97-101 Walcot Street, City Centre
The development is situated on Walcot Street, within the city core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The site encompasses a plot of brownfield land to the south that was developed up until the late 20th century and is now occupied by a freestanding canopy structure, and a mid-19th century warehouse of traditional Bath vernacular which is a Non Designated Heritage Asset (NDHA). It is situated next to the Grade II mid-18th century public house and brewhouse The Bell, overlooks the Grade II 14 & 14a Chatham Row and Grade II* 114 & 116 Walcot Street, and is overlooked, from high above, by the rear elevations of the Grade I listed Paragon. The area of Walcot Street is noted for its informal layout and streetscape, and “quirky and independent character” (Bath City Centre CACA). Its value derives from its diverse mix of uses by independent shops and businesses which has resulted in a varied artisan character and appearance distinct from Bath’s typically formal Palladian treatment.
A previous application for redevelopment on this site was permitted in 2015 (15/05841/FUL). The Trust was supportive of the redevelopment of a brownfield site in the city centre to provide contemporary retail and office space, although we had some minor design concerns with the materials originally proposed.
We therefore maintain that the principle of development on this site is acceptable. We are pleased to see the proposed provision of additional accommodation within the city centre to meet local demand, whilst also retaining an active commercial ground floor and office space within the warehouse. We maintain that any development on this site should retain an active ground floor to complement Walcot Street’s primarily commercial and business character. We feel the provision of office facilities would encourage additional local businesses to the area.
However, we are unable to support this proposal which would risk harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area and heritage value of the context, by virtue of excessive height and a heavy and over-dominant roof profile.
Walcot Street is an architecturally diverse streetscape varying between 1, 2, and 3 storeys which results in an eclectic and low-profile appearance. We appreciate that the current design has tried to emulate this by breaking up the front façade and utilising different material treatments, however the height and form of the proposed mansard roof, and inappropriate use of dormers in this context, is too assertive and visually merges the two ‘halves’ of the new building into one. This would result in a much bulkier built presence in what is a comparatively open section of the streetscape. It would be an overt horizontal mass in what is otherwise an area of strong vertical emphasis.
In its current form, the proposed building would fail to reinforce the varied height and locally distinctive scale and visual ‘lightness’ of Walcot Street, and would therefore neither preserve nor enhance the appearance or character of the conservation area.
With regards to the materials proposed, the use of green glazed brick as part of the elevational treatment would be an approach without precedent in Bath. We feel this would be of a strident finish and colour within the streetscape. However, considering Walcot Street’s eclectic appearance and varied architectural form, the introduction of a new material or elevational treatment could complement this site’s diverse visual context. Nonetheless, Walcot Street’s shop front palette does have a discernible style of either timber fascias or painted/rendered stonework. The use of ceramic, glazed brick or terracotta in shop front treatment is typically restricted to the ground floor, allowing for a distinction between the commercial ground floor and more residential upper floors. Therefore, we encourage the further consideration of a potential elevation designs that may better integrate with the established appearance and character of the area, such as a painted timber frontage. Alternatively, a green metal could be used to reference the previous material treatment of the site whilst alluding to buildings in the locality with a retained industrial, garage-style appearance.
Should the principle of green glazed brick be found acceptable by the LPA, we suggest this could be restrained to the ground floor of the proposed building to help visually distinguish between the commercial and residential floors whilst mirroring Walcot Street’s established shop front style.
On principle, we feel that the proposed use of fibre cement slate-effect tiles on a NDHA is inappropriate and would not conserve the building’s architectural or aesthetic value. We maintain that the use of a natural slate would be more materially and visually congruous to the character and appearance of a locally listed building in the conservation area. Should a more contemporary roof finish be deemed acceptable, a high-quality, well detailed material that would harmonise with the building’s traditional material vernacular would be preferable. A corrugated or seamed metal, such as zinc, may be considered appropriate considering the building’s industrial context.
The proposal in in its current form neither preserves nor enhances the conservation area, and would be contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan and should be refused or withdrawn.