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Bath - A World Heritage Site

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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 will take place on Monday 12 March 2018 starting at 6:30pm in the Royal Oak.

There were no reported availability problems with the planning website this week.
We have notified the Council's website support of initial teething problems after a system update, and have agreed to provide evidence of failures to deliver the expected results so that they can try to match such events to their log file entries.
That said, the system is a lot more stable than before Christmas, so it looks as though it is settling down.

We will continue to monitor the services, putting the details in the on-going diary on a dedicated page of this website.

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.




University of Bath - Last updated 10 December 2017.
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.
Zizzi, Sawclose - Last updated 11 February 2018.
We have been notified by the Council that Zizzi have appealed the refusal of their "Jumbrellas" carrying their advertisement (which have already been installed) and they have done so using a procedure which does not allow public comment.
We have examined the Grounds For Appeal and they refer to the location of the "Jumbrellas" as "Highway" rather than its true designation of "Scheduled Ancient Monument".  Watchdog is prevented from commenting and making that point, so we recommend that the council officer writing the council's Statement Of Case brings this significant fact to the attention of the Planning Inspector.
Local Plan 2016-2036 - Last updated 11 February 2018.
Watchdog provided its input to the public consultation on a new local plan and as a result has received a notification from the council that in the light of the comments received from the initial consultation it has been decided to defer the second consultation (on Development Management policies) and combine it with the summer consultation (on Preferred Options), so that there will now be two stages rather than three.  We will wait for developments.
Marks and Spencer - Last updated 4 February 2018.
We had already drafted our comment on the latest plan for Marks and Spencer to sub-divide its store so that part of the ground floor could be sub-let to a bank, so it was comforting to read in the Chronicle later that our observation that there was a conflict between the planning application and the Fruit and Vegetable Stall on the pavement outside had been noticed and publicised by the operators of the stall.
This isn't a business that can be ignored by Marks and Spencer, because it occupies street trading plots for which rent is being paid to the council, and it has every right to remain there.  M&S have not even recognised its existence, and no planning application that does not allow the stall to continue to operate in the recognised street trading plots should be met with anything other than an outright refusal.
As an aside though, we notice that Metro Bank is so similar to Metrobank that a breach of trademark dispute is likely to follow.
Boundaries Consultation - Last updated 28 January 2018.
We were interested to see in the Chronicle that there was a protest in Larkhall, bringing to the public's attention a proposed set of changes in Electoral Ward boundaries and representation, one of which divided the residents of Larkhall between two wards.  One of our members who used to live in Larkhall pointed out to us that the local residents have their own concept of where their community has its boundary, and it certainly isn't where the proposed new boundary would run.  We investigated further and found that the proposals originated from the Local Government Boundary Commission, and among the linked documents was the full report which revealed that there is still an opportunity for the public to comment on these proposals by 19 February 2018, either by e-mail or post.
Site Statistics - Last updated 14 January 2018.
At the start of the calendar year we have once again assembled the site usage statistics for the year just ended.
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.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 14 January 2018.
We were disappointed to see that the revised signage drawing was submitted on the day that the decision was made, and that the Case Officer approved the fixing of a hanging sign to the original retained facade.  We originally objected to the destruction of the roof of the original building because its weight was keeping all the wartime fractures in the pock-marked stone compressed and fixed, but the permission to destroy it was given on the assumption that the new building would hold the retained facade together.
It hasn't, and in the latest application we pointed out that the original facade was already cracking and crumbling.  We assume that nobody went along to look, so we are now faced with a hanging sign which could have been fixed to the new structure above the doorway but instead it has permission to be attached to a damaged facade that is unlikely to bear the weight indefinitely.  The Conservation Officers clearly understand the risks, but when will the decision makers realise that this isn't a building they can treat as structurally stable?  It was once, but isn't now.
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.
We note that the Chronicle reports that the applicants had appealed the refusal of their initial plan to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, "but this appeal will be cancelled with outline approval now won".  This could be editorial comment making an assumption; and if so that assumption might not be true (here we make comparison with the flats in Oldfield Park where the Committee approved minor tweaks to the original design and the original appeal was not cancelled and the Appeal Decision was that the alterations were so trivial that the Appeal for the original design could be approved).  The applicants for the Pickfords site appear to be in a very similar position, and they couldn't have made the offer to withdraw their appeal prior to the Committee vote because that would have been a criminal act of bribery.
Foxhill - Last updated 12 November 2017.
It was disappointing to read in the Chronicle that the Secretary of State ultimately delegated the decision to a junior minister who decided the plans submitted by Curo for the Foxhill Estate would not be called in.  It was more disappointing to read the Editor's view that this was a correct thing to do.
Taking the Editor's view first, there is an obvious discrepancy between theory and practice.  It might be right in theory to support local decision making but in practice this requires the local decision makers to make sensible decisions, and in this case they did not despite the significant loss in social housing being clearly stated in the planning application.  The outline planning application had already been given planning permission by the time the Secretary of State was approached.  This outline permission now only gives the council control over the reserved matters, effectively the appearance of the replacements.  Reserved matters gives the council no control over the demolition and the nett loss of some 250 units of social housing, and with a long waiting list for such accommodation such a loss being granted planning permission is not sensible.  Thus the only way to prevent the demolition is for the Secretary of State to call in the council's decision.  The Editor clearly does not understand why this long-stop was written into the legislation.
Now look at the Secretary of State's decision to accept the Minister's decision that the loss of social housing is acceptable, despite the Prime Minister's pledge that more social housing should be built.  Plots large enough to build 250 replacement units of social housing are no longer available in Bath, so even if funding to build is made available they won't be built in Bath but further out and forcing commuting in as a consequence.  With so many knives out in the Conservative Party just waiting for the right time to plunge them into the Prime Minister, there has to be at least a suspicion that the Secretary of State is one who sees an advantage in undermining the Prime Minister's stated policy preference.
Full marks to Bath's MP for raising the Foxhill issue with the Secretary of State.  Now we hope that she will ask in Parliament for the Secretary of State to explain for the benefit of a permanent record in Hansard why despite the Conservative Government's policy of increased availability of social housing, he believed it acceptable to undermine it by taking no action to prevent the removal of 250 units of social housing in Bath despite four separate requests for the decision to be called in.
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.
Bluecoat House - Last updated 22 October 2017.
Originally the planning application for the seating area was 17/04774/LBA which was the reference we used for our submitted comment.  A week later it was changed to 17/04774/FUL.  The seating area covered by the application is in the area defined as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, so the original designation was probably correct despite the applicant making no reference to that significance of the location.
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.
Foxhill - Last updated 30 July 2017.
The planning meeting on 26 July which discussed Curo's proposals for Foxhill was reported in the Chronicle.  Whilst there is no reason to doubt the reporting, the points reported provided some mixed messages.  First of all, nobody representing the council appeared to recognise that the council's entire "Council House Portfolio" was passed to a housing association which through various take-overs resulted in Curo becoming the council's Social Housing landlord.  Secondly, the Mulberry Park development provided much needed additional affordable housing, in accordance with the Core Strategy in recognition of the explanatory note that "the need for affordable housing in B&NES is high and that the affordability gap between local incomes and market house prices is very wide".  So the Mulberry Park affordable housing is to offset a known need.
