Windsor Bridge, Windsor Bridge Road, Twerton, Bath
The proposed focus of this application is the old gas pipe bridge that runs adjacent to the new Windsor Bridge, situated within the Bath World Heritage Site. The bridge is partially situated within the Bath conservation area, the boundary of which follows the south bank of the River Avon; whilst this excludes the southern pier and approach ramp, the majority of the bridge is located within the boundary and proposals should therefore account for potential impact on the character and appearance of the area. The bridge is indicated to be an 1894 replacement of the former Twerton Suspension Bridge, originally constructed in 1837 as a toll bridge to replace the ferry crossing. As such, some of the masonry foundations and piers of the original suspension bridge were reused and the current bridge retains this early 19th century fabric as part of its structure. The bridge was subsequently used to carry a gas pipe from the adjacent Gas Works, with the later addition of further infrastructure such as telecommunications ducts. The bridge is now functionally redundant with out of date services, but due to its evidential and historic associations with the Gas Works and its significance as a surviving material remainder of Bath’s industrial heritage it is considered to be a Non-Designated Heritage Asset (NDHA). As such, when considering this application “a balanced judgement will be required having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset” (NPPF, paragraph 203).
The proposed demolition would result in the almost-entire loss of a NDHA and its associated significance. The structure can be attributed greater significance due to its survival of a wide scale programme of clearance and redevelopment of industrial structures to the south of the river, such as the demolition of the gasholders on the old Gas Works in 2016. BPT is disappointed that the opportunity has been missed for the possible retention or reuse of the bridge as part of the sustainable transport network, allowing for a pedestrian/cycle route only access across the river and onto the river path.
As summarised in the Heritage Statement, the bridge is considered to be “of considerable evidential/archaeological significance for the history of the gasworks. Kelso House  and the associated offices are the only gasworks buildings remaining above ground and the bridge is the only other visible gasworks structure.” As such, the bridge is summarised as a heritage asset of “up to medium significance”.
The proposed demolition would therefore result in the “moderate/large adverse” impact on the NDHA due to the considerable, irreversible loss of historic fabric. The resulting loss of the majority of the bridge’s structure, including sections of the foundational structure such as the northern pier, would further erode the ability of the bridge’s original position and structure to be legible in the retained fragments.
However, we acknowledge the number of public benefits of the proposed scheme. These include:
- Opportunity to create an improved access onto the river path.
- Public realm improvements including improved visibility and greening.
- Public infrastructure improvements such as hard landscaping and interpretation.
- Conjoined approach with the Bath River Line project.
- Ecological/biodiversity improvements (although overall benefit is dependent on off-site planting).
We consider that this application offers a positive opportunity to open up and enhance an otherwise overlooked and constricted access to the river, with benefits for public accessibility and enjoyment of the space as well as the visual amenities of the site. We feel that this is preferable to the “do nothing” fall-back position otherwise proposed (see Planning Statement).
Should this scheme be permitted, we are keen to see interpretation built into the landscaping strategy to ensure that the context of the site is appropriately remembered, as well as offering a location of interest along the river line. This may include information boards, informed design reference for new infrastructure and/or public realm furniture, etc.
Furthermore, it should be remembered that this bridge forms one of a surviving pair of bridges associated with the historic Gas Works. The other bridge is the old railway bridge that passes over the river further east onto Midland Road which was used to transport coal to the Gas Works, likely attributed to the mid-19th century. This bridge connects with what is now Bath Western Riverside, a significant brownfield site earmarked for multiple phases of mixed-use residential regeneration. Considering the bridge’s convenient standalone location adjoining a soon-to-be developed site and direct association with the history of both Gas Works sites to the north and south of the river, we feel strongly that this would be a viable opportunity for the retention of part of Bath’s industrial heritage which could be repurposed as a sustainable transport link. This would enable proposed developments including the redevelopment of the Bath Gasworks and the Bath Recycling Centre to be integrated more effectively with one another as well as with existing neighbourhoods and public infrastructure.
This railway bridge retains its tranquil historic setting and has not been cramped or cluttered by the addition of later bridges or increased traffic flow, as in the case of the new Windsor Bridge. As such, possibilities could be maximised for a new active crossing point with opportunities for elevated views up and down the river.
We therefore emphasise that should the proposed demolition be permitted, every effort should be made to retain, repair, and reuse the railway bridge as one of the last extant features of Bath’s frequently overlooked industrial past.