Bath and North East Somerset Council are currently consulting on adjustments to the Local Plan, the blueprint for the future shape of the district. It sets out broad parameters for things like the number of houses and where they should be built.
It’s never a straightforward process because there are many conflicting opinions. But this time around it’s much more complex as businesses start to think about their long-term futures.
For example, those of our members whose staff are currently working from home are actively considering what the normal ratio of office to home working should be in the future. Their decisions will have huge ramifications for how the centre of Bath will look.
I have regularly joined the chorus calling for an increase in the supply of modern office space in the centre of Bath. That was based on what employers had traditionally been saying. That was why the development and delivery of the Bath Quays sites was so welcome. However, we may need to re-think those assumptions if the norm becomes two or three days in the office instead of five.
Up to now the rough rule of thumb was that you needed 100 square feet for every employee. So, a business employing 100 people needed an office building with 10,000 square feet of space. In the future, if no more than 60 of those employees are in the office on any given day, the business could manage with only 6,000 square feet. If that becomes the new norm then demand for office space will change substantially.
And there’s another knock on. If people are more regularly working from home, they won’t be able to manage with a laptop on the kitchen table. They will want a specific work space so there will be pressure on house builders to provide it.
So we could soon see a potentially very significant change in demand for business space and increasing pressure to re-design houses. Who’d be a local authority planner!