;  the three-dimensional is flattened.  Where the new building is larger and taller - as is often the case - then scale and context are also lost.";
and this from an Architectural Journal:
"It is English Heritage's view that people prefer their historic buildings to be old.  Buildings are not just stage sets.  Façadism rarely makes structural or aesthetic sense. ... I am a little unsure what to think about 'façadism' or 'deathmasking' as it is called within architectural fan circles.  As a result, the façade is arguably nothing more than decoration, shorn of its original significance: a cute toy designed to make a skyscraper more palatable."
We have to wonder whether the views of the experts will be heeded.
Victoria Bridge - Last updated 4 May 2014.
Following our photo montage and our concerns about how the bridge was being dismantled, we were invited to meet the Project Manager for the bridge restoration.  That meeting gave us a great deal of reassurance.  We were informed that the removal of the bridge had been carefully planned and the contractor was working to these plans with council supervision.  English Heritage had been consulted and was happy with the plans.  We also learned:
• In order to be used by the public rather than being merely decorative, the restored bridge must meet modern load safety standards.  To achieve this it cannot be constructed wholly of the original wrought iron, and load bearing components must include the additional strength provided by steel.  In particular the suspension chains will be replaced with a mix of original iron and new steel, though visually it will not be possible to distinguish between originals and replacements.  Also the hangers (the rods which connect the suspension chains to the roadway) must all be steel.  This means that the structures we saw being cut were not intended to be reused;  those that will be reused were removed whole.
• The non-loadbearing iron will all be reused unless close inspection shows that its condition is too corroded to do so.
• The stone towers at each end of the bridge are both sound, and apart from minor repairs where vegetation has damaged stone, they will be left unchanged.
• The bridge underwent repairs in the 1940s and some of the parts which we saw being cut are 1940s steel replacements and not original iron.
This is reassuring, and we are happy to set the record straight.  We look forward to seeing the restored bridge.
Pavement Clutter - Last updated 20 April 2014.
There was an interesting letter in the Chronicle complaining about clutter on the pavements and the adverse impact these have on the disabled.  We have previously reported the council's policy on pavement advertising, but the reality is that without adequate enforcement the policy has made very little difference to the pavements.  The mistaken view that Bath is enhanced by a "café culture" appearance has resulted in most pavements being obstacle courses of unattractive furniture which forces tourists to look straight ahead rather than glancing in shop windows, and this must have an adverse impact on trade.  As the Chronicle letter points out, it also results in a deterrent effect, and even minor injuries, to the disabled.
Those businesses with tables have effectively been given a part of Bath free of charge to extend their business premises, and perhaps in fairness they should be charged rent by the council for the pavement space occupied, and have their business rates reassessed on the grounds of a larger premises, taking the outside space into account.  Then whether it has a business benefit will be taken into account, rather than the "it's free so I will have it" attitude that currently prevails.
Nevertheless, we take the view that the tourism experience is enhanced by an easy stroll with time to look around rather than dodging obstructions.  Other tourist destinations like York and Cambridge have successfully banned "A" Boards and tables and chairs, and are much more pleasant places to visit as a result.
World Heritage DayWorld Heritage Day - Last updated 20 April 2014.
World Heritage Day was advertised beforehand on BBC Radio Bristol;  and displays were set up in Sydney Gardens.
In lovely weather, a steady stream of visitors enjoyed the sunshine and the displays, a few of which are pictured here.  The Chronicle had a news item with further photographs.
The Rec - Last updated 13 April 2014.
Following the Tribunal's judgement on the Rec (see below), the Chronicle reports that the Recreation Ground Trust has a new "boss" (actually "Chair"), Eizabeth Bloor, chosen from the current Trustees.
Whilst recognising that a newspaper article is not a formal statement by the Trustees, the report that an appeal against the Tribunal's judgement is being considered when all the Tribunal did was reiterate the requirements in the 2002 High Court Judgement, doesn't seem the most productive way forward.  The other oddity in the article is the statement about "bringing the leisure centre under the Recreation Ground Trust" when the land is on which the Leisure centre sits is already within the Trust's "Sixteen acres two roods and eleven perches or thereabouts" boundary.  Transferring the ownership of the building to the Trust would bring an immediate conflict of interest for the Trustees, who are required by covenant to ensure that "no buildings for the purpose of any trade or business" shall occupy the land (apart from Bath Rugby which has its 1933 occupancy protected for the duration of the original lease).  While the leisure centre is on Trust land but covered by an extant lease its presence has some tenancy validity, but if the Trust took ownership of it, the leisure centre would seem to be defenceless against a legal challenge calling for its demolition to return that part of the Rec to "open land".
It is early days for the Trust, and we recommend that the Trustees do not make any hasty decisions.  There may be a gap between what they would like to do and what they are supposed to do, and any future legal processes can be expected to focus on the latter.
The Rec - Last updated 6 April 2014.
There are a few new items in the Chronicle concerning the Rec.  The first concerns the outcome of a legal challenge to the Charity Commissions position on the Rec, which ruled against the Charity Commission.  We have said in the past that unlike most charities, the one covering the Rec was not set up voluntarily but under the direction of the High Court, and that we doubted whether the Charity Commission had the authority to make changes to the High Court Judgement which dealt with a specific area of land without asking the High Court's permission, which they didn't do.  It appears that the tribunal took a similar view.  The essence of the Tribunal's Judgement is summarised better in a second article.
The third article covers a statement from Bath Rugby, which confirms that the club will be pressing on with its stadium improvements even if restricted to its current footprint.  This is worrying because the current plans were for a larger area to hold additional seating, and the outcome of those plans we reported on our News Summary page which raised concerns about the height of the roofs of the stands and the effect on significant views.  Within the existing footprint, the only way to achieve the same increased number of seats is to go even higher.
