Platinum Accident Repair Centre (Renrod Limited), 22-24 Cheltenham Street, Westmoreland, Bath
The proposed site of development is an industrial plot along Westmoreland Street and Cheltenham Street, currently occupied by the Dick Lovett Bodyshop, set back from Lower Bristol Road. It is situated within the World Heritage Site, adjacent to the immediate setting of the Bath conservation area and is visible from the main thoroughfare into the city centre. Its contextual setting is a mix of industrial and residential buildings, with a 2012 development establishing a mixed height of two and three storeys along the north side of Cheltenham Street. Bath stone ashlar remains the prominent building material, although a late 19th century two storey terrace along Westmoreland Street introduces an example of red brick unusual within Bath’s traditional vernacular.
We cannot support this application, because of harm to multiple heritage assets caused by the excessive overall height of the development, particularly in Blocks A and C, which would be out of character with the established residential townscape along Lower Bristol Road and results in a heavy, over-dominant streetside presence.
Height and Design:
The overall height of the scheme fails to respond positively to its primarily low-rise context. The site’s contextual setting is two-three storeys in height, with the connecting section of Lower Bristol Road remaining at two storeys with some examples of two-three storeys designed into the Victorian townscape as a feature. In accordance with the Bath Building Heights Strategy, “Building shoulder height should be four storeys. One additional setback storey within the roofscape is likely to be acceptable.” The five storey, unvaried height of Block C is therefore objectionable in principle; its height, bulk, and massing would cumulatively result in the overdevelopment of its plot. Considering the mixed two and three storey residential appearance of the area with a mix of historic and contemporary development, the consequent scale and massing of the south section of the scheme would be over-dominant. We would therefore suggest that the height of the scheme should be restricted to three storeys with potential for a set-back fourth storey within the roofscape.
Certain aspects of the design, such as the incongruous use of a faux mansard roof profile across Blocks A and C threaten the integrity and cohesiveness of the World Heritage Site. We do not consider this design to be in tune with the local residential vernacular visible along Lower Bristol Road, a concentrated area of 19th century domestic and industrial architecture characterised by a prominent use of pitched and gabled roofs, although admittedly with a parapet front along Westmoreland Street. This typically Georgian/neo-classical element would therefore be alien when viewed within its surrounding context. We would therefore recommend a roof profile more in keeping with the surrounding mid-Victorian architecture, or perhaps a more contemporary design drawing from the historic context.
We further feel that the integration of garages into the ground floor of the townhouses would result in poorly articulated elevational treatments and a bland street scene. The ground floor would be distinctly non-residential in its ‘services’ appearance and, particularly in the case of Block B facing onto Westmoreland Street, would close off the ground floors from their townscape context.
We have some concerns regarding the apparent lack of external amenity space and green landscaping to serve future apartment residents who do not have the benefit of private garden access. The ‘courtyard’ space between Blocks A and C has instead been allocated for parking. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the amenity value of private external spaces has been highlighted; we would therefore like to see an increased emphasis on functional outdoor amenity space and landscaping to ensure the development’s prospective residential amenity, especially to benefit those in the affordable housing units.
While we welcome car-free development in sustainable locations, in policy terms there is an insufficient parking provision to meet the 17 1-bed and 12 2-bed apartments, despite the stated accessibility of the site. In accordance with Policy ST7 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, the development should provide a total of 77 parking spaces, plus 9.4 visitor parking spaces, of which only 26 have been provided, with 18 of these being private use for the 3-bed townhouses. Whilst a limited shortfall may be acceptable on accessible sites, a shortfall of 60.4 spaces might put pressure on surrounding streets to cope with increased on-street parking overflow, particularly in the case of future residents of the apartments. We therefore maintain that an accessibility assessment should be submitted in accordance with Policy ST7 to better determine the suitability of the proposed non-policy compliant parking provisions.
We question the proposed loss of employment space and whether an appropriate offset has been provided. The development proposes the provision of an “Employment space” within the ground floor of Block A, although we have some concerns regarding the inconsistent GIA allocated for Class E use of between 56.5 - 68.5 sqm.
In accordance with Policy ED2B of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, there is an in-principle resistance to the loss of existing industrial floor space on the site, particularly in light of the accelerating shortage of supply in the industrial market that is forcing prospective tenants and businesses to look at sites outside Bath.
The applicant has acknowledged that the site, as existing, is not vacant, and nor has there been a 12 month marketing period as required by local policy to adequately demonstrate a lack of viability. We further note that no formal viability assessment has been included as part of this application, as well as an absence of details regarding the existing GIA of the industrial floor space that is proposed to be demolished. The suitability of the proposed office space to offset industrial site loss therefore cannot be fully assessed without a complete understanding of the scale and viability of the site as it stands. We ask that these details are clarified with the LPA before this application can progress further.
We are pleased to see the proposed provision of 40% build-to-sell affordable housing on-site, 10% over the 30% local policy requirement, with a commendable ambition to provide a mix of affordable housing types (social rented, shared ownership).
However, we remain concerned at the concentration of all 19 affordable ‘units’ within Block C, and note that none of the proposed townhouses available within Block A and Block B are available as part of this affordable provision. Section 8 of the NPPF highlights the significance of mixed-use developments in facilitating healthy and safe communities, whilst Policy CP9 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan states that “residential developments delivering on-site affordable housing should provide a mix of affordable housing units and contribute to the creation of mixed, balanced and inclusive communities.”
We would therefore like to see a greater mix of affordable housing delivered on-site outside of one and two bed apartments to ensure an appropriate, sustainable housing mix that can meet varied local demand, in accordance with Policies CP9 and CP10 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan.
The proposed height, design and appearance would have an adverse impact that would harm the setting of the Bath City-Wide Conservation Area, and the integrity and cohesiveness of the World Heritage Site, and would be of detriment to local townscape character. The proposed development is contrary to Section 8, and 16 of the NPPF, and Policies CP6, D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, HE1, B1, B4, and ED2B of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused or withdrawn until a more height-appropriate scheme is considered. We emphasise the need to fully consider the viability of the site with regards to the loss of industrial floorspace.