Future of Twerton Park could be shaped by new planning policy
What lies ahead for Twerton Park the historic home of Bath City Football Club?
In 2019 Bath City FC and their development partner, Greenacre Capital, conceived a scheme that could regenerate the site and pay off the club's longstanding debts of over £1 million. The plan included twelve affordable dwellings, 33 co-living apartments and 356 student beds, as well as a new grandstand, an artificial turf, a community venue and a gym. The adjoining part of the High Street would also have been transformed.
However, in March 2020 members of Bath and North East Somerset Council's Planning Committee turned down the planning application. The decision notice gave reasons of poor design, harm to the conservation area, harm to residential amenity and lack of parking. Now some of these points appear to be influencing council policy on how any future developments at this location must unfold.
The Local Plan Partial Update Consultation
The council has invited the public to have their say on a partial update to the Local Plan which is used to help decide planning applications and how sites are earmarked for development. The subject of Twerton Park is found on page 60 of the consultation document.
The paper talks supportively of Bath City FC having a chance to secure their future in Twerton and make positive changes to the High Street through new developments. The text says:
Undertaken in a creative and sensitive manner, the regeneration of this area offers the potential to not only meet the operational needs of Bath City Football Club, but to also act as the catalyst to secure an economically vibrant, healthy and long term future for Twerton High Street.
But the document also suggests that the updated Local Plan could provide details on how land at Twerton Park should be used, what designs may be acceptable, and how any housing projects might take shape. It goes on to say that residential use is appropriate for this site and that there is capacity for some 90 dwellings here. Those themes are almost certainly inserted because the height, scale, massing, materials and appearance of the former planning application were considered unacceptable, while there were also many local objections to the amount of student accommodation proposed.
The same document states that regeneration must carry "conservation benefits" i.e. respect the historic character of the High Street in the Twerton Conservation Area. Council planners had strongly argued that the former planning application failed to do this.
What lies ahead?
The wording of this council document perhaps belies the challenges faced by Bath City FC in devising a regeneration project to secure their future in Twerton. Their 2019 plan to regenerate the site barely afforded their development partner Greenacre Capital enough of a profit margin to be viable. Now it looks clear that any new proposal is expected to be smaller, built with better materials, and lacking the vast number of money-spinning student apartments. Those points seem destined to be enshrined soon in policy specific to Twerton Park. Meanwhile the club's debts have to be paid by 2022.
The document doe not discuss how the land might be used in the eventuality that the football club needs to relocate, but the topic of Twerton Park falls under the heading: "Addressing Housing Supply". So one can guess.