Bath Voice News: plans for Tufa Field housing

By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter: People are being asked to have their say on Bath and North East Somerset Council’s plans to build 16 homes on Bath’s “tufa field” for people with autism and learning difficulties.

The council says the homes will be “life changing,” allowing people to live independently but with appropriate care and support in their own homes, reducing the need for out-of-area placements away from family and friends. There is currently a shortage of supported living in the council area, and the council says that the housing scheme in the field will provide a “soothing and tranquil setting” while protecting the landscape.

But many locals have urged the council not to build on the field on Englishcombe Lane in Bath. The site is ecologically and geologically significant due to its limestone blushes where rare limestone formations called tufa form.

A bid three years ago to build 37 homes over the field caused outcry and was scrapped when current council leader Kevin Guy took over the running of the council. But the council then began plans to build a smaller social development on the field.

Geological surveys began on the site in August and now the council says it is ready to submit a planning application at the end of March, but the public are being asked to have their say on the plans first.

Deborah Collins, council cabinet project lead for built environment and sustainable development, said: “We have worked hard to develop a scheme that provides residential accommodation in a sensitive way while protecting the landscape. I am immensely proud of this scheme and I believe it will have a transformative effect on people’s lives.”

The “low density” homes will be built in two clusters on each side of the field, with a “forest garden” in the middle around the flushes, with a decked walkway crossing it. The housing will include both one, two, and three bedroom homes with sheltered seating at the front alongside a communal facility.

The development includes 11 single-storey and five split level homes. The buildings will have “green roofs,” with internal spaces designed with resident’s comfort in mind, with controlled lighting and “comfortable micro-climates.” 

The council says the proposals have been designed to protect the ecology of the site, with a 10 metre buffer around the suite, a bat corridor, and protective measures for badgers, reptiles, and small mammals.

A face-to-face drop in session on the plans was held at at St Luke’s Church Centre off Wellsway on Wednesday 13 March between 4pm and 8pm, for people to see the plans, ask questions, and give feedback. The plans can also be seen online until March 22 here:

Ms Collins added: “Feedback from previous engagement activity has fed into these proposals and I want to thank everybody, including residents and community groups, who has worked with us to develop this scheme. And I would encourage as many people as possible to visit the exhibition either in person or online and complete a feedback form telling us what aspects they like and what actions can be taken to change elements that concern them.”

A planning application will be submitted at the end of March. If approved in Summer at the council hope, work could start on the site in late 2024.

Harry Mottram comments: Tufa Field has had a long history of proposed developments. It’s owned by the council but has geological issues of being water logged and of subsidence and is on a steep slope. The access is also very narrow. There has been a number of campaigns by locals to keep it as a green field due to the abundance of wildlife that live there – from slow worms to deer and from rabbits to foxes. When Kevin Guy became Council leader there was a belief that all plans would be dropped. That was short lived – and the current plans have been on the agenda ever since. The balance of debate revolves around the erosion of green spaces in the city and the current shortage of homes.

Bath Voice and Local Democracy Reporters

The journalists are funded by the BBC as part of its latest Charter commitment, but are employed by regional news organisations. A total of 165 reporters are allocated to news organisations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland including Bath Voice. These organisations range from television and radio stations to online media companies and established regional newspaper groups. Local Democracy Reporters cover top-tier local authorities, second-tier local authorities and other public service organisations.

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