Hartwells Of Bath, Newbridge Road, Newbridge, Bath
The Trust objected to this proposal at the pre-application stage on the basis of the inclusion of student housing, insufficient affordable housing and the scale of the proposed blocks.
The scheme still includes a large amount of student housing and the Trust urges the Council to rigorously test the assumptions made in the viability assessment. It is difficult to accept that this level of student housing is necessary , only a relatively short time after viability assessments must have been made when the site was allocated for “80-100 dwellings (NOT student housing)” in the Placemaking Plan 2015, as set out in Policy SB15 (Hartwells Garage). All the constraints and site specific restrictions were set out in that policy and are not new.
Policy SB15 requires that there be no student housing on this site “where this would prejudice the achievement of Policy DW.1 and B1 of the Placemaking Plan.” The Trust notes that officers have gave an opinion in 2018 (DAS 1.4.4) that the student housing element would not prejudice the delivery of current housing requirement. However, this was caveated by the comment that “Whether the site can satisfactorily accommodate the quantum of development proposed is a separate matter…” The DAS does not include the officer’s further comments.
The emerging West of England Joint Spatial and Bath Local Plans both require that an additional 300 homes are found in Bath, through windfall sites and intensification of existing allocated sites, such as Hartwells. Any additional capacity on this site should therefore be devoted to helping Bath reach this new target and should not be used for student housing.
The Trust therefore continues to object to the inclusion of student housing on this site as this would be contrary to the requirements of PP Policy SB15.1, and the application does not include any evidence that this would not prejudice the achievement of the aims of policies DW.1 and B1.
The Trust’s position is that the quantum of development is too great and therefore this layout should not be approved, for the following reasons:
Impact on character of area, setting of World Heritage Site:
The Newbridge Road is a key route into the World Heritage Site from the west. There is a pleasant progression along this route through a long stretch of good quality late Victorian residential buildings of modest scale on the north side and early C20th semi-detached dwellings on the south, as acknowledged in the Design and Access Statement 2.3.5.
These terraced and semi-detached houses are universally 2 storeys with pitched roofs, and some have prominent dormered/gabled roofs. The building frontages are set back, with individual front doors and small front gardens. Opposite the application site the terrace (which is still 2 storeys) rises about one storey above the road. The application site is on a bend which also marks the edge of the Bath Conservation Area.
The City of Bath World Heritage Site Setting SPD (2013) states that one of the important characteristics of the WHS setting are “The views afforded from the city to the green hillsides, woodland and open spaces and conversely the opportunities provided by the surroundings to view the city and its surrounding landscape.”
The views obtained across the site from Newbridge Road towards the Twerton slopes and ridges beyond are an important feature of the site. They have been underplayed by the applicants, but the DAS Part 4 para 5.30 acknowledges the loss of these views. Views to hills and wooded ridges are a key feature of the World Heritage Site. Along the Newbridge Road there are key views, looking both west (leaving the city) and looking east (arriving). These views play an important role in appreciating the valley floor setting of the historic core of the city. There are views across the application site which augment this experience. The Trust is concerned that these views would be substantially reduced due to the height and layout of the frontage blocks. The only view left would be over the carpark, which will continue to be dominated by the redundant (?) concrete batching tower and subject to future proposals when that part of the site is brought forward for development.
A finger of the site extends under the road bridge along the former railway line to the east and this is within the conservation area. It is distinctly different to the industrialised character of the main site and should be treated as part of the future linear cycle route/public park. The former railway embankments are very wide at this point and their use for open overflow parking would prejudice the creation of a high quality linear urban park and would be harmful to the peaceful, overgrown character of the former railway land, which is in the conservation area.
There is a row of trees along the site frontage which although slightly formal in their planting, creates a soft element to the frontage. The NE corner of the site contains a significant cluster of mature trees (G28) which contribute to the street scene and would help screen any new development on the Hartwells site. Unfortunately these trees (category B) are to be felled to make way for the new vehicle access.
Policy SB15 requires that the development should be sympathetic to the context of the Victorian terraced housing. The Trust is concerned that the Newbridge Road frontages are too high, and also notes that the inclusion of the retail unit increases the height of Block A by a metre. The massing and deep plan of the blocks serves to increase the impact of the blocks on the street scene. The screening device over the entrance to the car-park is also an anomaly in the street scene and achieves nothing in design terms to reduce the impact of the proposed open car-park.
In choosing an apartment block layout (for which approval is sought at this stage) the design is forced to incorporate flats at ground floor, with a single north aspect facing Newbridge Road. There is an indicative line on the ground floor plan showing some form of separation between the building and the pavement, but it is unclear whether this will be private or public space. The integration of the building base into the street scene is an important layout matter (for which approval is sought) and should not be left as detail to be sorted out later. The Trust urges that reconsideration be given to a layout with an active frontage (ie front gardens and front doors) along the Newbridge Road, to integrate the frontage with the residential character of the street.
The Trust is also concerned that there is a poor relationship with the cycle route, whose edge would be dominated by car parking and overspill car parking, all requiring lighting. The Council is urged to carefully consider how security for these areas would be provided whilst providing an attractive public cycle and walking route. It is unrealistic to expect that the application site would be open and permeable as shown on the cross sections.