Street Record, Kelston Road, Newbridge, Bath
The proposed site of development is located on the corner of Kelston Road and Penn Hill Road, situated within the World Heritage Site and the indicative townscape setting of the Bath City-Wide Conservation Area. The site is located just outside of the boundary of the Bath & Bristol Green Belt to the north. The area is of a low-rise, residential character with a predominant 20th century architectural vernacular, but features a number of Grade II buildings, including Penn Hill House to the north, and Newbridge House directly opposite the proposed site of development. The area is considered to be a transition point between Bath’s residential edge, where a loose built ‘boundary’ is formed along the roadside of Pen Hill Road, and the open landscape setting of the World Heritage Site to the west. Where Kelston Road is relatively flat, the area opens up to extensive views out to the south towards Newton St Loe, though the proposed site of development is largely enclosed by a single line of residential roadside development, and Newbridge Park & Ride further south.
BPT appreciates 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. And while we are aware of the increasing pressure for 5G installation and the upgrade of existing telecommunications services that are reaching the end of their lifespan, we have concerns regarding the current piecemeal approach of installation proposals by multiple different service providers.
We recognise that this application proposes revisions in design and appearance to the previously proposed mast in application 23/01652/TEL. The proposed use of a ‘phase 9’ mast model and design would be of an increasingly slim profile in comparison with the earlier ‘phase 8’ model, reducing the mass of the mast head to mitigate an overly top heavy appearance in wider streetscape views. We maintain the importance of pursuing a simple and streamlines design to minimise visual impact and reduce the monopole’s prominence in streetscape views, though we note this would remain the tallest feature within the streetscape in comparison to pre-existing street furniture and infrastructure. The proposed finish of the mast and associated cabinets in a green could help to integrate the mast in with the adjacent tree cover, though we trust that appropriate colour samples will be made available to the case officer.
We recognise the difficulty of balancing the delivery of public benefit associated with monopoles and associated connectivity enhancements, and the mitigation of potential impact to local streetscape views and character. Where the applicant has indicated consideration of other locations within the vicinity, we note that the current location has the benefit of existing tree planting where this would help to screen the monopole in wider views from the north-east. The success of visual mitigation works would be dependent on the retention and enhancement of this tree belt in the long term, and installation should seek to avoid any detriment or alterations to existing tree cover.
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 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 managed appropriately by the LPA, who should consider encouraging 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 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.