Agenda item

Milsom Quarter Masterplan - Funding and Next Steps

To consider a report regarding the Milsom Quarter Masterplan which outlines the funding arrangements and next steps.


Cllr Mark Roper introduced the report, moved the officer recommendation and made the following statement:


“I am delighted to be tabling this report to Cabinet today. The Milsom St Quarter is an ambitious and exciting concept in holistic regeneration where the Council will work in partnership with the regional authority and the private sector to bring new employment, living and retail space to the heart of Bath in a considered and sustainable way. It shows once again that this administration has a bold vision for the future of our district – and that we aim to deliver on that vision.


Can I congratulate the officers involved from the Economic Development team for their hard work to get us here – and to all those who responded to the public consultation. There were many extremely valuable inputs from residents, and I look forward to that continuing once we start to bring more definitive plans to the table. The Consultation and Engagement Report is an appendix to the main report.


Acceptance of the funding will enable us to build the team we need to start to delivery of the plan. The six primary interventions are outlined in 3.4 of the report. There are three substantial development projects:


·  Broad Street Yards will repurpose the car park to create workspace for SMES and start-ups, targeted at the fashion and design sector – and we know we are desperately short of small business units in B&NES

·  Walcot Gateway – the redevelopment of the Cattle Market car park and the Cornmarket – a building that has sat neglected and empty for far too long – to provide new homes and an enhanced public realm.

·  Finally, the Fashion Museum, which will move into the Old Post Office building, and into some of the buildings along the north side of New Bond Street – a great addition to our cultural offer, and a keystone part of the Milsom Street Quarter development. The potential here for public-private partnership is substantial and work has already started on this.

There will be improvements to the public realm - reducing the dominance of vehicles and prioritising walking and wheeling - whilst making the area fully accessible to people of all mobility levels.


We will repurpose upper floors of Council owned buildings to provide more residential use. More residents living and working in the city centre creating a greater vibrancy and sustainability to our urban environment.


We will deliver high quality architecture into our UNESCO World Heritage City – this is an opportunity to make our mark with buildings and public areas that both reflect our heritage and deliver for our current and future needs. This does not have to mean pastiche building – and I look forward to the proposed solutions that the architects and designers present to us. 

It goes without saying that we will be focussed on delivering all of the above in a sustainable way – we intend to reduce the carbon footprint of the area both by retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency and by new buildings being zero carbon. The construction industry is gearing up to the challenge of net zero already, and by the time construction starts I am confident that we will be offered solutions that work within this administration’s stated aims of net zero by 2030.


I want to talk about the King Edward’s School building in Broad Street and its importance in the plan. This Grade 2 listed building has been in the hands of its owners for over 25 years, and in all that time it has sat empty. There is no indication that the planning permission, granted in 2021, to convert into a hotel with a restaurant and bar, will be implemented. There has in fact been no contact with the owners, despite our attempts to engage, apart from us being advised that those plans are now on hold. This beautiful building is deteriorating to such an extent that it is now the only building in Bath that is on the Historic Buildings at Risk register. I say to the owners that of course any business has its first duty to its shareholders - but it also has a duty of care to the community within which it operates. You are not fulfilling that obligation to the people of Bath and North East Somerset. The redevelopment of the Milsom Street Quarter provides a golden opportunity for you to be a part of this project and a part of our community. Please embrace it. We want to bring this site back to life for the benefit of our residents and visitors. You know where we are –so please engage with us and let’s make that happen.


In summary, the Milsom Quarter Masterplan is a hugely exciting project – one that will bring employment, housing, inward investment and a great cultural attraction to our city – I for one cannot wait to see it come to fruition.”


Cllr Kevin Guy seconded the motion, stating that this is an exciting project which will transform the city.


Cllr Richard Samuel then made the following statement:


“I welcome this output from the intensive work I oversaw between 2021 and this year. The master planning work is the most in-depth study of this important sector of the city for decades. It started as a response to the fact that Milsom Street as a commercial trading area was in decline with retail premises increasingly harder to let as private sector confidence drained away. For the council this was of serious direct concern because we have a heavy concentration of ownership and the impact on our income streams needed to be protected.


