The future of Bathampton Meadows as a green space and wildlife habitat could be secured in a deal with the National Trust under proposals to be considered by Bath & North East Somerset Council.
The Meadows had previously been the site of the controversial "east of Bath park and ride" proposal by the previous Conservative administration which they eventually dropped after significant opposition from local residents not wanting to see this spectacular piece of nature concreted over.
The Liberal Democrats pledged at the last election that they would transfer ownership of the land to the National Trust to protect it from development and that is exactly what we're set to do.
A report, to be considered in a single member decision by Councillor Richard Samuel, cabinet member for Resources, states that transferring ownership of the 24-hectare site to the National Trust would ensure more of the land is opened-up to the public while being protected in perpetuity for future generations. The report says improvements in land management would also bring environmental benefits.
I am delighted to have signed off the decision by @bathnes to transfer Bathampton Meadows to @nationaltrust . This decision safeguards the land from inappropriate development forever and honours the @CllrDineRomero promise made before the last local elections. @bathnesld https://t.co/PJ547O6HLr— Richard Samuel (@RSamuel4Walcot) February 12, 2021
The deal would form part of the council’s ambitious Bath River Line project which aims to transform the ten kilometre stretch of the river corridor from Newbridge to the west of Bath to Batheaston to the east.
The report before the cabinet member says the transfer of the freehold interest in the meadows would secure social and environmental benefits and also support the council in addressing the climate and ecological emergency.
To secure these community benefits for the future, it is recommended that the transfer contains restrictive covenants limiting and restricting the use of the land to agricultural/grazing uses in perpetuity and that a further restriction be imposed that no buildings or other structures are to be constructed erected on the land, again in perpetuity
Under the proposed Community Asset Transfer the National Trust would pay a peppercorn for the freehold of the land and work to maximise the benefits of the site including:
- working with local communities to increase access
- creating recreation and volunteering opportunities
- developing a range of community programmes and events
- working with partners to create an accessible active travel route
- encouraging walking and cycling
- increasing health and well-being benefits
- improving habitats and biodiversity
The report also identifies as a benefit of the asset transfer the National Trust's statutory power to declare land "inalienable". This means it cannot be voluntarily sold, mortgaged or compulsorily purchased against the charity's wishes without special parliamentary procedure.
The National Trust would also be able to work with neighbouring landowners, such as Avon Wildlife Trust, to develop a joint management plan, supporting the delivery of a Nature Recovery Network.
Councillor Dine Romero (Southdown, Lib Dem), Leader of the Council added:
“Bathampton Meadows is of huge significance to our communities and beyond. Securing its future is crucial to our Bath River Line project. We want to improve the towpath, parks, open spaces and public realm next to the river to benefit our communities and nature and support sustainable transport infrastructure.
"Transferring Bathampton Meadows to the National Trust would help us to meet those objectives while supporting our commitment to tackle the climate and ecological emergency and achieve carbon neutrality in Bath and North East Somerset by 2030.”
Local ward Councillor Sarah Warren commented:
“I am delighted that the dedication of local people to protect the Meadows from the threat of being concreted over for a park and ride has paid off. This beautiful green space, which is so important for both nature and as part of the World Heritage Site setting, will now be protected for future generations.
“Local people put their confidence in us when they elected this Council. We promised before the election that we would ensure that the Meadows were protected, and I am proud that we are fulfilling that promise. I cannot think of a more fitting way of safeguarding this land in perpetuity than by entrusting it to the care of the National Trust.”
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