Bath Rugby’s plans for a new stadium at the Rec would need to protect Bath’s prized World Heritage Status, city leaders have said.
The reassurance came after Councillor Dr Yukteshwar Kumar voiced fears that overdevelopment of the Rec could see Bath follow Liverpool in being stripped of its title.
That decision followed years of warnings that developments threatened the value of the northern city’s waterfront, and plans for the new Everton Football Club stadium was the final straw.
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UNESCO has now warned that Stonehenge is at risk of losing its classification – but in contrast Bath has just won a coveted second World Heritage title as one of 11 Great Spa Towns of Europe.
Speaking at Bath and North East Somerset Council’s meeting on July 21, Mr Kumar said: “If the partial update [to the Local Plan] goes ahead then the existing policies relating to the recreation ground still stand, which I cannot support in principle, particularly in light of the news of Liverpool losing its UNESCO World Heritage Status.
“Overdevelopment of land which was donated not to a billionaire businessman but the local residents of Bath, according to covenant, could mean losing our own World Heritage Status.
“As the plan stands I can’t support it. We will lose our World Heritage Status.”
The club’s owner, Bruce Craig, is not a billionaire.
Margaret Vaughan from the Friends of the Recreation Ground Association raised similar concerns at the full council meeting on July 22, adding that the title is fundamental to Bath’s tourism economy.
She said: “Infill is eating away at every space in Bath. Given the council’s declaration of a climate emergency, it would be nothing less than a climate calamity, not to mention a failure of moral responsibility of the council to lose the recreation ground as well.”
Adopted council policy refers to provision of a sports, cultural and leisure stadium on the recreation ground site, subject to the resolution of legal issues.
Mr Kumar called for that wording to be removed from the partial update to the Local Plan, but a recent press release said the allocation will not be reviewed until work begins on the new Local Plan next year.
But Councillor Shaun Hughes said of 1,614 responses to a previous consultation, less than two per cent said the policy on the Rec should be deleted.
Bath Rugby had publicly urged its supporters to respond to the consultation.
Describing Bath’s World Heritage Status as “prized and valued” by the council, cabinet member for planning Tim Ball said: “The current planning framework for the city, which includes proposals for a stadium at the Rec, was endorsed by an independent inspector at a public examination and his role was to ensure that proposals in the council’s plan did not harm the city’s World Heritage Status.
“Any planning application for a stadium will need to be in accordance with the requirements of the plan to be acceptable.”
Bath Rugby is still drawing up its plans for a new stadium at the Rec.
Tarquin McDonald of Bath Rugby
(Image: Artur Lesniak/Local World))
Chief executive Tarquin McDonald said the club feels a great sense of responsibility to the city and future generations.
“To bring forward plans for a new stadium in the heart of a World Heritage Site is complex, and it is important we get it right,” he said.
“There are clear processes everyone must follow, which are guided by national and local planning policy set by Government and local council.
Bath Rugby have been playing in the centre of the city for more than a century
“Delivering a new stadium in the heart of Bath which responds appropriately and creatively to our sensitive heritage and culture, which includes sport, continues to underpin and guide our plans for the Rec.
“These are yet to be submitted, and of course, we will consult widely with the city and our heritage stakeholders, including Historic England, UNESCO, and Bath Preservation Trust, throughout the process.”