Bath Cricket Club, North Parade Road, Bathwick
The Trust would have welcomed the opportunity to offer some pre-application comments on this site and scheme prior to it coming forward as a planning application. Our objection relates to 1. the principle of student accommodation on the site, and 2. what we regard as the overdevelopment of the site.
Principle of student accommodation:
Whilst we are mindful of the justification provided by the developer for student accommodation on this site, we continue to advocate the use of brownfield land for residential development. We do not believe that the possibility of flood incidents means that a site can be precluded from being residential, but rather that clever architecture and design can ensure that units are not affected by flood incidents. This has already been achieved in the current plan with the ground floor being ‘flood resilient’ with subsequent floors being above the 1%AEP with 35% climate change maximum water level. We do not see any reason why a management company of a residential development could not have the same risk assessment/flood disaster management plan in place as the university.
The close proximity of the Student Castle scheme is also of concern in that student density in this part of the city will be highly concentrated; this is contrary to policy CP10 which seeks to maintain a healthy and balanced housing mix across the city; we do not see why the city centre community should be skewed in favour of even more temporary accommodation for a transient group of users who place seasonal pressure on local services. In our view, this large site could provide a good mix of residential units for key workers and young professionals including a much needed 30% affordable housing element. The proximity of this site to the Riverside Enterprise Area underlines this golden opportunity for the provision of residential units to provide attractive city centre housing for workers in the new creative/tech business hub B&NES is seeking to grow in the city centre river corridor.
For these reasons we object to the principle of student accommodation on this site and urge B&NES to resist yet more PBSA’s on valuable brownfield land which should be developed to meet local housing need, contribute to local housing targets and prevent further development pressure on greenfield sites on the periphery of the city.
Scale, height and massing:
The extent of built form on this site is in our view excessive, covering the whole site area with very little permeability through the site either physically or visually. Whilst there is some articulation to the different built forms, they form a solid mass that introduces a significant and bulky new building into the cityscape. More fragmentation to the footprint or a range of individual or linked buildings would reference the established local urban pattern of villas, terraces and individual buildings and the context of the conservation area and the World Heritage site far more comfortably and respectfully than the proposed scheme.
With regard to the gabled building on North Parade, this is in our view one storey too high; it is overly dominant in the streetscape and introduces a sense of foreboding height to this corner junction opposite the law courts as well as creating a tunnel effect on the North Parade given that it appears to be placed hard up against the site/street boundary.
In relation to bulk and massing, we are concerned that there is inadequate attention paid to the setting of nearby historic assets and the character and appearance of the conservation area and the World Heritage Site. In particular we refer to the setting of the special group of assets that are the historic railway, canal and the associated buildings on Sydney Buildings and Darlington Place. Long established, verdant and open views into and out of the canal-side area would be impacted negatively by the introduction of this oversized and dominant development. It would intrude into the wooded buffer that exists, between the lower built elements, and the listed terraces at Darlington Place and Bathwick Hill higher up which contributes strongly to their setting within the urban landscape of Bath. Part of the Outstanding Universal Value of the WHS is the way in which 18th century town planning and the green setting of the city form a townscape character that is essentially visually open and permeable, where built form and landscape (or treescape) compliment each other, and where architectural finesse provides opportunities for interaction between the two. In this case the quantum of development overtakes the site and presents dense, hard elevations in the principle views into the site from both near and far and there is no sense of inter-relationship between the development and the wider city.
For these reasons we object to the scale and quantum of development on this site.
Architecture, design and materials:
The emphasis on verticality within the design, and the interest provided by varied roof articulation and by details such as the bronze work is welcomed and we have no major concerns regarding design quality other than to say that it is very much in the same modern Bath idiom seen in new developments across the city; understandably safe but more could be done to reference local themes and context in a creative contemporary way. The extent of glazing to the cricket ground elevation is problematic, providing good views for the residents out of their rooms but not for those looking into and over the site. The use of Bath stone ashlar and other high quality materials within the Bath palette is obviously a pre-requisite requirement.
Finally we would remark that the retention of parking on the site should only be agreed on the basis of short term parking provision (i.e. no overnight supply) which would then align with B&NES’ future parking strategy.
The proposed scheme by virtue of its scale, height and massing would be harmful to the setting of significant designated heritage assets, would neither preserve nor enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area, would be detrimental to the visual amenity of the street scene and would detract from the special qualities of the WHS. The scheme would be contrary to Section 12 (Conserving and Enhancing the Historic Environment) of the NPPF, policies B1, B2, B4, and CP6 of the B&NES Core Strategy and policies CP6, D.1, D.2, D.5, HE1 of the Placemaking Plan. We would therefore strongly recommend the application be withdrawn or refused.