COTSWOLDS CONSERVATION BOARD URGES CAUTION AS BATH UNIVERSITY MOVES CLOSER TO DEVELOPING SITE WITHIN AONB

The Cotswolds Conservation Board has expressed its disappointment at a decision which could open the door for an expansion of Bath University into the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, (AONB).

The University is seeking the allocation of land within the AONB for its future expansion, in the Bath and North East Somerset Local Plan.

The Local Plan Inspector has failed to recommend that the AONB be safeguarded from any further expansion of the University and the Cotswolds Conservation Board is concerned that this will has a negative long-term impact on the Cotswolds landscape and on the quality of life for people living in and around Bath.

Nick Dummett Vice Chairman of the Board's planning sub-committee said:

" The Board is very concerned about the precedent that is being set. The land remains a part of the AONB and it is a dangerous principle that one can distinguish between better and worse parts of this protected area. We do not think that the University's laudable aim of expanding, is of such national importance that it meets the criteria for allowing development within the AONB. "

The Inspector's recommendation could now mean that large-scale development will encroach into the AONB, a move which would be against the advice of the government's own landscape advisors, the Countryside Agency.

The Board is also concerned about the resulting implications for the 39 other AONBs within England and Wales, where there are other universities which may want to expand in the future.

At the local plan inquiry in 2005, the Cotswolds Conservation Board objected to the allocation of land for the University's expansion within the Bath and North East Somerset Revised Deposit Draft Local Plan. The objection was made on the basis that the encroachment into the AONB was unjustified and would lead to further inappropriate development in the future.

The Board welcomes the Inspector's view that the new proposed green belt line should provide a 'permanent' definition between the built environment and open countryside and the Inspector's recommendations that Bath University does more to redevelop within the existing campus.

The Board notes that the Inspector does state, that any development should be appropriately landscaped and designed to prevent piecemeal erosion of the AONB. The Board will want to ensure that any development proposals that come forward fully respect the importance of the surrounding landscape.

Ends

Notes to editors:

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is cared for by the Cotswolds Conservation Board - an independent organisation with 40 members, 17 nominated by local authorities, eight by parish councils and 15 appointed by Government.

The Cotswolds Conservation Board acts as an advisor to planning departments of the17 local authorities within the AONB.

The Government has designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks as our finest countryside and they are recognised as being of national importance.

With its rolling hills and valleys the Cotswolds is the largest of 40 AONBs in England and Wales and is protected to ensure that its beauty and special character are conserved. It covers 2,038 square kilometres (790 square miles), stretching from Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north, through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, down to Bath and Wiltshire in the south.

Contact: Malcolm Watt or Claire Cunningham. Tel: 01451 862000

Cotswolds Conservation Board The Old Police Station Cotswold Heritage Centre Northleach Gloucestershire GL54 3JH

Tel: 01451 862000 Website: www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk