4 North Parade, City Centre
4 & 5 North Parade are two individually-listed Grade II* mid-18th century terraced townhouses designed by John Wood the Elder, situated in the city core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. They present a dual, uniform façade in Bath stone ashlar with retained Georgian-style six-over-six single glazed sash windows. Both buildings currently operate as offices, but retain a minimal, unobtrusive approach to commercial advertisement on the ground floor. It forms part of the wider terrace with the Grade II* mid-18th century premises of the Abbey Hotel, also attributed to John Wood the Elder. 4 & 5 North Parade forms the wider townscape setting of a high concentration of Grade II terraced buildings, and immediately overlooks the Grade II Parade Gardens to the north-east.
We have some concerns regarding the potential loss of office space within the city centre. In accordance with Policy ED1C of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan: “The change of use or redevelopment of office space to other town centre uses will not normally be permitted, unless the space is of particularly poor quality in relation to the total stock of the city, or, if this is not common ground between the applicant and LPA, the space has been marketed for 12 months, on reasonable terms, at a time when the UK economy is growing and no serious occupier interest has been forthcoming”. We note that there does not appear to be any indication that either property has been marketed and the Marketing Advice Report notes that the building is still in office use (although the occupiers are looking to move to a new premises) and may therefore still be of interest to local businesses. We feel that further material evidence of the buildings’ inadequacy as office premises should be provided to justify the loss of further office space from the city centre.
The lower ground floor has been the subject of inappropriate repair works, such as the application of gypsum plaster. The existing basement floor plan proposes that works to all rooms at basement level include the removal of lime plaster and re-rendering with Snowcrete “which is a white cement hydrated lime product.” We maintain that the use of a cement-based rendering product is inappropriate on a listed building. These impermeable materials impede the natural properties of permeable traditional building fabric and do not allow for moisture movement; thus, moisture is displaced or trapped and frequently this can lead to problems elsewhere. In addition, these approaches have a short life span and are known to fail over the passage of time, but can result in irreversible damage to historic fabric when removed. Whilst we acknowledge the challenges of controlling damp levels in historic basements, we strongly suggest that a more sympathetic and reversible material treatment is considered.
The vaults have additionally been poorly treated with applications of waterproofing render and are suffering deterioration as a result. The D&A Statement indicates that the vaults are proposed to be used as an “ancillary gym and spa area”, although this is not indicated on the proposed floor plans and associated works to convert the vaults are not appropriately detailed. Document HBA 293 VAULT INVESTIGATION does not appear to have been uploaded to the planning portal. The Trust is resistant in principle to the conversion of historic basements, cellars, and vaults to provide residential or domestic spaces. These areas, due to expected levels of damp and poor air quality, are not considered suitable for domestic usage, and should have an ancillary function only as a store room or utility space that requires minimal interventions into the historic fabric. In particular, the use of one of the vaults as a “spa area” would have a notable impact on the humidity and temperature of this space, and a significant unbalance of the vault’s existing atmosphere could result in increased future damp or condensation issues that would require more intrusive damp proofing measures. We therefore strongly recommend that further details regarding proposed works to the vault interior for their use are provided. Strong justification is required for the conversion of the vaults to a residential function.
No reference is made within the application as to the potential need for new signage for the advertisement of the commercial premises. Any new signage would need to be sensitively integrated to prevent cluttering the principal elevation; we anticipate that any signage proposals would be submitted as a separate listed building application.
We are supportive of the intention for low-impact retrofitting measures such as the proposed installation of secondary glazing in all windows across the property, in light of the declared Climate Emergency. Secondary glazing is a reversible and less invasive measure which would have a low impact on the special architectural or historic interest of the listed buildings; the use of secondary glazing across the whole building would ensure a consistency in window appearance and treatment. However, we note that no sections or further design details have been submitted regarding the proposed secondary glazing. We therefore strongly encourage the case officer to request further details to ensure the proposed glazing is appropriately recessive in its appearance and any glazing bars are suitably concealed from external views.