Avondale Garage, High Street, Batheaston, Bath
Avondale Garage is a late 20th century garage premises, now vacant, situated within the Batheaston conservation area and the indicative landscape setting of the World Heritage Site. The character of the area is defined by its predominantly mid-late 18th and early 19th century streetscape along the historic extent of Batheaston’s high street.
The built form in this part of the conservation area is varied with a mix of building heights, roof profiles, building widths and use of materials and detailing. This has resulted in an eclectic and organic character that speaks to the narrative of growth and change in this area, as well as a less formalised and homogenous treatment across the streetscape.
The broader grain and pattern of the village is characterised by a central historic core of high-density built development along the roadside. To the north and south, further layers of development have accumulated, generally attributed to later phases of construction in the 20th century (eg. Victoria Gardens), although there are several examples of historic streets with a north-south emphasis such as Vale View Terrace. These ‘outer’ layers of development are of a looser density and are typically set back from streets and one another within private garden plots. The overall effect is of the break up of built development with glimpses of private gardens and planting that then open up into wider landscape views of open countryside to the north and south.
We are supportive of the principle of the residential development on this brownfield site within Batheaston’s Housing Development Boundary. The site offers a positive opportunity for the delivery of much-needed residential housing for local residents within the village with sustainable transport links to the City centre.
However, we regret that we are unable to support this application on grounds of inappropriate design which would fail to reinforce local distinctiveness or townscape character, would not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area or the setting of multiple listed buildings (for the reasons stated below). We further consider that the development would fail to provide adequate private outdoor amenity space for future occupiers.
Design, Scale, and Massing:
Whilst we are supportive of the principle of development, we maintain strong concerns regarding the absence of a comprehensive character assessment of the surrounding built context and wider character and appearance of the conservation area, to appropriately justify the selected design approach. There is a lack of indepth assessment of the prevalent built form, scale, and texture of the streetscape beyond a general summary that “buildings are generally 2-3 storeys in height and in terrace form creating enclosure generally […] building styles vary.” We therefore maintain that development fails to provide sufficient information regarding how the site’s context would inform “the chosen urban design, architectural and landscape approach”, contrary to Policy BD1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
The proposed street-facing terrace (Plots 1-3) do not appropriately reference or respond to their streetscape context. The established street scene features an eclectic mix of 18th and 19th century terraced buildings that open directly onto the roadside pavement, creating a tightly enclosed core along the central high street. A mix of materials are used, including Bath stone ashlar and coursed rubble stone. In sharp contrast, the proposed terrace is a generic Georgian pastiche that speaks more to the formality and homogeneity of the City centre. The D&A Statement concludes that the proposed terraced dwellings “will be similar in form to dwellings fronting High Street in this location” with insufficient assessment of the site’s streetscape context, the prevalent architectural style of the area, or the special characteristics of the conservation area.
We further have strong concerns regarding the bland design and apparent absence of detailing present on the proposed terrace. A key aspect of Georgian architectural design is the balance of symmetry and proportion (using the Golden Ratio principle) and the fine use of detailing, particularly around window and door openings and to distinguish between floors through the use of cornicing and string courses. The quality of the build will be highly dependent on the design detailing, proportion, and use of materials, which as proposed are not evident either in the proposed elevations or the streetscape CGIs, resulting in a blank façade and uncomfortable presence in the streetscape. We have the following comments below regarding specific concerns with the design:
o There are a number of discrepancies noted between the proposed elevations and CGIs which need to be addressed, such as the proposed detailing around the windows and the design of the porch overhangs over the front doors.
o The absence of roof coping and chimney stacks between each dwelling would result in an unbroken, oversized roof profile without definition or delineation between each building.
o The dormer windows appear to be wider than the windows at first and ground floor level, contrary to the Georgian order of proportion. The dormer windows also sit flush with the principal façade rather than being recessed back behind the parapet.
o The use of rainwater pipes on the principal frontage are an incongruous addition to the proposed Georgian design and would be better relocated on the side elevations.
o The eastern flank elevation would be very visible on the high street approach through the village and towards Bath. The depth of the terrace plot, the flatness of the roofline coupled with the absence of a defining chimney stack, and the complete absence of openings or details on the elevation itself, would result in a squat, stretched appearance, which would also be augmented by the apparent proposed use of render. The proportions of the flank elevation do not correspond with the front elevations but would be read together in key streetscape views, resulting in an uncomfortable and poorly-proportioned appearance. The use of coursed rubble stone could be considered to the flank elevation, which would create a relationship and hierarchy between this elevation and the front ashlar elevation.
We therefore consider that the proposed terrace design is unresponsive to its context and would fail to reinforce local distinctiveness or preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Batheaston conservation area, contrary to Policies D1, D2, D5, D7, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
We consider that Plots 4-5 would harm the appearance and character of the conservation area on grounds of their excessive bulk, scale, massing, and depth, culminating in the visual overdevelopment of the north of the site, to the detriment of surrounding townscape character. The proposed form and design do not reference the domestic scale or character of the area, and as such they remain isolated and disconnected from their surrounding built and landscape context.
