Plans to demolish a car dealership in Bath to build housing for 335 students and 316 apartments for rent were rejected despite warnings of a costly challenge.
Planning chiefs said the lack of 254 parking spaces was enough to dismiss the Lower Bristol Road project, but plaintiff Watkin Jones Group threatened to appeal.
Car dealership Dick Lovett is moving from Bath to a new showroom in Melksham, freeing up its BMW and Mini showrooms for redevelopment.
The company is currently challenging the Bath and North East Somerset Council’s decision to decline its offer to redevelop the Mini concession with 290 student rooms. The appeal has not yet been heard.
More than 70 people opposed the Watkin Jones group’s proposals, many of whom said Bath did not need more student accommodation.
Objector Rebecca Marsh said: “No more PBSA [purpose-built student accommodation] at the expense of decent housing for a range of people. Low-income people, singles, couples, families, etc.
“Meet Bath’s housing needs and STOP the ever-hungry developers trying to flush out the student community.”
She added: ‘We have a housing crisis in Bath, until this is resolved and the city’s non-transient residents are given priority, then all PBSAs should be stopped. We have had enough.
Michael Jones said: “The Lower Bristol Road is quickly eroded into a mass of apartments with totally contrasting styles which over-develop and completely ruin the neighborhood, there is absolutely no need for student housing anymore.”
Peter Lewis said the program “would contribute to another modern ghetto,” adding: “This proposal does not directly contribute to the stock of affordable housing, to help with the purchase of housing or to social housing. Where workers in the minimum wage, with or without family, can they live elsewhere than far from Bath? ”
Three out of 10 rentable apartments would be affordable. Half of these would be available at 60 percent of the free market rate and the rest at 80 percent. Council officials said it was reasonable due to viability issues.
The design of the four blocks, which could reach six floors, has also been criticized.
Westmoreland Ward Councilor June Player said the buildings were “far too large, far too tall and placed far too close to the sidewalk.”
She said the development would harm the Bath World Heritage site and, combined with the approved plans for the Bath Press site, create a “roofless tunnel” that traps noise and pollution.
The Bath Preservation Trust echoed Cllr Player’s concerns about over-development and the impact on the World Heritage site.
There were 17 supporting comments, with some saying the concentration of students along Lower Bristol Road made sense.
Others said creating more specially designed housing would help free up homes for families, although planning officials said there was no evidence yet to support this.
They said the development design responds well to the context and constraints of the site and would positively contribute to local character and uniqueness, and that the public benefits outweigh the damage to the World Heritage site.
However, planning officials recommended denial due to failure to provide an adequate level of off-street parking.
The proposals include 120 parking spaces, enough for less than a third of the rental apartments and none of the students – a shortage of up to 254 spaces that is expected to increase the demand for on-street parking.
In published correspondence, Dan Weaver of urban planning consultancy Pegasus Group said the council’s parking standards do not apply directly to rental construction programs.
He indicated that Dick Lovett was prepared to appeal – a “waste of the costs, time and resources of our client and, frankly, of the advice.”
The planning committee will review the request on August 25.
Stephen Sumner, local democracy journalist