The 21st Century Sack of Bath
Council Planning decisions are supposed to be guided by Government legislation, Government guidance notes, and Local Authority Planning Policies adopted after a consultation process with the Planning Inspectorate.
Bath has an Outstanding Universal Value that defines what makes it a World Heritage Site, and a World Heritage Management Plan that is supposed to ensure that it remains on the List of World Heritage Sites. There is a Government commitment to look after World Heritage Sites and a Local Plan Policy enshrined in the Core Strategy (Policy B4) which states: There is a strong presumption against development that would result in harm to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site, its authenticity or integrity. This presumption applies equally to development within the setting of the World Heritage Site.
Despite these established procedures, there are a number of decisions where the policies that were supposed to guide the outcome were not heeded. This has led to structures that should have been preserved being damaged or destroyed, or Conditions that should have controlled what happens after permission is granted being ignored and then not enforced, or designs that do not fit into the character of a Conservation Area being given inappropriate consents.
This page of the website picks out the worst offenders.
What should have been heeded
|From the National Planning Policy Framework
184 Heritage assets range from sites and buildings of local historic value to those of the highest significance, such as World Heritage Sites which are internationally recognised to be of Outstanding Universal Value. These assets are an irreplaceable resource, and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations.
From the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, Section 1(5):
From the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, Section 17(3):
From the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan
Policy HE1 (5): Great weight will be given to the conservation of the District’s heritage assets. Any harm to the significance of a designated or non-designated heritage asset must be justified. Proposals will be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal; whether it has been demonstrated that all reasonable efforts have been made to sustain the existing use, find new uses, or mitigate the extent of the harm to the significance of the asset; and whether the works proposed are the minimum required to secure the long term use of the asset.
Policy HE1 (7b - Listed Buildings) The significance of listed buildings is required to be sustained and enhanced. Appropriate repair and reuse of listed buildings will be encouraged. Alterations, extensions or changes of use, or development in their vicinity, will be expected to have no adverse impact on those elements which contribute to their special architectural or historic interest, including their settings.
Policy SB5 (Context) Buildings in the vicinity tend to form bold relationships with their surroundings; butting up to the river’s edge at the eastern end of the South Quays site, and forming a strong edge along the Lower Bristol Road. Many of these represent an important part of Bath’s industrial heritage, notably the Grade II listed Newark Works, curtilage listed buildings such as the Foundry, and the associated public realm. This site was previously occupied by innovative crane manufacturers, Stothert and Pitt.
Policy SB5 (5): The group value of the buildings on the South Quays site (particularly the Grade II listed Newark Works, curtilage listed buildings such as the Foundry, and the associated public realm) is important as a legacy of the city’s less well known industrial heritage. Any proposals for the site will need to be supported by an appropriate assessment of the historic, cultural and architectural value of the heritage assets. Proposals will need to demonstrate that the significance of heritage assets and their setting are preserved or enhanced or, in the case of demolition, that the harm arising is outweighed by public benefits arising from the proposals
Policy SB5 (15) Valued street furniture and artefacts such as rail tracks and setts should be retained.
In 2006, the council bought out the remainder of the leases of the properties in the Newark Works in order to leave the premises empty for James Dyson's application to destroy most of the heritage on site and build a school.
Despite the site being obviously usable (because the businesses asked to surrender their leases were thriving until then) the council left it empty and earning no rent for the next 12 years.
In 2017, the council granted itself permission to make internal alterations to the Newark Works and to demolish the Foundry and Boiler House. The legislation defining what constitutes a listed building is very clear that curtilage listed structures are to be treated as listed in the same way that the host structure is treated, and this is recognised in Policy SB5(5) which identifies the Foundry building as "important as a legacy". Yet no attempt was made to find an alternate use for these sound buildings or to have anything approved to replace them. That part of the Bath Quays South development site was given permission in outline only with details to follow. Therefore it was impossible to show any public benefit which outweighed the harm from demolition until permission is actually granted for a structure which will replace them. This point was made in an appeal to the Secretary of State, who sent back the standard "The Secretary of State's policy is that the council knows best" letter, as he does with anybody who doesn't have a statutory right to have a decision called in.
The council then carried on in its cavalier fashion, grubbing up the rail tracks and setts (despite Policy SB5 (15) specifically requiring them to be retained).
In February 2019 they were guilty of allowing an illegal act of demolishing the Foundry and Boiler house before having anything approved to replace them.
In the above picture the fragment of pink wall is all that was left of the Foundry at the time the photo was taken. The rubble to the right of it is the demolished remainder of the building.
The other pile of rubble pictured on the right is all that is left of the Boiler House.
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