Landscaped Verge West Of Valley View Close, Valley View Road, Charlcombe, Bath
The proposed site of development is a narrow, steeply sloped undeveloped area of land between Valley View Close and Valley View Road, situated within the Bath World Heritage Site and the indicative townscape context of the Bath conservation area. The area is made up of predominantly late 20th century terraced and semi-detached dwellings in a rectilinear pattern that responds to the steep north-west – south-east slope towards Gloucester Road. The edge of the Green Belt and Cotswolds AONB closely border the site to the north and west. As of 2016, the site was described as being in use as a “private garden space” (Delegated Report, 16/03761/FUL), although the condition of the site has since deteriorated and resulted in visual detriment to the area. However, this does not detract from the site’s defined qualities as a visually open green space and buffer within the area which sets the terraced dwellings at 24-33 Valley View Close back from Valley View Road, at the point where the road narrows and becomes distinctly rural in character. The site marks part of the distinct transition between the residential properties of the Larkhall area and the more open, rural characteristics of the setting of Charlcombe to the north. These are directly connected by Valley View Road, with the narrow lane-like qualities of the road bringing a semi-rural atmosphere into the outskirts of Bath.
It is worth noting that the attributed significance of this site as “an important open buffer and transition between the fairly dense and formal nature of Valley View Close’s street scene, comprising two storey terraced dwellings, and the pleasant informality of Valley View Road to the north of the site leading out to the countryside, with only allotment gardens immediately to the north of it opposite the site” has been recognised by the inspector at appeal (see refused application 17/02254/FUL).
There have previously been two refused applications for the residential development of this site (see applications 16/03761/FUL and 17/02254/FUL). In both cases, development was refused by the case officer on grounds that the “design, layout and siting of the proposed development on this prominent site […] would fail to respond positively to the locality and would have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the street scene and the general locality.”
BPT feels that this application has not adequately addressed ongoing concerns regarding the development of this noted transition site and its impact on local context and the character of the area. The site is awkward, being long and narrow in proportion; its steep slope opens it up to public views, particularly from the south-western end. The proposed development, despite being partially buried, would therefore continue to have a material impact on the character of this currently undeveloped green buffer site. The narrow form and length of the development footprint remain uncharacteristic of the surrounding urban grain, and the widest portion of the building to the north is tightly restrained on either sides by the site boundary.
Moreover, we have concerns regarding the emphasis on concealing the proposed development rather than creating a high quality scheme that successfully enhances local character. Whilst we appreciate that the scheme is attempting to reconcile the existing green buffer qualities of the site with opportunities for residential development, it is unclear how the development would actively respond to or contribute positively to local character and distinctiveness, with emphasis remaining on how development can be obscured from public views rather than the architectural approach.
With regard to the subterranean nature of the proposal, we feel that inadequate information has been provided about the quantity of material to be removed from the site and whether the ground conditions are suitable.
The proposed development would be at least partially reliant on soft landscaping measures, such as a perimeter hedge, to “further soften the appearance of the sunken bungalow” (D&A Statement). However, the inspector concluded in the appeal decision for application 17/02254/FUL that the planting of a hedge “is not a fundamental factor in terms of the site’s importance in providing an open buffer. Again, any such hedge planting could also not be guaranteed to survive or be maintained as proposed in the longer term.” Therefore the benefits of the proposed landscaping works in relation to screening development are considered limited.
Furthermore, this clandestine approach does not account for the retained visibility along the south corner of the site. Due to the steep topography of the site and the proposed excavation works, the development would present a three ‘tiered’ flat-roofed elevation along this frontage, which would visually exacerbate the perceived height of development in an area of predominantly modest two storey terraces. Further consideration of this elevation in contextual views is required; where this intervention in the townscape would be inevitable due to existing sightlines, we suggest that this design approach could be further rationalised to better respond to its built context and consequently reinforce local character. As existing, we do not consider that the proposed design has been appropriately considered in relation to its contribution to the locality.