Plans to demolish a car showroom in Bath and build 186 student bedrooms and 104 flats have been recommended for approval despite more than 270 objections.
Opponents to the “unwanted and fundamentally flawed” proposals said the old Hartwells site on Newbridge Road would be overdeveloped and it was “unreasonable” to have so many people living there.
But Bath and North East Somerset Council planning officers said an acceptable development “is indeed achievable here”, despite a “disappointing” level of affordable housing.
Professor Alan Champneys, who leads the No To Hartwells Student Build group, said in his objection: “This is an unwanted development by a developer who has no interest in the needs of Bath and a singularly obstinate attitude to taking feedback from the local community.
“They have instead hired lots of consultants to try to face a false picture about viability and compliance with council policies.
“It should be thrown out immediately and any future plans from these developers should show significant evidence of genuine community engagement.”
Developer Oakhill Group Ltd said its scheme was an opportunity “to regenerate and significantly improve this sustainably located brownfield site” that will “boost the supply of housing and purpose-built student accommodation”.
It said in its application: “Much-needed new homes targeted at a particular demographic will be provided, whilst at the same time the provision of purpose-built student accommodation will relieve pressure on the City’s stock of family housing.
“The Hartwell Garage site is an extremely challenging site both physically and economically, however it has been possible to design a scheme which meets the council’s ambitions for the site to deliver 80-100 homes which at the same time is, importantly, viable and deliverable.”
The application has been met with 274 objections, four comments and no letters of support.
Newbridge ward member Michelle O’Doherty said: “I am concerned about the overdevelopment of the site, and I am also worried that the access into the site is both inadequate and dangerous due to the number of people who will be living on the site.”
She said there is already an issue with parking and questioned how a restriction on cars could be enforced.
Her colleague Councillor Mark Roper was “extremely concerned” at the volume of traffic that will access the site, and opposed the loss of employment land.
He said: “It is unreasonable to propose a development which may end up with over 400 people living on a site of this size. It is especially unreasonable of the developers to include no extra facilities apart from what they are currently calling a coffee shop.”
Among the 274 objections were arguments that the student accommodation was not needed, the development was too big for the site and the “monolithic” design was out of keeping with the area.
The buildings would stand up to five storeys high.
Assessing the plans, planning officers said it was “very disappointing” that only 10 per cent of the homes will be affordable.
The council requires 40 per cent of homes in this area to be affordable but the developer said that was not financially viable.
Consultants have confirmed that, and after “protracted discussions”, the rate has been upped to 12.5 per cent, to give 13 affordable flats. The final number could increase if the viability improves.
Officers said the design “successfully responds” to the immediate surroundings and the site is big enough to accommodate the scheme.
They said there was a risk students would own cars that they would park in the surrounding streets and there needs to be a condition to prevent that, an approach that has “generally been successful” elsewhere.
The council’s planning committee will consider the application on 11th March.
Members have been recommended to approve the application.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter