Wansdyke Business Centre, Oldfield Lane, Oldfield Park, Bath

Erection of a 68-bed care home (Use Class C2) following demolition of the existing buildings and structures, with associated access, parking and landscaping (Resubmission).
Our Response

Wansdyke Business Centre is an industrial complex situated within the Bath World Heritage Site and the indicative townscape setting of the conservation area. To the immediate south of the site is the Two Tunnels Greenway forming part of the area’s ecological network, and to the east along Oldfield Lane is the Grade II* 1920s The Church of Our Lady & St Alphege. The site was formerly the Kingstone Ironworks opened in 1903; the single-storey red-brick building fronting Monksdale Road was built in 1900, forming part of the original workshops, and is a Non-Designated Heritage Asset (NDHA) despite some significant post-Blitz repairs to the roof and the reconstruction of the two-storey office wing.

We previously commented in response to refused application 20/01765/FUL. We note as part of this application that the demolition of the NDHA element of the machine shop was later omitted as of 8th October 2020. We are therefore disappointed to see that in this resubmitted application, it is again proposed to demolish this significant early 20th century feature and rebuild “in a traditional style to match the existing factory side elevation facing Monksdale Road”. Considering the similarities of the scheme with the previous application, with regards to the proposed design of proposals and the unjustified demolition of a NDHA, we therefore strongly reiterate our comments as previous:

In principle, BPT is supportive of the redevelopment of the site for a mixed-use residential and employment use. We are additionally supportive of the recession of the Oldfield Lane elevation to better open up views to the Grade II* St Alphege’s Church.

However, we retain concerns about the treatment of a NDHA of local significance, an apparent discrepancy in the plans provided, and the proposed articulation of the primary elevation fronting Oldfield Lane.

BPT is disappointed by the demolition of a NDHA, and we do not feel that adequate justification has been provided. In accordance with paragraph 185 of the NPPF, plans should account for “the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation”, and paragraph 197 states that “a balanced judgement will be required having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset”.

Whilst the Colston & Colston Heritage Statement indicates that “the removal of the original Kingston Ironworks workshop building will harm the existing architectural character of the site”, there is no indication of any public benefit resulting from its demolition, or its pastiche reconstruction. There is an absence of evidence that the existing structure cannot be suitably retrofitted and adapted to be used as part of the proposal. The demolition therefore appears to be unnecessary and without demonstrable benefit to outweigh total harm to the NDHA. We further maintain that in light of the declared Climate Emergency, efforts should be made to reuse buildings, and therefore retain their embodied carbon whilst reducing emissions generated by the production of new materials and construction, where possible.

We do not agree with the D&A Statement’s assumption that “it is the character of the remaining sections of the factory which contribute positively to the local area. The fabric of the building is not inherently valuable.” This an assertion with no evidence to support it. We feel that the NDHA workshop positively embodies the historic character of the site and strongly contributes to the townscape through its unusual form, material usage, and industrial heritage. Considering the proposed reconstruction of the Monksdale elevation “in an idiom of the existing elevation’s form” (Heritage Statement), we do not understand why the existing structure has not been integrated into the proposed scheme to ensure the retention of a locally-significant NDHA as well as making sustainable use of an existing historic building in accordance with paragraph 8 of the NPPF.

We would note that the proposed gable end within the north elevation drawings does not match the proposed visualisations of Oldfield Lane. Whilst the visualisations present three Crittal-style casement windows along the ground floor, the proposed elevation drawings show two windows of a differing style and two service doors. We would ask that these details be clarified with the LPA, and the drawings and visualisations amended to be consistent with one another.

We continue to feel that the articulation of the north elevation could be improved to better reflect the historic industrial character of the site. The variance in bay width and roof pitch has resulted in a discordant, asymmetrical appearance not characteristic of historic sawtooth roof profiles. We additionally feel that the connection between the reconstructed historic gable end and the contemporary sawtooth frontage is inelegant and overbearing, significantly overshadowing the retained historic pitched roof of the Monksdale Road building. Whilst we appreciate the staggered recession of each bay, this has been undermined by the insertion of the ground floor portico which imposes a uniformity of depth across the elevation.

Therefore, whilst we remain supportive of the principle of development, we would like to see a design that better incorporates the distinctive townscape character and industrial heritage of the Oldfield Park area.

Application Number: 21/04563/FUL
Application Date: 08/10/2021
Closing Date: 11/11/2021
Address: Wansdyke Business Centre, Oldfield Lane, Oldfield Park, Bath
Our Submission Status: Comment