Development chiefs have a second chance to refuse plans for nine flats next to a Bath pub after their “irrational” decision to support the scheme was overturned in the High Court.
Park View resident Susan Walker launched a judicial review after councillors rejected “overwhelming” officer advice to refuse the application for Belvoir Castle in 2018.
Judge Mrs Justice Jefford found that the planning committee erred in law by taking immaterial considerations into account because there was no evidence that the Lower Bristol Road pub’s future would be secured by the development.
She said members had acted irrationally and failed to give sufficient reasons for approving the application.
After quashing their decision, the application will come back before the committee on 15th December, again with a recommendation for refusal.
Rengen’s plans propose building a three-storey apartment block, refurbishing the Westmoreland pub, demolishing and replacing the Grade II-listed skittle alley and building a new community room.
Opposing the application, the Bath Heritage Watchdog said the 150-year-old skittle alley was believed to be Bath’s oldest and was “far too important to be considered disposable”.
It said the apartment block would leave Park View residents feeling “hemmed in”, concerns echoed by the Bath Preservation Trust, which said it was sceptical if the apartments were needed “to essentially keep this well-placed pub as financially viable”.
“We can see little other than developer financial gain, especially in that it does look likely that these units will either be holiday lets or student studios, given the compromised open living space,” the trust said.
While there were 14 other objections, a petition with 71 signatures was also submitted to the council supporting the development to “enable the landlords to find new revenue streams to protect the Belvoir Castle’s future”.
But planning officers said there was “no tangible evidence” that improving the pub’s facilities would increase its profitability.
They said: “It is not considered that the development and the long term viability of the pub are intrinsically linked. If the development is permitted, the approved flats would not be in the same ownership as the Belvoir and it is therefore questioned as to how the development would sustain the viability of the Belvoir in the long term.”
Recommending refusal, planning officers said the development would harm nearby heritage assets and the conservation area, have a significant detrimental impact on neighbouring homes and exacerbate parking problems.
They said the developer had failed to demonstrate that there were no other sites available at a lower risk of flooding.
Bath and North East Somerset Council took no part in the judicial review after conceding the decision was unlawful but developer Rengen opposed Park View resident Ms Walker’s application.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter