St Martin’s Hospital, Clara Cross Lane, Odd Down, Bath
This development site is located within the Bath World Heritage site, adjacent to a significant cluster of Grade II Victorian buildings including St Martin’s Chapel and St Martin’s Hospital, that form the nucleus of an early 19th century workhouse complex. Originally situated outside of Bath, the site remains characterised by the mid to low density of construction and an incorporation of green infrastructure that positively encapsulates the site’s original rural setting.
BPT has previously objected to multiple revised designs submitted as part of refused application 19/05059/FUL. Whilst this application proposes a somewhat reduced scheme of 2 storeys, the proposal’s 8 2-bed apartment capacity has not altered.
We maintain our objection on the basis of the principle of development, the impact of new development on the setting of numerous listed buildings and the significant contribution of a largely intact workhouse site towards the historic, evidential, and social Victorian heritage of the Bath World Heritage Site, and the insensitive massing and boundary treatment of the proposed building.
Principle of Development:
We maintain that the significance of the site has not changed. It continues to form the green, wooded setting of the chapel that sits adjacent to the core of the workhouse complex, and forms part of its surviving rural context. We understand this is recognised as an important local green space that is valued both for its amenity and its contribution to the setting of the listed workhouse and chapel. The value of this green space was particularly highlighted during the 2002-2005 planning applications for the Hexagon in that its importance was noted as being a publicly accessible green space which was to be used by local residents; there were specific objections to its erosion by B&NES officers. We therefore maintain the significance of this portion of land in countering the later development to the north of the site, and continue to query the suitability of development on this site which would further erode the site’s remaining green character. We maintain that the loss of green space would be detrimental to the setting of the listed buildings as originally stated by the case officer (see 19/05059/FUL Delegated Report).
Impact of Development:
The existing temporary, single-storey structures on the site are of a neutral value to the area, and we do not object to their removal or replacement. However, we would highlight that due to their low massing, they are well-screened from the roadside by hedging and dense tree-planting. Consequently, it can be argued that their visual impact on the setting of the Grade II listed chapel and workhouse is suitably mitigated, and their smallness of scale remains subservient to the established massing of the complex. The claim that “the proposal certainly does no more harm than the existing building” made in the Planning Statement therefore appears to be unsubstantiated regarding the existing structures’ largely innocuous and low-profile appearance.
The consequent loss of green context would be of detriment to the workhouse site, as well as the more immediate setting of the chapel. The conditioning of a Landscape Management Plan as part of an approval does not adequately address the concerns of the increased exposure and development of the site as proposed, and resulting visual harm to the setting of St Martin’s Chapel.
We remain concerned with the amount of hard landscaping proposed for parking; we note that the parking boundary has been set back further from the immediate historic chapel curtilage than previous (see 19/05059/FUL Site Plan 20/11/2019), but would continue to constitute a stark, visual intervention in the streetscape of Clara Cross Lane, and would continue to have a visual detriment on the verdant context of St Martin’s Chapel through the removal of green screening and setting. The car park aspect of the scheme appears to have been excluded from the provided visualisation of the proposed site, as well as the site’s position in relation to St Martin’s Chapel, and we suggest it is included within further contextual views of the site.
The proposed building is pushed up against the pavement which will dominate the street view into the complex via Clara Cross Lane, closing off the desirable, open visibility of the site. Despite the Heritage Statement’s claims that the building would maintain the openness of the site, we feel that its 2 storey height and close proximity, combined with extensive hard landscaping and the removal of existing green infrastructure, would challenge the chapel’s standalone character and detract from the chapel’s prominence.
We understand this may well be the site of unmarked paupers’ graves relating to the workhouse; therefore, the applicant should be obliged to undertake all their statutory duties in relation to this.
Design and Materials:
We continue to emphasise that materials used should respond to or enhance the local context. The historically-established architectural character of the Hexagon is of exposed Bath stone ashlar and gabled roofing, vernacular aspects of colour, material, and shape that are visibly reflected in St Martin’s Chapel.
The proposal appears to have reverted to a design similar to that initially proposed in application 19/05059/FUL in November 2019, although we note the building has been restricted to two storeys in height. We therefore maintain that the design as proposed is architecturally and aesthetically isolated from its historic setting and local townscape. The use of the stepped back flat roof form is not found locally and is not appropriate. It is only used to increase the quantum of development and is of a visual appearance that is at odds with and alien to the mixed local domestic scale townscape. The use of aluminium metal cladding further contributes to the incongruous appearance of the proposed building by introducing an unreferenced, industrial element to the site.
We object in-principle to the use of render across prominent or principle elevations within the interconnected setting of multiple listed buildings. The extensive use of render would have a sharp and bright appearance within Bath’s primarily natural Bath stone context. The Trust maintains that all elevations should be natural Bath stone ashlar or another material that does not try to imitate Bath stone in form or colour.
We maintain that any new building on this site should be low rise to enable a continuity of building shape whilst mitigating the detrimental impact of its massing on the setting of numerous listed buildings, and visually relate to the primary material and architectural vernacular of the site. Part of the significance of the St Martin’s Hospital site is its historic, aesthetic, and architectural relationship between the hospital building and St Martin’s Chapel and the resulting visual uniformity of the site, within which this development should form a harmonious addition complementary to established local character.
The proposed scheme for the reasons stated above would have an adverse impact on the group value, and therefore the significance and setting of the listed buildings and, and would fail to reinforce the character and distinctiveness, and visual amenity value of the local area. This application is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, B4, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D5, D7, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused or withdrawn.