Street Record, New Bond Street, City Centre, Bath
The proposed site for the installation of a Water Refill Unit is on New Bond Street, within the historic core of the Bath Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. The Unit would be installed outside of the north elevation of 14 New Bond Street, part of an 1800 Grade II section of terrace with shopfronts at ground floor. This area of the streetscape forms part of a key junction between the bottom of Milsom Street and Stall Street, as well as the High Street via New Bond Street. The adjacent section of pavement outside 16-17 Old Bond Street opens out into a plaza-style area of public realm with associated seating and planting, which is typically used by pop-up stalls and for art/music performances. The public realm of New Bond Street consequently incorporates a transition from narrower pavements to incorporate on-street parking, to a wider pedestrian thoroughfare that merges into this pedestrianised junction point. New Bond Street is generally clear of public infrastructure where this cannot be spatially accommodated, with the exception of Sheffield bike stands and the use of bollards along the pavement edge to delineate between pedestrian/vehicle routes. This area is typically well-used by pedestrians and in places, particularly on the eastern section of the road, there is insufficient pavement capacity which results in some pavement users spilling out into the road.
BPT has previously responded to an increasing number of applications for the installation of water refill units throughout the city centre; our definitive comments with regards to the established appearance, design and finish of the proposed units was set out in response to application 19/05415/FUL which can be read in full here. A water refill unit was permitted in stainless steel with a satin black finish (RAL 9005). This application has consequently been referred to as a template in design, materiality, and appearance for multiple proposed water refill stations within Bath.
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.
However, we do have some concerns regarding the increasing concentration of street clutter and the resulting impact to the visual amenities of the Bath conservation area, as well as ensuring adequate levels of pedestrian accessibility. The site has been selected on the grounds that "the most suitable locations for Water Refill Units are publicly accessible areas with high footfall to ensure the units are well used and to maximise the benefits of reducing single use plastic”, as well as being located close to existing water supply pipes. However, this does not appear to account for its proposed location directly in front of a listed building, and the wider sensitivity of its location as part of Bath’s historic shopping district.
The proposed fountain would be located within the middle of the pavement and introduce an obstacle into an area which often struggles to deal with volumes of pedestrian footfall without resulting in overspill into the road (excluded from Milsom Street ETRO). This area of the pavement is somewhat awkward due to its sharply curved edge along the roadside and the set back of regular bollards approx. 500mm back from the pavement edge, which we do not feel has been adequately reflected in the proposed sections.
The Unit would not be grouped with other features of the public realm, unlike existing installed examples of Units elsewhere in the city.
There is a question as to whether the Unit could be more comfortably accommodated on the plaza at the junction with Old Bond Street, particularly where this could be grouped with existing infrastructure – either the bins/wayfaring sign on the north end, or the public seating on the south end? The application does raise concerns about “potential conflicts with the Promotional Pitch on New Bond Street, as well as existing use by buskers and other pop-up stalls”, but given the greater volume of pedestrian space in this area we consider that this could be more comfortably accommodated with a lesser impact on pedestrian amenity (though this would still remain dependent on accessibility to existing water supply pipes). The installation of a Unit would create a focal point for visitors to refill their drinking water which would likely complement the need for increased foot traffic to coincide with pop-up stalls, etc.
We reiterate our previous points as follows:
“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.”