Waterway Tow Path, Kennet And Avon Canal, Bathampton
The Trust supports the principle of a new canal crossing to ease congestion, improve safety and reduce physical harm to the fabric of the listed bridge and we commend the local community for this project. A new bridge crossing is a major intervention into the historic canal and its distinct character and our committee felt it important to be assured that all options (including more traditional canal crossing structures) have been considered. It appears from consultation and other documentation that the project team have been wide-ranging in their approach to the review of options, including a favourable pre-app from council officers and much discussion and negotiation with the Highways team. We support an approach that seeks to minimise intervention or harm into, either the historic fabric or the setting of the listed bridge and canal but realise some intervention will occur; ultimately we accept that the public benefit versus level of harm balancing judgement will come into play here.
The Trust has some concerns regarding the impact of this new bridge on the setting of the listed Bathampton bridge and we wonder whether the new bridge could be located slightly further east to give the old bridge as much ‘space’ as possible. We acknowledge the Landscape and Visual Impact appraisal but would comment that additional verified views could make the assessment of the visual impact of the bridge from both a boat and the bridge itself clearer to understand.
The engineered ‘light touch’ design of the bridge is an appropriate response to the sensitive setting, though we question whether the soft focus CGI images might give it an ethereal transparent quality that will not be seen in reality. We hope that the case officer will be confident of the quality and contextual suitability of the materials prior to decision and that this and the design will be conditioned so that the apparent ‘delicacy’ and ‘transparency’ of the design will not be engineered out for either safety or financial reasons. It is these qualities that allow it be visually less assertive within its context.
Our committee expressed concern that the bridge may result in more hard landscaping than is usual on the canal bank and therefore we suggest that landscaping plans look to retain as much natural waterside character as possible. This could include soft landscaped earth ramps rather engineered ones, or even a hump in the towpath on which the bridge lands. In addition, we feel that further thought needs to be given to how the south footpath joins the road through the village, to avoid queuing at the (not wide) gate, possibly creating a bottleneck, and a potential pedestrian conflict with vehicles coming towards the bridge.