During the meeting Curo undertook to move those displaced from Foxhill into Mulberry Park with no increase in rent.  The piece missing from this promise is that there was no commitment to move them into a property of equivalent size and facilities and this oversight MUST be written into the S106 agreement to stop tenants being forcibly downsized by the move.  Then, because Curo has used some of its affordable housing commitment for Mulberry Park in such transfers the nett result will be a shortfall of some 200 social housing properties to be demolished without replacement, to the detriment of those who would have moved into the new affordable housing.  The S106 agreement MUST therefore also require a commitment to fund the full cost of the construction of 200 affordable homes elsewhere.  The outline application is now an agreed masterplan and none of the reserved matters that will follow can change it, so the S106 agreement is the only avenue of control left and it must be used to rein in what should not have been approved in the first place.
The "mixed messages" part is the mismatch between the council's advice to treat each planning application on its own merits and the acceptance that when the applicant is Curo, Mulberry Park can be used to make the Foxhill plans more acceptable.  Likewise Cllr Pritchard's enthusiasm for the regeneration contrasts very starkly against the people who actually live in the Foxhill estate and leaves them questioning whether he should have responsibility for Wellbeing when he ignores theirs.
Finally, we question whether an appeal against a refusal would succeed.  We note the careful wording expressed in terms of grounds to lodge an appeal rather than probability of such an appeal succeeding.  Whilst it is true that some of the buildings on the Foxhill estate have a limited life, that does not justify the wholesale "slash and burn" approach to other perfectly sound housing with a long residual life, just to achieve an Ivory Tower vision that we believe would fail to impress a Planning Inspector. A social housing landlord destroying 200 units of social housing without replacement must bring social responsibility into the appeal process.
The outline application looks like an worthless "spiffing wheeze" like the cable car suggestion was.  What a pity the majority of the councillors at the meeting didn't have the nerve to say so.  As the saying goes:  Bath deserved better.
Bath Central Library - Last updated 23 July 2017.
Last week we noted the mention in the Chronicle that a consultation on the location of the library was to follow soon.  The council website now announces that the consultation has started.  That link delivers a page with links to relevant documents and some Frequently Asked Questions (none of which seem to cover how many of the currently available books will remain physically available).  There is an on-line questionnaire, but this contains three questions on the library and ten questions about you, which we think is not fit for purpose.  We therefore recommend that if you have particular views that do not appear to be covered by the on-line questionnaire, that you write a detailed comment instead.  We will try to establish the appropriate e-mail address to send it to before the consultation period ends.
The consultation makes some unproven statements:  The consultation is said to be on the location of "joined up services" when the majority of the public comments made so far have indicated that there is no justification or requirement for this stated desire for joining up.  This has echoes of the Park and Ride "consultation" where the public only get asked to comment on the private agenda of the council and not on the real issues:  like why the council adopted a report in 2004 (which the council had partly paid for) agreeing that Bathampton Meadows was unsuitable, and then conveniently ignored the adopted policy and offered only the Meadows locations as possible options.  We have also had feedback that the Keynsham library in its "joined up" location is regarded as a poor relation to the current separate library in Bath, mostly because of its co-location.  The idea of joined up services has all the hallmarks of a "spiffing wheeze" rather than a necessity.
Secondly, the council claim that they can't afford to continue the current arrangements, but they have not provided any estimates of how much they will be paying out to move existing facilities from where they currently are.  It is not cheap to relocate staff and facilities, and doing nothing might well be cheaper.  Also, having (finally) admitted that Bathampton Meadows is not suitable for a Park and Ride, there is a very significant sum of money that wasn't included in the earlier calculations that is now available to continue with the current facilities.
Finally, it has been announced that "no decisions have been made at this stage" yet the council have already moved the Local Studies collection to the Guildhall (despite ruling out the Guildhall as a consultation location).  This brings public availability consequences because the opening hours for Local Studies in the Guildhall are not the same as for the opening hours when they were part of the Central Library.  If there really has been no decision made, why has public money been spent on fixing something that wasn't broken in order for it to work less effectively than before?
The final decision will be taken by the Cabinet, and only two of the current Cabinet are Bath councillors, so there will be little personal experience of using the Bath library to influence the outcome.  That is why the public need to provide far more details than the three questions in the on-line questionnaire cover.
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.
Wansdyke Business Centre - Last updated 9 July 2017.
As forecast in our 18 June update, the applicants for the conversion of the Wandyke Business Centre into a "mixed use" development which was obviously primarily for student accommodation, did lodge their appeal.  The article in the Chronicle reporting this shoud be treated with caution because it is only partially true.
CEPF II Bath Limited (the applicant) has actually launched two appeals:
Against the original refusal (of 16/02749/FUL), allocated Appeal Reference APP/F0114/W/17/3170251
Against the second refusal (of 17/00955/FUL), allocated Appeal Reference APP/F0114/W/17/3178477
According to the Appeals Portal, 16/02749/FUL is being treated as the "lead case" with 17/00955/FUL as the "linked case".
This looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead.  The Chronicle article only quotes the lead case, but this is the one that was so unacceptable that the Case Officer refused it under his delegated authority.  We consider this one to be unlikely to succeed.  It is the second one, the linked case, where the applicant has placed emphasis on the Committee overriding the advice of the Case Officer to permit.  The Committee had every right to do so, and we believe the reasons given for refusing permission are sound;  but by describing it as the linked case the applicant might be hoping that the public do not provide support to the refusal decision that they really want overturned.
Our advice is to treat both appeals separately and make suitable comments on both.  Examine the appeal documentation for each, and discredit the different arguments for each.  Even if you have objected to the application during the public consultation periods, there may be something you didn't say that is worth saying now.  Also, watch out for yet another planning application for this site.  It is not uncommon for developers to request the most expensive appeal type (a hearing) and then put in a further application with the hint that they might cancel the hearing if the council approves the latest application.  If that happens for this site, we hope that the council will have more sense than to fall for it, but another refusal can be made far more likely if there are sufficient objections to it.
The Chronicle article correctly quotes the latest date for public input to the appeal process as 2nd August, but we recommend that comments should not be left to the latest possible date.  The Planning Inspector can be contacted by e-mail or by post at "The Planning Inspectorate, Team West 1, 3P, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol BS1 6PN".
Placemaking Plan - Last updated 2 July 2017.
The Planning Inspector's examination of the Placemaking Plan has now been completed.  All the details have now been put on the council website, both as a summary and as verbatim documents.  There is no appeal against the Planning Inspector's decisions, so the next stage is for the council to discuss the Inspector's report and recommendations at a meeting of the full council with a view to formally adopting the Placemaking Plan.
Cable Car - Last updated 25 June 2017.
Curo still seem to be keen on a cable car connection between Mulberry Park and Bath Spa Station despite numerous attempts to persuade them how impractical is is, and how incompatible it is in a World Heritage site.  Perhaps they might now like to reflect that the breaking news today is of a cable snapping on a Kashmir cable car ride, sending the cabin plunging to the ground killing everybody in it.
