7 Northumberland Buildings, Wood Street, City Centre
7 Northumberland Buildings forms the end of a Grade II* late 18th century terrace of townhouses, now predominantly offices with some commercial additions to the external ground floor façade such as hanging signs, situated within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It has a strong architectural presence along both Wood Street and Barton Street, and retains its incised and painted street signs for both Northumberland Buildings and Barton Street in good condition, a distinctive aspect of Bath’s Georgian street character. It sits opposite 1A-6 Wood Street, a Grade I early to mid-18th century terrace as built by John Wood the Elder to complement the Palladian design of the Grade I Queen Square. Consequently, 7 Northumberland Buildings provides an interesting architectural and evidential contrast with an earlier, critical example of Georgian town planning, whilst later Victorian alterations have established a strong, traditional shop frontage and elevational treatment within the streetscape.
BPT is disappointed in the retrospective nature of this application. We do not condone the beginning of works without the appropriate listed building consent.
Whilst we appreciate the existing examples of mounted signage along Northumberland Buildings, we highlight 7 Northumberland Building’s particular aesthetic and architectural significance as the end of the terrace with a consequent dual frontage, and the resulting need for a sensitive, minimal treatment that would preserve and enhance the appearance of a listed building. The excessive mounting of external signage would be of direct detriment to the aesthetic and material integrity of the façade of a Grade II* listed building, and would result in irreversible harm to the stonework through the drilling of holes. Whilst the Heritage Statement highlights the previous use of individually-mounted letters, this has caused irreversible damage to the original stonework. There is no indication that the existing holes would be reused for the new proposed signage.
“Polished stainless-steel letters” are inappropriate for use in a traditional context because of their high shine, and we strongly recommend a matt alternative, such as brushed stainless-steel, is considered instead for a more appropriately recessive and harmonious finish.
With regards to the retrospective signage proposed to the Barton Street elevation, we regret this has already resulted in irreversible harm to the appearance of a listed building, and the wider street character of the conservation area. Its mounted position closely conflicts with the Barton Street incised street sign; moreover, it appears to sit directly on top of an eroded, potentially older incised version of the street sign, further exacerbating damage to, and concealing, a feature of particular historic and evidential interest. There has been no consideration of either of these features, or how the proposal may impact their contribution to the special interest of a listed building, or the appearance and character of the conservation area and World Heritage Site, as part of the submitted Heritage Statement contrary to Policy D9 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
Furthermore, we note the unsuitability of the proposed red door in “red gloss paint with a matt finish”. The existing elevations of both Northumberland Buildings and Wood Street utilise neutral paint colours on its shopfronts and associated joinery such as black, off-white, and cream to complement the natural Bath stone elevations of the streetscape and the historic joinery finishes of the windows. The proposed red door, of which no sample has been provided, would therefore be an inappropriate, jarring addition at odds with the appearance and shared historic and aesthetic character of a tight group of listed buildings. We further emphasise the significance of any proposed painting works, should they be consented, utilising a matt finish to prevent an overly reflective or bright appearance that might retract from the appearance of a listed building or the wider harmonious, traditional aesthetic qualities of the conservation area.
This application therefore proposes harm to a listed building with no demonstrated public benefit, and would neither preserve nor enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area, and is contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B4, BD1, D1, D2, D3, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should consequently be refused or withdrawn.