Street Record, Wellsway, Bath
The proposed site of development is located on the junction of Wellsway and Midford Road, within the Odd Down character area of the Bath World Heritage Site, and the immediate, indicative townscape setting of the conservation area. The area is of a low rise, residential character with open land to the north in the form of the Odd Down Sports Grounds. The immediate setting is made up of mid- to late 20th century development of predominantly two storey, residential grain; earlier development incorporates the early 19th century workhouse at St Martin’s Hospital and further 19th century development to the north-east including the Grade II early 19th century pair of cottages at 372-374 Wellsway, formerly Barrack Farm Cottages. An unusual example of taller, three storey contemporary development has been introduced to the north at Millennium Court. The area is of a medium to high density as part of Bath’s suburban residential periphery, but features frequent green and well-treed breaks within the streetscape, particularly to the immediate north of the site proposed for development, indicative of the interaction of Bath’s residential fringe with the beginnings of open countryside.
BPT originally commented in response to refused application 21/03944/TEL for an 18m monopole in the same location. Whilst we recognised the attributed benefits of improved 4G/5G connectivity to public amenity, we maintained 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.”
We are therefore pleased to see that our previous comments have been taken into consideration due to proposals of a mast of a shorter design (reduced by a total of 3m) and a comparatively slimmer profile than previously proposed. However, the apparent technological viability of a 15m monopole does raise questions regarding proposals for 18m-20m monopoles elsewhere in the city and further need for the standardisation/restriction of mast heights within certain ‘zones’ dependent on relevant contextual factors.
Whilst the proposed revisions to the monopole design and scale are positive, the mast would continue to be a prominent streetscape feature in contrast to the predominantly low profile and medium density character of this residential area. We continue to have some concerns regarding the proposed location of the mast in close proximity to residential housing of a modest scale, density, and layout. The application indicates that “The site benefits from screening provided by the surrounding trees and shrubs. Existing street furniture, particularly street lights will enable the equipment to blend into the street scene.” However, this unfortunately does not account for the disparity in height between the 15m monopole and surrounding tree cover (12m) and existing infrastructure such as street lights (10m). As such, the structure would likely continue to be read as an incongruous addition to the streetscape.
Alternative locations have been dismissed as unviable such as location D8 due to proximity to residential properties with insufficient screening, but this application does not appropriately account for its siting “in a densely packed residential area”.
We maintain our general position as follows:
“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 further precedent for the intensified roll-out of 5G masts within the sensitive townscape setting of the Bath 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.”