Wansdyke Business Centre - Last updated 18 June 2017.
We were pleased to see that the Development Management Committee did refuse the application for the mixed use of the site (though with the primary emphasis on student accommodation).  The reasons for refusal were on the height, scale, massing, plot coverage, architectural style, materials and appearance, and the adverse impact these would have on the setting of the nearby Grade II* listed church.  This refusal quoted a number of policies and plans that applied and were not satisfied.
In a Chronicle article just after the decision was announced a commercial property specialist applauded the refusal as "a victory for the common man and common sense" and gave sound reasons why viable commercial property should not all be converted to student accommodation.  Unfortunately this advice was not heeded.  We now read in the Chronicle that the applicants have lodged an appeal.
The recently approved Article 4 Direction was intended to remove Permitted Development Rights for converting residential dwellings into HMOs, so that any new conversions would need to apply for and receive planning permission.  It does not imply that other properties which are not residences are automatically given an expectation of approval.  The DMC was quite right to overrule the recommendation by the Case Officer quoting the planning grounds that they did; and the information on pre-applications consultations is clear that the applicant cannot assume that permission would automatically follow such a consultation.  The reasons for refusal should be recognised as valid planning reasons by the Appeal Inspector.
If the appeal relies on the quote from the applicant:  "Our proposals would not just redevelop a tired and dilapidated site but protect an important employment site for new businesses in the city which is severely lacking and provide much-needed purpose built student accommodation to cater for the growing universities" it is likely that the Appeal Inspector will see through the spin.  The site was not tired and dilapidated until the applicant evicted the thriving businesses that occupied it.  Making an employment site for new businesses at the expense of businesses and their employees who were well supported and thriving is not by any stretch of the imagination a benefit.  The claim that it would be much-needed purpose built student accommodation is disproved by the comments in the planning file.  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" which proves that even the intended benefactor recognises the bad PR that such a development would create and wishes to publicly distance the university from it.
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.
Registration Error - Last updated 11 June 2017.
One of the new planning applications validated during the week commencing 28 May 2017 (17/02022/LBA for 20-21 Cheap Street)  aligned itself with the corresponding application 15/03948/REG03 for the same address.  It is not possible to have a REG03 (which indicates a council originated planning application) teamed with a LBA application which indicates a non-council application for a listed building.  We brought this mismatch to the council's attention, and the initial response was that it wasn't a mistake.
We have sent it back for another look.  When the application form states "Applicant, Jennifer Raagas is a Project Manager in the Property & Project Delivery team at Bath & North East Somerset Council" it very clearly is a council application and should have a REG13 suffix.
We await confirmation that it has been changed.  Meanwhile, if any reader wants to comment on the plans, they should use the suffix that is online at the time the comment is submitted so that it connects with a valid planning identifier;  it will be retained on file when the identifier is amended.
Other DMC Decisions - Last updated 4 June 2017.
Whilst we were pleased the DMC chose to override the recommendation of the Case Officer who (bizarrely in our opinion) recommended granting permission to what was clearly an unsuitable development of the Wansdyke Business Centre, we were puzzled about why they chose to override the appropriate recommendation to refuse the alterations to 14-15 Union Street which would very visibly damage the appearance and character of the listed building.  Bath deserved better.
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.
Rubbish Collections - Last updated 21 May 2017.
There have been several news items in the Chronicle on this subject, with one just after the deadline when the public could request an alternative, and one much more recent which reveals that the council's unhelpfulness had provoked a lot of hostility when they refused the requests of 40% of those who applied.
The Chronicle's reporter in this week's printed article assumes that applications for larger bins had been turned down, but the earlier on-line items indicate that the council was prepared for requests for larger bins (in areas where bins had been allocated), and the ones not complied with were the requests for alternatives;  either a gull-proof bag in place of an allocated bin, or vice versa.  Reading between the lines, it is likely that the council has not considered dual-purpose refuse lorries able to handle either, and depending on which collection round serviced a particular street, the residents will all either get one type of receptacle or another.
There is a reasonable amount of time between now and November to rectify this problem, but as this council is not known for admitting that they made a decision and got it wrong, residents adversely affected are not likely to get much success as individuals, and they need to get their Ward Councillors to recognise that they have a point, and should be listened to.  The alternatives of rubbish (particularly student's rubbish put out on the day they leave rather than on the day it is collected) dumped in other people's bins or even fly-tipped, which would be an even bigger problem for the council.
Chronicle Website - Last updated 21 May 2017.
Last week we mentioned the redesign of the Chronicle website that reduced its usefulness.  What we didn't mention last week was that the video clips offered were unwatchable because the website was so busy feeding out advertisements that the video buffered frequently for longer than it played, so that no conversation could be followed.  That has obviously been noticed now, because the clips that couldn't be watched last week are now covered in a "VIDEO UNAVAILABLE" legend and don't attempt to play.
Chronicle Website - Last updated 14 May 2017.
For anyone like us who researched subjects rather than just reading what was offered, the handy little box where the subject matter could be entered and relevant articles retrieved was a really useful facility.  However, a look at the Chronicle website this weekend gave lots of pictures but no search box.  Also, the public comments under articles were a good place to gauge public opinion on a subject, and these have disappeared too.
Whoever thought that change was a good idea got it dreadfully wrong.  Can we please have the Chronicle online put back the way it was?  Likewise, the Somersetlive website, where the Western Daily Press address now redirects, is similarly lacking in usefulness.  Right now neither of these websites serves any practical purpose.
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.
World Heritage Day - Last updated 23 April 2017.
World Heritage Day was held in the Parade Gardens on 23 April.  Despite what we considered to be some relatively low key advertising, there was a very respectable attendance.  The illustrated talks were well attended, there were some imaginative displays, and plenty to capture the interest of children.  We judged it a success. 
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.
Rail Electrification - Last updated 9 April 2017.
Network Rail has confirmed that the meeting in the Guildhall on Monday 3 April 2017 will be the last until there is anything new to report.  We will announce any new meetings if they are arranged.
We did ask for some information on the new trains.  They will all be dual fuel, able to operate on electric power or diesel.  The diesel engines are newer, smaller and cleaner than the existing HST engines, and although the diesel power has a lower top speed than the HST trains or the new trains when powered by electricity, there are existing HST speed limits between Bath and Bristol that will allow the same timetable to be operated whether that part of the route is powered by diesel or electricity.  The preparatory work on the tracks for electrification will continue (eg track realignment and platform widening in Bath Spa Station), stopping short of installing the gantries and wires.  The official Network Rail position is that electrification is postponed rather than cancelled, and they need to be prepared to complete the work once the permission to restart is received.
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.
Cable Car - Last updated 19 March 2017.
In the Chronicle this week is an item on the Widcombe Association opposing a cable car from Mulberry Park to the city centre.  Watchdog attended the consultation workshops in 2014 and therefore knows that Curo is fully aware of the reasons why it could never be built;  and in the public comments on the Chronicle article admit the cable car was a headline grabber rather than a serious proposal.  We don't expect the proposal to ever get to a planning application, and if it does, the damage to the World Heritage Site will be so great that planning approval will be impossible.