The comment from the Trustees at the Tribunal's ruling included the possibility of an appeal.  However the Tribunal also ruled that the council was over-represented by councillors (see the current list) and that no councillor should be chairman because of a potential conflict of interest.  It is important for the finances of the Trust that no financial investment into an appeal is made before the Trustees are reorganised, or else the Tribunal could probably point out that the appeal is just the type of conflict of interest that they had borne in mind when making their decision.
Museum Of Bath At Work - Last updated 6 April 2014.
We wondered whether the talk on Charles Wilkins during the Museum's Spring Fayre was the owner of Twerton Mill at the time the GWR was constructed through Bath or Sir Charles Wilkins famous for his pioneering typesetting of Indian books.
It was the owner of Twerton Mill, who sold some of his land to Brunel so that the GWR could be built and Brunel, as part of that agreement, included the dwellings in the archways along the Lower Bristol Road for the mill workers who would lose their homes as a consequence.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 23 March 2014.
Whilst the recent Chronicle item is primarily about the removal of Abbey Furniture from the Walcot Street shop from which it has traded for the last 16 years, further down the article it reveals that Abbey Furniture is required to move out so that the Genesis Trust can move in.  This idea is wrong on many levels.
This council claims in the Local Plan and in the Core Strategy that independent businesses are important to Bath, and with the Planning Inspector about to restart the examination of the Core Strategy, this is not the ideal time to demonstrate to him that this aspect of the Core Strategy is demonstrably untrue in this respect:  in his position we would then be suspicious that other parts of the Core Strategy might be similarly suspect.
We are also mindful that other long-established independent businesses forced to move by the council have failed fairly soon afterwards (Walcot Reclamation, for example), demonstrating that the success of a business is not only a feature of the products, but also where the business is located.  If Abbey Furniture has survived 16 years in Walcot Street despite the deep recession, then it has to be partly because of where it is:  in an open-fronted premises where the product lines are visible from a number of busy local and long-distance bus routes.  With the gradual removal of independent traders in central Bath, being replaced by retail chains and food outlets, Bath is rapidly losing its reputation for independent niche shops (many familiar names can now be found in Bradford-on-Avon having been forced out of Bath), and the fate of Abbey Furniture suggests that this might be covert policy rather than accidental.
Now look at the proposed future occupier.  The Genesis Trust looks after disadvantaged youngsters with a variety of problematic backgrounds, and some of these find change very difficult to handle, so any relocation is going to cause problems for the charity.  Their most successful rehabilitation process involves using sharp tools in heated rooms with plenty of natural light.  How that can be carried out in Walcot Street in a location that can't be enclosed to be heated without major changes to the street scene, and in a premises which cannot be fitted with side windows to obtain the necessary illumination levels doesn't appear to have occurred to whoever suggested this location.  Power tools lit only by artificial lighting from low energy lamps are highly dangerous, because such lighting has a strobe effect on fast-moving machinery.  If the workshops are to be moved, they need to be housed where there is natural light from more than one side;  something that this location in Walcot Street cannot provide, so that Health and Safety rules will cripple any aspirations to continue the current Genesis Trust methods.  The proposed move is therefore a criminal offence under the Equalities Act 2010.  For that reason alone, both the current occupiers should continue in their current premises.
When we first read of the aspirations for the former Labour Exchange, we speculated that the planning permissions necessary could perhaps have been pre-determined.  Now that we have seen that the next stage is to dump the Genesis Trust in something wholly unsuitable just to get rid of them from their current premises, and to hell with the consequences for a very worthwhile charity and a thriving business that just happen to be in the way, we are convinced that the decision on the former Labour Exchange has been predetermined.  It now needs an independent investigation into who made that decision, and heads should roll.
20MPH Speed limits - Last updated 23 March 2014.
While on the theme of B&NES not meeting their legal obligations, we draw attention to DfT Circular 1/2013 which shows what councils must do before introducing 20mph limits.  B&NES haven't done so. Therefore they have defied Government policy.  Whether such limits are desirable or not we leave others to argue;  we merely point out that B&NES hasn't followed the proper process before deciding to impose them.
The other oddity is that the council has a policy to de-clutter the streets.  Yet 20mph speed limits require not only signs at all entry and exit points but also repeater signs at many locations between, thus adding clutter.  How can the council embark on a course of action which completely opposes existing council policy, without re-visiting that policy?  Additional clutter and World Heritage are not ideal companions.
Vaults - Last updated 16 March 2014.
Despite the advice from English Heritage that Bath's vaults were not intended to be habitable spaces, a view upheld by various planning inspectors dealing with planning appeals, we continue to see occasional applications for such conversions.  So it comes as a pleasant surprise to read in the Chronicle about a business which has found a use for vaults which is entirely consistent with their unfurnished state: a mushroom farm.  We applaud Mr Prentice for his imaginative use of such spaces, and wish Fungi Fruits every success.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 16 March 2014.
Following our short news item on the Cleveland Pools allocation in the B&NES budget, and the rather more lengthy Chronicle item a little while afterwards, we were asked if we knew what the money would be used for.
The best place to keep up to date with developments is the website of the Cleveland Pools Trust, but an internet search did reveal the existence of a Conservation Plan and an on-line film clip provided by the Prince's Regeneration Trust, who are supporting the restoration of Cleveland Pools.
Mile Marker, Lark Place - Last updated 9 March 2014.
Having established that the mile marker is in the position it was when it was first installed, and having explained that research in our comments submitted objecting to the mile marker being moved, Watchdog was rather surprised to read in the Case Officer's Delegated Report accompanying the Decision Notice that our "full representations can be viewed on the website".

