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Penoyre & Prasad’s Bath scheme approved despite heritage concerns

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Penoyre & Prasad has received planning approval for a £30 million development in the heart of Bath despite concerns from heritage bodies over its impact on the World Heritage Site

The practice’s Bath Quays South scheme, commissioned by Bath & North East Somerset Council, includes a 5,017m² five-storey office block and two mixed-use buildings providing up to 5,027m² of residential and retail space. 

The development, the outline plan for which includes 60 residential units, will also see the conversion of Newark Works, a Grade-II listed former crane works, into a 4,530m² innovation and digital campus for property regeneration specialist TCN.

Over recent months, Historic England had raised concerns about the height, bulk and elevation of the office building, the scale of the residential element and how the overall scheme would fit with the wider townscape and the city’s Georgian architecture. 

In a letter to the council last month, Historic England’s principal inspector of historic buildings and areas, Simon Ramsden, welcomed the lowering in height by one storey of the office element, thereby reducing the impact of the building in views along the River Avon, and changing the material of the office building facing the river to Bath stone. 

But his letter also said Historic England remained concerned about the scale of proposed residential elements, despite the one-storey reduction in height of one element. 

Following the planning approval, a Historic England spokesman said: ‘We previously expressed serious concerns about the scale and bulk of the office building, proposed at South Quays, and its visual impact on the City Conservation Area and World Heritage Site.

‘Following constructive talks with the applicant, its height was reduced and new materials introduced, addressing those concerns. We also expressed some reservations about the residential element of the proposals, but that will be subject to further negotiation as the scheme progresses.’

Concerns were also expressed by the Victorian Society. Its conservation adviser, Alex Bowring, said: ‘We, like the other consultees, remain concerned about the impact of this now approved scheme, but particularly on the setting of Fuller’s Stothert & Pitt building and the wider river frontage. 

‘We regret the anticipated loss of the wharf river wall and maintain that soft landscaping here is entirely inappropriate, and could result in harm to the surrounding heritage assets.’ 

New public realm and landscaping will include integrated flood defences and river walls. There will be lower ground floor parking.

Penoyre & Prasad said its designs, using Bath stone and brick, respond to the site’s heritage context and industrial character.

Senior partner Greg Penoyre said it was an ‘excellent outcome’ that planning consent was achieved within six months, considering the high level of scrutiny to which applications in the World Heritage city are subjected. ‘Winning planning for this project was, quite rightly, a complex and challenging process,’ he said. 

‘The designs evolved through pre-application and application stages, with considerable consultation and feedback from a range of stakeholders including Historic England and the Bath Preservation Trust. Particular concerns were the impact of the proposals on the immediate context of the historic industrial riverside and the wider impact on the views across the historic city from a number of strategic vantage points. 

‘The final design of the office building was lower in scale than the adjacent 19th-century riverside industrial buildings, and articulated in a combination of stone and brick to break down the overall mass as seen from a distance, while retaining a robust workplace quality in the architectural language.’

Project data

Client Bath & North East Somerset Council
Architect Penoyre & Prasad
Interior designer Penoyre & Prasad
Planning consultant Turley
Structural engineer Buro Happold
Civil engineer Buro Happold
Landscape architect Grant Associates
Quantity surveyor Currie & Brown
M&E Hoare Lea
Fire Engineer Hoare Lea
Acoustician Hoare Lea
Lighting consultant Hoare Lea
Ecology consultant NPA
Heritage consultant Alan Baxter Associates
Contractor BAM
Project manager Bath & North East Somerset Council
Procurement Design and Build
Planning granted April 2017
Start on site date Summer 2017
Completion (expected) End of 2018
Opening (expected) End of 2018
Gross internal floor area Circa 5,000m2 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Why not ask this scheme to be ‘Called In’ by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Sajid Javid) since we are now to have an election as opposed to a referendum?