This leaves the question:  Why was that option chosen to grab the headlines and what was it intended to divert attention from?  Whilst admitting it is just a guess on our part, the letter by a Combe Down Councillor is just the sort of news that Curo might want buried.  Also one of the comments to that item indicates that Curo ceased to be a Housing Association in 2015 which is not widely known, and Curo still seems to have referred to itself as a charity after that date.
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.
Royal Crescent 250th Anniversary - Last updated 26 February 2017.
This year marks the 250th anniversary of the laying of the first foundation stone for the building of the Royal Crescent.  To mark this, the Bath Preservation Trust is arranging some events.  Some of the events are listed here, but others are to follow, so keep looking back.
Banglo Planning Permission - Last updated 19 February 2017.
The Banglo development was granted planning permission on 23 January 2017, a permission which included a number of conditions, some of which were in the form "No development shall commence until ..." to ensure that specified actions were completed in advance of work starting on-site.  Despite this, plant was seen operating on the site on 27 January, too soon for the necessary pre-commencement conditions to have been completed.
The Case Officer has now replied to report that the works observed were to allow investigations into ground contamination and drainage and these do not constitute commencement of development.  Work has now ceased and will not re-commence until the necessary Conditions have been met.
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.
Hinton Garage - Last updated 8 January 2017.
The new applications last week included one for Hinton Garage, referred to as "Resubmission of application 15/05367/FUL".  Yet when we examined 15/05367/FUL we discovered that there was an appeal in progress.  Also, a first skim of the documentation reveals a minor reduction in accommodation from 68 residents to 67 and some alterations to materials.  The Design and Access Statement is for virtually the same development.
This scenario rang alarm bells.  The flats applied for on the site of 43 Upper Oldfield Park was similarly the subject of a revised proposal while their appeal was pending.  Planning permission was granted for the amended scheme, but the applicant left the appeal to run to the end of the process.  The Planning Inspector decided that as there were no significant differences between what the council had approved and what was appealed, the appeal could be allowed, and the design refused by the council now blights the skyline (to the disgust of a number of nearby residents).
To prevent a similar outcome for the Hinton Garage site, it either has to have the latest application deferred until the appeal has concluded, or it can go forward for determination only after the appeal has been withdrawn.  Otherwise, determining the latest application before the appeal is concluded is likely to result in the Planning Inspector deciding that if the trivial changes resulted in approval then the appeal should also be allowed.  The original refusal was sound, and should not be undermined by an approval of a similar scheme to a timescale that allows it to be part of the appeal process.
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.
Annual Statistics - Last updated 8 January 2017.
For the first main update of 2017, we have provided a summary of the website and Watchdog activities during 2016 on our Year Reports page.
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.
Cleveland Pools - Last updated 27 November 2016.
For those interested in what the fund-raising is for, the drawings in the latest planning application give all the details.
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.
Eastern Park And Ride - Last updated 20 November 2016.
There is a Chronicle article about a failed attempt to have called in a decision to grant an additional sum of money for the Park and Ride in the East of Bath.  The article itself is interesting, because the council had refused the attempt despite no decision being made yet on where the Park and Ride should go.
It is the news in the public comments that is particularly telling.  The Transport Vision which is open for consultation has on Page 13 a map showing a Freight Consolidation Centre on Bathampton Meadows.  How the authors of the Transport Vision came to that location when it is very obviously in the setting of a World Heritage Site is not explained.
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.
Spot The Difference - Last updated 16 October 2016.
The special supplement in the Chronicle this week shows that the Archway Project is able to reuse the existing Victorian buildings yet the Bath Quays South development chooses not to do so even though it would be possible.  The set of ancillary buildings of the Newark Works is the last surviving part of Stothert and Pitt, a company who for a number of years was the biggest employer in Bath, and its collection of buildings deserves a better fate than being swept aside for a replacement building in a style which will date very quickly.
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.
Former Labour Exchange - Last updated 25 September 2016.
A Chronicle item reveals that the works to the exterior of the building were completed and were marked by a "topping out" ceremony on September 21.  The associated photographs show that the historic walls and windows have been retained.  We hope that the broken panes of glass will be replaced, because they were not broken when the Genesis Trust were using the building.
Wansdyke Business Park - Last updated 18 September 2016.
We were pleased to see this over-scaled development refused.  However it was disappointing to see that the issue of even more students in Oldfield Park unbalancing the local diversity and placing yet more demands on already heavy demands on parking and public transport has been ignored.  Students do not take their cars to the universities, but they do park them locally because a car is the most economical way of getting to Bath with all their luggage, and getting back home at the end of term.  Planning policies do not recognise this, nor do case officers take note of the realities, basing their judgements instead on whether or not students can park on the university campus.
Mulberry Park - Last updated 11 September 2016.
In July we were provided with notification that work would start around 18th July and last until Mid October to provide the road modifications outside the development site which form part of the agreed development.  The notification provided to us is available from this link.
We have now been provided with details of the closure of a section of a footpath in Bradford Road.  If you might be affected, the details are in this new link.
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.
Public Comments on Planning Applications - Last updated 31 January 2016.
There seems to be a deliberate attempt to foreclose the public input into the development of the Bath Press Site.  On 13 January, the Development Management Committee considered the application, and according to the minutes the Case Officer reported eight design aspects which were still outstanding.  Despite these "missing pieces of the jigsaw" the Committee voted to Delegate to Permit.  Normally such delegation is to allow the negotiation and agreement of a S106 document.  That too is part of this delegation.  However such delegation is not supposed to include design features which might affect the acceptability of a scheme, as in this case.
Since the Committee meeting, fifteen new drawings have been placed on the planning website.  Whilst it is theoretically possible for the public to submit comments on these, it is pointless to do so because the Committee has already decided that these drawings are acceptable to the Committee Members, sight unseen.  Effectively, the application has been predetermined and the public has been denied any meaningful input into what will actually be built.  This is completely against the Government Guidelines for public consultation, and by defying the Government's intentions the Committee must be considered as either ignorant of planning legislation or deliberately making unlawful decisions, because they should not have determined the application while it is still being amended.
The minutes are in draft, to be accepted or not at the next meeting.  The proper thing to do at that point in time is to amend the decision by voting to defer until the Case Officer has given the public sufficient time to comment on the changes recently lodged.  Once the Case Officer is satisfied that the final design issues are as developed to a final state as is possible, that is the time when the DMC should be presented with the final design and to decide on its acceptability or not.
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.
Park and Ride - Last updated 15 November 2015.
Our feedback from the Thursday 12 November meeting where the council discussed the proposed Park and Ride to the east of Bath was that it was disappointing.  Public speakers who had been told that they would have up to three minutes to say their piece, and had prepared on that basis, were informed on the day that only two minutes would be allowed.  This left the majority either speaking quickly and hoping to get most of their points said before they were cut off, or else were left to pick what they thought were the more important parts from their script as they spoke.  One who attended concluded that it did not matter anyway because few of the councillors appeared to be interested in what was said.  Most seemed to be just going through the motions of conducting a public consultation.  Watchdog had chosen not to speak, having assessed (correctly as it transpired) that it would be better to respond to the consultation in writing than to try to cover our concerns verbally in insufficient time to cover the important points.
