32 – 33 Victoria Buildings, Westmoreland, Bath
The Trust objected to the previous iteration of this application, registered under a different address, and we would request that the property history for this site includes the previous withdrawn application so that a proper record of application history is noted. We also understand that heritage assessment has not been amended in light of the additional information discovered by BHW.
Despite the design changes which go some way to a more contextually comfortable scheme, there is little to change our opinion that this scheme is harmful to the listed pub and adjacent heritage assets at Park View. Though we are not viability experts, we continue to be sceptical of the justification given by the applicant that the addition of TEN studio apartments is needed to essentially keep this well-placed pub as financially viable and to provide a community room. In our view this is overdevelopment on a significant scale, without regard for the setting of heritage assets and also harmful to the special historic and communal interest of the public house; which has been in operation for well over 100 years. The loss of both the amenity of the garden and the skittle alley, both of which contribute to the pub offering, should be weighed against the benefits of the development itself, of which we can see little besides developer financial gain, especially in that it does look likely that these units will either be holiday lets or student studios, given the compromised open living space. The community room could be achieved without this level of development occurring on the site, in fact the skittle alley itself is an ideal candidate for this space.
We refute the claim that the overdevelopment in terms of height and massing can be justified due to the nature of the nearby BWR townscape. The immediate area of this scheme is the most important element to focus on, namely Victoria Buildings and Park View. The proposed scheme, regardless of its nominal separation to the primary listed building, is too high and of a massing that dominates the surrounding heritage assets, it is not subservient in any way but instead is an oppressive and discordant element that sits high and wide on the site, piggy backing a heritage asset, obliterating any sense of the historic group (pub, skittle alley, beer garden) and further reducing the ability of the pub to offer space and outside amenity in an already built up area. A high level of harm is also caused to the setting, views and outlook of Park View and we are very concerned by this. The use of a dockside design idiom is also out of place. In our view, the character of the emerging urban townscape in this area provides much justification for NOT developing this pub site, as to retain the openness, human scale and sense of place of this historic site ensures that a welcome breathing space remains in a heavily developed urban landscape.
We are not in principle opposed to some form of residential development on this site, but in our view it should be much reduced in scale, height and amount, it should seek to retain and respect the special historic and communal interest of the historic skittle alley and the setting of both the pub and Park View; ideally a more spacious pub garden should be retained to ensure the pub can service the needs of its clients.
In short, we see little in this revised application which overcomes our previous concerns regarding the overdevelopment of this historic site and the apparent lack of reference or respect for the setting of heritage assets. Arguably the scale of harm to the setting of Park View and the historic skittle alley could be substantial. The proposed scheme by virtue of its design, height and massing would be harmful to designated heritage assets and their setting, would neither preserve nor enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area, would be detrimental to the visual amenity of the street scene and would detract from the special qualities of the WHS. The scheme would be contrary to Section 12 (Conserving and Enhancing the Historic Environment) of the NPPF, policies B1, B4, and CP6 of the B&NES Core Strategy and policies CP6, D.1, D.2, D.5, D.7, HE1 of the Placemaking Plan. We would therefore recommend the application be withdrawn or refused.