    British subjects don’t want to be accused of being Little Englanders but a bit of history might sway the case against this Government’s New Deal or No Deal diktat, just in case the council thinks universities are only for customers now that charging fees and renting accommodation are the norm. But what are they selling; education or accommodation- or acquiring assets? The real question is whether Bath and North East Somerset Council should really be commissioning this chunk of real estate on ‘sovereign land’ (does the Queen approve of all this densification when she still owns one sixth of the world’s land surface?) when both Bath and Bath Spa Universities are now competing for WORLD CLASS UNIVERSITY RANKING, which is an economic ranking? Who is benefiting from the added value of this £30m edifice in Bath of all locations: the local council tax payers, championed by The Communities’ Secretary for the post Brexit CONSERVATIVE Government, following the collapse of the ConDem Coalition? (Conservation must be a clue in the name Conservative) According to an article in The Guardian by Jonathan Freedland on Ayn Rand, ‘Goddess of the new right’ (11.4.17) Sajiv Javid is a fan and ‘reads the courtroom scene in Rand’s The Fountainhead twice a year and has done so throughout his whole adult life’. Has he ever designed a building?

    ‘Localism’, derived from the ‘Act Local, Think Global’ ideas of Patrick Geddes (‘Cities in Evolution’ 1915. College des Ecossais Montpelier, France 1924) , is now part of the planning system (RTPI Royal Charter 1959) where the lowest tier is not ‘ the community’, as institutionalised in post Revolutionary France’s ‘communes’, with their elected mayors as part of the political system; it is in fact The Parish in this country. Bath Abbey was called ‘Queen of the West’ in the 1924 book for the Great Western Railway on ‘Cathedrals’. ‘The Abbey is in every way worthy of the ancient city, of which it has been said ‘A Queen of the West she reigneth alone’. ( Introductory letter by the then Archbishop of Canterbury to VISCOUNT Churchill (not Winston) who was Chairman of the GWR, which Brunel built (from 1832- he lived in Weston-super-mare when working on the Clifton Suspension Bridge). The Bishop is however The Bishop of Bath and Wells, which is not in the Diocese of Bristol.

    There is a conflict of interest both in BANES Council and in Bath University (subjects taught are Architecture and Civil Engineering) when they are using a 1947 post war planning system that scarcely applies now and which has devalued the Humanities in favour of scientific progress to achieve economic superiority when the IMF (1944) tries to ‘level up’ poorer countries. It was John Maynard Keynes who said ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’. Why can’t we change the system he started since ‘the country’ is hardly the same British Empire whose homeland has not yet been defined since it mutated into the Commonwealth?

    Where are our borders when UNESCO (The United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization) lists ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ and other eclectic locations but fails to understand peoples’ democratic right to dissent? Tony Benn was MP for Bristol South-East- Stafford Cripps’s old constituency. He concurred with Mrs. Thatcher’s view on UNESCO- she took the UK out of UNESCO in 1986, the same year she signed the Channel Tunnel agreement (Treaty of Canterbury- in the cathedral). In 1987 UNESCO listed The City of Bath.
    In 1997 New Labour took us back into UNESCO whereas Churchill’s birthplace of Blenheim Palace celebrates the 1975 ICOMOS Charter of the Architectural Heritage at the Temple of Diana, (Sir William Chambers 1773) where he proposed to Clemmie in 1908. Blenheim was in David Cameron’s constituency. The referendum was called because Cameron resigned. Which side was he really on in the ConDem Coalition? Churchill was a Liberal in 1908. ‘I am an English Liberal. I hate the Tory Party, their men, their words and their methods.” So said Winston Churchill in 1903.’

    All subjects are taught at university to civilize people as well as to inform and educate ‘society’ as well as the individual: not merely for individuals to get lucrative jobs to work for global corporations. The Liberal Arts are not merely classical, they were part of a centuries old European education system before university was seen as an essential route to getting a job (and now a house- once suffrage depended on property ownership- in 18th c Bath second homes for the rich were de rigeur) when Mrs. Thatcher wanted ‘the service society’.

    Any form of art requires patronage, but the question remains ‘what is art’- or architecture for that matter? The Arts and Humanities balance human beings and councils now have need of expertise with all their joined-up statutory responsibilities whilst meritocracy should be included in any state system, not merely ‘names’ and ‘background’, which has been the case with joined –up aristocracy and its top/down capitalism that created wonders such as Bath. We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater if the baby is the spirit of the place.

