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BATH: Retirement flats approved

BATH: Retirement flats approved

Plans for block D in the Chocolate Quarter. St Monica\'s Trust.

Residents of Keynsham’s old chocolate factory will be denied a long awaited shop after 44 more retirement flats were approved instead. 

Block D in the Somerdale development – originally the home of Fry’s chocolate – was set to provide 24 flats in a four-storey building with a shop on the ground floor.

But this week Bath and North East Somerset Council approved a five-storey block that will be fully residential despite residents slamming it as “completely disproportionate” and a “carbuncle”.

Representing applicant St Monica’s Trust, development director Rob Whetton told planning committee members on October 21: “St Monica’s Trust is trying to provide retirement housing which is attractive to older people who are contemplating a change to their life they might have long thought about, perhaps dreaded, perhaps they can no longer avoid.

“We want to be placemakers and make a difference to the whole area. We want to provide the 18 affordable flats, which is 40 per cent of the 44 we hope to build.

“We want these to be available to local people. We provide housing that is larger and better fitted out than would usually be the case.”

The plans were met with 29 objections, with many criticising St Monica’s Trust.

Ellie Lindsay wrote in her objection: “As a community we feel we have been misled and essentially lied to about the plans for D block. We were told there was going to be a local shop that would benefit the community, now nothing of the sort.

“The only people who want this are St Monica – no one in the Somerdale community is happy about this.”

Tony Carter said: “The addition of this new building, not on plans when people bought properties on the estate, without any plans for additional amenities such as a shop, is unfair on existing residents, especially while we pay an exorbitant maintenance fee for the estate.

“This carbuncle would reduce the value of nearby houses and harm the estate, as well as being hugely disruptive during the building process.

Residents’ concerns about insufficient parking and a loss of privacy and light were echoed by Keynsham Town Council.

Councillor Eleanor Jackson told her B&NES Council planning committee meeting colleagues this week: “If I got to the stage where I needed this sort of facility, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that looks like a factory that’s got no outside growing space.

“There must be more parking.”

The plans propose 41 parking spaces but Cllr Shaun Hughes said the demographic that would live in the development needed one per flat.

Cllr Paul Crossley disagreed, saying: “There’s a pretty good bus service. We talk about responding to climate change yet all we seem to do is query the fact we’re trying to limit parking.

“We need the courage to try to change people’s behaviour. Part of that is to get more people on the buses.”

He added: “What’s great about this development is that it doesn’t look like every other scheme that’s been built around the country, it’s got some really unique features and looks to be of its place and time.”

Cllr Crossley did not have a problem with the loss of the shop but Cllr Hal McFie said the 1,400 people living on the site were expecting it to be built.

Development manager Chris Gomm said under council policy there should be a shop but that requirement had been met across the whole site. He told members they could disagree but the council would struggle to defend it on appeal as a reason for refusal.

Members voted by six votes to three against to allow officers to approve the application.

Words:  Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter


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