The Chronicle article covers some of the issues raised, but also confirms, albeit indirectly, that the Conservative majority on the council will press ahead with an east of Bath Park and Ride, despite the legislative obligation on them to establish a need before deciding on a solution.  The vote on what to do next is merely window-dressing.  The Communities, Transport and Environment scrutiny panel is to look into integrated transport solutions east of Bath.  So their brief is that they should examine solutions to a problem that has not yet been shown to exist.  Furthermore scrutiny panels have an advisory role only, and the council does not have to pay any heed to their views.  No wonder the Conservatives were regarding as a success "a vote which reaffirmed the council's commitment to delivering an East of Bath Park and Ride" as the Chronicle reported it.  In other words they intend to push on with a scheme regardless of whether the need exists, and regardless of the harm it might cause.
The Conservatives taking this view need to be aware that it is no longer a local issue.  On Monday 9th November BBC Radio 4 announced to the nation that Bath's council had plans which would put Bath's heritage at risk.  Sound clips are generally too large to include in a web page, but by cutting the radio report to a few seconds to give just a flavour, it is not impossible:  you can hear it on this link.  This view appears to be drawn, at least in part, from an article in The Guardian, a national broadsheet.
A particular disappointment is the quote in the Chronicle from Bath's MP:  "As the MP for Bath it is important I continue to champion what is best for Bath".  Rather than promoting what would be best for the Conservative Party in Bath, he should be looking at Bath from a national point of view, as a World Heritage Site which central Government has committed to protecting for the whole world for all time (See World Heritage Convention Article 6:  Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to take any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage.  Articles 4 and 5 are also similar commitments).  What would be best for Bath would be for ICOMOS UK, the World Heritage Committee's agents in Britain, to have the automatic right to have called in for a Public Inquiry any planning application which poses a direct threat to the Government's obligation to protect and conserve World Heritage sites.  This isn't just for Bath;  other UK World Heritage sites would also welcome such protection.  Perhaps Ben Howlett, MP would raise this issue with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government?  Also, would he care to ask the Secretary of State in Parliament why the will of Parliament is declared in various Planning Acts and Statutory Instruments stating what Local Planning Authorities must do, without any sanctions in the legislation for those who choose not to comply thus resulting in many instances of unlawful behaviour; and asking the Secretary of State what he intends to do to correct this oversight.
Meanwhile, we will assume that this ill-considered scheme to the east of Bath is set to raise its head, virtually unchanged, at some time in the future.
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.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 20 September 2015.
After the previous planning meeting was inconclusive, this application is once again on the Agenda for this week.  Once again the recommendation to the committee fails to heed the extant legislation.  Whatever led to that recommendation, it was not based on planning law.
Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act requires the council to pay special attention to the preservation of the character of the surrounding Conservation Area (and Case Law has clarified this phrase as meaning a presumption to refuse if in doubt), and when this assessment led to a previous refusal based on height, scale and massing of a building with very similar dimensions, it is clear from the minutes that the meeting for this application did not pay the "special attention" that the legislation requires, and this can be sufficient reason for the Secretary of State to call in the decision and add it to the scheduled Public Inquiry.
It has been pointed out to us that the Temporary Stop Notice, when it was issued, was based on the advice of a Conservation Officer who deemed the building, only part finished, was sufficiently harmful to the Conservation Area that work should stop.  At that stage the building did not have the storeys that are now being proposed to be modified.  It was only the submission of a retrospective planning application that gave the developer the subsequent breathing space - until it was refused.  It follows therefore that regardless of what is now proposed, the remainder of the building below its modifications is harmful to the Conservation area and therefore nothing now suggested above it can overturn the presumption to refuse.  The Minutes of the 8th April 2015 and 29th April 2015 meetings support our interpretation.
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.
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.
Park and Ride Consultation - Last updated 29 August 2015.
We spotted a news item in the Chronicle about a consultation on a preferred Park and Ride site to the east of Bath.  It wasn't on the council's website as an open consultation, so we dug further.  According to the council website, the consultation doesn't start until 7 September.  Nevertheless the council announcement named a short-list of three sites (out of an original unidentified list of seven) and the printed copy of the Chronicle provides a helpful map.
The initial reaction is that from previous studies of potential Park and Ride sites (paid for from council taxes), all three sites had already been investigated and declared "Unfit for purpose".  We would have expected that whoever put the consultation together would have studied and heeded the detailed work conducted before, and would not have produced a short-list of "None of the above" candidates.  We ask why that did not happen, and recommend that this farcical consultation goes back to the drawing board.  Any decision based on the current unfit for purpose short-list will be a waste of money.
We have members who travel to the east of Bath by bus on a regular basis, and they report that just deciding on a car park location is not going to solve the existing traffic problems, and that a complete review of the route a Park and Ride bus would take is also necessary.  At a number of points, the London Road is too narrow for a bus using the bus lane to get past a large lorry in the traffic lane alongside, so the progress of the bus, and any behind it, is dictated by the progress of the lorry.  Nowadays the progress of the lorry is nowhere near as efficient as in the past when there was an almost permanent filter arrow at Cleveland Place and a mini roundabout at the Warminster Road junction allowing a continuous trickle of traffic instead of the queues that build up behind the replacement red traffic lights.  Also, before the inadequately thought out bus lane was created, the lorry would have been making continuous slow progress in the inside lane clearing a path for the bus rather than stopping the bus from moving as it currently does.  Any Park and Ride scheme east of Bath must either succeed in rerouting lorries away from the London Road or it needs to restore the continuous left turn filter at Cleveland Place and restore the mini roundabout at the Warminster Road junction.  "Perhaps if the computer models were discarded and traffic planners, who need to be regular motorists, used observation and logic instead, they would stop making matters worse" was one comment we received.
Another point made was that a new traffic survey ought to have been conducted.  A lot of MOD employees commuted from Wiltshire towns and villages, and they might have used a Park and Ride service to the east of Bath as an alternative to trying to park at their place of work in the Empire or at MOD Warminster Road (Foxhill and Ensleigh had sufficient on-site parking).  With the transfer of MOD to Bristol, how many such commuters will now be travelling through Bath to Bristol and would no longer consider Bath's Park and Ride as useful to them?
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.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 26 July 2015.
We reported last week that we could not view the documents associated with the appeal against the refusal to grant retrospective planning permission or the appeal against the enforcement decision.  Since then the council has sent out a letter informing that the appeal documentation is now on-line.  We have checked, and it is on the Documents page of planning application 14/04547/FUL.  We found the Enforcement appeal reference on the Planning Inspectorate website (the entry is here), but the Planning Inspectorate website does not show the documents, expecting the Local Planning Authority to provide that function (which it now does).  If the public wish to make any comments into the appeal processes, they have until 19 August 2015 to do so for the appeal against Enforcement (quote reference APP/F0114/C/15/3053105), and until 6 August 2015 to do so for the appeal against refusal of retrospective permission (quote reference APP/F0114/W/15/3023066).
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.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 5 July 2015.