We all want our city to be a vibrant diverse trading area and, where it is not, we need to take action. I am very pleased that WECA have also recognised this and have supported our work both financially and in kind and with the Mayor’s involvement, who has taken a personal interest in this work.


Whilst Cabinet member I was determined to ensure that several things happened.  These were:


·  That there should be strong engagement with the private sector and businesses.

·  That the ambition to move the Fashion Museum with the quarter should be secured by the acquisition of a suitable building and that this would act as an anchor and complement our wider heritage offer.

·  That derelict sites such as the Cattlemarket and Corn Exchange should finally be redeveloped.

·  That plans should be brought forward to enhance the street scene and vehicle movements limited.

·  Finally, and this is where I turn to my amendment, that the former King Edward’s School building should be brought back into use as soon as possible.

This important building has remained vacant since Sam Smiths brewery acquired it in the mid-1990s and has a chequered planning history with applications made and withdrawn over that period. However, by 2010 planning permission had been granted for a hotel plus ancillary dining. In that application English Heritage commented as follows:


“That whilst the owner has carried out repairs to the roof to make it wind and weathertight the building remains vulnerable until it has sustainable new use.”


In the intervening decade that comment remains as apposite in 2022 as it was in 2010 and little tangible progress has been made by the owner to restoring this building to use in line with the granted planning consent.


This is unacceptable. The council has done everything within its power to enable the owner to bring forward plans and achieve planning and listed building consent and yet still the building remains vacant and visibly deteriorating to the extent that it now appears on the national buildings at risk register. I am therefore calling for officers to urgently explore all available options for bringing this building back in to use including consideration of the use of Section 215 notices, the powers available under Planning Acts to compel the repair of listed buildings and if need be, as a last resort, the use of compulsory purchase powers. I would also like officers to engage with Historic England and the Bath Preservation Trust.


Because I recognise that it is essential that dialogue be established with the owners to determine their intentions, I am calling for officers to engage with Sam Smiths as soon as possible. My amendment calls for the bringing back of a comprehensive report to the meeting of the cabinet in February 2023.


There is no possible reason why the owner of an important building in the heart of the Bath Conservation Area and World Heritage site should fail to bring this building back into use. Relevant permissions have been sought and granted and the owner now needs to engage constructively with the council and begin work to renovate and use this building.”


Cllr Samuel then moved an amendment to add an additional resolution as follows:


“To instruct officers to explore all options (including for example, Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) options) available to enable the historic former King Edward’s School building to be brought back into use and to ask officers to bring back an update report on those options to the Cabinet meeting in February 2023.”


Cllr Romero seconded the amendment stressing the importance of bringing this building back into use.


The mover of the original motion, Cllr Mark Roper, accepted the amendment which then became part of the substantive motion.


RESOLVED (unanimously):


(1)  To delegate approval to the Director of Sustainable Communities, in consultation with the S151 Officer, to accept the £2.475m Investment Fund grant from the West of England Combined Authority. These funds will be spent over a three-year period in line with the Strategic Outline Business Case.

(2)  To delegate approval to implement the interventions set out within the business case to the Director of Sustainable Communities in consultation with the Cabinet member for Resources and Economic Development and the S151 Officer in accordance with the requirements of the Grant Funding Agreement.

(3)  To note the Consultation Report on the Milsom Quarter Masterplan (Appendix 1 of the report) and to endorse the Milsom Quarter Masterplan, accepting it together with the amendments sought (Appendix 2 of the report) as part of the evidence base for the New Local Plan.

(4)  To delegate approval to the Director of Sustainable Communities, in consultation with the s151 Officer, to establish arrangements that will allow surplus rental income from the Old Post Office (after holding costs) to be ring-fenced for use to support revenue costs associated with the Fashion Museum redevelopment project and to cross-subsidise meanwhile use projects which align with the vision and values for the Fashion Museum development.

(5)  To explore options, including the use of any existing or new powers introduced to support vibrant High Streets in the forthcoming Levelling up and Regeneration Bill, to expediate delivery of sites in private ownership that have viability challenges or have been long term vacant.

(6)  To instruct officers to explore all options (including for example, Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) options) available to enable the historic former King Edward’s School building to be brought back into use and to ask officers to bring back an update report on those options to the Cabinet meeting in February 2023.

Supporting documents: