Sports World, 10 Westgate Buildings, City Centre
10 Westgate Buildings forms part of an unlisted, mid-20th century series of buildings of mixed commercial and residential use situated within the commercial core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. The buildings were originally constructed post-1940s following significant bomb damage to the original series of late 18th - early 19th century terrace along Westgate Buildings and Avon Street, and as such they emulate aspects of Palladian architecture and rhythm whilst seeking to replicate the cohesive, ‘terraced’ character typical of Bath’s streetscape. A pair of Grade II terraced dwellings, now in use as offices/shops, at 13-14 Westgate Buildings are an evidential survivor of the original streetscape of Westgate Buildings, and are notably of a more modest character than the more grandiose 20th century ‘reconstruction’ at 6-10 Westgate Buildings. The focus of this application is on the ground floor which has been given over to a series of commercial units with contemporary single-pane shopfronts. Due to the cumulative scale and grouped number of shopfronts, these constitute a significant intervention in the streetscape and are visually prominent in a number of viewpoints from and along the approach into Kingsmead Square and the historic city centre. Jointly, these shopfronts also form the immediate setting of a number of early to mid-18th century Grade II and Grade II* buildings, including 4-5 Chapel Court and Chandos House.
Whilst the shopfront of 10 Westgate Buildings is of negligible historic or aesthetic value, alterations should seek to reflect, respond to, and respect the distinctive shopfront character and appearance of the conservation area.
We are therefore unable to support this application on grounds of the proposed excessive use of illumination, and the ‘deadening’ effect of the proposed lightboxes on the shopfront and the wider appearance of the streetscape. BPT is resistant to the principle of illuminated signage, and we maintain that the addition of illuminated signage would be contrary to Bath’s low-level lighting and distinctive night time character.
The number and scale of the proposed lightboxes are excessive and insensitive to their surroundings, and would blank out the shopfront in its entirety. As proposed, the lightboxes would fit each shopfront corner-to-corner and be a dazzling, over-bright addition to the streetscape, and the cumulative result would be excessively dominant in appearance both during the day and at night. We maintain that the use of bright, busy, and over-dominant window displays would detract from the special qualities of Bath’s street scene, as well as the setting of multiple listed buildings.
We do not consider that the proposal is appropriately justified, and therefore constitutes harm to the appearance and character of the conservation area with no demonstrated public benefit. There does not appear to be a relevant advertising need for illumination on this scale, and we note a number of commercial premises in the area along Westgate Buildings and on Kingsmead Square that use lighting more sensitively and frugally.
This application would not preserve or enhance the appearance or character of the conservation area or the special qualities of the World Heritage Site, and is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D8, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused or withdrawn.