Bath Rugby’s temporary stands can remain in place for another three years while it draws up plans for a permanent stadium.
The Premiership club cited the pandemic and legal issues for the delay and reaffirmed its commitment to redevelop the stadium as soon as possible.
Opponents to the extension said the “shantytown” stands had been in place so long they were now permanent.
The club had requested another four years but was given until May 2025.
Rosie Carne, who lives near the Recreation Ground, told Bath and North East Somerset Council planning committee members on 9 March: “Twenty years of prevarications and renewals of temporary applications for this shantytown and now they want four more years.
“Stop being deceived by the use of the word temporary, which avoids scrutiny of heritage and conservation bodies.”
‘Enough is enough’
There have been numerous applications for the temporary stands at the stadium.
The club has been trying for years to redevelop the stadium, which is inside Bath’s World Heritage Site, but has met opposition.
The current capacity is 14,509 but the club wants to build a stadium with 18,000 seats.
Best practice in national legislation says temporary permissions “should not be extended in a way that, by default, makes them appear permanent”, and should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Objector Martin Farrell told the meeting: “The problem is the symbiotic relationship between the planners and Bath Rugby, approving everything Bath Rugby wants, and because successive administrations have been too reluctant to tell Bath Rugby enough is enough.
“The planners are supposed to protect Bath, not spoil it.”
Tim Burden, Bath Rugby’s planning consultant, said: “Bath Rugby’s resolve to progress with the Stadium for Bath project remains unchanged.
“Unfortunately, the delays caused over the past two years and various legal processes have meant it’s had to be paused.
“It remains entirely appropriate for a further temporary period to be facilitated to allow for a permanent solution for the future of the recreation ground to be resolved.”
Committee members said the pandemic was an exceptional circumstance but suggested an extension of just two years.
Planning officer Chris Griggs-Trevarthan argued that four years was a reasonable timescale as it could take 12 months to submit and determine plans for the stadium and then three years to build it.
Councillor Rob Appleyard’s proposal to award the four-year extension so the club did not “rush into a makeshift solution” failed.
Instead, the committee unanimously voted to grant a three-year extension.
Welcoming the decision Bath Rugby said: “We reaffirm our commitment to bringing forward our plans for a permanent Stadium for Bath as soon as possible.”
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