Watchdog has not so far 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 Developer had lodged an appeal.  Enforcement records are not made available to the public online, but the planning application is, and that application now carries some appeal documents.  There is something rather odd about the documentation.  Normally an appeal document set includes a letter from the planning inspectorate identifying the Inspector handling the case and the timetable that Inspector will be working to, and there is no such correspondence there, despite the applicant's documents being dated in April within the documents and in July on the planning website.  A search of the Planning Inspectorate website shows that the appeal start date was 2 July so perhaps the letter being that recent has not yet been put online.  The Appeal Reference Number is APP/F0114/W/15/3023066, the Appellant has until 9 July 2015 to submit the mandatory documentation and then the public has until 6 August 2015 to provide their comments by e-mail to  A direct link to the Planning Inspectorate website entry is here.  At the time of writing this, the Planning Inspectorate website does not hold the documents shown on the council's planning file, so the ones currently viewable may not be the final versions (there is a long gap between 22 April and 2 July and nothing we have seen so far explains that gap).
Update:  The Planning Inspectorate website shows that the Appellant should have lodged specific documents by 9 July.  On 12 July there was no sign of such documents on the Planning Inspectorate website or the council planning file.  We have not managed to establish whether or not such absences are significant.
To complicate things even further, a new planning application has now been lodged, again a retrospective one.  We will look at what has actually changed, but our first impression is that this one appears to follow an established pattern for this site, that if an application is refused something similar but with rather fewer drawings then follows, perhaps in the hope that if the shortcomings are harder to find they might not be noticed.  It is difficult to imagine anything particularly significant being offered when local residents say that the exterior was finished a while ago and workmen have been on site continuously despite the Enforcement notice indicating that the building should be demolished, so the building as currently built has to be the starting point for the new application.
Planning Decisions - Last updated 28 June 2015.
In the decisions reported to us in the last few weeks are some retrospective applications which were refused or were renegotiated to take some changes already made out of an application then given permission.  Making the planning decision is therefore only the start of the process, and we will be keeping watch to check that the changes refused permission are reversed within a reasonable period of time.
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.
Oldfield Park Development - Last updated 14 June 2015.
Watchdog 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 Developer had lodged an appeal.  We had understood from press and TV News comments that there would be an appeal against both the refusal decision for the retrospective planning application and also the Enforcement Notice.  Enforcement records are not made available to the public online, but the planning application is.  We would therefore have expected any appeal against the planning refusal to be placed there, and it is not there at the time of writing this.  The public has the right to submit supplementary comments to the Planning Inspector conducting the appeal within a limited timescale, and this is only possible if the document trail shows what the Appeal Reference is and what grounds for appeal have been lodged.
Meanwhile it seems that despite the planning refusal and the Enforcement Notice ordering demolition of the building, workmen are still employed and active on site.
Coincidentally, in the latest Chronicle is the story of another business who fought an Enforcement Notice, OPA in North Parade.  The full article is online, but in a nutshell the business had operated outside its planning permission and had received an Enforcement Notice forbidding some unauthorised activities.  It fought the Notice and the Planning Inspector considering the appeal agreed with the council.  The business then appealed to the High Court and that appeal hearing decided that the council and the Appeal Inspector were both correct.  This might perhaps alert the developer of Upper Oldfield Park that fighting planning decisions when in the wrong can be both unsuccessful and expensive.
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.
The Election - Last updated 10 May 2015.
Bath Heritage Watchdog is a non-political organisation, and we make no comment on who was successful in the local elections.  We do note that among those we have previously dealt with there will be some significant gaps.  Two of the previous council's "Champions" have lost their seats:  Bryan Chalker was Heritage Champion and Dave Lamming was Rivers Champion.  These are big shoes to fill, and we watch with interest who is chosen to fill them.  Alternatively, we wonder if the existing people will be retained in honorary roles, or even if the Champion function is discontinued (though we hope not).
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.
Hayesfield School 6th Form Building - Last updated 22 March 2015.
We were invited to a public drop-in event in the 6th Form Building to see some outline proposals by Norland College who are looking at their planned future student numbers and the suitability of this building as an educational premises to supplement their establishment on the London Road.  The building already has that approved use so it would not need Change of Use planning, but Norland believe it would need some modest extensions to accommodate all the facilities they need.
We found the architects receptive to suggestions to improve the exterior styling of the extensions, and we were pleased to see that these were intended to be in the character of the neighbourhood, unlike the flats being built next door without planning permission.  We will be supportive in principle towards this development because although the building structure is sound, the interior that we saw would benefit from restoration and re-decoration.  The best way to preserve a building is to keep it in use and Norland's occupation would do that;  and although it is not listed the neighbourhood regards it as a locally important building that should be looked after.
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.
MOD Warminster Road - Last updated 22 February 2015.
On 11 February 2015, according to the newly available minutes, the DCC considered the planning application and made their decision.  On 18 February 2015 two revised drawings were lodged on the planning application, accompanied by correspondence which makes it clear that the revisions were known in advance (the correspondence states that the revisions are "as promised ...") and also there are further revisions to follow.  This effectively makes the decision by the DCC null and void because it was made in the knowledge that at least some of the information they were given was obsolete and to be superseded;  and the public should have the opportunity to comment on the revisions, a right foreclosed by the premature decision by the DCC.  Once all the amendments are available the DCC should only then be in a position to determine the plans.
The Secretary of State ought to now call in the application for a Public Inquiry because of the irregularities in processing the application.
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".
Annual Report - Last updated 11 January 2015.
We have put together most of our annual report as best we can in the time available before this first proper update of 2015, but it is at present incomplete.  Our website host has changed the way it identifies overseas access to our website, and this has left us with a collation and summation exercise for many thousands of individual records rather than the summary we have relied on in the past.  We will get the information added to our report, but it will take time.
Newark Works - Last updated 30 November 2014.
In June this year we announced an initiative known as "Craneworks" which sought to bring the Newark Works back into productive use (our articles at the time can be found on our Newark Works page).  We support the principle of this initiative, though we reserve our position regarding the detail of any changes proposed to the buildings.
We have received an e-mail notifying us that there is now an explanatory video clip on the Craneworks website and announcing, amongst other things the launch of a "crowdfunding" initiative.  The full text of the message is available on-line.  The significant point of the message is that if anyone wishes to contribute, for a limited period of time small sums pledged will be doubled, so there is a real benefit if it happens sooner rather than later.
There are a few interesting snippets in that message, including the existence of "the site purchasers of South Quays, Bath-based business BMT".  How the council can sell a site without a competitive tender is not explained; and why they would sell a site and thus lose control of its future without establishing a firm agreement on what that future will be is even more worrying.
This is a site with a listed building with group value with the associated buildings according to the English Heritage listing entry, and thus everything on the site is curtilage listed Grade II and has to be protected accordingly.  BMT, if they are indeed the new owners of the site (and if they are we question the legality of that property transfer without a bidding process to establish "best value") they are obliged by the listed building legislation to show the reuse of the current buildings or a proper public benefit (as opposed to a business benefit) for modifying them.
