56 St James’s Park, Lansdown, Bath
The proposed site of development is on the corner of St James’s Park and the northern end of Northampton Street, situated within the Bath City-Wide Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. It makes up part of the immediate contextual setting of the listed Grade II early 19th century terraced houses on Northampton Street; the site was originally the location of no. 21 before it was severely damaged by bomb damage and subsequently demolished.
Northampton Street is characterised as a series of largely homogenous 3 storey dwellings in Bath stone ashlar that regularly step down the north-south slope to connect with Julian Road, typical of the north-south orientation of street layout and plan form in this area north of the city centre. The terrace was formerly of a more modest scale at 2 storeys in height, but was consistently altered to add an additional floor at roof level, with the exceptions of nos. 14-15; the original building height is marked by the retention of the parapet cornice, now the second-floor cornice.
In contrast, the streetscape of St James’s Park (formerly Portland Road) is made up of a mix of mid-20th century and post-war terraces and semi-detached dwellings. Whilst a number of buildings are set back and up from the road and are therefore of an increased perceived height and presence, the established building height is 2 – 2 ½ storeys. The terrace backing onto Northampton Street utilises a flat-roofed form uncharacteristic of its built context and historic environment. The existing dwelling on the site is similarly attributable to the late 20th century and is a detached two storey flat-roofed dwelling in reconstituted Bath stone, and is considered to be of detriment to the established character and setting of the conservation area. In southern views of Northampton Street, the set-back position of the existing terrace means that it is suitably recessed back from the principal terrace façade to be near-invisible in longer range views, although this is not the case in close-range views from St James’s Park and the northernmost end of Northampton Street.
BPT is supportive of residential redevelopment on brownfield sites within the City, where development can be demonstrated to sensitively relate to context, draw upon and reinforce local distinctiveness and protects and enhances the sensitive setting of multiple heritage assets. The proposed demolition of the existing late 20th century dwelling is considered to be an opportunity to re-design this dual frontage corner site and enhance its contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area.
We note that there is a precedent for development on this site which relates to both Northampton Street and St James’s Park. Historical map progressions indicate that no. 21 was altered in the late 19th century to incorporate an entrance off St James’s Park, at the same time as the adjoining property at Northampton Buildings which became Bedford Villa. The 1879-1888 Town Plans appear to show what could be a new entrance porch and some type of awning/canopy across the north elevation.
In our assessment of this proposal we have some heritage concerns regarding the design approach for the townscape character of the area and contextual relationship with Northampton Street. in particular the treatment for the proposed continuation of the Northampton Street terraced façade.
The D&A Statement indicates plans for the “careful re-instatement of No.21”; whilst both nos. 21 & 56 would be largely in keeping with the wider terrace through their continuation of the stepped north-south line, use of natural Bath stone, and replication of window/door openings, we have concerns regarding the proposed roof treatment. The roofs across both properties would be of an increased height visible over the top of the parapet, contrary to the established historic roofscape in which double-pitch roofs have been deliberately recessed below the parapet line and concealed from view. The addition of a visible roof to what is otherwise a traditional-style building would result in a clear difference in size and scale with the adjoining terrace, the impact of which would be exacerbated by the addition of large, contemporary dormers to the front-facing roof slopes.
The use of a zinc standing seam roof would be in bold visual contrast in terms of patina, colour and texture, with the traditional slate palette of the area, and there is a lack of justification for its selection or likely success within this location. The use of a natural slate finish to better reinforce and reflect the homogenous material treatment and finish of the streetscape is strongly encouraged.
The overall impression is of a building that is neither a replication of the traditional architectural characteristics of the Grade II terrace, nor a contemporary interpretation of the site’s built context. If approved, development would instead result in a compromise, largely driven by the design divide between the roofscape and composition of the façade, even with contemporary details such as the use of a simplified cornice line/stringcourse and proposed use of metal framed sash windows rather than timber. We would therefore encourage a more definitive design with a stronger reference to its setting and historic context.
We further note that no. 56 also embodies an uneven balance between continuing the line of the Northampton Street terrace and responding to the height and grain of the later development along St James’s Park. A drop in height whilst remaining flush with the terrace façade would be discordant with the established stepped rhythm and relationship of the Grade II terrace as it moves north-south up Northampton Street. ‘Re-establishing’ the frontage of a terraced building which was never actually there does not provide sufficient justification for this approach.
There are existing examples of later alterations to the terrace to reorient the end-of-terrace dwelling onto St James’s Park. What was no. 22 later became Portland Villa by the 1880s, with the addition of a two-storey gable end across the northern side elevation. The original west elevation, whilst altered to include the removal of its arched front door opening, was retained as part of the continuous terrace, with the later gabled addition set back so as to be concealed in wider sweeping views of the terrace. In this way, the original composition of the terrace in form and layout has been sustained whilst sensitively integrating a later Victorian extension. We question whether no. 56 might be more suitably integrated into the terrace by setting the eastern mass of the building back from the terrace façade (or even swapping it with the lower ground floor yard?) to retain the historic extent of the terrace’s shared frontage whilst better establishing no. 56 as its ‘own’ building.
We have further concerns regarding the insufficient provision of outdoor amenity space. Considering that development is proposed to be 2x 3-bed dwellings which would likely be occupied as a family home, the provision of constricted amenity space in the form of piecemeal balconies, terraces, and a garden/yard at lower ground floor level which would be significantly overshadowed by surrounding buildings, would be completely inadequate. Policy D6 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan specifies that “development must provide for appropriate levels of amenity”, including “provision of adequate and usable private or communal amenity space and defensible space.” Whilst we acknowledge that the original garden plot of no. 21 has since been developed into the adjacent terraces, housing in this area generally includes a decent sized private garden (see the long rear strip plots at Northampton Buildings/Portland Place, as well as the provision of large front and rear gardens along St James’s Park). The complete absence of garden space at 40-55 St James’s Park is felt to be a detrimental feature of this area of housing, and therefore not an appropriate precedent for replication. We do not consider that references to the London Housing Design SPD are appropriate or relevant given Bath’s generally greener and lower density qualities which should be respected and reflected by new development.