B&NES Storage Building, Edgar Mews, St Andrew’s Terrace, City Centre
3-4 Edgar Mews forms part of a shared Grade II listing to the rear of 3 Edgar Buildings due to their material connection, ancillary position back-to-back with one another, and shared historic and evidential relationship. It forms part of a backland mews terrace of mixed listed and unlisted units (although recognised as NDHAs), recognised as one of the four characteristic building forms within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The terrace is overlooked by the elevated St Andrews Terrace, a post-1980s redevelopment of the original 18th century terrace. The mews building of 3-4 Edgar Mews may have been in-situ as early as 1810, with the rear single-storey shed outbuilding appearing around 1886. It seems likely that the rear outbuilding would have been used to support 3 Edgar Building’s function as a wine merchant’s by 1902, with the barrel vaulted cellar being identified as of particular historic and evidential interest.
The Trust acknowledges the positive opportunity to bring a disused building back into sustainable, long-term reuse to provide much-needed office space and commercial premises within the city centre.
We do not object to good quality modern architecture and contemporary design when used sensitively and in harmony with its contextual setting, or traditional approaches if well considered and resulting in enhancements to the appearance of existing buildings. Indeed it was felt that the traditional option investigated by the architect in the application, represented in sketch form, was more successful than that proposed in terms of respected the context of the mews development either side of it. It also appeared to have a lower eaves and ridge line.
We cannot support this application on the basis that the proposed height, scale, and massing of the roof extension constitutes overdevelopment of the site and would be out of character with the subservient appearance and character of the mews, at the detriment of the ancillary townscape setting of Edgar Buildings as viewed from Bartlett Street.
Second Floor Roof Extension:
Within its mews context, we maintain that by reason of the proposed increase in height, scale, and massing, the development would constitute overdevelopment of the site. Within the Bath City-Wide Character Appraisal, mews are recognised as “less grand”, functional constructions designed as subservient service additions to the rear of larger townhouse terraces; this constitutes a fundamental aspect of their appearance, character, and the variation of scale and form present along smaller lanes and back alleys within the conservation area. This proposal would significantly elevate 3-4 Edgar Mews’ roofscape over the historic mews’ established ridge level, and further amplify its discordance within the terrace’s retained rhythm of proportion, height, and articulation, whilst clashing with the modest, low rise character of the terrace.
We do not consider that the existing mid-20th century lift overrun can be considered an adequate precedent for the establishment of a new roof height along the mews. It is not identified as a feature of particular merit or interest; indeed, the Heritage Statement notes “there is little of interest within the front (northern) portion of the building”, and the contribution to the mews terrace by 3-4 Edgar Mews has been lessened by the extant 20th century alterations to the principal elevation.
We feel that the juxtaposition of the overtly contemporary extension within a traditionally proportioned mews terrace would be a discordant insertion at odds with the prevailing character of this part of the conservation area. The Trust encourages contemporary architecture that is “thoughtful and harmonious in its composition and execution” (Recommendations for Architecture & Design in Bath 2011), and that sits comfortably within its setting. We do not feel that the proposed extension achieves this; it would function as a separate architectural layer rather than fully integrating into the mews building and its terraced setting.
Timber Circulation Core:
We also query the use of timber cladding for the rear circulation core within an ‘inner city’ context. Bath’s urban core has a distinctive local vernacular in which the use of timber is an incoherent insertion that would not relate visually or architecturally within its historic context. The Trust maintains that the use of timber cladding is better suited within rural or green settings. We would encourage the consideration of other possible materials and palettes that would better incorporate and complement the character of its setting.
Moreover, we regret the lack of information provided regarding the proposed treatment of the barrel vaulted cellar. From the photographs provided as part of the Heritage Statement, it looks as though the walls have remained largely untreated. Should conversion into an office space be consented, we would strongly recommend that details regarding internal conversion, damp proofing or lining, should be included as part of the application for assessment by the LPA, considering its particular historic and evidential significance as an attractive, well-proportioned space, and evidence of a historic connection with the cellars of Edgar Buildings.
This application would be of detriment to the modest character and appearance of a Grade II mews building, and would neither conserve nor enhance the backland character of this region of the conservation area. This application is contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, D1, D2, D3, D5, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should therefore be refused or withdrawn.