Even more interesting is the route of the flood protection proposals through the site as shown in the council's recent planning applications.  From those documents, it appears that only the buildings featuring in the Craneworks plans are protected from flooding, and the majority of the site is the wrong side of the floodwall and therefore sacrificial land in the event of high river water levels, so the Environment Agency will enforce a very restrictive list of possible uses on that area, and we cannot see any benefit to BMT if the council persists in its flood protection scheme as currently described.  If BMT hasn't already signed on the dotted line, they should stop and have a really close look at the implications before they do.  The Environment Agency forced a public inquiry on the Dyson proposals for this site and they are likely, if only for consistency, to do the same for any BMT scheme.
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.
Bath Quays - Last updated 2 February 2014.
Newly discovered on the council website is a page they call Bath Quays Waterside.  At the moment it just gives the background to what will eventually be a fairly complex project.
We will keep an eye on it, but we are sceptical about the impact of the flood prevention measures described.  There is a mathematical model called "Queuing Theory" which predicts what happens when things arrive at a faster rate than they can be dealt with.  It gives three approaches to managing this situation:  allowing longer queues;  improving the handling of each queued item;  allocating more resources thus dealing with more queued items in parallel.  In the case of flood water, adding another river to the sea (dealing with the water in parallel) is not practical, so that option is discounted.
The method proposed, of raising the banks and widening the towpath is the equivalent of allowing longer queues.  This is very much a local solution, in that a higher water level kept within the banks in Bath implies a higher water level spreading out over a wider area before it gets to Bath, in Bathampton and Batheaston, and a higher water level after it leaves Bath, spreading out in Newbridge Meadows, Saltford and Keynsham.  This seems a selfish "I'm all right in Bath" approach, and it creates problems for the Bath riverside if the water ever overtops the raised bank because the floodwater being a higher level, then covers a wider area.  This is amply demonstrated by the Mississippi where no matter how high the banks ("levées") are raised, eventually the water goes over and the higher the bank, the wider the area consequently affected.
Improving the handling of the queue is a better solution.  If the river could carry more water, then the queue (the potential flood) would not build up so much.  The best way to have the river carry more water is to make it wider (which is not really practical) or deeper:  dredging the flow to the sea.
This does not seem to be the normal policy for the Environment Agency, in that for the Somerset Levels the idea of improving the drainage by improving the river flows was resisted by the Environment Agency, and it took ridicule in the media and finally an announcement in Parliament by the Prime Minister to shift them from that position.  By working in partnership with the Environment Agency, B&NES seems to be foreclosing the best option.  Yet those old enough to remember the dredger which used to work on the Avon will know the large amounts of silt it removed downstream of Newbridge;  and the fact that it has not been seen operating for many years means that a large volume of silt is now occupying space which used to be flowing water.  The council's Rivers Champion has said as much in the past.  With the flow thus reduced, there will come a time when the "queue" of floodwater will build up faster than the river can remove it.  There is a mathematical principle to prove this, and as has been seen with the Mississippi, raised banks will eventually be insufficient protection.
Bellotts Road Bridge - Last updated 26 January 2014.
We reported last week that Brunel's bridge carrying Bellotts Road had been damaged by workmen and that we had reported the damage to Network Rail.  We placed more information and photographs on our Brunel's GWR page.
We have now received a communication from Network Rail's Property Services Group confirming that they were now dealing direct with Sustrans because Network Rail had not given permission for the work to take place.  We will now leave the matter in Network Rail's capable hands.
James Street West - Last updated 26 January 2014.
Among the permissions granted this week was one for the demolition of the office buildings in James Street West that sit alongside the Green Park train shed and run down to (but doesn't include) the former NHS Walk-in Centre.  Part of the justification was that the buildings were designed with a 25-year life which has now expired.  The carbon footprint of the embodied energy in the manufacture and construction will not have been repaid in such a short time which does illustrate the folly of assessing sustainability in terms of insulation and running cost energy rather than the whole life (from empty site before to empty site after) energy bill.  We also make the comparison between James Street West and MOD Foxhill where the 1939 buildings which were expected to have a 15-year life will be demolished in 2014, thus spreading the embodied energy bill over 75 years, a tribute to the traditional construction methods employed.
That aside, we notice that in the planning documentation is the drawing showing that the site contains two buildings, only one of which is empty, the other hosting several small businesses.  We note that demolition was granted on the basis that the current buildings do not make a positive contribution to the Conservation Area.  In appearance terms this is true (which leaves unanswered the question of why they were permitted in the first place), but there is more than physical appearance to be considered.  The occupied building provides a place of work, and nothing in the application documentation proposes providing equivalent office space so that such employment can continue, nor assesses whether the existing businesses could sustain relocation costs and continue to employ the current staff.  Yet the ability of a Conservation Area to provide employment opportunities ought to also be a material consideration.  In the Local Plan we read in Policy ET.2 that "Planning permission will not be granted for developments involving the loss of established office floorspace unless: ... the site is no longer capable of offering office accommodation" and clearly it is or the second building would be as empty as the first.  The planning decision allows both buildings to be destroyed without imposing any condition protecting the occupants of the building in use.
If we can find the above in just a 5-minute search through the council website, we have to wonder why the Case Officer didn't.
Decorative hoardingPump Room - Last updated 19 January 2014.
There isn't much good news this week, so we will start with a pat on the back.  There are building works taking place at the Pump Room, and as is usual with such works there is a need to erect hoardings to keep the public protected from the work in progress.  Usually such hoardings are purely functional, in a plain blue or grey, and detract from rather than decorate the area.
At the Colonnades end of the Pump Room things are rather different.  Some decorative artwork adorns those hoardings, and although not in exact alignment with the wall behind, it is a pretty good imitation of what the hoardings hide.  Full marks to whoever thought of that, and genuine appreciation to whoever created the artwork.  Well done!
Kingsmead Square - Last updated 19 January 2014.

Quote from the document:

The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) is statutory document which sets out:

  how and when the community can be involved in the planning process;
  what feedback the Council will give following consultation; and
  what will happen to your views in the decision making process.


This is the first of the bad news items.  The plans to turn Kingsmead Square into an "al fresco dining area" with tables and chairs have been amended several times, the final time with documents dated 2 January, though we had to find these ourselves because despite having put in two previous objections, nobody in Planning thought it appropriate to inform us of the new documents.  When revised documents are lodged, the council's adopted Statement of Community Involvement offers at least 14 days for further comments from the public.  Thirteen and a half days after the new documents were filed, and just over an hour before Watchdog's additional comments were e-mailed in, a decision was made.  The Case Officer's report makes interesting reading.
The fact that the plans conflict with the council's own Public Realm & Strategy Policy and the emerging Pattern Book was mentioned in our objections but not in the Officer's Report.  As a planning decision has the force of law and the council is unlikely to ask the Secretary of State for permission to withdraw the consent, we now look forward to examining the necessary amendments to the Public Realm policy, which is an adopted policy and therefore needs public consultation on any changes to it.  We have to wonder why one part of the council seems completely unaware of the significance of what another is doing.