These are our full representations which the council website will not allow you to see:
Original Comment
 1st Update
 2nd Update

Case Officers know that when the Decision Notice is placed on-line, all public comments cease to be viewable by the public, and our full representations can not be viewed, so this ploy could perhaps be to avoid future embarrassment over the decision made.  Included in our objection was the reminder that "the only way the current legislation would permit any relocation would be if the applicants show a public benefit greater than that resulting from leaving it exactly where it is" and nothing in the applicant's paperwork or the delegated report demonstrates a public benefit.  Section 16 of the relevant Act therefore indicates a presumption to refuse.  But it wasn't, despite all the benefit falling to the developer and none to the public.
Suppose for a moment that the applicant went to the dentist with toothache.  Would it be acceptable to have a different tooth extracted instead because it was in a more convenient position?  We assume not.  So there are occasions where an exact position is important, and a historical precise measurement is one of them.  Among the other public comments that can no longer be read was a suggestion for a minor variation on the plans for building on Lark Place without moving the milestone, yet that was not taken up by the applicant nor mentioned in the Delegated Report.  We wonder why not, when it would have kept both the developers and the residents trying to protect the mile marker happy.
Finally, we have to wonder at the claim that "it is common practice for signage heritage assets to be moved during their lifetime".  Not when listed and located in Bath, they haven't;  and there is ample evidence that this milestone has occupied its current position for over a century and a half, which seems an awfully long time if the practice of moving them really was common.
Bath's Most Attractive Buildings? - Last updated 2 March 2014.
The Chronicle has bravely suggested a list of the Top 10 Bath buildings.  It is a brave thing to do, because any such list will have its critics as well as its supporters.  Likewise, we don't expect all our readers to agree with our observations of those on the Chronicle list or our choice of worthy additions, but we will make them regardless.
Bath Abbey, right now, is a definite candidate for the list.  It is just a pity that planning permission has been given to spoil the view in the Chronicle photograph by allowing inappropriate modifications to the windows nearest to the camera.  The tendency to promote the space in front as an exhibition space can also make photographs difficult;  it needs to be kept clear.
The Theatre Royal would better qualify for the list if they hadn't copied the Hippodrome in Bristol and installed the brass canopy.  Replacing the splendid wooden entrance doors with what look like UPVC units was not a good idea either.
The Holburne Museum's extension does not comply with the Government guidance on materials and appearance of extensions to listed buildings, and if the DCC had actually complied with planning law they would have refused its listed building application.  It has no "Bathness" and scholars of classical architecture hate it.
The Thermae Spa is "built inside out" according to a professor of classical architecture from a university in Rome when Watchdog showed him around Bath.  His criticism of the Thermae building is that Bath Stone is meant to be an external surface and putting it behind glass looks very wrong.
We can't fault the others on the Chronicle list, though we are surprised that among the worthy churches St Swithin's doesn't get a mention.  Bluecoat School also looks rather splendid now that it has been cleaned.  Three buildings where their form belies the function also deserve an honourable mention.  The first is Cleveland House that looks like a splendid house but was built as offices.  The second is Twerton Gaol which also looks like a magnificent dwelling but was built as a prison.  The third is the former Lambridge Harvester which looks like an old watermill but was actually recently built and as a restaurant.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 2 March 2014.

