EE, 56 Southgate Street, City Centre
56 Southgate Street is an unlisted shop premises within the commercial core of the Bath City-Wide Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. The building occupies the junction point between Southgate Street and the westerly turn onto Lower Borough Walls. Where Southgate Street forms part of the edge of the Southgate ‘quarter’, it is significant in establishing a transition point between public transport hubs, Bath’s new shopping district, and the historic city.
Coherence in the material palette and design of signage throughout the conservation area makes a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness. Southgate Street is largely coherent with the contemporary qualities of Southgate, and therefore has some opportunities for more eclectic street furniture, as such it requires visual sensitivity as a ‘gateway’ into the city. Where possible, it is encouraged that new signage proposals should appropriately reflect and reinforce local character.
Where this retail unit has been vacated, we welcome the opportunity for it to be brought back into use and reactivate this part of the streetscape.
Where halo illuminated signage is proposed, BPT maintains an in principle resistance to the use of illuminated signage. Bath is recognised as a low-illuminated city in which the maintained low levels of lighting complement the historic character and appearance of the city, and create a distinctive evening and night-time atmosphere. Therefore, the use of illuminated signage would be of detriment to the visual amenities of the Bath conservation area and the special qualities of the World Heritage site.
We highlight an ongoing issue with the increasing number proposals for illuminated signage within the Southgate area, and maintain strong concerns regarding the overall cumulative impact of this increasing volume of illumination and the resulting impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area and the commercial centre of the World Heritage Site.
We recognise that the proposed illuminated roundel signs within the shop windows would fall under deemed consent and therefore do not form part of the planning application, but strongly recommend that these should be considered in relation the overall, cumulative volume of resulting illumination and light spill. Where possible, we recommend these are omitted or reduced in scale to mitigate visual harm and over-illumination of the streetscape.
The use of an acrylic-faced, externally illuminated projecting sign is an overly contemporary addition. Whilst we recognise that there are existing examples of projecting signs in a similar style along Southgate Street and within the Southgate area, the use of a traditional-style timber or quality metal hanging sign would be preferable, particularly given the building’s transitional position between Bath’s historic centre and its modern shopping district.
Whilst the principle of outdoor seating is generally acceptable, we have some concerns about the introduction of increasing street furniture and ‘clutter’ into this part of the conservation area. In considering B&NES Council’s adopted guidance ‘Commercial signage and tables and chairs on the highway’, it is specified that “High backed benches and planters used to demarcate space are unlikely to be acceptable. Similarly accompanying planters which further privatise public space will not be considered acceptable.” The proposed use of planters to ‘bookmark’ the outdoor seating space would result in the perceived build-up and enclosure of the space with detriment to the visual and pedestrian amenities of the streetscape. We therefore recommend this aspect of the outdoor seating arrangements is omitted.
We are generally averse to the use of A-board signage, particularly where this would be indicated to sit well out into the street and would impede what is a very busy pedestrian highway into the city centre.
Proposals, by virtue of materials, illumination and collective siting would harm the visual amenity value of the area and not preserve or enhance the special character and appearance of this part of the Bath Conservation Area or World Heritage Site. The application is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, B4, CP6, D1, D2, D4, D6, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused.