28 St James’s Square, Lansdown, Bath
28 St James’s Square forms part of a Grade I 1790-1793 terrace of townhouses, situated within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It forms the indicative townscape setting of a high concentration of Grade II late 18th century townhouses on Park Street, Great Bedford Street, Marlborough Street, and St James’s Street. It possesses strong group value as part of the Grade I St James’s Square by John Palmer, modelled off the earlier Grade I Queen Square by John Wood the Elder, and demonstrates the application of Picturesque principles due to the inward-facing focus of the principal terrace façade around a central green. As a result, St James’s Square significantly contributes towards the Georgian Architecture & Town Planning OUV of the World Heritage Site as part of a “monumental ensemble[s]” of interconnecting, grandly articulated terraces in an area of high significance late 18th century townhouses to the north of the city centre, including the Grade I Royal Crescent, Grade I The Circus, and Grade I Queen Square. The rear elevation of the terrace forms a visible streetscape backdrop to Northampton Buildings to the east, in which can be seen a diversity of later material and architectural alterations and additions. Whilst the upper floors and roofscape of 28 St James’s Square are therefore of distinct public visibility, the lower floors remain obscured by planting and rubble stone boundary walling.
The Heritage Statement indicates that the two rear outshot extensions, the main focus of external alterations as part of this application, are likely later 19th century additions and were used as sanitary ‘stacks’ as part of the Victorian occupation of the property. The southern outshot across the ground and lower ground floors is slightly earlier in age (1850s) and it is suggested that the ground floor window is an original Georgian sash relocated during the 19th century extension works. This outshot is noted as being in poor structural condition and as such is having an adverse impact on the structural integrity of the original late 18th century building envelope.
BPT was invited to comment on these proposals at pre-application stage, with consideration of two options regarding the treatment of the rear elevation and the window opening at ground floor level. We expressed a preference for the removal of the outshot and the realignment of the ground floor window to sit in line with the central upper floor windows, as is now proposed in this application.
We therefore maintain our pre-application comments as follows:
28 St James’s Square’s significance as a Grade I building is predominantly attributed to its special historic and architectural significance as an intact late 18th century townhouse and group value as part of a monumental Georgian terrace. Great weight should therefore be placed on the retention and conservation of late 18th century historic fabric and detailing, and the traditional appearance and articulation of the building as part of the wider terrace, particularly across the formally designed principal façade. Within this context, the southern outshot proposed for demolition is concluded to be a later addition of consequently reduced historic or architectural significance and is identified as likely having altered the original form and articulation of the 18th century core building. As such, demolition is considered to result in less than substantial harm to a listed building.
Considering the later age and relative lack of architectural merit of both functional outshots, BPT is therefore not opposed to the removal of the southern outshot where this is adequately justified. We consider the removal of the outshot would be necessary due to the severity of its structural issues, and any harm caused to the building’s significance through its removal would be offset by the long-term benefits of the stabilisation and repair of historic fabric. We feel great weight should be attributed to heritage gains to the late 18th century core of the building, including stabilisation of the rear elevation, improved damp management in the rear lightwell, and general stonework repairs and maintenance.
Furthermore, the proposed replacement of the two non-historic ground floor sash windows with a single, centralised sash window would better align with the established fenestration layout and profile of the upper floors and the building’s original 18th century design. Whilst we acknowledge that option two would require a larger opening in the wall and therefore an increased loss of historic stonework, the proposed window realignment would result in a more visually cohesive and harmonious appearance across the rear elevation with resulting benefit to the identified special architectural interest of a listed building. The historic stonework would be used to reconstruct the new window opening and would therefore be retained within the elevation.
The retention of the more substantial northern outshot would limit the associated loss of any evidential or social significance.
Paragraph 202 of the NPPF states that “Where a development proposal will lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal including, where appropriate, securing its optimum viable use.” We consider that the removal of the rear outshot would reduce pressure on 18th century fabric and mitigate further future damage, and would therefore ensure the building remains in a viable condition for continued residential use.
We acknowledge similar works were carried out next door at 27 St James’s Square (see 04/01758/LBA) with the removal of the ground floor level of the southern outshot and the resetting of the ground floor window. We therefore consider this an acceptable precedent for the works proposed.
We suggest that further details and stone samples may be required regarding the making good of the rear wall as part of any forthcoming application.
We note the potential for general thermal enhancements and carbon reduction measures as part of proposals. Considering the low public visibility of the lower floors of the rear elevation and the non-historic origin of the existing 20th century sash windows proposed for replacement, there is an opportunity to use slimlite double glazing for thermal and acoustic enhancement, with limited impact on the appearance or character of a listed building.