Campaigners lose fight overderelict buildings on Bath's London Road
Community campaigners have lost their battle to turn derelict buildings on Bath's London Road into a new community hub.
A group, which has been bidding to take over a council- owned property at Longacre, has now called on city MP Don Foster – who is also a communities minister – to intervene, saying it does not want to see another housing scheme there.
Bath and North East Somerset Council has already sold the two adjoining properties, which had been leased to a housing firm, to city building company Emery's.
Now the authority has told the Friends of Longacre Hall that it will be selling number 2 – known as Longacre Hall – to a developer as well, although no deal has yet been struck with a buyer.
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A statement from B&NES said: "Having weighed up the risks and potential rewards of the options open to the council, it has decided to enter into negotiation with a local developer for the comprehensive redevelopment of 2-4 Long- acre. The negotiation follows the council's decision to dispose of 3 and 4 Longacre to Emery's of Bath.
"The proposal of disposing of the buildings to a local developer is to achieve a scheme which is sympathetic with the council's regeneration proposals. The new proposal is a mixed use development, including the provision of employment space."
The council said it was looking to enable greater community use of its Riverside Centre on the other side of the A4, and that it was keen to find volunteers to support its work and develop new opportunities.
The Friends group had been heartened by a letter from Mr Foster which suggested that the Community Right to Bid element of last year's Localism Act "was an exciting opportunity" for it.
The Government is keen that community groups should be given the chance to bid to take over public buildings.
Friends co-founder Angela Bell said: "The Community Right to Bid is supposed to prevent the loss of important community buildings.
"Preventing the sale of Longacre Hall to provide yet more upmarket housing – which local people won't be able to afford – is surely just what the Localism Act is intended to achieve."
The group wants to use Longacre Hall – which as a former performance venue was a springboard for the success of the pop group Tears for Fears – to provide offices and studios for small businesses, including those from the creative sector.
The council has set aside £750,000 to regenerate London Road but the group says this is likely to be spent this on "superficial improvements."
Ms Bell added: "We cannot understand how the council can think that regeneration will be helped by selling their most significant social asset rather than working with local people to keep it."