Friends of Ashby Bath Grounds
TOWN COUNCIL ANNOUNCES "DEAL" TO PURCHASE THE BATH GROUNDS FOLLOWING LATEST THREAT TO BUILD HOUSES (2018/19)
Developer's Plan of Proposed New Houses along Castle View Wildlife Walk
Current Views of Threatened Area on the Bath Grounds
On April 16th 2019, Ashby Town Council issued a widely reported press statement which announced a "deal" to purchase the freehold of the Bath Grounds from Oakland Hotels. Here is the full statement.
"Ashby de la Zouch Town Council is pleased to announce today (16th April 2019) that the Town Council has made significant progress in its negotiations with Oakland Hotels Ltd and agreed in principle a deal for the purchase of the Bath Grounds, off Station Road, Ashby de la Zouch.
At its meeting in September 2018 the Town Council directed the Town Clerk to make an official approach to the owners of the Bath Grounds to enter into a dialogue whereby the Town Council expresses an interest in acquiring the freehold of the Bath Grounds in its entirety for the present and future residents of our town.
The Town Council is now delighted to be able to report that its negotiations with the owners of the Bath Grounds, Oakland Hotels Ltd, have been successful in securing an agreement in principle for the proposed purchase of the Bath Grounds in the sum of £620,000.00.
It should be stressed that the proposed purchase is dependent upon Oakland Hotels Ltd being granted planning permission by the Local Planning Authority for apartments on what is now the hotel car park and for senior living apartments in the area behind the Ashby Hastings Cricket Club pavilion, formerly designated as the ‘Hastings Gardens’.
When planning permission is granted then Oakland will transfer the freehold interest in the Bath Grounds to the Town Council. The exact terms of the purchase have yet to be agreed with the owners and the Town Council will insist upon a binding agreement that any sum paid by the Town Council to Oakland Hotels is used solely as a contribution towards the refurbishment of the Royal Hotel.
The Town Council has been consistent in its unanimous opposition to the proposed development of part of the Bath Grounds on an area to the east of the cricket outfield for five executive type houses as it felt it was inappropriate and out of context with the historic surroundings. The Bath Grounds is also a protected green space under the terms of the Ashby Neighbourhood Plan. As part of this deal the plan for the houses on the grounds will not form part of the new planning application.
The Bath Grounds have been used by the people of the town for recreation, entertainment and sport for many generations and this is a vital step in trying to secure its long-term future.
The freehold of the Bath Grounds was owned by Bass Taverns Ltd until 1999, when it was sold to Allied Sainif Plc and then to Oakland Hotels Ltd.
The Town Council leases the Bath Grounds from the owners Oakland Hotels Ltd. The current lease expires in 2023 but includes an option for the Town Council to extend the lease for a further 28 years, i.e. until 2051. It is important to note that there are three conditions to the option being validly exercised:-
1) The rent must be paid;
2) The tenant’s covenants must be performed and observed. There are 19 covenants within the lease which must be complied with; and
3) The property must be zoned as a “playing field” on the Development Plan for Ashby de la Zouch at the date of the exercise of the option.
The option to extend the lease does not include any land on which planning permission has been granted for residential development, so the Town Council cannot seek to use its lease to permanently protect the Bath Grounds from development.
The relevant recent planning history comprises:
An application for planning permission in 2014 involving residential development of five dwellings [14/00107/FULM – Land and Bowls Pavilion off Prior Park Road and Cricket Pavilion off Station Road – Erection of five dwellings; demolition of existing bowls pavilion and cricket pavilion; erection of bowls pavilion, changing rooms and store with access improvements and creation of cricket pavilion (access off Station Road)]. The proposed residential development generated considerable local opposition and the application was withdrawn prior to determination.
