Shunem Villa, Prospect Road, Widcombe, Bath
Shunem Villa is a Grade II early 19th century detached house, situated within the Widcombe character area of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It occupies an elevated position on the east-west slope above Prospect Road and shares its immediate setting with the Grade II mid-19th century Fairstowe House to the south. The pair of dwellings are clearly visible in views along Widcombe Hill and as such are attributed shared aesthetic value in wider landscape views, albeit of varying architectural styles. Shunem Villa utilises more typically Georgian architectural details, with a modest, symmetrical use of fenestration, hipped roof set back behind a parapet, and string course detailing at first floor level. The ground floor conservatory addition is 20th century in origin, with a structure of a matching footprint having been in place by the 1940s at the latest.
In the light of the declared Climate Emergency, BPT is generally supportive of retrofit measures that protect elements that contribute to the special architectural and historic interest of a listed building; alterations are expected to be visually coherent with the character of the building and the wider character of the conservation area.
We are supportive of the principle of replacement of inappropriate uPVC units with more sympathetic timber framed sash windows, to be slimlite double glazed. This offers a positive opportunity for the implementation of energy-efficient retrofits without the loss of historic fabric, and the reinstatement of timber-framed sash windows with associated heritage gain.
However, we maintain that this application does not provide sufficient detail proportionate to the significance of a Grade II listed building, and further details and sections of the proposed slimlite double glazing are absent from this application. Further information is required, including proposed glazing thickness and glazing bar thickness and profile, to ensure the adequate assessment of the suitability of the proposed windows against existing examples of traditional fenestration and the special architectural and historic interest of the listed building.
The use of a window design across the south-east and north east elevations that is more compatible with the building’s traditional appearance is preferable, such as a symmetrical casement window.
We are supportive of the installation of PV panels on an inner roof slope where this would be of negligible visual impact to the special interest of a listed building. The position of the panels on the inner roof slope would ensure that these are appropriately screened from public view. However, we strongly recommend that further specifications and material details are submitted as part of this application to clarify the panel type, appearance, and finish. We maintain a preference for the use of monochrome, matte black panels where possible to minimise possible reflectivity and ensure a minimal and recessive appearance. We refer to Policy SCR2 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan for appropriate guidance on the design and finish of roof-mounted solar PV.
As part of the scheme, it is proposed to relocate the curtilage listed gate posts to improve access to the property and the public turning at the head of Prospect Road. The posts have already suffered damage from vehicles attempting to turn in this tightly constrained area. BPT was invited to make informal comments on the proposed relocation of the gate posts at pre-application stage. We therefore maintain our comments as previous; we consider that the relocation of the posts would constitute less than substantial harm to a curtilage Grade II structure, to be weighed against public benefits including the minimisation of vehicle collusions with the posts and associated damage to historic fabric. Whilst not specified as part of the Planning Report, we note the opportunity for additional heritage gains such as repair works to the posts, although this would need to be clarified as part of the application to weigh in the planning balance. The piers would be retained as the principal point of access to the property and as such their historic function, appearance, and derived value would be sustained.
However, we have some concerns regarding the proposed height and scale of the garage in close proximity to multiple listed buildings. The increased width of the garage’s footprint would further result in a building of increased prominence within the setting of Shunem Villa, as shown in the proposed south west elevation. Garage development in this context should remain appropriately subservient in scale and design to the host building. We further note that the garage would be accessed from the public turning point and as such there may be future pressure for the use of the garage independent from the listed building (eg. residential conversion). We maintain this would not be appropriate considering the constraints of the site and sensitive proximity to multiple listed buildings and we therefore suggest that a condition is attached to any forthcoming consent to ensure use remains tied to the principal building.