93 Sydney Place, Bathwick
The Trust has reviewed these plans in detail and is grateful for the opportunity of a site visit. We do not think adequate information is provided to determine this application for a Grade I listed building, and we object to several of the proposals, including removal of blocked window, contained in the submission. In principle there may be a case for support of the removal of the 1930’s windows and the bathroom insertion in the main bedroom.
We are disappointed that the level of assessment for this Grade I listed building is not proportionate to the importance of the building (as required by the NPPF para 128) to the extent that we do not believe this application should have been registered. The historic research should start at the point of construction and include the important phase of its use as ‘Queen Charlotte’s Ballroom’. No meaningful historic research is presented which examines the building’s history (not just 20th century planning history), nor a Statement of Significance produced. The applicant only produces historic images to support their proposals rather than producing an objective report that demonstrates a complete understanding of the building and its various elements of significance.
The historic section of the D & A is lacking in any detail regarding the blind window other than to say that it was probably blocked to stop light falling on a piano. This doesn’t seem viable justification given that bow windows on the floors above and below, and the bow windows on the side returns of both bays are also blocked. This lack of detail is problematic in being able to properly assess this element of the proposal. When viewing the external elevations it is clear that there are linear blind windows on all the curved bays; whether this was part of the original symmetrical design by Pinch (perhaps for structural reasons given the curved bay) or for window tax is unknown but in either case the loss of such historically significant features is unacceptable. It is not clear from the multiple images available in books and online in Bath in Time at what stage this window was closed, then open then closed again but it appears that this may have been the scenario, although there are varying types of blind windows on the elevations of this building, some that include a frame that could look like the window was glazed with sashes and some that actually sit in sash boxes (we can supply images to the case officer). Internal images or paintings could also help understand the story of this room. It is precisely this type of analytical research that should underpin an application for such a major intervention to a building of the highest significance.
In the recent sales particulars for this apartment, the internal wooden framing is not visible and it appears plaster has been removed to uncover this feature, but no Listed Building Consent appears to have been granted for this work. If this was approved by a planning officer in pre-application this should be stated. If the framing is the exact size of the window as is being suggested, then there does not appear to be any pier internally to accommodate this window next to its neighbour and both would sit so close together as to look awkward. In addition the correctly profiled curved skirting looks to be undisturbed. Part of the significance of this apartment is the way it appears internally, especially the ballroom, given it was part of the scene of Bath’s social history which is a named aspect of OUV of the World Heritage Site and this consideration should also be included in the planning balance.
Therefore we object to the unblocking of this window, given that no justification has been given (as per NPPF para 132), the historic regression is sketchy and ambiguous and there is no public benefit to outweigh this significant intervention. Opening up just one window would unbalance the composition of the façade which is now characterised by blind windows and harm the architectural interest of the building. The presumption should always be in favour of protecting the existing fabric and the development manifested by that fabric.
We are concerned at the location of the new kitchen in this grand hallway as being visually and practically inappropriate not least because of disruption due to location of services and associated impact on historic fabric, as well the visual impact these units would have in a space that would have originally served as a an open, spacious and high status receiving room prior to entry to the even grander ballroom. There is no adequate heritage impact assessment to determine the service challenges.
We are also concerned regarding the new mezzanine in what would have been an anteroom as this appears to squeeze a second bedroom into a space that cannot and should not really accommodate it. Our view is that the plans for a second bedroom should be abandoned and this room should become the kitchen as current but with cornice uncovered. Again there is no justification for this harmful intervention and no public benefit provided by it.
Main Bedroom Bathroom:
We appreciate the efforts of the architect to better reveal the proportions and grandeur of this room with an innovative glazed inserted pod, and whilst we have concerns regarding this element these could be outweighed by revisions to the other more invasive interventions as above, given that a bathroom will be needed in the apartment. This is relatively light touch, reversible and legible and therefore fulfils some best practice criteria.
This proposal would harm the special interest of the listed building which is of the highest significance and therefore is contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and fails to comply with Section 12 (Conserving and enhancing the historic environment) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), policies; B1, B4 and CP6 of the B&NES Core Strategy and policies; BD1,B4 & HE1 of the B&NES Placemaking Plan. For this reason we object to this application and recommend that the scheme is amended to remove the blind window, new kitchen location and mezzanine elements or refused.