The grant of planning permission in 2016 (following February 2014 applications) for an extension to the hotel and commercial development on the car park, including retail and leisure uses. [14/00104/FULM – Royal Hotel - Demolition of side and rear extensions at existing hotel, erection of side/rear extension to existing hotel and associated external works; erection of single storey kiosk building (A3 use), erection of two storey pavilion building (A3 and D2 use), formation of car park and alterations to existing access at Station Road involving removal of part of boundary wall to form visibility splays, associated removal of existing fencing and car park furniture and implementation of landscape works and 14/ 00105/LBC – Royal Hotel - Demolition of side and rear extensions of hotel, erection of side/rear extension to hotel, internal works, partial demolition and rebuilding of boundary wall to form visibility splays]. These applications have not been implemented.
An application for planning permission in 2017 for office and residential development of the car park area. [17/00761/FULM – Royal Hotel – Development of the northern car park of The Royal Hotel to provide B1 office accommodation and 28 residential apartments along with associated access, parking and amenity site]. This application was withdrawn prior to determination."
NEW THREAT TO BUILD HOUSES ON THE BATH GROUNDS - 2018/19
(Now withdrawn - see latest 2019/20 plans here)
A development proposal was put forward by Shape Real Estate in June 2018. Called "The Royal Ashby Project", this includes a five large, 3 storey, residential buildings on the Bath Grounds - in the same position as proposed in 2014 (later withdrawn) near the Prior Park Road entrance.
Shape Real Estate is one of a large number of companies that Simon Dawson (Oaklands Hotels) is associated with.
What you need to know
- This development would seriously impinge on Ashby’s most loved green space.
- Building on this section of the Bath Grounds will result in the loss of beautiful vistas across from the castle to the Royal and into and out of the Castle View Wildlife Walk.
- The development will result in the loss of important recreational open space in the heart of Ashby.
The developer claims these houses are needed to restore and reopen the Royal Hotel
Given the recent history of the Royal Hotel and that the developer has now closed the Royal Hotel and neglected both the grade 2* listed Georgian Royal Hotel and its car park for many years, this could be construed as an attempt to sway public opinion in favour of their plans to build on the Bath Grounds.
Sympathetic development of residential accommodation on either side of the Royal Hotel would be welcomed, but not at the price of building on the unique historic Bath Grounds and removing the open countryside feel and vistas to and from Ashby Castle.
Who is the developer?
Companies House listing shows the owner has 20 active development companies, Shape Real Estate is one of these, along with another 8 dissolved/liquidated companies to date. https://bit.ly/2M99BAT
There are no guarantees to ensure that the developer abides by conditions to renovate the Royal Hotel. The developer could sell the hotel in any state of repair and with no guarantees that renovation as a hotel will take place as indicated, or that the final building could be viable as a hotel (with its greatly reduced grounds and gardens for complementary hotel additions). There has been no significant information provided in the way of market research into the viability of the proposed renovated hotel to date.
Do we need this development in order to secure the rest of the Bath Grounds for the community?
No. The Town Council has a lease on the Bath Grounds with five years still to run and a right to renew that lease for a further 28 years.
Does Ashby need more houses?
No. The new Local Plan has already allocated more than the necessary housing land needed in the District until 2031. In fact, it expects that almost 1000 more houses will be developed than the identified requirement. Ashby is already taking a disproportionate amount of that new housing, with another 2050 houses allocated to Money Hill in the plan.
In February 2014 Oakland Hotels, who own the Bath Grounds and the Royal Hotel, applied to North West Leicestershire District Council for Planning Permission to build five, large, three storey modern "villas" at the eastern end of the Bath Grounds. They also applied for permission to extend the Royal Hotel and build a large "pavilion" and "kiosk" on the car park. The picture at the top of this page is the developer's artist's impression of the new "villas" as seen from the Bath Grounds. The Friends of the Bath Grounds mounted a vigorous campaign opposing these applications. We believe that the Bath Grounds are a precious, irreplaceable community open space, fundamental to the character of Ashby and that they need to be protected from any development which is not for enhancing community recreational use.
Over 600 letters of objection were lodged against the "Pavilion" and "Kiosk" at the Royal Hotel.
Ashby Town Council Planning Committee objected to both applications on grounds of loss of open space and poor design. However when it came to the District Council Planning Committee, those members of Ashby Town Council who also sit on that Committee all voted in favour of the Royal Hotel Application.
