Street Record, Burton Street, City Centre
BPT previously responded to application 22/04560/FUL for a new water refill unit on New Bond Street, which has since been withdrawn following concerns expressed by Highways about potential restrictions to pedestrian movement in what is already a constrained location. A number of alternative sites were recommended for consideration, including Burton Street.
In principle BPT is supportive of the public provision of Water Refill Units; we feel that this is a marked improvement to the amenity of Bath’s public realm for tourists and locals alike, and is a positive step towards reducing the use of single-use plastic throughout the city in light of the current Climate Emergency.
The repositioning of the unit on Burton Street would be an improvement where this would continue to facilitate high volumes of pedestrian movement without significant intrusion. In comparison with New Bond Street, Burton Street consists of a comparatively wider pavement with limited street infrastructure to the north end (with the exception of the existing security bollards), and is restricted for pedestrian use only. The proposed location of the new water refill unit would be “set back close to the wall to ensure it does not encroach on the public realm but will be installed so as to give enough clearance to allow the notice board cabinet behind to open.” From the perspective of ensuring the continued flow of pedestrian users through the city centre, the proposed relocation of the unit would be more appropriate.
We do maintain concerns relating to the cumulative increase in street clutter within the city centre. Burton Street generally remains clear of street infrastructure/street furniture, although there is an increasing density of outdoor seating, bins, benches, and wayfinding signage along the southern end where this intersects with Upper Borough Walls and Union Street. We continue to note that the unit would not be grouped with other features of the public realm, unlike existing installed examples of units elsewhere in the city, although its visual and physical impact would be lessened by its close proximity to the terrace façade, rather than jutting out into the pavement as an obstructive feature.
We further note that there is an insufficient consideration of the historic interest of Burton Street, where it is categorised by a high concentration of Grade II terraced buildings at 1-5 Burton Street, 5-10 Old Bond Street, as well as the indicative townscape setting of other listed buildings to the north and south at New Bond Street Buildings and Union Street. Greater consideration is required as to potential impact to the setting of multiple heritage assets and how this could be, or has already been, suitably mitigated through the use of design, positioning, and finish to ensure that the public benefits outweigh any demonstrated harm. We consider this to be a critical process where an increasing number of proposals are coming forward for water refill units throughout the city, where previous attention has been focused on areas either of lesser comparative historic significance, such as Southgate Street, or else areas where street furniture or later buildings have already resulted in a notable intervention to the historic streetscape.
Considering the increasing number of applications for similar installations, it is recommended that a city-wide scheme or masterplan for proposed installation points is compiled to better illustrate how these points can be best located to serve a maximum number of users without compromising the qualities of Bath’s public realm.
We continue to recommend that the LPA considers these forthcoming applications in relation to existing principles within the Pattern Book of shape, design, materiality, and colour, and how these applications would establish a city-wide appearance and function new to Bath’s public realm. We feel this should therefore be integrated into future revisions of design guides and pattern books to ensure control over predicted future installations or alterations.