Plans to convert commercial office space in Bath's Riverside Enterprise Zone to residential use could further undermine the city's business edge, according to property consultants.
An application has been submitted to transform offices at Riverside Court just off Lower Bristol Road into 26 apartments, overlooking the River Avon.
Bruton Knowles Bristol office head of agency , Paul Williams, said if approved, the conversion scheme would further eat into Bath's fast dwindling stocks of commercial space.
He said: "Whatever its merits, this application will remove active office floorspace in an area which has long been recognised as Bath's commercial heartland.
"We have been flagging up this issue for some time now, as businesses are struggling to expand or even being forced to leave the city because of the dwindling stock of commercial space. This can't be good for the future of the business community or the city itself.
"Conversion schemes are fragmenting commercial activities on the Lower Bristol Road and will surely undermine the effectiveness of the wider Riverside Enterprise Zone vision.
"We recognise that the city council has limited powers to restrict or prevent such schemes, following the decision by the Government to make permanent the previously temporary relaxation of planning regulations governing the conversion of offices to residential use.
"However, we believe the pendulum has now swung too far and risks putting the brakes on economic growth as businesses struggle to find suitable premises at affordable rents.
"This effect is particularly noticeable in regional towns and cities such as Bath and Cheltenham, which had a more constrained supply of commercial floorspace to start with."
Bath Preservation Trust has already raised objections to the conversion scheme and urged Bath and North East Somerset Council to ensure any residential development is not then converted to holiday lets or student accommodation.
Mr Williams said: "The Lower Bristol Road has been transformed, with student flats replacing any number of small businesses and artisan workshops, retail units and warehousing.
"Bath simply cannot afford to see yet further encroachment into its last remaining commercial spaces, as developers see the opportunity to take advantage of the relaxed planning regime."