City Sight Seeing, Bath Spa Railway Station, Dorchester Street, City Centre, Bath
Bath Spa Station is a Grade II* mid-19th century railway building by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, forming part of the wider railway complex including the vaulted arches facing onto what is now Brunel Square, situated within the commercial core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The station forms a significant architectural pair with the Grade I Bristol Old Station (later subsumed into Bristol Temple Meads), also by Brunel, and was a formative part of the establishment of the Great Western Railway from 1835.
The proposed site of works is situated to the southern end of the building, overlooking the rear car park and pedestrian access to Halfpenny Bridge. The southern façade of the building remains well-balanced and consistent in its articulation, with a symmetrical layout of two, three, and four-bay Jacobean-style mullion windows at first floor level. This layout has similarly been reflected at ground floor, but three of the windows have been extended at a later date to create new door openings into the building. The south-east corner of the building is defined by a pair of four-bay mullion windows.
The existing store frontage is located internally on Platform 1, and as such forms part of the overall character and appearance of the station platforms dating from approximately 1897, when the existing canopies were installed. The existing unit frontage is a symmetrical, timber-framed multi-pane frontage with a double door access offset to the left hand side, fitted within the original arched opening within the north wall. The internal north elevation also features a series of three-bay mullion windows in keeping with the overall design approach to the building. Whilst it is unclear as to the historic age or origin of the existing unit frontage, it is acknowledged to be a simple addition that complements the intended architectural homogeneity of the station building.
Where it is proposed to centralise the door opening to create a new set of double doors, the principle of a centralised access fits well within its setting and would be considered acceptable, pending further details regarding any potential impact to historic fabric, where the origin and associated significance of the existing glazed frontage is unclear.
We have general concerns regarding the proposed signage approach to the unit frontage and the resulting, perceived cluttering of the façade as part of the wider character and appearance of the station platform. The use of pinned metal lettering finished in an acrylic coating would be an awkward addition over the top of the existing glazing, and it is unclear as to whether it could even be accommodated within the depth of the timber glazing bars and door surround. The use of acrylic signage is considered to be an unsympathetic addition where it is materially incompatible with the special interest of a listed building, and is generally discouraged.
The use of a sensitively designed window vinyl that could be applied to the rear face of the existing windows may be an alternative to the proposed ‘fascia’ treatment, where this would be a more easily reversible addition and more in keeping with the glazed qualities of the existing frontage.
We maintain some concerns regarding the proposed volume of “TV screen” within the right hand window pane, and resulting impact on the character and appearance of a Grade II* listed building. Whilst we recognise that lightboxes and internally-mounted screens typically come under deemed consent and therefore does not fall within the remit of this application, we strongly recommend that the impact of the increased volume of illumination is considered in relation to the special character of the listed building, where the use of bright or overly animated graphics would be a jarring and disruptive addition. We therefore suggest that impact may be mitigated through the omission of the proposed TV screen from this application. Alternatives may also include ensuring that the screen operates at a suitably low lux level, graphics are restrained to a simple, non-flashing format to reduce strobing, etc., and the screen could be switched off outside of opening hours.
Applications 23/01585/FUL & 23/01586/LBA further propose to install timber ventilation louvres within windows on the north and south elevations, requiring the removal of glazing and alterations to the historic fenestration pattern of the station. We have further concerns about the resulting impact to the appearance of the building, harm to its original design and construction, and potential loss of historic fabric despite the D&A Statement’s claim that “the appearance of the space will remain predominantly unchanged”. The Heritage Statement does not sufficiently assess the degree of heritage harm and how this may be justified or mitigated, and as such works are considered to constitute less than substantial harm which would not be outweighed by public benefit.
Proposals would result in harm to the special interest of a Grade II* listed building without demonstration of public benefit, contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused or withdrawn.