Bath and North East Somerset Council has granted planning permission and Listed Building Consent for Nash Partnership’s proposals on behalf of BANES, as landowner, to bring circa 9,000 sq. ft. of long unused undercrofts and 18th-century vaults beside the world famous Pulteney Bridge into restaurant and possible museum use.
The scheme represents the first phase in the Council’s ambitions to maintain and develop the social, cultural and economic significance of the historic Guildhall block, which contains the Authority’s important civic facilities, archives, former Law Courts and the Victoria Art Gallery, alongside governance offices and a work hub.
The areas now to be opened up all lie beneath Grand Parade, the public road between the river and the Guildhall block and former Empire Hotel. They are currently wholly hidden from view behind a high screen wall and the colonnades built in the 1930s that now flanks Pulteney Bridge on this side of the river.
One of the Council’s major ambitions in bringing this scheme forward is to highlight at the heart of the World Heritage City the regeneration of Bath’s river frontages which the Enterprise Area downstream is bringing about.
Another is to allow the city’s residents and tourist visitors to use and understand more of how the Roman and Medieval areas of Bath accessed the river before Robert Adam’s famous Pulteney Bridge, built in the mid-18th century, did away with the need for one of the city’s former ferry crossings. Then the Colonnades frontage was one of Bath’s main landing points for river traffic.
Two paths linked the area, known then as the Boat Stall, with the Roman and Medieval city, known as Boat Stall Lane and Slippery Lane. The scheme provides for both to be re-opened, below present street levels, for pedestrian use, subject to agreement with an adjoining landowner in Slippery Lane. One of the few remnants of the pre-18th century city wall is visible at Boat Stall Lane, where the arch and gate hinges of the old East Gate are still open to view.
Nash Partnership handled the architectural, heritage asset value and planning aspects of the applications. In such a sensitive area of the city, 25 options for accessing these areas had to be explored, visualised and tested through the pre-application process.
A multitude of interests of other highway users, adjoining landowners’ needs and the operational demands of servicing, ventilation, flood risk, deliveries, waste and recycling all had to be handled with care in such a densely used part of the historic city centre.