Charity supporting Bath families during Covid crisis urges council to approve new HQ building

November 5, 2020

A Bath charity that has distributed food and clothes to hundreds of families in need in the city during the coronavirus pandemic has called on councillors to back a planning application that would give it a permanent home.

Mercy In Action has been based in the Jubilee Centre – formerly known as the Hollis Building – on Lower Bristol Road since 2015, using it as a base for its four local and international charities. 

However, since the Covid crisis started in March it has received an unprecedented demand for its services in Bath and has had to step up the use of the purpose-built warehouse as a distribution centre for food and other essentials.

At the height of the first lockdown it was supplying up to 125 households a week and over the past few months has helped upwards of 2,500 individuals across the city.

Earlier this year Bath-based property firm Longacre teamed up with Welsh developer and investor Watkin Property Ventures to submit plans to Bath & North East Somerset Council for a £10m mixed-use scheme with commercial space and student housing on the site.

The scheme includes a new building up to five storeys high with ground-floor commercial space of around 6,500 sq ft – part of which would be used by Mercy In Action – with 127-bed student accommodation on the upper floors.

Mercy In Action, which was set in 1995 by Bath husband-and-wife team John and Allison Todd originally to help street kids in the Philippines, says using part of the new building as its headquarters, operations centre and storage space would sustain its vital work, especially in these challenging times.

John Todd said: “Working with Longacre, there is the opportunity for our charity to upgrade our facilities and space, helping to keep us running efficiently and smoothly.

“There is huge demand for the services we provide, helping some of the most vulnerable members of society. We work in a variety of ways and want to be here for future generations, providing support and assistance through difficult times.

“The proposals, if approved, will safeguard our services for many years to come as we work as an ally to the council. helping to ensure local families in the area have access to support should they need it. We want to ensure that no family falls through the cracks.”

A previous planning application for a 136-bed student scheme on the site with no commercial space was submitted to the council three years ago by another developer but later withdrawn. A similar scheme was rejected in 2018.

Under both these proposals Mercy In Action would have been forced to relocate to an alternative site.

Pictured: Mercy in Action founders John and Allison Todd outside the former Hollis Building

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