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Bath’s doughnut approach to planning – a recipe for success?


This week sees the launch of Bath and North East Somerset Council’s (BANES) public consultation on the freshly published local plan options document.

The council has acknowledged and plans to meet the standard method target of 14,500 new homes. Of these, more than 6,000 will be built mainly on brownfield sites already committed for development in Bath.

Bath and North East Somerset is a tricky place to plan for. Two thirds of the authority is Green Belt and the city of Bath is a World Heritage Site. The pandemic highlighted an economic reliance on visitors and students, so it’s intriguing to see the local plan options presented hand-in-hand with BANES’s new economic strategy – a bold new approach based around doughnut economics.

It’s an exciting prospect. The council’s approach makes it clear that development must respond to the local social and economic needs and drive sustainable growth. BANES’s planners will want developers to demonstrate real social impact in their proposals, setting out how projects will support residents and address inequality.

With two thriving universities in the city, students make up a significant proportion of Bath’s projected population growth. However, the local plan proposes that purpose-built student accommodation is restricted to on-campus or other allocated sites which may lie outside Bath – meeting the needs for housing and employment space should take priority.

BANES’s environmental ambitions are also clearly on display in its approach to planning policy. From a focus on sustainable building to an ambitious 20% biodiversity net gain target, the council is determined to set the bar high and test the limits of national planning policy.

The regulation 18 public consultation will run until 8 April and regulation 19 is scheduled to follow at the end of this year before submission for examination next spring.

Meeting Place will be keeping a close eye on Bath’s local plan process as it evolves and will continue to help define and articulate the social impact of new proposals – showing how the built environment plays its part in creating a sweeter, more doughnut-shaped future.

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