13 Stall Street, City Centre, Bath
13 Stall Street is an unlisted mid-19th century commercial building situated within the core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It is located on the corner of Stall Street and Abbeygate Street, with its rear elevation on Swallow Street functioning as a service access. It merged into a single commercial unit by the late 19th century, appearing as a series of earlier self-contained units from the mid-19th century, but identified as a single “drapery” in the Goad Insurance Plans. The shopfront appears to be 20th century and therefore of limited historic or aesthetic interest. However, the building occupies a prominent frontage along the key shopping connection between Bath’s historic centre and the contemporary Southgate district, as well as acting as a significant pedestrian thoroughfare from Bath Spa train station and the bus station. The corner aspect of the building means it also forms part of the contextual streetscape approach into historically significant areas such as Abbey Green, York Street, and Kingston Parade.
Due to the building’s location within the commercial centre of the Bath conservation area and the expansive scale of the existing frontage at a width of 6 bays, shop frontage proposals are expected to comply with relevant guidance regarding the appropriate use of materials, colours, and a lack of illuminated signage, in keeping with the wider historic character of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site.
BPT is opposed to the use of acrylic signage in the conservation area. This type of signage tends to be overly chunky and heavy in appearance, and is of a distinct material contrast with the traditional material usage in this area. In the interest of visual amenity, we strongly recommend an alternative, more appropriate form of signage is considered – the use of hand-painted lettering, or quality metal lettering in an appropriate finish would be a quality harmonious with the heritage character of Bath’s historic shopping streets.
We similarly oppose the installation of an aluminium “box fascia” as a materially inappropriate intervention within the streetscape. It is unclear as to whether the proposed fascia would be of an increased thickness or project out from the building frontage without the provision of relevant sections, but we maintain that the use of overly thick or chunky signage would be a harmful addition to the conservation area. It is unclear as to why the existing fascia could not be retained and repainted as an established, close-fitting feature of the existing shopfront. We maintain that the proposed replacement fascia in its current design would not be considered acceptable and should be omitted.
We have ongoing concerns regarding the proposed use of full-window vinyls. In principle, we maintain that vinyls should not be oversized or deaden a shopfront. We discourage the use of overly busy or over-dominant vinyls where this would detract from the wider character and appearance of the conservation area. Whilst we recognise the scale of the building frontage may be a challenge, we emphasise the need to minimise the scale of signage and consider a simpler, visually recessive vinyl design which would remain secondary to the fascia signage.
The use of an external vinyl is intended to fully block the southern window and is not considered appropriate in its proposed size, design, or finish.
We are disappointed by the apparent use of a generic and standardised shopfront treatment where something more bespoke to the special qualities of the Bath city centre would be strongly encouraged. We note that there are other examples of simpler Tesco signage (see Westgate Buildings and Bathwick Hill) with the use of less visually intrusive signage, subdued colours, and traditional materials (such as a timber fascia at Bathwick Hill). It is therefore unclear as to why the proposed signage approach is considered acceptable within the commercial city centre where Bath has an established shopfront character and palette of appropriate materials, colours, and finishes. Signage is expected to appropriately reflect and reinforce local character.
Harm to the visual amenity value of conservation area has not been demonstrably justified or outweighed by public benefit.
This proposal is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, B4, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D8, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and the application should be withdrawn or refused.