Storage Yard Adjacent To Argyle Works, Lower Bristol Road, Westmoreland, Bath
The proposed site of development is located on a vacant brownfield site along the Lower Bristol Road, situated within the Bath World Heritage Site and the indicative townscape setting of the Bath conservation area. However, due to its roadside position the site remains clearly visible in streetscape views along a main arterial route into the conservation area and the city centre. The character of the area is mixed; to the east of the site is Vernon Terrace and other examples of small-scale terraced dwellings further south. Whilst this residential context does extend to the west of the site and remains prevalent along this section of Lower Bristol Road, examples of industrial sites are evident in the area, such as the neighbouring garage. Other, more historic examples of industrial development include the Grade II former cabinet maker’s factory, now in commercial use. The site is characterised as a storage yard, and as existing makes a neutral contribution to the built character of the area.
In principle, BPT is strongly in favour of the provision of affordable housing within the city to meet high demand and address the housing crisis. It is specified that the proposed housing would be offered as “social rent in perpetuity” and therefore is anticipated to meet the government requirements that initial rent is to be no higher than formula rent (dependent on specified rent flexibilities).
BPT is keen to see the delivery of genuinely affordable and social housing in Bath. We therefore strongly maintain that further details are provided regarding the definition of either affordable and/or social housing as applied to this development, and how its use will be secured in perpetuity via planning agreements.
We commend the proposal for the provision of internal space which exceeds the nationally described space standard, and consider the benefits of adequate internal space to likely ensure the future, sustainable residential amenity and flexibility.
We strongly maintain that whilst the national space standard is not adopted within the current Local Plan, this remains a significantly useful tool in assessing the liveability of a development and consequently can be considered an indicator of good design. We consider that this council-owned site should be noted as a ‘benchmark’ example by other developers to strive to meet and exceed adequate levels of residential amenity, even where this is not mandated in policy.
However, we have some comments and concerns regarding the design and layout of the proposal as follows:
We have concerns regarding the positioning of buildings within the plot, the building line, and dominance of cars and hardstanding. In accordance with Policy D4 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, “car parking and highways design should not dominate the design of the development or the public realm.” As currently proposed, the extent of car parking has resulted in an unsatisfactory balance between hardstanding, useable amenity space, and green landscaping, the latter of which has been pushed to the front of the site overlooking the road and does not offer appropriately private or defensible amenity space for the use of future residents. From the proposed plans, it appears that the building could be pulled forward towards the road, to increase space at the rear and the hard landscaping at the rear could be reduced, allowing for increased greening or the creation of shared amenity space without greatly compromising the number of proposed parking spaces; this may be clarified and consequently justified with swept path analysis.
The Planning Statement summarises that the site’s “highly sustainable location” has enabled a reduction of the policy requirement of 14.6 spaces to 8 spaces, the principle of which has been accepted by the Council’s Highways Officer at pre-app stage. However, we maintain that considering the acknowledged sustainability of the site’s location, a further reduction could be considered to minimise the dependency and dominance of car usage on this site and allow for a more appropriate balance of parking and green amenity space for residents, as well as the potential for the development of a low-car or car-free scheme.
Plan and internal layout of buildings:
Considering the possible future occupation of the 2-bed apartments by young families, we note that the proposed roadside areas of green space with low boundary walls would not provide adequately safe, enclosed space for children.
We encourage the siting of two-bed apartments on the ground floor with access and overlooking to useable rear amenity space.
Materials and Boundary Treatments:
We note the need for further material specifications at this stage of the application process. The proposed north (principal) elevations are indicated to be in ‘stone’, but no further details as to the type, colour, or finish of the stone are provided. The use of an Oolitic limestone is strongly recommended to complement the prevalent material palette of the area, examples of which are used across neighbouring properties such as Vernon Terrace. Furthermore, from the elevations it appears that a split stone masonry finish is proposed, although no design reference or indication for this is provided as part of proposals.
The proposed treatment of the existing coursed rubble stone wall remains unclear as part of proposals. The landscape plan indicates the “Existing boundary wall to be carefully deconstructed. Material from upper levels of wall to be repurposed in the construction of wider walling requirements.” As the proposed visualisations show the proposed boundary wall to be in coursed ashlar stone, it is unclear as to whether the lower half of the wall would be retained as part of the development, or if the rubble stone would be reused as part of the boundary treatment? Considering the existing wall’s relationship with the extant boundary treatment type along this section of the streetscape (eg. Vernon Terrace), we suggest it may be positive to retain the lower half of the wall or implement a coursed rubble wall typology in reference to the area. Alternatively, the retention of the wall as existing may allow for better defensible external amenity space for future residents of the scheme.