16 – 17 Walcot Buildings, Walcot, Bath
16-17 Walcot Buildings form part of a Grade II section of late 18th century terraced houses, a large number of which now have a commercial ground floor, situated along London Road, within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It forms part of the London Road Local Centre (Policy CP12). Previously of solely residential function, both dwellings developed a commercial function in the 1830s, with the extant shopfronts possibly dating to as early as the mid-19th century, although 17 Walcot Buildings’ shopfront is more likely attributed to its occupation by the National Provincial Bank around 1926. 16-17 Walcot Buildings consequently contribute to the social and evidential significance of the terrace’s commercial history, and retain a strong aesthetic, and until recently functional, relationship with their context. The streetscape is noted for its local shops and “specialist retail” offering as part of the main thoroughfare into the city centre, and offers a significant first impression to visitors coming into Bath’s 18th century core (Bath City Wide Character Appraisal, 2005). Whilst the street-facing principal elevations are of high significance, the rear elevations retain notable evidential value as to the historic commercial function of both buildings with retained public visibility from Bedford Street.
BPT is supportive of sensitive sustainability retrofits, where deemed appropriate, within the historic environment. The proposed installation of PV panels on the inner roof slope would have a negligible visual impact on a listed building. However, we recommend that the design and finish proposed are compliant with Policy SCR2 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and we continue to recommend a monochrome, matt finish.
We welcome the intention to create “display areas” on the ground floor to ensure a continued active window frontage as part of the shopfront character of a group of listed buildings. We acknowledge there is an established precedent for this type of shop frontage treatment along London Road.
However, we are disappointed that this scheme misses the opportunity to maintain and enhance an active commercial ground floor use within London Road’s local centre and would constitute part of the gradual erosion of the streetscape’s distinctive retail function and character. Examples of mixed-use residential and retail have previously been permitted at 2, 5, 7a-9, and 13 Walcot Buildings and may inform a more appropriate integration of residential change of use into the existing pattern and character of the centre in accordance with Policy CP12 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
We have some concerns regarding the proposed extent of the loss of 19th century fabric, particularly to the rear of 16 Walcot Buildings where approximately half of the mid-19th century bakehouse would be lost which is still identified as of “moderate significance” within the D&A/Heritage Statement. Whilst we acknowledge the need for the provision of external amenity space for the long-term/family occupation of 16-17 Walcot Buildings, the proposals would result in the loss of a significant portion of later historic fabric and plan form. We maintain that great weight should be given to the asset’s conservation, and any harm should be appropriately justified or outweighed by the public benefits of the scheme, and strongly recommend that as much of the historic structure is retained as possible to sustain part of the special historic interest of a listed building. We continue to encourage the documentation of the bakehouse outbuilding ahead of any proposed works as a record of the structure’s important evidential contribution to 16 Walcot Building’s early commercial function.
We query the perceived ‘formalisation’ of the building rear with the addition of a zinc trellised covered veranda and store more indicative of the design of Bath’s grander Georgian facades. We suggest a more modest or lightweight treatment may sit more comfortably within the utilitarian historic and architectural context of the terrace rear and the comparatively simple articulation of the rear extensions.
We strongly recommend that any proposed works to the existing shopfronts are clarified at this stage to ensure a fully informed assessment of the potential impact to the principal frontage of multiple listed buildings.
We maintain that a consented change of use should attach a condition to ensure that the proposed residential use of the ground and lower ground floors is not for short term holiday lets, but rather for local residents.