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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Comments on applications under the Gambling Act 2005

TARA has no wish to re-visit arguments for and against the city’s decision to host one of the mini casinos permitted under the 2005 Act. Stage 1 applications for Provisional Statements currently under consideration are concerned largely with the applicants’ background and credentials and their willingness to meet standards and objectives set by the legislation and the Council. We do not feel competent to assess the four competing bids against these criteria and have elected to confine our comments to matters of most concern to our members, namely the possible impact of the mix of uses proposed on the immediate area in the case of the four selected sites and the quality of the schematic building concepts put forward.

The mix of uses suggested by the applicants includes, in addition to the casino, ‘leisure and entertainment,’ hotels and ‘commercial development,’ shops restaurants and bars, retail, a conference/auditorium facility and apartments.

Residents will expect that premises which sell alcohol to the public will be subject to the usual requirements of the Council’s Licensing Policy under the Licensing Act 2003 including the Cumulative Impact Policy.

Some uses such as ‘leisure and entertainment’ and ‘commercial development’ are not defined in sufficient detail to allow comment.

Residents will have no objection to the provision of further shops, hotels and apartments in the city centre if there is a demand for them and there will be support for the much needed auditorium, though whether Bath citizens will wish to see this combined in a single building with a casino as one applicant proposes must be open to question.

The casino should not be sited close to residential neighbourhoods particularly where homes are, or are likely to be, occupied by families with children. This will be particularly important where, as appears to be the intention in some cases, 24 hour a day operations are proposed. Residents must not be disturbed late into the night by smokers, arriving and departing customers and the slamming of car and taxi doors. Sites close to schools, churches and other places of worship should also be avoided. This would seem to preclude the Manvers Street site which, as well as being a part residential area, is close to St John’s Catholic Church and the Bath Islamic Centre at 8 Pierrepont Street. The Cattle Market car park is also close to residential areas including The Tramshed where there are families with small children. On this basis Saw Close, already home to the Theatre Royal and Komedia and where there are relatively few occupied homes, would seem to be the most appropriate location.

So far as the schematic building concepts are concerned, with the exception of the proposal for Saw Close which largely makes use of existing buildings much in need of renovation, none of the schemes submitted would, in our view and on the basis of the limited information available at this early stage, come anywhere close to offering the potential that ought to be required of such a key leisure facility in a city of Bath’s international standing. There is no mention, in any of the submissions, of the city’s aspirations for development in the city centre as a whole, or of the constraints and opportunities provided at each of the three selected sites. All three sites are of major importance to the city’s future development and character and none of the practical or visual issues relating to their development has been addressed.

We recognise, of course, that this is an early stage in the evaluation process and that detailed licensing, let alone planning, submissions have yet to be made. We do not feel, however, that even the limited information available at this stage should pass without comment and trust that the concerns of city centre residents, both as to content and quality, will be fully taken into account as the project proceeds.

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