We do not consider that the proposed screening of Plots 4-5 by setting them back from the roadside and concealing them behind the terraced façade of Plots 1-3 is adequate justification or mitigation for the lack of locally distinctive design.
The combined scale and massing of development, coupled with the inadequate provision of garden space, results in a high density of built development to the north where the grain of development is actually of a looser and reduced quality as part of the transition between the village and open countryside. In accordance with Policy D7, infill and/or backland development should “[have] regard to the character and quality of the surrounding townscape” and should be “well related and not inappropriate in height, scale, mass and form to the frontage buildings”. Development would therefore be over-scaled, out of keeping with local grain, pattern, and layout, and have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area without appropriate demonstration of any outweighing public benefit.
Car Parking & Residential Amenity:
We have strong concerns regarding the large extent of hardstanding across the development site and the resulting overdominance of off-street car parking, contrary to Policy D4 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
As proposed, the hierarchy of streets and spaces are predominantly focused on vehicle assess without appropriate consideration of the integration of a sustainability transport route into or through the site. The garage as existing is located within the core of Batheaston village, with easy pedestrian access to the shops further east (0.2 miles), and several bus stops located within 30 metres of the garage’s forecourt. We therefore emphasise that there should be greater consideration of how sustainable transport and access could be prioritised as part of this development; the D&A Statement indicates that “cycle spaces […] have also been allowed for”, but there is no indication as to how many cycle spaces would be allotted on the site or potential provision of any other facilities such as e-bike charging ports.
We further emphasise that the disproportionate allocation of space to car parking means that the proposed green space and private gardens are meagre in size and would fail to provide “adequate and usable private or communal amenity space” for future occupiers. Development would therefore fail to provide appropriate levels of amenity contrary to Policies D3 and D6. Considering the site would feature a mix of 3-4 bed dwellings, likely to be occupied as family homes, the garden provision would be completely inadequate to meet residential demand.
Considering the surrounding context, the built environment is characterised by the use of medium to large garden spaces to break up the cumulative effect of development. The proposals would therefore be at odds with the established grain, pattern, and layout of the Batheaston conservation area. The small-scale garden plots within a ‘sea’ of hard landscaping would result in an overall cramped and suburban appearance out of keeping with its green village setting, contrary to Policies D2 and HE1.
We have further concerns with the position of Plots 4 & 5 on the northern edge of the development site and how these would sharply cut into the tree coverage at the top of the slope overlooking the high street, which form part of the Green Belt and Cotswolds AONB. We strongly emphasise the need for a landscaping plan as part of this development to consider how impact could be appropriately mitigated, such as through the implementation of tree/shrub planting along the northern boundary to sustain and enhance this area of tree coverage, and help to soften the appearance of development in wider landscape views.
We maintain that in accordance with Section 15 of the NPPF, development “should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by […] minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures.” This is reinforced in local policy (see Policies D5e and NE3) as well as emerging local policy in the form of the Local Plan Partial Update (see Policies CP3 and NE3). We note the ecology officer advises that the proposals appear to result in net loss of habitat which would not be acceptable. We therefore strongly recommend further provision of biodiversity impact assessment as part of this proposal to appropriately demonstrate implementation of biodiversity net gain across the site, in line with the comments from the ecology officer.
BPT continues to advocate for the implementation of ‘fabric first’ and passive house principles to ensure dwellings are futureproofed against the effects of climate change including intense weather events and temperature changes (eg. overheating). We therefore emphasise the need to go above and beyond carbon reduction targets to develop sustainable and robust new-build housing.
We are disappointed that further efforts have not been made to integrate a variety of micro-renewables on the site. In the case of air source heat pumps (ASHPs), it is concluded that these “may be viable, provided the cost, noise and other practical limitations are addressed.” We highlight that current technological development has allowed for ASHPs of much quieter operation (approx. 58 dB(A)) which should not impede potential inclusion in development.
The Sustainable Construction Checklist indicates that “heating and water heat will be provided by a gas or electric boilers.” We regret the potential installation of gas boilers in new build properties as unsustainable within the context of the Climate Emergency and the transition to ‘green’ energy. Electric boilers would allow for a more resilient and sustainable use of energy and should be prioritised for installation over gas.
Provision of further practical information regarding passive energy efficiency measures (eg. insulation, use of low-carbon materials) is encouraged in accordance with Policy CP2 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
It is noted that the existing two storey office building is located within the boundary line of the proposed development and is to be retained on the site. At this stage, it is recommended that further information is provided regarding potential future reuse to avoid a piecemeal development on the site which may result in conflict between uses (eg. access requirements).
BPT is supportive of opportunities for the residential development of this brownfield site, However, this application would not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area and would have an adverse impact on the setting of multiple listed buildings. Harm would not be demonstrably outweighed by public benefit. This application would therefore be contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan and should be refused or withdrawn.