Permitted development rights to convert offices to residential use in parts of central Bath could be withdrawn to protect the economic health and prosperity of the city and the wellbeing of residents.
A report to be considered by Councillor Bob Goodman, cabinet member for Development and Neighbourhoods, recommends the change to ensure the city has enough office space to meet demand as the council works to create a balanced local economy.
The report identifies the need to rebalance the local economy and address the over-reliance on jobs in the public sector, retail and tourism.
The council’s Economic Development Strategy seeks stimulate a more productive, competitive and diversified economy, attracting new companies to the area and enabling established businesses to expand.
As a result the Local Plan seeks a net increase of 7,000 jobs in the city, largely enabled by increasing the amount of modern office and creative workspace in the Bath Central Area.
A study carried out in 2017 revealed that the Bath Central Plus Area (which extends from Alfred Street in the north of the city, to South Parade in the east, Wood Street in the south and Pines Way to the west of the city), currently supplies 80% of Bath and North East Somerset’s office stock. It identified 85,000sqm of office space, accommodating 700 companies, providing 6,500 jobs and generating £381m, was within property zones at medium to high risk of conversion from office premises to residential properties. The report concluded that an Article 4 Direction withdrawing permitted rights for such conversion was appropriate.
Councillor Bob Goodman said: “We need to ensure we have a balanced economy and are working hard to provide residents with opportunities to increase their average earnings and improve their quality of life. The risk of potential loss of offices through permitted developments rights is significant and would have a serious impact on our Economic Strategy. We consulted on the proposal last year and the feedback was very positive.”
If the proposals are given the go-ahead from Friday 24 May planning permission will be needed to convert office premises to residential properties in the Bath Central Plus Area.