Bath Tourism Bureau, Abbey Chambers, Kingston Parade, City Centre, Bath
Abbey Chambers is a Grade II mid-18th century pair of terraced dwellings, later in use as offices and the former Bath Visitor Information Centre, situated within the historic core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The dual, corner frontage of Abbey Chambers forms part of the key setting of the Grade I Bath Abbey to the north as well as the Grade I Roman Baths to the west. It additionally forms part of the setting of the city’s central Roman complex and a Scheduled Monument, the boundary of which encloses Kingston Parade but just excludes Abbey Chambers. Whilst historically residential, the building now presents a commercial frontage at ground floor due to the insertion of Georgian-style shop windows in the 1960s. It formerly overlooked a mid- to late 18th century terrace that bisected what is now Kingston Parade, a section of which is retained at Abbey Green. Later the site of the Turkish Baths in the mid- to late 19th century, it was subsequently paved over by 1973 to create what is now a significant area of public realm within the heart of the city.
We are therefore supportive of the opportunity to retain an active ground floor use where this will positively contribute to the public amenities of the conservation area and World Heritage Site. Kingston Parade already remains a popular ‘destination’ site in conjunction with Abbey Churchyard, and we welcome the opportunity for its ‘reactivation’ and enhancement.
The removal of redundant pipework and associated stonework repairs to the east elevation are welcomed. However, we encourage the insertion of new extract vent outlets to be minimised wherever possible to limit material and visual impact to historic fabric.
We note that no changes are as yet proposed to the principal north and west elevations, eg. proposed shopfront and signage changes, pending granting of consent for the principle of changing use. We maintain that any signage changes associated with the commercial occupation of the ground floor will require appropriate advertising consent/listed building consent to ensure that changes are coherent with the established character and appearance of the conservation area.
There is a strong likelihood that the change of use of the ground floor to a “food and beverage” use would result in increased pressure for commercial outdoor seating (subject to a separate application and licensing). We maintain that any consideration of outdoor seating in this area would need to be carefully considered in relation to public seating and accessibility across Kingston Parade to ensure there are no conflicts with public amenity. Access to York Street is somewhat constrained in this area due to a proliferation of street furniture including bollards and bins; it may be worth considering at this early stage how seating could be best integrated with the public realm, for instance being set back alongside the two northernmost bays of the western elevation to ensure adequate clearance.
Seating colours and finishes as well as any other associated infrastructure such as seating barriers are expected to accord with the Bath Pattern Book, although we maintain a preference for minimal furniture in this area to ensure a retained sense of visual permeability.