#CommitteeWatch: B&NES

The council chamber. Image by Rwendland.
The council chamber. Image by Rwendland.

MPC attended the Bath and North East Somerset Development Control Committee meeting on Wednesday 6th April. Three notable applications came before the committee.

The first was an application to convert a single residential property in the Fox Hill area of Bath into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The application prompted an informative debate about the authority’s current market housing stock and how it relates to the expanding student population. It was noted by various committee members that the current draft Article 4 Policy in the local area was not yet a material planning consideration, given that, according to one committee member, the policy is ‘not nearly far enough along the [formulation] process’.

The knock-on effect on traffic represented another controversy of this proposal. The applicant already owned the property and intended to let it out to their child and friends, all of whom attend Bath University. The non-car use of these intended occupants was stressed by the applicant. However, the committee were unconvinced by this assertion; many rightly reasoned that once a residential property is turned over to HMO use, the owner is free to rent it to whoever they desire, including car users.

The committee therefore voted for a site visit to assess how the anticipated vehicle use would impact the area.

The second application came from care provider St Monica’s Trust, who sought permission to slightly expand the scale of their previous plans for a mixed use community of care, extra care, affordable housing and community space at the former chocolate factory in Keynsham. Although officers had recommended a refusal of these plans, the committee members fell over themselves to support it. Many celebrated the potential of the plans to create a ‘truly mixed community’, as well as to deliver much-needed older years accommodation, which it is was observed that the Council had not delivered enough of.

The application was passed unanimously.

The final application also came from a charity, the Genesis Trust, who proposed to turn a retail unit on Walcot Street in Bath into a training centre for vulnerable clients, including people overcoming recent addictions. The plans involved the addition of one storey to a single-storey building, to the dissatisfaction of the residents who spoke against it. The issue of overlooking became the main substance of debate, including the conditions under which frosted glass could be permitted in rooms of a certain use. In a city as crowded and growing as Bath, these issues are perhaps not as obscure as it may appear.

The plans were passed unanimously, after both Ward Members for Abbey spoke in favour of the plans.

By Ben Draper