Plumb Centre, Locksbrook Road, Newbridge, Bath
The Trust has mixed feelings about this scheme:
We have an in-principle objection to the student accommodation element of the scheme on the basis that there is no proven need for more high-end speculative PBSAs, as acknowledged in the evidence base for the Local Plan Options, and given the sustainable location close to the RUH and local businesses, these units could provide much needed residential accommodation for key workers and young professionals and therefore contribute to the housing shortfall as identified in the Local Plan. We support the provision of leisure and light industrial space.
Our committee were pleased to see an innovative and creative design come forward which creates visual interest and could potentially enhance the mixed character of the local area. However the height is too great for its location and therefore we object to this element of the scheme. The sections clearly demonstrate how the building will sit within the topography of the local area, and it is clear that it will dominate the local area with its height and scale and produce a contextually discordant townscape feature. In fact it would be the tallest building by some way.
Whilst we appreciate the addition of green roofs these will only go some way to alleviating the dominance of the scheme within the local townscape. Most importantly both the scale and height appear to ‘loom’ over the listed Herman Miller building and will therefore harm the setting of the building by encroaching into its space; whilst we don’t object to the colour, the black materials of the building only serve to exacerbate this sense of intrusion. Being a large flat building, Herman Miller must sit within a large open setting in order for the special interest of the building to be appreciated. While there is explicit reference to a riverside industrial warehouse aesthetic, in fact this site is set back from the riverfront and in other locations (e.g. Bath Quays South there is some recognition of heights to step back from the river frontage in order to provide a transition to the domestic scale).
We would recommend that the building is reduced in height by at least one floor at the rear gabled sections, and that perhaps some redesign or use of recessive coloured materials can achieve a set-back on the front of the building which can allow it to retreat somewhat away from a visual confrontation with the former Herman Miller building.
On balance, despite our appreciation of the high quality design of the scheme, and the efforts made to be architecturally inventive, we have to object to this scheme on the basis of the proposed student accommodation and the excessive height of the rear sections.
The proposed height and scale of the scheme fails to maintain or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area, harms the setting and significance of the Herman Miller building 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 16 (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, B4, BD1 of the Placemaking Plan. We would therefore recommend that the application is amended or refused.