Café Rouge, 15 Milsom Street, City Centre
15 Milsom Street forms part of a Grade II mid- to late 18th century terrace of townhouses, now with commercial ground floors and shopfronts, situated within the Bath City-Wide Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. Alongside its notable grouped value as part of a contemporaneous terrace, it additionally constitutes part of a high concentration, terraced group of Grade II and Grade II* buildings along Milsom Street, a large number of which are contemporary to the original development of Milsom Street in 1762 by Thomas Lightholder. Milsom Street remains a highly significant commercial streetscape, though originally residential, representative of large-scale Georgian town planning providing intentional sightlines into the city centre. 15 Milsom Street’s value is largely derived from its aesthetic contribution to the wider conservation area and World Heritage Site, and its architectural consistency throughout the rest of the terrace.
Milsom Street, along with Edgar Buildings to the north, form a significant 18th century set piece with framed north-south views between the elevated pavement of Edgar Buildings and the shops at Old Bond Street, backed by receding hillside views in the distance. It is therefore attributed high significance as a well-planned Georgian ensemble, strongly defined as an intentional visual connector between the upper and lower town, and well-articulated Palladian detailing. Given the building’s centralised location within the city’s historic centre and retained use of traditional shop front vernacular, the shop frontage is expected to comply with B&NES Council’s guidance ‘Commercial signage and tables and chairs on the highway’ regarding the appropriate use of materials, colours, and minimised illuminated signage, in keeping with the wider historic character of the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site.
The redecoration of the shopfront with a new awning and hand-lettered fascia signage in supported in principle.
In this area of high heritage significance, the colour palette proposed for the shopfront redecoration works requires a sensitive response. The predominant use of natural materials throughout the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site such as Bath stone characterises a more subdued and subtle use of colour. Proposals include the repainting of the shopfront in a very dark “Anthracite Grey” colour – which shows up as black in the proposed elevational drawings and photo-visuals. There is a historic precedent for the painting of historic shopfronts in dark colours such as black, but the cumulative visual effect of the combination of all the shopfront elements being the same dark colour, including the proposed fascia board, awning, and hanging sign, may be excessive in contrast with the elevational appearance and material finish of a listed building. A softer, more subtle use of colour in a matte/eggshell is encouraged as a more complementary finish, and could further help to visually distinguish between different elements of signage rather than reading as one single mass.
The proposed new awning should be high quality canvas rather than plastic or plastic-coated, and modest in size and reach. In the interest of preserving and enhancing the character and appearance of the conservation area, and historic interest of the listed building, the awning should be kept blank without the addition of advertising or branding, to avoid an over-cluttered appearance. When not in use, the awning should be retracted.
Previous planning permission 22/00701/AR was granted for a hanging sign in this location, though we note that from the proposed drawings, it appears that the consented sign would be fixed to the fascia reveal rather than directly to the stonework. The application indicates that the application would propose the installation of a hanging sign to an existing signage bracket, but though listed building consent has been secured for a signage bracket this does not appear to have been installed yet.
The proposed projecting sign, located at fascia level by virtue of its position and appearance would harm the architectural and aesthetic significance of the listed building and the setting of other listed buildings, and would not preserve or enhance the appearance or character of the conservation area.
The addition of a projecting sign would add visual clutter to the uniform classical façade and intrude into the sweeping views of the street, with harm to the special group value of the streetscape. The sign would not improve the appearance of the principal elevation of the building and therefore not enhance the character of the street scene. We appreciate the applicant’s desire to advertise their premises but feel the use of a modern metal bracket, the position, and projection of this proposed sign is inappropriate and would damage the compositional group value, historic views and overall setting of Milsom Street.
There is further a lack of clarity regarding the proposed materiality and finish of the hanging sign which should be specified as part of the application.
The signage and shopfront alterations as proposed, by virtue of the excessive use of dark finishes, siting and appearance of the projecting sign, materials, and amount of advertisement on the awning, would neither preserve nor enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, and would harm the significance, setting and group value of a listed building. The proposal is contrary to the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, B4, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan. We therefore recommend that this application is refused.