    In the USA there are Liberal Arts Universities. The USA separates out the role of Government, even if it did reject the idea of the British Monarchy in 1776 and it is stuck in a two horse Republican versus Democrat race. Here’s what was published in one article from Stanford University in 2014 questioning World Class University rankings:
    ‘What does “world class” really mean? “For some it means being a superpower in terms of science and technology research. It’s connected to the idea that universities are going to produce technological innovations,” says Stanford Professor Francisco Ramirez.
    “With the universalizing of universities the sense of national distinctiveness has been undercut,” Ramirez said. “That puts a lot of pressure on universities to compete and make claims that they are going to be ‘world class.’” It has spurred the ambitions of many countries to have their educational institutions appear –– or move up on ¬¬–– the rankings lists.

    ‘Stephen Heyneman, a professor of international education policy at Vanderbilt University, pointed, for instance, to a particular wrinkle in the Shanghai rankings. “By their standards you can have a highly competitive university that has no history department, or that’s weak in the social sciences,” he said.’

    “The humanities are definitely taking a beating in all this,” Ramirez said.

    Heyneman called it a kind of “educational arms race.”

    Bath Spa University was in part Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Wilts. (1946-1986) Churchill, who was Chancellor of Bristol University from 1929-1965, had connections that spanned from 1897 when he made his first political speech at Claverton Manor (the American Museum is next to Bath University’s campus) and Corsham, where secret wartime use involved Corsham Court. But never mentioned is the fact that the Transatlantic cable came into Weston-super-mare bay (North Somerset is no longer in Somerset County Council’s remit but lebensraum for Bristol since 1974 - Avon then 1983 North Somerset) from 1885-1965. It connected Britain across the Atlantic to Ireland, Newfoundland, the USA, and Cuba. It may be obsolete now but it certainly wasn’t in the wars, which were territorial and economic and against Fascism. Lord Alexander (Labour Coop) was First Lord of the Admiralty in the war and was sent by Attlee to India with Stafford Cripps. Ever since Cabot left Bristol the connection has been West. Going East may coincide with the movement of clocks, but the monasteries post war peacemakers were emulating were the Cistercians, not the timekeepers of industrialism. Water power, not nuclear, was the intention of sites like Hinkley originally.

    Not everyone’s idea of a university is the same, (once England only had two: Oxford and Cambridge) and there was no Bath University (until 1966 - Royal Charter), the time of the promotion of a science-led revolution. Tony Benn was Minister of Technology ’66-70- in the Labour Government. (Concorde was built in Bristol and Toulouse. Clearly EDF intends to continue the French connection in Somerset despite Brexit. Cannington Court is their HQ. Hardly hi- tec. But Bridgewater was the location of the 1947 CIAM Conference that Walter Gropius attended: the Bauhaus was a casualty of Hitler’s ‘election’. The Bauhaus (of the Weimar Republic) was the basis of post war Art and Design Education until 1970 when the Government went metric over Europe.) CADS was a pre EEC Government initiative (now privatised) that has now removed drawing boards altogether, despite many in the RIBA still using them, just when we need to get back to them. How many local councils can actually read plans or have any local, let alone global, ‘vision’? Are architects merely to be ranked as politicians: in which case why pretend they have visionary power which is certainly lacking in this and many developments?

    If the argument against Europe is that it uses Roman Law as opposed to English Law, which is used in the Commonwealth and the USA, Bath was the Dobunni Tribe’s territory before the Romans came, even though both used gold coins. The goddess Sulis (hot springs at Aqua Sulis) wasn’t the same as the worship of Mithras (gold) but the Romans found seven hills and hot springs as the ideal location for a new centre that overlaid a new culture on the old.

    We still had no written constitution as UK subjects post 1945 at the end of the war and the beginning of the United Nations, let alone post 1688 when the Lib Dems maintain their mandate to be an opposition to the Tories originates. (The UK included all of Ireland then) Vitruvian Man is on their History website. This is HUMAN proportion as used by architects and designers, not to be translated into proportional representation in elections. Nor is RENAISSANCE HUMANISM from the 14th 15th and 16th centuries the same as 20th c HUMANISM which is a secular religion. Stonemasons believed God is Chief Architect: so did the Guilds. The Enlightenment (the unfinished pyramid on the dollar bill has ‘E pluribus unum’ on it- out of many one.) founded our transatlantic relationship, which included many other countries than Britain, not merely two world wars that culminated in the ARPANET which became the Internet which now has all Governments cowering behind its power. So much for ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’: time to revisit 18th c arguments and where better a location, location, location than Bath.

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