Applications for the renovation of the Royal Hotel and the building of the 'pavilion' on the Royal Hotel car park were approved in 2014 - but no work has been started to date and both the Hotel and the car park slowly became more and more dilapidated over the next 4 years.
A further planning application was submitted by Oakland hotels, in the summer of 2017, for a revised building plan on the hotel car park (an office block and an apartment block) - there were a large number of objections towards the height and style of these proposed buildings and the application was withdrawn in July 2018 without proceeding to the District Council Planning Committee.
The Royal Hotel was closed in March 2018 by Oakland Hotels and boarded up. This new proposal which they are calling the 'Royal Ashby Project' is proposing a number of revised buildings and includes building five residential buildings on the Bath Grounds again. A planning application for this scheme has not yet been submitted.
Ownership and Maintenance of the Bath Grounds
As mentioned above, the Bath Grounds and Royal Hotel are owned by Oakland Hotels Ltd. This company, whose sole directors are Simon Dawson, a local property developer, and a Klaus Bach, purchased them from Allied Sanif in 2011. Until 1999 they were owned by Bass Hotels. For many years the Bath Grounds have been leased by the hotel owners to Ashby Town Council to operate as a public park for the benefit of the community. Each lease has been subject to a right of renewal. The Town Council sub leases areas of the grounds to Ashby Hastings Cricket Club and to Ashby Bowls Club for their pavilions and pitches.
The current Town Council lease expires on 21st June 2023 and contains a renewal clause for a further 28 years (subject to certain conditions). As lease holder, the Town Council can prevent any building on the grounds.
In 2013 Ashby Civic Society applied to have the Bath Grounds designated as a Village Green. However this application was later withdrawn. The Town Council was successful in having the Grounds listed as a Local Community Asset.
Latest News - FOABG response to Town Council announcement of "deal" to purchase Bath Grounds.
Here is the full text of the Friends' press statement concerning the Town Council's "deal" to purchase the Bath Grounds.
“The Friends of Ashby Bath Grounds (FOABG) welcome the positive steps taken by Ashby Town Council towards acquiring the freehold of the Bath Grounds and securing the future of the Grounds for the residents of our Town.
As a community group whose principal purpose is to prevent inappropriate development on the Bath Grounds, the FOABG’s 2018 campaign raised almost 8000 signatures against building houses on the Bath Grounds. We have no doubt that the vast majority of those signatories will welcome this positive step forward.
Whilst welcoming this significant progress, the FOABG do have concerns regarding some important aspects of the proposed deal.
The price to be paid is excessive for what is in essence recreational land, recognised as Local Green Space in the Town's Neighbourhood Plan and probably unlikely to gain planning consent even as Enabling Development.
By agreeing the purchase in principle, dependent upon planning permission being granted for development on the Royal Hotel car park and Hastings Garden, the Town Council, as an official planning consultee, formally disqualifies itself from commenting on that planning application. Similarly, any Ashby Town Councillor serving on the Planning Committee of NWLDC (the deciding body) will also probably be disqualified from being involved in deciding any such application.
This effectively means that the Town will have no formal input into what is likely to be the most important planning application concerning one of the most historically significant areas of our Town for years.
The question of whether the proceeds from this deal together with any profits made from developing on either side of the hotel are used solely for the purpose of refurbishing the Royal Hotel is still very much up in the air. This will be an issue for the new Town Council (post elections) to address but will be constrained by the Town Council’s agreement with Oakland Hotels.
There is also the question of the long term sustainable future of the Royal Hotel, evidence of which has yet to be put forward by the owners.
The FOABG, whilst having no objections in principle to developments on either side of the Royal Hotel will, together with other community groups within our Town, continue our efforts to ensure that any such development is in sympathy with its historic surroundings.
There are many hurdles to cross before this proposed Agreement comes to fruition. Public support and commitment of the Town’s community groups will be crucial in helping the Town Council achieve its aim of acquiring the Bath Grounds for the residents of Ashby”
Documents relating to the new 2018/19 campaign
Previous documents from 2014 campaign