The Dyson School of Design Innovation

Plans for the Dyson School of Design Innovation have now been withdrawn. The scheme for Newark Works, South Quays faced the costly delay of a public inquiry scheduled to start in January 2009. It appears that the objections of the Environment Agency (the substantive reason for the call-in), together with the refusal of Central Government to offer finance have caused the scheme to be abandoned. We believe the loss of such a prestigious scheme is a loss to Bath and young engineers in the area.

The Bath Preservation Trust has consistently supported both the concept of the Academy and the potential for high quality contemporary design, incorporating major elements of the listed Stothert and Pitt (Newark Works) building, on the former industrial site. We had made objections to some elements of the plans and concerns have repeatedly been expressed about the impact on the architectural interest of listed Newark Works particularly the cantilevered element of the design and alterations to the stone plinth along the façade, but had hoped that these could be resolved by negotiation. The issue of flooding was beyond BPT’s remit, although we had heard detailed statements from the Dyson team about its plans for mitigating any risks and also from the Environment Agency.

BPT recognises that B&NES Council now faces a significant problem about the future of the South Quays site, and we look forward to constructive discussion with them about plans to address this.

Press Release on the Decision to “Call-In”  (Sept 2008)

The Secretary of State in August decided to “call-in” planning applications for the Dyson School (Newark Works). She considers that planning and listed building issues raised by the two applications are of more than local importance and that proposals may conflict with national policies on important matters. The applications will be referred to her for determination at a public inquiry.

Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of the Bath Preservation Trust said:

“Obviously, we will expect to participate in the public enquiry. Our views on the proposal are already a matter of record, but there are a few points I should make clear. The first is that BPT is not opposed to modern architecture in Bath. When modern architecture incorporates a listed building, however, it requires particularly sensitive handling and we have expressed concerns in our comments about aspects of the treatment of the building, in particular the cutting down of the plinths and the seeming overhang of the listed building by the modern structure. The matter of flooding is one which we have repeatedly said is for the experts, and we would like to emphasise that the impact of potential future flooding on the flood plain in Bath affects more than this development.

It seems as if this development is being made something of a test case, which must be frustrating for the Dyson Foundation. I should say that that BPT has always thought that Sir James’s proposal to bring the School of Design to Bath represents a very positive opportunity for the City.

If our concerns about the treatment of the listed building could be resolved, BPT does not see this development as a threat to the Outstanding Universal Values of the World Heritage site, compared with the continuing potential threat of tall and bulky buildings on the Western Riverside development.”