Street Record, Footpath Old Fosse Road To Wellsway, Odd Down, Bath
The proposed site of development is located on the corner of Upper Bloomfield Road, situated within the World Heritage Site and the indicative townscape setting of the Bath conservation area. It is positioned adjacent to the boundary of the Green Belt to the west of Old Fosse Road. The area is of a low-rise, residential character with a predominant 20th century architectural vernacular; later 19th century development is largely constrained along Wellsway; several examples of late 19th century and early 20th century buildings are located around the development site, including 1-2 Westwood View and Burnt House Cottages. Whilst within a busy roadside context, the site is exposed to the west to open landscape views towards Englishcombe; the abrupt transition between Bath’s suburban periphery and undeveloped agricultural landscape forms part of the Green Setting OUV of the World Heritage Site and marks the “compact and sustainable form of the city”.
We note this application forms an increasing number of applications in and around Bath for new telecommunications and 5G masts. These include:
• 19/05534/FUL, Woolley Lane, Charlcombe – Refused.
• 20/01315/TEL, Woolley Lane, Charlcombe – Withdrawn.
• 20/02388/TEL, Claverton Buildings – Refused.
• 20/03255/FUL, Larkhall Sports Club, Charlcombe – Permitted.
• 21/02310/TEL, Locksbrook Road - Approved.
BPT continues to emphasise that we appreciate the necessity for the upgrade of the existing provision of access to 5G networks throughout Bath; it is an important and positive improvement of public amenity and technological access. We note the increasing pressure for 5G installation and the upgrade of existing telecommunications services that are reaching the end of their lifespan, although we have concerns regarding the current piecemeal approach of installation proposals by multiple different service providers.
We feel that the current, more slender monopole design is preferable to a bulkier, more top heavy design as has previously been proposed elsewhere (see application 19/05534/FUL). Due to the width of the site, the proposed location of the monopole and associated cabinets would not impinge on the pedestrian highway.
However, we do have some concerns regarding the proposed location of the mast in close proximity to residential housing and in sharp contrast to the predominantly low profile and medium density character of this residential area. Whilst the site is situated adjacent to undeveloped agricultural land to the west of Old Fosse Road, the proposed mast would remain at close proximity, ‘sandwiched’ between residential properties on three sides. The mast would be visually incongruous with the two storey, spacious appearance of the townscape. We additionally have concerns regarding the visibility of the mast in wider views to the west as part of the setting of the World Heritage Site. The application focuses on the close-range, ‘urban’ character of the area and does not appear to consider wider impact on landscape views. We maintain that the proposed mast’s contribution to its setting should be fully assessed with regards to the rural fringe character of the site as well as its suburban, residential characteristics.
BPT reiterates the need for a cohesive city-wide operations plan for the future installation of telecommunications equipment. We maintain concerns that the permit of singular applications would establish a precedent for piecemeal development without consideration of the wider cumulative impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area and the special interest of the World Heritage Site. Due to the shorter range of 5G wavelengths, an unspecified increase in volume of telecommunications installation would be required to provide connectivity both in and around Bath, as well as increasing pressure to deliver within sensitive historic environments and landscapes. We therefore maintain concerns regarding this application as a potential precedent for the intensified roll-out of 5G masts within the sensitive landscape setting of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site, without the formulation of a demonstrated scheme or operations plan regarding ongoing upgrades, either within a single supplier or across multiple suppliers.
BPT consequently urges this increasing trend in telecommunications applications to be accompanied by a cross-operator masterplan that highlights appropriate sites, mast designs, and volume caps across Bath and north-east Somerset to ensure a cohesive and sustainable approach to district-wide upgrades. We maintain that operators should be encouraged to share masts wherever possible to reduce the total amount of infrastructure required. We encourage the consideration of a palette of potential monopole designs to ensure citywide consistency whilst favouring a slimmer profile which would be less visually bulky or top heavy, and therefore of reduced visual harm.
We highlight similar collaborations in the creation of a Joint Accord between service providers and the Cotswold Conservation Board in 2011.
There appears to be no reference to telecommunications equipment within the current Bath Pattern Book which is of concern, and allows for an increasing variety of incongruous and intrusive designs without guidance on what may be appropriate within the historic city core of the conservation area and World Heritage Site, and its interconnected urban setting.