Street Record, Southgate Street, City Centre, Bath
The proposed site for the installation of a Water Refill Unit is on Southgate Street, part of the 2009-2010 Southgate development situated within the commercial core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. Southgate Street is a popular and busy pedestrian thoroughfare that acts as a direct connector between Stall Street and the historic city core, and Dorchester Street and Bath Spa Station. Southgate Street retains a mix of active and stationary leisure public amenity; the centre of the street is occupied with tree planting and regular ‘stopping points’ with public benches, bins, and street lighting. Both sides of the street are left clear as ‘corridors’ of pedestrian movement, although there are an increasing number of examples of commercial outdoor seating which impinge on this thoroughfare. As a result, Southgate Street remains a well-used pedestrian thoroughfare with significant links between public transport hubs and the historic city; whilst frequent street furniture interventions allow for visitors to linger, there is a sense of increasing visual clutter within the streetscape.
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. 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.
We refer to our previous comments regarding colour and design (see 19/05415/FUL) as follows:
We have no objection to the proposed cylindrical design of the Unit. Whilst a matt finish would be more desirable, we do not oppose the use of powder-coated stainless steel, presumably with a satin finish to match application 19/05415/FUL. Whilst the proposed use of a black colour (RAL 9005) is a starker colour choice than the dark blues and greys recommended in the Bath Pattern Book as complementary to Bath’s natural pennant and Bath stone material palette, we appreciate that the colour and material palette has already been established; We maintain a preference for a design to be used that matches existing examples of installed units, such as adjacent to the Bog Island bus stop (see 20/04732/FUL) and at James Street West (see 19/05415/FUL). A cohesive appearance throughout the city centre conservation area would ensure a consistency and uniformity that would better mitigate against potential visual harm.
Whilst we appreciate that the proposed signage matches permitted design 19/05415/FUL, we continue to suggest that a more formalised font is selected for use on the Unit to ensure a tidy and professional aesthetic finish. We feel that a standardised font would also be easier for members of the public to read, and would therefore be in the interests of public amenity and accessibility.
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. It is further unclear as to why this site has been selected for installation; 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.
In the proposed visual provided as part of the Planning & Environmental Planning Statement, there appears to be a significant gap between the grouped benches and the proposed location of the water refill unit, in which the unit looks to sit far enough out as to be independently positioned. We consider this could be more closely located against the bench or the bin opposite to more closely cluster streetscape additions and appropriately mitigate visual harm to the open, pedestrian character of this area of the conservation area.
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.