36 & 37 Sydney Buildings, Bathwick
Original proposal 19/06/2020:
36 Sydney Buildings forms part of the Grade II late Georgian stretch of terrace referred to as Sydney Parade, situated within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage site. The terrace’s primary facade is characterised as a series of modest two-storey dwellings, increasing to three storeys facing down the slope over the Kennet and Avon Canal, and a cluster of Grade II late Georgian listed structures including Top Lock Cottage, Top Lock, and the footbridge adjoining Top Lock. The rear boundary wall is a mix of Bath stone ashlar and coursed rubble stone, indicative of the traditional boundary treatment along the canal.
We note that this application proposes changes to the rear boundary walls of both 36 and 37 Sydney Buildings.
BPT is supportive of the principle of enabling residential access from the gardens of 36 and 37 Sydney Buildings to the canal embankment, but, we do have serious concerns regarding the design as proposed:
The proposed double staircase feels overly formal and grand within what is a varied, backland setting, historically occupied by a mix of buildings such as warehouses and the Maltings, together with examples of small-scale modest dwellings with a diverse range of vernacular boundary treatments merging with the semi-rural, green character of the canal.
We do not feel that the proposed design is in keeping with this distinctive character of the canalside, and fear that it will lead to a steady ‘domestication’ and ‘gentrification’ of the Widcombe stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal.
We would encourage a simplified, recessive design which would harmonise with its setting, rather than what is proposed which would be a dominant, standalone feature disconnected from its context. We would like to see something far simpler and more in keeping with the semi-rural character of the canal to the rear of Sydney Buildings. We would also suggest a more minimal approach to the proposed railing design, of which there are many nearby examples, such as the towpath ramp off Bathwick Hill for which listed building approval has recently been granted, and the footbridge adjoining Top Lock.
Whilst we acknowledge that there is historic precedent, we feel the insertion of railings along the top of the boundary wall will now be incongruous without being built up or added to. We feel that the current, unbroken line of the wall top should be maintained. However, should it be concluded that railings are an appropriate option, we would strongly recommend that full-sized details and drawings are provided to the LPA to ensure a suitable standard of design.
Revised proposal 30/07/2020:
36 & 37 Sydney Buildings form part of the Grade II late Georgian stretch of terrace referred to as Sydney Parade, situated within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage site. The terrace’s primary facade is characterised as a series of modest two-storey dwellings, increasing to three storeys facing down the slope over the Kennet and Avon Canal, and a cluster of Grade II late Georgian listed structures including Top Lock Cottage, Top Lock, and the footbridge adjoining Top Lock. The rear boundary wall is a mix of Bath stone ashlar and coursed rubble stone, indicative of the traditional boundary treatment along the canal.
Following consideration of the revised designs submitted 30th July, the Trust is supportive of the design alterations to the proposed embankment access. The proposed minimal, single door access through the boundary wall would be of a suitably modest design and scale in keeping with the rural backland character and appearance visible from the canal footpath, whilst matching other examples of embankment access such as at No. 38 Sydney Buildings.
However, we would note the apparent lack of any associated ironmongery such as handles, locks, and other necessary fittings, and would consequently recommend that any such details are submitted to the LPA as part of the application.
Furthermore, whilst we would commend the positive alterations made to the access’ appearance within the wider historic environment, we maintain some concerns regarding ease of accessibility, and the stability of the proposed works, which would require significant excavations into the rear portion of the garden:
From the revised proposed floor plans, it remains unclear as to whether the stair landing at the bottom of the flight is of an appropriate length to enable practical ease of access to and from the embankment. In accordance with Building Regulations Approved Document K, landings at the top or bottom of a flight should have a “width and length at least as great as the smallest width of the flight”, a measure we feel is especially significant considering the steepness and tight enclosure of the proposed flight. Therefore, we would recommend that the appropriate measurements are submitted to the LPA for assessment against these standards.
We would additionally query how the proposed earthworks would affect the stability and integrity of the neighbouring gardens, particularly at 37 Sydney Buildings which is positioned closest to its internal dividing wall along the south-west boundary. We would suggest that further information is submitted such as a structural survey and intended construction works to indicate any proposed underpinning to the LPA for assessment.