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.’
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
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