Abbey Hotel, 1 North Parade
The Abbey Hotel is a Grade II* listed Georgian property with an originally residential function. It is situated within the core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage site, and forms part of a dense cluster of Grade II listed Georgian buildings concentrated around Terrace Walk that faces out towards the Grade II Parade Gardens. Due to the continued presence of listed buildings to the rear of the Abbey Hotel along Old Orchard Street, the hotel is highly aesthetically significant within the setting of multiple heritage assets and the special architectural and historic qualities of the conservation area. Therefore, any external changes to either the front or rear elevation need to be considered carefully with regards to impact on the hotel’s contextual setting.
In principle, BPT does not object to the proposed internal alterations. We encourage the sensitive retrofit of historic buildings to enable their sustainable future function. However, in response to the claim made in the D&A Statement that the internal partition walls “are believed to be relatively modern in origin”, we would recommend that this should be verified before the application progresses further to enable a full assessment of the potential loss of historic fabric. We would also argue that the merging of rooms 106 & 108 and 206 & 208 constitutes a significant loss of historic fabric that ought to be fully justified in accordance with section 16 of the NPPF and Policy BD1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
We do have some concerns about the proposed conversion of the basement and sub-basement, and we ask how these spaces will be ventilated and waterproofed. In principle, the Trust objects to the conversion of vaults for habitation-related purposes such as bedrooms due to the potentially invasive and damaging methods of waterproofing that are often required to ensure the space meets modern living requirements. Therefore, we would recommend that a suitable scheme of works for the sub-basement in particular is submitted; accordingly, the balance of harm and benefit can consequently be deliberated to ensure the space continues to be functional without detriment to its historic integrity.
With regards to the proposed external changes to the building, the Trust is supportive of the implementation of secondary glazing of all the windows by a company with established heritage expertise. In response to the current Climate Emergency, BPT encourages sensitive and appropriate retrofitting practices to minimise carbon emissions and lower energy consumption. The use of secondary glazing ensures the maximised retention of historic fabric and the associated material and aesthetic significance of a listed building.
We are additionally supportive of the proposal for new signage on the hotel’s front elevation using engraved panels of Bath stone, but would advise that detailed drawings are included within the application to show the proposed signage design.
BPT does not object to changes to the rear façade of the building. We feel that the removal of the spiral stairs will lead to a tidier, simplified appearance, and the infill of the existing wall in like-for-like materials will suitably conceal the necessary installation of new plant equipment.
However, we feel that the use of high-pressure water cleaning on the front elevation would be inappropriate and damaging to the stonework. The use of abrasive cleaning methods can lead to an ‘overcleaned’ appearance in which the surface of the stone is stripped back, simultaneously resulting in the loss of historic fabric. We would instead recommend a steam-based cleaning method which can use a much lower water pressure; details of the cleaning process should be included within the planning application.
Additionally, the amount of proposed external lighting appears to be excessive and contradictory to Bath’s definition as a low-illuminated city. We do not object to the suitable replacement of the existing LED symmetrical beam lights, but feel that the inclusion of additional sources of lighting would be of detriment to the appearance of a listed building, and the presentation of the wider conservation area and World Heritage site as stated by Policy D8 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
Therefore, BPT is supportive of the proposed retrofit of the Abbey Hotel to improve its commercial function and energy performance. However, we feel that the application is lacking some detail such as the intended method of stone cleaning and clarification on the conversion of the building’s vault spaces; further documentation should be provided before this application progresses further.