Percy Community Centre, New King Street, Kingsmead, Bath
(Amended plans 15/06/2022)
The Percy Community Centre is an unlisted 1960s building situated within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The site has a triple frontage, with the community centre forming part of the New King Street streetscape, and the playing courts forming part of the Monmouth Place streetscape, with Cumberland Row forming a north-south access between the two overlooked by the site. The existing building is situated within the Grade II listed Georgian terrace along New King Street, and forms a contrasting post-war break within a terrace which remains largely intact in scale and homogeneity of articulation and design, with the exception of the Grade II* 18-19 New King Street, with 19 now being the Herschel Museum. The site was previously occupied by the mid-19th century school on Monmouth Place and the early 19th century Wesleyan Chapel on New King Street, both of which appear to have been demolished as the result of bomb damage.
BPT has objected to previous iterations of the scheme (see BPT Objection 30/08/2019 & BPT Objection 10/12/2020). We continue to welcome proposals to refurbish, expand and update this site for the community. This site is entirely suitable for redevelopment and we encourage the use of an appropriate contemporary design where this contributes to and reinforces local character and meets high standards of design, construction, and finish.
We are grateful to have been included within previous design discussions as part of the consultation process, and would be happy to engage in further future discussions about the development of the scheme.
We have the following comments on the amended scheme dated 26/05/2022:
Design approach and appearance:
We commend the opportunity for a lively, contemporary addition to the streetscape. The suitability of the proposals is dependent on securing a quality approach to the design and materials from initial design proposals through to delivery. We note that good design can be undermined by value engineering during the construction phase and therefore highlight the need to consider financial viability from the outset in what a proposal can be expected to deliver.
The overall reduction in height, scale, and massing is welcomed and appears to sit more comfortably within the established shoulder height of the streetscape. Eg. the proposed vertical aluminium screening of the roof garden would align with the parapet of the adjacent terrace and the ridge height of the pitched roof would be approximately level with neighbouring properties. However, we would welcome contextual site sections that demonstrate the height of the gabled elevation more clearly.
We maintain some concerns regarding the proposed articulation and profile of the roofscape and how this references its context. The previously proposed north-south articulation of gable ends onto Monmouth Place and New King Street was intended to draw from the original frontages of the old school and the Wesleyan Church. The roofscape has since been amended to reorient the pitched roofs on an east-west alignment. BPT originally commented that an east-west ridge line may better align with the established, terraced roofscape of New King Street. Nonetheless, our concern is that the original design reference has been discarded and there is now a lack of contextual framing for this revised approach. For example, it is unclear as to how the roof width, height, scale, and pitch (45°?) reflects adjacent historic examples. We recommend that a more in-depth assessment, and justification for of the proposed roof profile within its streetscape is needed, ideally through the use of further images and contextual elevations, when considering the prominence of the gable ends on the corner elevation. There further appears to be some variability in roof width and consequently pitch in the proposed roof elevation which has not been addressed as part of the design proposals or reflected in the proposed elevations.
We are pleased to see that BPT’s comments have been taken on board regarding our concerns as to the previous materiality of the scheme and the appropriateness of using timber cladding within an overtly urban context. The use of metal cladding does have precedents within the city centre (see the perforated aluminium screen at the new Clore Learning Centre) as well as having some historic reference when used at roof level. We therefore consider that this could be an appropriate material choice in keeping with local context, dependent on further design details and samples regarding the proposed appearance, colour, and finish and how this would sit within the streetscape.
Courtyard and boundary treatment:
We are supportive of the proposed approach to the outside court. We consider the proposed enclosure would better retain visual openness across the site and help to break up the perceived scale and form of development. We welcome the opportunity to better define the Monmouth Street elevation and create a more coherent and unified approach to the site as a whole. The redefinition of the Monmouth Place elevation as part of an accessible, triple frontage is positive.
However, further details are needed regarding the treatment of the 2.5m wall along Monmouth Place, a surviving remnant of the 19th century school façade. The D&A Statement indicates “the surviving wall will be cleaned and openings reinstated with glazing”. However, the proposed drawings and visual montages show the wall with a white even finish; it is unclear as to whether this is an inconsistency in the drawings or whether it is proposed to render or cover over the historic stonework. Similarly, the proposed openings from Monmouth Place are shown as squared-off reveals, omitting surviving historic detailing such as the inset Corinthian columns either side of the shouldered arch. It is preferable to retain the historic detailing and natural stone finish of this surviving fragment of the original façade, and as such sustain a material fragment of the historic appearance and function of the site.
Further details are similarly recommended as to the proposed extension of the wall along Cumberland Row and how this would intersect with the boundary wall as existing. The retention of a natural, exposed stone finish would be more appropriate in this area than a render overlay.