Bath Voice News: a major change to the city is planned as the Bath Quays North development is approved

By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter: A huge car park in the centre of Bath is set to be turned into a new district of the city centre as a major regeneration project has finally been approved after years in the works.

The Bath Quays North project will see new shops and office blocks criss-crossed with pedestrian streets built across what is currently Avon Street Car Park. Planning permission for the final details was granted by Bath and North East Somerset Council’s planning committee on Wednesday May 8 — despite concerns that the “could be anywhere, not just Bath” and that the developers will provide no affordable housing.

The flagship project has been in the works for years and has been described as “the most significant development in Bath in a generation.” But plans for the development to include affordable homes were dropped by developers over viability concerns.

Outline planning permission was secured by the council five years ago, but applicants BQN Ltd, acting on behalf of the council’s development partner Legal & General, had to secure “reserved matters” approval, where the council grants planning permission for the final details and design of the scheme.

But as the planning committee debated the plans, Shaun Hughes (Midsomer Norton North, Independent) said: “I do have concerns with certain aspects of the design. The riverside side of the design has a very sort of Lego-like appearance to it. […] I’m not sure where that design’s going and whether it truly reflects the city we are in.”

Fiona Gourley (Bathavon South, Liberal Democrats) said: “I totally agree that this needs development […] but I’m concerned that [Historic England] don’t think its good enough; that they think it’s not in keeping with other bits of Bath. […] I think it’s too blocky and plain.”

She added: “That’s my concern: it could be anywhere, not just Bath.”

Historic England said, in its official feedback as a consultee, that it had “expressed strong reservations” throughout the planning process. It said: “Whilst the applicant has made some attempts to address these concerns, the scheme requires further alteration in order to ensure it will make a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness of Bath.”

But Tim Warren (Midsomer Norton Redfield, Conservative) — who was the leader of the council when the public were asked to have their say on the masterplan back in 2017 — said: “Bath has been in desperate need of grade one office space for a long long time. […] I actually don’t mind the design. Some parts aren’t Georgian, but in Georgian times, did they say you can’t build up because it’s not Roman?”

He added: “We are a World Heritage Site which is fantastic, we need to be proud of that. However, we are still a living city and we can’t turn it just into a museum.”

The development will include over 16 thousand square metres of office space, a 130 bed hotel, space for retail, financial services, food, takeaway, and a drinking establishment. Streets will extend across the development with a pedestrianised Avon Street leading through to the cycle path and riverside park, a new “Little Corn Street” running north-to-south across what is currently Avon Street Car Park, and a new “Back Street” continuing the line of Somerset Street and leading to an area called “Little Somerset Yard.”

There will be a basement car park with space for 411 cars (320 of those spaces being for the public). The development will also include 92 residential flats — but none of them will be affordable housing.

A viability assessment found a “significant overall deficit” for the developers and concluded affordable housing will not be possible. A financial review will be carried out later before the completion of the scheme “to establish whether the development is able to support the provision of affordable housing in the future.”

Ms Gourley said: “How is it that we can have come to the conclusion that we need to house cars rather than people? This area was historically always an area of low cost housing until 70 years ago when it got bombed.”

Paul Crossley (Southdown, Liberal Democrat) added: “Going forward, I would like to see a stronger commitment to social inclusion because we can’t forever say the value of land means we can’t have any social houses.”

But he seconded a proposal from Mr Warren to approve the planning permission. Lucy Hodge (Lansdown, Liberal Democrat) pointed out that some of the offices in Bath Quays South across the river had taken a long time to sell, and called for the plans to be rejected, but councillors voted to grant planning permission.

Mr Warren said: “I find the negativity around this difficult because you’ve got a tip in the middle of Bath which has been like it for I don’t know how many years […] and it just needs doing. You’re building an office block mainly — you’re not building the Royal Crescent.”

The old multi-storey at Avon Street Car Park was demolished in September 2022, and a new bridge across the river to the Bath Quays South Development was opened in December 2022.

You can see the plans here: 

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.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

Email him at Bath website:
Bath Facebook:  Also on Twitter: Read the newspaper online at : To advertise to thousands of Bathonians call Erica on 07402 441485 or email her on

Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and Mobile: 07789 864769