Turnpike Cottage, Wells Road, Corston, Bath
The proposed site of development is the car dealership on the B3116-A39 junction, situated within the Bath & Bristol Green Belt. The site forms part of the principle approach to Bath via Corston along the A39, occupying a visually prominent position along the roadside in what is otherwise a predominantly open, agrarian environment. The site is largely given over to hardstanding for on-site parking in association with the dealership, as well as a number of 20th century garage and office buildings of limited interest.
The main focus of this application is on Turnpike Cottage, indicated to be a residential bungalow that previously functioned as a tollhouse along the Bath-Wells route. It is recorded as a 19th century tollhouse in the Tollhouse National Database; map progressions indicate the presence of a building with the same footprint and distinctive polygonal bay front from as early as the 1840s Tithe Map of Bath. This polygonal bay form has been retained and is a comparable feature in a number of Bath’s other surviving tollhouses, including Bathwick Tollhouse and the tollhouse at Lower Swainswick. The building has undergone significant later 20th century alterations, most notably the flat-roofed rear extension but also the infilling of the original arched doorway on the east elevation and one of the original casement windows on the south elevation, now a garage door (see Ken Marchant 1950s photographs, Bath in Time).
It is recognised that the building’s architectural interest has been somewhat eroded as a cumulative effect of a number of unsympathetic alterations. However, we highlight that the footprint and form of the early 19th building is still clearly distinguishable and reinforces its original role as a tollhouse and part of the wider turnpike network in and around Bath. The building is attributed significance as a local landmark due to its prominent corner position and associated views along an arterial thoroughfare in and out of the city, as well as its strong local connections derived from its historic function. It is noted that the Bath Turnpike Trust has identified an approximate 24 tollhouses around Bath, of which eight are suggested to survive, highlighting Turnpike Cottage’s relative rarity.
• BPT is not opposed to the principle of the redevelopment of the car dealership site. We note that the buildings along the northern boundary are mid- to late 20th century and of little architectural or historic merit; we therefore have no objections to their demolition.
• There is an opportunity for overall enhancements to the site to improve functional aspects such as access, as well as its aesthetic contribution to its rural environment, the wider landscape setting of Bath, and the Green Belt.
• The move away from petrol/diesel cars to an EV-only dealership is commendable.
Demolition of a Local Heritage Asset:
• This proposal would result in the irreversible loss of a local heritage asset and a recognised feature of landmark interest. Despite a history of substantial alteration, it retains a strong landmark position on a busy road junction and embodies part of the social and evidential history of the local area and part of the surviving 18th -19th century road network. Demolition would result in the irreversible loss of a local heritage asset without adequate justification or assessment of the building’s interest.
• The D&A Statement highlights sustainability objectives as part of proposals, including a changeover to supplying only electric vehicles (EVs), and a “‘fabric first’ approach […] to maximise the efficiency of the building itself and minimise the energy required to heat the building.” However, this doesn’t account for the embodied carbon in the materials to be used in the construction of the new building, and the resulting loss of embodied carbon and generation of waste from the demolition of the tollhouse, where this could instead be retained and refurbished to meet user demand.
• As part of this application, the feasibility of reusing the building does not appear to have been considered, or evidenced to be unviable as part of the business. BPT therefore strongly encourages the applicant to consider the option of retaining the building and adaption to serve the current requirements of the site. As such, this would bring a local landmark back into sustainable use with associated benefits such as ongoing maintenance.
• For instance, the flat-roofed 20th century extension could be removed to allow for increased parking capacity or open up the western access further to improve traffic flow in/out of the site.
• We note that it is also proposed to remove an extensive section of the traditional-style (albeit post-1950s) low rubble stone wall that runs along the eastern boundary of the site, to be replaced with “removable posts”. This is indicated to improve ease of access for vehicles onto the site as well as improving “the existing visibility on the site and visibility at the road junction.” We feel that the loss of a boundary treatment more characteristic of the site’s rural location is regrettable.
• There are associated Highways concerns related to the installation of removable posts and consequent unrestricted vehicle access along the whole of the site’s east border onto the A39; we trust this will be considered by the case officer.
Form, Massing, and Materials:
• Whilst we are not opposed to a new dealership building on the site in principle, have some concerns regarding the proposed form, massing, and use of materials across the proposed office/workshop building and resulting harm to local character and distinctiveness.
• The existing material palette of the later 20th century buildings on the site is primarily corrugated metal cladding and render. However, these are considered to be of little to no architectural value or interest and do not reinforce or reflect rural character or local distinctiveness of the area.
• Unfortunately, this application does not provide adequate design reference for the proposed office/workshop building. The building would be a two-storey, flat-roofed structure, and as such would be an overly blocky and heavy form of high visibility from the junction. The use of black aluminium cladding panels for the elevational treatment is not characteristic of the material palette of the area and is more indicative of urban or higher density development.
• The cumulative effect of the increased height, the flat-roofed, square form and profile, and the use of materials would fail to reinforce local character or distinctiveness. As such, the development would be ill-suited to its rural context, instead reverting to an ‘anywhere’ design that fails to reflect or contribute to its setting.
• We encourage consideration of a design of reduced massing, scale and appearance that more clearly draws from and complements its setting.