In this Act "listed building" means a building which is for the time being included in a list compiled or approved by the Secretary of State under this section;
and for the purposes of this Act -
(a) any object or structure fixed to the building;
(b) any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before 1st July 1948.

After our piece last week (see below) the Chronicle printed an article on the redevelopment plans and we were asked for some background.  It appears from the article that the council was also asked for comments, though the unnamed spokesman neither knew how the legislation defines a listed building, nor how the building arrived at its current state. He said "the current roof is post-Second World War and not listed" and both statements are wrong.  The roof is part of the original structure of the building and is the same age as the rest of it, and the Act of Parliament (see box, right) makes it clear that the listing might cover more than the entire building, but is never less than the entire building.
The same spokesman then says that the aim is to make "best possible use for our corporate estate". How that corresponds with giving the Genesis Trust a specific date to leave the building unoccupied is not explained.  The best way to preserve a listed building is to keep it occupied.  The last time the council gave the Genesis Trust a fixed date to leave a listed building, it was in order to leave the Newark Works vacant, having also moved all the other users of those buildings.  Since that date in 2006, instead of earning money from rentals, the empty Newark Works has resulted in the council paying for security guards, the eviction costs for two different sets of squatters, buying and erecting a security fencing, and patching up windows broken by vandals.  Despite the security measures scrap metal thieves still broke in, and damage from neglected and now overflowing gutters will need more money spent on repairs than the occasional cleaning of gutters would have done.  The dogma of emptying a listed building so that occupants do not have to be taken into account when forming planning decisions can be very expensive.  Readers will no doubt have their own ideas about what cuts in services could have been reduced or avoided if in 2006 the council had allowed its tenants to continue trading in the Newark Works, thus maintaining the fabric, keeping undesirables out, and contributing rents to the council's finances.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 16 February 2014.
We were tipped off by the Bath Blitz Memorial Project that the plans in the recently approved council Budget for "1-3 James Street West" referred to the wartime damaged and now listed former Labour Exchange on the corner of Milk Street and listed as "Old Labour Exchange (former Weights And Measures Office), Milk Street".  So we looked back in our archives and discovered that despite its listed status (the BBMP believe it is the last remaining wartime "make do and mend" patched-up building still fit for use in its unrestored state, and that makes it unique in Britain), the council continues to treat such a historic asset as unimportant.  In April 2010 we reported that there was a threat to the former Labour Exchange building despite the listing text describing its appearance as "remarkable".  Finally in August 2011 the plans to use this building as a "wet house" for the homeless were formally dropped.  This was announced in a Chronicle report.

The series of broadcasts of "The Forgotten Blitz" aired for the first time on the "Yesterday" channel on 11th August 2011 and has been repeated at intervals since.  In it, Nick Knowles was filmed in Bath and shown examining this building and talking about how it got into its current state.

