Aerial view of Bath, England

In the City of Bath World Heritage Site new taller than average buildings require sensitive care in their siting, setting, context, design and cumulative impact.

Excellence in the design of any new tall buildings in Bath must be low carbon and exceptional and engage the public in a positive way. Building heights should seek to strike an appropriate balance between maximising housing delivery and safeguarding heritage landscapes.

Tall buildings in Bath are the exception not the norm. The uniform height of buildings across the Avon River valley emphasises the way in which the Georgian City punctuated by occasional church spires and towers, hugs the contours of the hills and attaches the built environment to its landscape.

Bath’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) as a World Heritage Site is partly characterised by this visual homogeneity. The height, position, and form of Bath’s historic crescents and terraces was carefully designed to reveal dramatic views.

BPT maintains that the building heights of new development should be informed by the site’s immediate neighbourhood, and respect important views and vistas as well as the hillside setting, landscape views, and open space.


Western Riverside

Gasworks Open Letter

Principles for Building Heights

  1. The heights of new development (buildings and extensions) should respect the shoulder height and scale of the prevailing form of historic buildings within the immediate neighbourhood.
  2. The siting and height of new development should protect and enhance, and not obstruct significant townscape features, views and vistas, lines of sight, open space, the hill side setting, and the surrounding landscape.
  3. In transitional areas there should be stepping in height so that new development relates to the scale of the surrounding neighbourhood – sudden dramatic changes in scale or height should be avoided
  4. The use of modifiers (in the Building Heights Strategy) must be justified in relation to heritage assets and the primary objective should preserve or enhance, or to provide public benefit. Their discretionary use would need to be justified in planning terms to the Local Planning Authority.
  5. Design values and polices for development sites identified in the Local Plan should identify appropriate heights that protect significance views and settings.
  6. Proposed building heights should be informed by the B&NES Building Heights Strategy. While Strategy is not a statutory planning document, it remains an accepted material consideration as part of the planning balance, and remains an integral framework for assessing the height of new development in relation to sustaining the OUV of the World Heritage Site. We remain concerned that Building Heights Strategy is not robust enough, given that it does not have SPD status.

Further Resources

  • The World Heritage Site Management Plan 2016-2022 provides an overview of Bath’s OUV, and associated risks to the special interest of the World Heritage Site.
  • B&NES Council’s City of Bath World Heritage Site Setting SPD identifies key views across the World Heritage Site and its setting.
  • ICOMOS attended a site visit to Bath in 2009 – you can see their report and recommendations made in reference to the building height, density, and volume of the Western Riverside development site here.
  • BPT has issued an open letter expressing ongoing concerns with the increased height of development at Western Riverside, and ongoing cumulative harm to Bath’s World Heritage Site status. Read the open letter here. Find out more about the Western Riverside development here.
  • Historic England has released useful guidance on Tall Buildings within the historic environment.