The Urban Design Team and the Historic Environment Team both said originally that there was insufficient information provided for them to make a recommendation and put in a holding objection, yet they were not allowed to comment on the revised drawings and their holding position was ignored.  The Highways Department objected to the plans on safety grounds and the Case Officer minimised these risks with personal views on the traffic density.  This would have been a reasonable thing to do if there was evidence of local knowledge, but there was none:  the concerns over noise affecting residential properties was addressed with reference to the flats in Rosewell Court, when it is local knowledge that the upper stories of many of the premises in Kingsmead Square itself (including Rosewell House) are the nearest and most likely affected residents.  Also ignored was the question of how and when the area would be cleaned:  with tables and chairs permitted from 7am to 10pm, there doesn't seem time for the council's street cleaners to do it and there is no condition attached to the permission granted requiring the applicant to do it.  The seagulls will flock there.
Finally, we are assured that "The revised proposed layout of the tables and chairs will still allow for pedestrian movement through the square and is not considered to cause an obstruction of the existing pavement".  The early reaction from a number of our members is that the drawings do not show that, but given the stated assurance that there is no obstruction, then the area can continue to be treated as an open space and perhaps the existing desire lines will be treated as a challenge to be achieved.  After all, planning permission was granted on that assumption.
The saving grace is that planning permission is just a permission and not an obligation.  If the businesses who are expected to use this area realise the risks that they would be taking asking their staff carry food and drink across a road with limited visibility, and decide that a health and safety prosecution if staff are injured doing so is not worth the risk, then apart from the applicant wasting money moving seats and cycle racks, nothing will change.  And it must be the applicant and not the council that pays, because the formally adopted Public Realm & Strategy Policy does not include such works.
Thai By The Weir - Last updated 19 January 2014.
The Chronicle reported a fire in this Argyle Street business, which apparently started in the kitchen ducting.  The fire was in the basement, and a look through the front window of the now closed premises doesn't show any obvious damage at street level, so it may be that the damage is mostly confined to the basement.  There is no indication in the press whether more damage to the listed building arose from the fire itself (the fire was described as "well developed" and the photos on the social networks show a substantial amount of smoke) or from the large quantities of water used to put it out.
Unlike modern buildings which have a predominance of concrete floors, older listed buildings tend to have a large amount of timber, and the installation of kitchen ducting will inevitably run close to some of it.  Which does suggest that the willingness of Case Officers to approve the use of listed buildings for preparing hot food without a full inspection by the Heritage Environment Team of the proposed ducting routes might lead to similar fires in other listed buildings at some time in the future.
Footnote:  A minor snippet involving another food outlet is the observation that McAvoy's at the bus station is also closed because of a local disaster.  Not a fire though, because McAvoy's did not cook any fried food.  They suffered a flood instead.  So Wilkinson Eyre not only created a much denigrated "Busometer" building, but they put the entrance to its eating establishment at the lowest point in the pavement, without a doorstep, and all the electrical supplies were in the floor.  Another triumph of form over function!
The Rec - Last updated 12 January 2014.
The Rec is in the news again, this time over a challenge to the land-swap scheme favoured by the Charity Commission.  The outcome could have far-reaching effects.
There are some difficult legal questions to be tackled in the hearing.  For instance as a condition of acquiring title to the land, the council is bound by an undertaking to protect a specific piece of land as an open space, and a land-swap does not comply with that agreement, so is the council's ownership still legal if a land-swap takes place?  Also, unlike most charities, the one covering the Rec was not set up voluntarily but under the direction of the High Court.  As far as we can ascertain the Charity Commission did not seek the High Court's agreement to vary the earlier ruling, so by agreeing to a scheme which is contrary to the original Court ruling they may be in contempt of court.
We will watch the outcome of the hearing with considerable interest.
The Future Of Bath - Last updated 12 January 2014.
In the printed Chronicle is a double page spread of different views on the future of Bath as laid out in the Core Strategy, but unfortunately this does not appear to be a single news item but a number of short items revealed by an item search.
Of particular interest to us was the heritage comment.  There is nothing here that we disagree with, but we would add a couple of other considerations:
 •  There have been a number of relatively small scale schemes which collectively add up to a significant number, where a planning application is pursued through to an eventual granting of permission, and then afterwards the site is offered for sale "with planning permission"  The applicant clearly had no intention of building what was applied for, the planning permission merely being a device to acquire an instant profit from the land.  Perhaps if the planning permissions had been granted with a condition that it expired on change of land ownership, development would take place rather sooner, and the need to consider development on the green belt (which the World Heritage Committee regards as Bath's "buffer zone") would not exist.
 •  We also think that there is a real need for a design code that unambiguously recognises the Outstanding Universal Value of a city with buildings of human scale interspersed with open space and green sight lines, so that considerably less time is spent arguing against "build them dense and tall" schemes.  The Core Strategy commits to upholding the values of the World Heritage Site, and it is time that some investment was made into defining exactly what is expected of developers.  Then the definitions should be adhered to by Case Officers making planning decisions.  Similarly, the Bath City Wide Character Appraisal has been an adopted policy (and therefore has the force of planning law)  since 2005, but precious little heed is taken of it in reaching planning decisions, and this attitude needs to change.  Bath is a World Heritage Site because of its homogeneous appearance, and there is a limit to how many brutalist block of flats and architects' flights of fancy that tourist will put up with before the tourist feedback websites announce that Bath has been ruined and it is no longer worth visiting.  A lot of jobs rely on that not happening.
 •  Finally, the freeing up of the MOD sites has been at the cost of some 5,000 Bath jobs which were exported, mostly to Bristol, and whilst additional housing is important, places of employment should be of equal importance.  This needs to be thought through properly, not just following the current assumption that if there is office space available employers will come.  There is currently an enormous amount of empty modern office space behind "To Let" signs along with planning permissions granted for offices which are not being built because nobody wants them, so that assumption is clearly flawed.
Annual Report - Last updated 5 January 2014.
As is customary at the end of each year we have recorded our activities, and the statistics about the readers of our website.  Particularly notable in this year's report is the increase in overseas readers.  Clearly by focusing on World Heritage issues we are meeting a need, and we welcome this readership.  We hope to continue to meet this need in the coming year.
After some rather limited updates over the Christmas and New Year period, this update brings up to date all the new applications, comments on applications and decisions made.  A Happy New Year to all our readers.
Kingsmead Phone Box - Last updated 15 December 2013.
We received a tip-off about an unsightly phone box outside Silcox, Son and Wicks (so actually in New Street) at about the same time that the Chronicle featured it in an article showing the stark appearance of the new box, which incorporates a phone and an ATM.  In that article it reports that the new box has planning permission, and it does, from application 13/03257/FUL.
But when we examined the application, there was no clear indication of what it would look like and the Design and Access Statement includes the assurance "The design of the housing has been chosen to fit in and work with current payphone kiosks. It can sit alongside existing payphones and will not look out of place."  Clearly in hindsight this is not true, but the Case Officer would have found nothing in the application documentation submitted to suggest that there would be sufficient harm to the Conservation Area to justify refusal.  It remains to be seen whether BT will tone down the appearance.
But the onus now rests with BT to keep the telephone functional, because the permission granted was for a "combined public telephone and ATM".  Without a working telephone, there is no planning permission for it to remain there as a free-standing ATM.  Also the Highways Act only allows Deemed Consent for a telephone box or kiosk, and without the phone the local authority has the right to require its removal under that Act.  So Bath only needs to be stuck with it for as long as the phone remains functional.


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