Coincidentally, in that month the building enjoyed its TV debut, see box on the right.
The entry in the council's budget statement (on page 50) is alarming from a legality point of view.  It says:  "Heads of terms have been agreed with the preferred developer for the redevelopment of James Street West, for residential on the upper floors and ground floor retail, with discussions on-going with regard to the relocation of the current temporary tenants to accommodation identified in Walcot Street".
The building is currently occupied by the Genesis Trust, a charity that has brought the building into their use with the utmost respect for its listed character.  (We urge readers to follow the link to the Genesis Trust website and read what they do;  this is a charity bringing considerable benefit to Bath).  We spoke to them about the entry in the budget statement and they confirmed that they have been asked to vacate the building in June, so there is clear evidence that the council intends to ignore the legal requirement that any consent shall be "for the benefit of the building and of all persons for the time being interested in it".  We have included a fuller assessment of the detriment that should have been given special attention on our News Summary page (which opens in the second window).
We spoke to to Premier Inns and they said that the bomb damaged building was something of considerable interest to their guests (perhaps the guests had seen "The Forgotten Blitz"?), and that they regarded the presence of the building as the "Unique Selling Point" for their hotel.
We asked the BBMP for some background information on the former Labour exchange and they provided us with the insight reproduced on our News Summary page (which also opens in the second window).
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 23 February 2014.
On a more positive note, we noticed that a sum of money has been earmarked for the restoration of the Cleveland Pools if their new Heritage Lottery Fund application results in a match funding condition.  Our understanding of the Heritage Lottery Fund position during the previous bid is that they were looking for a contribution from the property owners (ie B&NES) to show their commitment to the restoration, so this budget entry is definitely a step in the right direction.  And given that the sum allocated to the former Labour Exchange should not be spent given planning law as currently written (see above), there should be some scope for increasing the amount for Cleveland Pools if the success of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid requires a slightly larger commitment. 
University of Notre Dame - Last updated 16 February 2014.
Following on from last year's presentation of their Architecture students' ideas for the Manvers Street area, the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, has been in touch to inform us that once again they will be undertaking student projects for locations in Bath.  This year there are two groups of students:  the first year architecture students will be developing a masterplan for the area covered by the Avon Street car park and the Coach Park (thus similar to but not exactly aligned to the council's "North Quays" development area); and a group that was described as "advanced students" which we assume is a post-graduate project, who will be developing a thirty year development proposal for the Walcot Street Cattle Market and Podium location.
Watchdog will support both groups of students with photos, maps and background information, as we have in the past.  The post-graduate students have been in touch already to say they will be making a four-day trip to Bath early in March to get a feel for the character and atmosphere of Bath as well as examining their project location, and we will meet them to discuss their initial ideas.
Newton Meadows - Last updated 9 February 2014.
We had received a number of enquiries asking if we knew what all the plant operating at the edge of the Twerton Portal end of Newton Meadows was doing.  We went to see for ourselves and it looked as though a roadway (or what looked to be a roadway) was being created on the embankment above the railway line. Carillion are carrying out the work.  In view of the proximity to the railway, we contacted Network Rail to ask them if they knew what was happening; or if they didn't, whether they were worried that plant operating so close to the line might put services at risk?
We got a reply that said the works were being carried out for Network Rail because the embankment had been reported to be unsafe.  The reply said: "The works are being done for Network Rail to stabilise the embankments under our Permitted Development rights.  All work beyond our boundary on Duchy land is temporary during the period of construction and will be re-instated to its former condition at the end of our project".
So those who contacted us to express their concern will now know that this is not a development, merely maintenance;  and any alterations being made to allow the plant to operate will be made good when the work finishes.
Green Park Station - Last updated 9 February 2014.
At the time when the Bath Society was priced out of their home for many years, upstairs in Green Park Station, we observed that this looked like a loss of a community asset, because throughout their tenure the Bath Society had allowed their premises to be used by other community groups, both on a regular and on an ad hoc basis.  We were then assured that the room would remain a community asset.  We did note, however that those who had previously used the space could not simply continue their previous arrangement.  Some were unable to meet the increased fees demanded and some had to change when they met.
This appears to have changed now.  We have learned that despite previously agreeing to pay more and to change the day they met after the Bath Society left, the Bath Railway Society has been told that they can no longer use the space.  Our recollection of the other uses of this space is that they have all been commercial:  mostly developers using it for design meetings, and thus an office use.
If the community can no longer use a previously popular community space, then as a minimum a planning application for change of use is required, and Local Plan Policy CF1 says that such an application should be refused unless the applicant can offer equivalent space in the vicinity.  But as the station building is owned by the council and occupied under lease, we suggest that the council examines the small print of the lease to see whether the current leaseholders are under obligation to maintain the space as a community asset.  If they are, then this needs to be enforced.


About this site - Some technical notes

This site has been designed to display best at 1024x768 resolution with your browser showing web pages across the whole width of the screen. Although most of the content will display reasonably at other resolutions, (or if you are using Internet Explorer with the "Favourites" bar at the side of the screen), some pages may not be laid out as neatly as intended.

The site is entirely constructed in HTML and uses no JavaScript. The bulk of the site is designed to work with any browser. However, there are small differences in the way different browsers interpret layout commands which may affect the appearance of some pages.

The site has been tested using Internet Explorer 5.5 plus Firefox 2.0 (as examples of commonly used older browsers), and Internet Explorer 9.0 plus Palemoon V24 (as examples of newer ones).  There are no plans at the moment to test with Opera, but if you are a user of Opera and you notice any corrupt page displays, let me know (the e-mail address is on the Contacts page) and I will see if I can correct it.