The Galleries Shop, Freshford Lane, Freshford
The Galleries is a community shop and café that first opened in 2009, situated within the Bath Green Belt, Cotswolds AONB, and the indicative landscape setting of the Freshford conservation area. The shop as existing is a modest single storey building, set back within the car park of the Freshford Memorial Hall, and is well enclosed to the north and west by existing development, vehicle hardstanding, and mature boundary planting. The east-facing pitched roof is of greater visibility across the adjacent agricultural field towards Freshford village; the building is visible in mid-range views from the east from Freshford Lane and the Tyning. However, due to the recessed position of the building at the base of the adjacent northern slope, it gives the impression of a building that is set into the surrounding landscape and remains visually recessive in contained views from the village edge.
Planning permission was recently granted for the addition of two single storey extensions (see application 22/00088/FUL) on grounds that whilst development would fall under the definition of inappropriate development of the Green Belt, very special circumstances were demonstrated including the importance of The Galleries as a local community asset, and the site’s existing contribution towards the council’s net zero objectives.
We note the following statement made by the case officer in the Delegated Report, which is of relevance as part of the overall assessment of the site’s landscape setting and appearance: “The building and its narrow surrounding curtilage are sunken into the hillside, limiting the visual impact on wider exposed views from the countryside to the north and east.”
There is an existing ground-mounted array of 64 PV panels in the adjacent field at the top of the hill associated with the Galleries Shop (see 10/03372/FUL).
In response to the Climate Emergency, BPT is supportive of the installation of renewables where this is compatible with the special qualities and character of the site’s landscape setting. We welcome the opportunity for the sensitive integration of renewables where this would contribute to the successful operation of a crucially important community asset as well as contributing towards the council’s goal of net zero by 2030.
We conclude that the building as existing is an inconspicuous feature within the landscape, and is only visible in mid-range views from a select few viewpoints. The addition of PV panels to the roofscape would have a very limited effect on Freshford’s rural landscape setting, the openness of the Green Belt, or the special qualities of the Cotswolds AONB. Any identified less than substantial harm would be outweighed by the demonstrated public benefits as outlined above.
The use of a well-known community building is a very positive opportunity for the visible generation of renewable energy and as a legible indicator of Climate Emergency action in the community.
Nonetheless, we do recommend that further details are provided regarding the proposed panel design and finish; we maintain a monochrome panel in a matte finish is preferred to ensure a non-reflective and subdued appearance in accordance with Policy SCR2 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, which we also recommended in relation to the nearby Freshford Church School site (see application 19/03025/FUL).
Based on the proposed roof plans as provided, it appears that the sedum roof as originally permitted under application 22/00088/FUL would be omitted, which we recommend is clarified.
Considering the Galleries shop already has the benefit of a 64-panel solar array, we are interested should there be a provision of excess energy that would not be in use by the shop. Where possible, there could be a future opportunity (beyond the remit of this planning application) for any excess energy to be fed into the local energy network for the benefit of surrounding local residents and businesses, and could implement a ‘local energy community’ model.