Chelscombe Farm, Fonthill Road, Lansdown, Bath
The proposed site of development is Chelscombe Farm, a mixed group of both late 18th/early 19th and late 20th century defunct agricultural outbuildings within the curtilage setting of Chelscombe Farmhouse, a Grade II 17th century residential farmhouse with some 19th century alterations, particularly to the primary southern elevation. This agricultural complex is situated within the Bath & Bristol Green Belt, the Cotswolds AONB, the Bath World Heritage site, and the indicative landscape setting of the Bath conservation area. The building group is situated to the south of the Grade I Beckford’s Tower, and the roof of the farmhouse can clearly be distinguished in views from the Grade II Lansdown Cemetery. The farm is therefore located within a sensitive region of Bath’s distinctive rural, hilly landscape overlooking Weston, and any alterations or developments should be proportional to the farm’s agricultural appearance, grouping, and scale.
BPT previously supported application 20/01417/LBA, which proposed a very similar scheme of works to demolish the 20th century outbuildings on the site and refurbish and extend the historic outbuildings to create “additional residential accommodation, ancillary to the main dwelling house” (Planning Statement).
We therefore reiterate our support for the sensitive and sustainable reuse of the historic barn and outbuilding to ensure the conservation and preservation of a significant, interconnected cluster of heritage assets in perpetuity. The 1970s Outbuildings 02 and 03 are later, functional additions to the site, and as such are of limited architectural or historic value either on their own or as part of the farm complex. Demolition would therefore result in no loss of historic fabric and instead would offer the opportunity to beneficially expose the southern elevation of Outbuilding 01 and the gable end of the two-storey barn and enhance their visual connection to one another and the farmhouse.
As part of the appeal decision made with regard to applications 22/01406/FUL & 22/01407/LBA, the inspector concluded that the proposed outbuilding works would qualify an extension to Outbuilding 01: “there are no new stand-alone replacement buildings to be constructed, and the new built element would be connected to the outbuilding and have a functional relationship with it by way of the creation of a consolidated, open-plan, living space.” As such, this would qualify as appropriate development within the Green Belt so long as the extension does not constitute a disproportionate addition over and above the size of the original building. In Appendix 13, it was calculated that the proposed works would result in an overall reduction of the built volume on-site from 2931m3 to 2523m3 (14% reduction) and as such the proposed works would not be materially larger.
Consequently, the inspector considered the proposed works to constitute appropriate Green Belt development on grounds that the works would not be materially larger and the new extension would replicate the height, form, and scale of existing buildings on the site and would not appear a disproportionate addition.
We therefore maintain that considering the reduced scale of the proposed extension link, this would constitute a further volume increase across the site (albeit as yet uncalculated). There has not been any substantial change to the design of the extension with regards to its height, scale, and massing. We therefore conclude that this development continues to meet the definition of appropriate Green Belt development as previously set out by the inspector.
We welcome the amendments made to the scheme, including the reduced footprint size of the extension link and the recessed setback of its west-facing elevation. The reduced contact with the southern elevation of Outbuilding 01 and the reuse of the existing external access would reduce the impact of development on historic fabric and maximise the retention of the external wall.
The insertion of a new window in the hipped end of Outbuilding 01 is acceptable where this does not result in an excessive loss of historic fabric; the removal of the modern infill blockwork would not constitute harm to historic fabric. We do however encourage the retention of the stonework returns on either corner of the western elevation, although from the proposed elevations it is unclear as to how these would be treated as part of works to reinstate a Bath stone frontage to replace areas of later, detrimental infill.
However, we have some concerns regarding the proposed design of the glazed link. We appreciate that the use of glazing is intended to lighten the touch between Outbuilding 01 and the new extension, consequently improving the retained legibility of the original barn’s form and footprint. Nonetheless the extensive use of glazing, particularly when viewed as part of the contextual western elevation, is not of an agricultural typology visible as part of the farm complex. The use of multi-pane framed glazing would limit the intended ‘invisibility’ of the link, as would the use of a pitched gable-ended profile which reinforces the sense of a third bay between Outbuilding 01 and its extension.
We therefore maintain a preference for either an approach that maximises the transparency of the connecting link, retaining the sense of Outbuilding 01 as a standalone construction, or an approach that better reflects and reinforces its agricultural surroundings. For instance, the use of glazing recessed within a traditional-style gable frame could read as a lighter addition whilst clearly embodying and reflecting the agricultural characteristics of the farm complex and the repetitive ‘bay’ frontage along the western boundary line.
Alternatively, there could even be an opportunity to divert from the matching treatment of a gable end profile in favour of a flat-roofed, ‘straight across’ profile line for the extension link to appropriately drop the roof level and further recess its visibility in contextual views. In this way, a variation in treatment could create a welcome distinction between the main outbuilding and its matching extension, and the link as a connecting, ancillary structure. The use of frameless glazing would minimise the visual transition between Outbuilding 01 and its extension.
However, in either case we have some concerns regarding the use of glazing across the outwards-facing western elevation and the cumulative impact this may have on wider landscape views into and across the World Heritage Site, as well as the special qualities of the Cotswolds AONB. We note concerns of increased reflectivity/sun glare and light spill, and suggest that a proportionate landscape assessment/LVIA may be necessary.
We also reiterate our design concerns regarding the use of corten steel as part of the roofscape. We have previously supported the use of corten steel within this agricultural context, and continue to do so, noting the extant roof treatment of corrugated metal sheeting seen on the site across the majority of the outbuildings. However, we maintain the need for appropriate corten steel samples to be provided as part of the application process, rather than being left to condition, and reiterate our preference for a more muted shade of corten steel such as brown, to better complement the natural colour palette of the site. The use of a bright red or orange corten steel would be more visually intrusive within landscape views and clash with the pantile roof of the farmhouse, challenging the aesthetic dominance of the Grade II building within the site.
It is recommended to consider possible water run-off measures in relation to the corten steel roofs to minimise potential ground contamination or stains to historic stonework.
We continue to query the future residential use of the site and the potential for short-term letting and Airbnbs. A long-term let independent from the main farmhouse would be unlikely due to the omission of the kitchen from the extension. Considering the potential for the intensified occupation of the site and use of surrounding rural lanes and roads, with resulting impact on the rural appearance and character of the area, we reiterate our previous comments regarding the need to appropriately manage the use of the site to mitigate possible negative change, such as potentially limiting the annual number of lets or incorporating ‘rest’ periods between lets.