Specsavers Opticians, 17 – 18 Westgate Street, City Centre, Bath
17-18 Westgate Street is a pair of unlisted terraced buildings, now with a shared commercial ground floor, situated within the urban core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. This section of terrace may be attributed to the mid- to late 19th century at the latest due to historic retention of plan form and street pattern, although this may be based around an earlier late 18th or early 19th century building. The buildings forms part of an architectural group with the adjoining 19 Westgate Street due to the shared use of architrave window reveals at first floor level and moulded cornices at parapet level. They form part of the setting of a high concentration of Grade II terraced shops along Westgate Street, as well as the Grade II* 17th century 14-15 Westgate Street, now The Grapes.
There was a previous application for a non-illuminated aluminium fascia to be applied over the existing timber shopfront with vinyl ‘Specsavers’ lettering (see 16/04251/AR). This was refused on grounds that “shiny, highly glossy, non-traditional materials will be resisted” as outlined in B&NES Council’s SPD guidance on commercial signage and tables and chairs. The proposal, by virtue of its materials and design, was considered to be detrimental to the visual amenities of the street scene and the wider Bath conservation area.
We therefore consider that this application would not preserve or enhance the appearance or character of the conservation for the reasons previously given by the case officer as above, and should therefore be refused.
BPT resists the principle of illuminated signage. Bath is recognised as a low-illuminated city in which the maintained low levels of lighting complement the historic character and appearance of the city, and create a distinctive evening and night-time atmosphere. Therefore, the use of illuminated signage would detract from the visual amenities of the Bath conservation area and the special qualities of the World Heritage Site.
We oppose the installation of an aluminium fascia as a materially inappropriate intervention within the streetscape. Whilst it is unclear as to whether the proposed fascia would be of an increased thickness or project out from the building frontage without the provision of relevant sections, it is indicated that the fascia would be internally illuminated and would therefore need to be a certain thickness to accommodate the necessary wiring. We therefore emphasise that the use of overly thick or chunky signage would be a harmful addition to the conservation area. It is unclear as to why the existing timber fascia could not be retained and repainted in situ, which would be more in keeping with the traditional shopfront character of the conservation area. The proposed replacement fascia in its current design would not be considered acceptable and should be omitted or suitably amended.
Further details are required regarding the proposed colour and finish of the proposed fascia and hanging sign. The proposed “lime green” appears to be overly strident and jarring against the natural Bath stone façade of the building and the wider street scene. We encourage the use of a more subdued colour that would sit more comfortably within the established colour palette of the conservation area; relevant guidance and colour samples are available in the Bath Pattern Book. A matte finish is preferred to avoid an overly glossy or reflective appearance.
We note a lack of clarity regarding the proposed hanging sign. The proposed drawings indicate a painted timber sign (“marine pluy”) with white “applied” lettering, assumed to be vinyl. However, the hanging sign materials indicated in the Application Form are given as “aluminium fascia and acrylic logo”. This should be clarified with the case officer; we express a strong preference for the use of a hand-painted timber hanging sign. Vinyl lettering in this context is not considered materially appropriate.
We are disappointed by the apparent use of a generic and standardised shopfront treatment where something more bespoke to the special qualities of the Bath city centre would be strongly encouraged. Signage is expected to appropriately reflect, respond to, and reinforce local character.
This proposal is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, B4, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D8, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and the application should be withdrawn or refused.