Kennet House, Sydney Road, Bathwick, Bath
The Trust was consulted on this scheme at pre-application stage and we issued a detailed response to the proposal which outlined our concerns and thoughts on a classically inspired three storey scheme in this garden setting and how we would be very likely to object to such a scheme should it come forward. We also gave some constructive feedback on what could be an acceptable type of development IF the principle of some sort of dwelling was found to be acceptable on this site. It appears our advice and recommendations have been ignored and the applicant has come forward with a scheme that is contrary to local and national planning policy.
The Trust objects strongly to this application for the reasons laid out below:
The layout of upper Sydney Road reflects the informality introduced into Bath’s 19th century suburbs as villas became fashionable; this reflects an important trend in Bath’s urban planning and social change. Cleveland House was built in 1817-20 as a standalone set piece (of offices) to celebrate the prestige of the Kennet & Avon Canal enterprise. It was designed by John Pinch, one of the key late Georgian architects defining that period’s architectural style for Bath. By contrast, Kennet House and the adjacent Ravenswell show the later establishment of the Gothic and the Picturesque in this part of Bath, along with the rise of the villa: the open gardens of these houses were intentionally created to provide the picturesque setting for these dwellings and as such they have visual and historic significance. Kennet House references the Gothic Farm House in Victoria Park, thus demonstrating the importance of its surrounding land. Their context next to Sydney Gardens further underlines the open, green, arcadian nature of this area.
Setting of heritage assets and the conservation area:
The scheme would harm the integrity and beauty of the setting of multiple heritage assets within the conservation area and fails to take account of the particular and distinctive character of the surrounding historic townscape, especially the picturesque 19th century gothic inspired cottage villa (Kennet House) and the Italianate villas of the Ravenswell group. Placing a large ‘classical’ villa in the garden of and across the road from these heritage assets shows a complete disregard for their special interest, their setting and the importance of their garden contexts and would result in cumulative harm. Such gardens form a significant contribution to the open green space in the character of this section of the conservation area.
Garden spaces not only help to enhance the setting of listed buildings but punctuate the streetscape adding visual interest and provide a welcome break from existing urban built forms. The scheme looks highly incongruous and frankly at odds with its surroundings. It completely diminishes the magnificence of Cleveland House as the visualisations clearly show, and we would suggest that the level of harm to the setting and special interest of Kennet House in its grounds may be of a substantial nature; this should be considered within the planning judgement.
Overdevelopment of the plot and unacceptable scale and massing:
The scheme looks to overdevelop the garden setting and to create a prominent dwelling that intrudes into the streetscape and competes in scale and massing with the highly significant Grade II* Cleveland House and detracting from its setting; this is unacceptable. Any development in this location (and we do not in principle support the loss of this garden nor the insertion of a new dwelling) should be contextually respectful, entirely subservient (i.e. no more than one storey) and non-domineering. We refute the claim that this is a ‘vacant site’; it is as above an historic and created garden setting for a heritage asset. We assume as an aside that Historic England has been consulted on this application given the impact of this scheme on a Grade II* building? In addition the issue of the intervention of this building into views from the historic canal should also be examined.
Lack of authenticity:
Core assessment criteria of World Heritage Sites are ‘authenticity’ and ‘integrity’. While in a standalone setting, Adam Architects’ preferred approach of ‘the range of classical and Georgian traditions’ might be acceptable, in Bath such an approach creates confusion and potentially conflicts with the original Georgian, classical and emerging Gothic styles inherent to the area and as such devalues local (ie sub-area) architectural distinctiveness. It is for this reason that a carefully considered contemporary approach may have more integrity than a classically inspired one. Similarly the proposal to use render is inappropriate as this gives a stark finish with limited visual longevity and does not accord with or complement the local materials palette; any development should be in Bath stone ashlar.
Harm is not outweighed by public benefit:
The scheme is a private speculative development and does not contribute to local housing need. On that basis, there is no public benefit to outweigh the harm such a scheme would have on local distinctive character and on the special architectural and historic interest of the adjacent heritage assets and their settings.
We note the current intervention of the timber fence to the garden of Kennet House and would question whether this has received planning permission as we cannot appear to find it?
The proposed scheme fails to maintain or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area, harms the setting and the historic and architectural significance of nearby heritage assets and would therefore detract from the special qualities of the World Heritage Site. Therefore the proposal would be contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act) 1990, Section 12 (Conserving and enhancing the historic environment) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), policies; B1, B4 and CP6 of the B&NES Core Strategy and policies CP6, D.2, D.5, HE1, D.7, B4, BD1 of the Placemaking Plan. We would therefore recommend that the application is refused.