Bath and North East Somerset Council, IM Land and Bloor Homes redevelop former Ministry of Defence site

Close working between the promoter and local council meant that officers could appreciate the commercial approach being undertaken by IM Land, while the developers were able to fully support the council in delivering their aspirations for this brownfield site located in a highly sensitive ecological and landscape location on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Bath was home to three Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites which were due for release by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation – all of which were key to delivery of new homes in the UNESCO World Heritage City. Bath and North East Somerset Council published a design concept statement for MoD Ensleigh in 2010, and IM Land acquired the site at the end of 2012. MoD Ensleigh, on the northern side of the city, was a brownfield site with significant remediation issues including asbestos and ground contamination. It was also particularly sensitive in landscape design terms: it was overlooked by Beckford’s Tower – a Grade I listed building owned by the local preservation trust – and in turn had views over several neighbouring villages.

Bath and North-East Somerset Council worked with IM Land and their design team to respond to the opportunity at MoD Ensleigh and to help shape their proposals to deliver a significant development in a very sensitive location. The success of the scheme demonstrates the benefits of a shared vision for the site and its setting as well as IM’s early engagement with a range of stakeholders including the council. The use of a planning performance agreement enabled the council to commit appropriate resources to meet IM’s programme and the delivery of a number of key policy objectives including affordable homes and critical social infrastructure to meet current and future needs.

Mark Reynolds, Group Manager, Bath and North East Somerset Council

IM Land, who subsequently signed contracts with Linden Homes and Bloor Homes, had early pre-application discussions with the council and entered into a planning performance agreement (PPA) which enabled a joint commitment to speedy delivery as well as facilitating engagement with the other infrastructure authorities – particularly important on this site as the concept statement required provision of a new primary school.

Early pre-application consultation with residents, heritage groups, parish councils and ward members, established that issues around design were key. Views to and from the site, building heights and possible light pollution were all raised and subsequently addressed by the architects.

However, it became clear during the planning process that not all of the aspirations of the original concept statement – 350 homes, a primary school, a local convenience store, formal open space, natural open space and allotments – could be accommodated within the original site area, as the application also needed to respond to key design issues.

On this basis, IM Land negotiated with a local landowner and acquired ‘The Chill’, an adjacent site. Working with the local planning authority, planning permission was secured for a new 210-place primary school, without the need for use of compulsory purchase order powers. This in turn enabled the council to deliver the concept statement in full including an additional benefit of an extra care scheme delivering 72 affordable units for elderly people living in the area.

Bath and North East Somerset’s concept plan set out clearly the council’s aspirations for the site, and IM Land’s response in securing an additional site to aid housing, school and further public open space meant a good result all round. Bath has a new school opening in September 2017, an additional 38 affordable homes and 56 new homes for market sale.

We worked as a team with IM Land in complex planning negotiations for the main Ensleigh site and for the adjoining land, known as The Chill. IM Land also successfully let the contract and delivered the demolition and remediation of the site as part of the infrastructure works. IM Land had a strong understanding of the commercial issues for a house builder and how to deal with them efficiently. 

Andrew Driscoll, Senior Land Director, Bloor Homes South West