Prince of Wales Concerned about Bath’s World Heritage Status

The Prince of Wales, BPT’s Patron, has drawn local and national attention to the impact of tall buildings on sensitive historic sites. At an address to his Foundation for the Built Environment he said: “Corporate and residential towers are being proposed across London, and overshadowing world heritage sites from Edinburgh to Bath. For some unaccountable reason we seem to be determined to vandalise these few remaining sites which retain the kind of human scale and timeless character that so attract people to them and which increase in value as time goes by.”

Bath Preservation Trust Chief Executive, Caroline Kay has said: “Prince Charles is right to draw attention to the plight of World Heritage Sites at risk from inappropriate high buildings, and to Bath’s situation in particular. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has refused to call in a planning application which imposes buildings up to nine storeys at the heart of the city of Bath, the UK’s only entire World Heritage City. Her grounds for the decision were in part that it was a matter of merely local importance which had not caused ‘sufficient controversy’ – presumably sufficient to embarrass national politicians.

“There is no explicit statutory protection for World Heritage sites in UK law, and while we hope that the proposed draft Bill for Heritage Protection will remedy this, Bath is currently still at the mercy of developers driven by commercial interests, a local authority which has not even produced detailed planning guidance on tall buildings and a London-centric media. The destruction of large parts of Georgian Bath in the 60s and 70s became a national scandal. We regret that the imposition of nine storey residential blocks in its heart is not seen to be one today.”

The approved outline planning application for Western Riverside has agreed the indicative heights of riverside blocks at nine storeys. This is still contrary to the Council’s adopted Supplementary Planning Guidance for the site and revised planning guidance is not expected to be formally adopted until March 2008. Whilst the Trust has claimed victory in achieving the reduction in height to six storeys in the approved detailed application, further applications for taller riverside blocks are expected to come forward. The Trust will remain vigilant and will welcome early involvement in the development of proposals.

The Trust is aware that the Prince of Wales has been keeping a close eye on developments in Bath and whilst he will not comment on particular applications his Office has told us that he is concerned about the impact of the development of Western Riverside on the outstanding universal values of the World Heritage City.

We are calling for the Local Planning Authority to work in consultation with the Trust in the development of additional supplementary planning guidance on tall buildings, which will aim to protect the special qualities of the city, including key views and landscape setting.

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