Sydney Gardens, Sydney Place, Bathwick
BPT has been engaged in the long process of discussions about the approach to improving the safety of the balustrade in Sydney Gardens, as part of the electrification of the GWR which has now been suspended. We recognise the need for Network Rail to improve safety and have encouraged a more permanent bespoke solution to the chestnut paling fencing which currently detracts from the public view and the open ‘theatre’ of the railway which the design of the gardens intended.
The submitted heritage statement provides sufficient evidence of the design solutions explored and why other design options are not considered feasible. The design of the railings proposed is taken approximately from the Sydney Road overbridge railings and the height proposed is the shown as the safe standard. While we preferred the more ‘bellied’ form of the railing solution proposed as an outcome of the previous design review process, we are satisfied that the solution proposed seeks to minimise adverse aesthetic impacts on the surrounding heritage assets.
We recognise that the proposed solution would create a permanent restriction of the view of the railway (intended to be open) and intervention into historic fabric of the balustrade and this causes a degree of harm to the significance of the grade II* listed balustrade and registered park and garden. However we consider that the design proposed solution maintains some transparency and visibility through the railings, retains the historic fabric of the balustrade and achieves the intended purposed of improving safety for public benefit while causing less than substantial harm to the listed balustrade, conservation area and WHS. The public will still be able to enjoy the drama of passing trains from a safer position.
The railings solution is dependent on the condition of the balustrade being sufficiently well restored and maintained to support the new structure. There has been some deterioration of the structure so we would recommend that a detailed specification for the repair of the coping stones and cleaning of balustrade stonework is required to be submitted for approval as a condition for support of this application.
The application should also be used as an opportunity to address the poor condition of the stone walls to the railway. The amount of vegetation which has been allowed to grow from the stonework is potentially harmful and Network Rail should take this opportunity to improve their care of the listed structures through the gardens. Vegetation should be removed and subsequent repairs to stonework undertaken.