Bath’s wartime ‘British Restaurant’ needs saving says local resident.

Plans to demolish the Parkside Children’s Centre in Bath to extend the capacity of the Charlotte Street car park have not gone down well with one local man.

Roger Houghton sent me a copy of the official objection he has made to B&NES and given me permission to use in full. The Centre is an historic building which played its part in keeping up morale during the Second World War.

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Here’s Roger’s letter in full:

“I wish to object to the application to demolish Parkside (18/04757/REG03).

This is a building of social, historic and community significance, having been one of three British Restaurants that served the wartime population of Bath. It was built in compliance with a 1941 directive from the Ministry of Food to provide “day-to-day feeding of the population and to act as a first line of defence in an emergency”. It continued in use as a civic restaurant into the 1950s before becoming an infants’ school.

The historic assessment that accompanies the application seems unaware of the building’s age, origins or original function. The complete failure of Cotswold Archaeology to recognise these (it describes it as both post-war and late twentieth century) must cast doubt on the validity of the heritage assessment that forms an essential part of the application. Nor is the conservation officer’s report any more enlightened.

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The building is an important survival of the period. Its demolition and replacement by car parking cannot be said either to preserve or to enhance the character of the conservation area in which it is set. As a council-owned building that has been in community use for over 75 years it deserves a more imaginative use.

The most recent structural survey (March 2017 by Rexon Day) states that “the condition of the property was good” and that it “had been regularly and well-maintained… this is an excellent example of a precast concrete building”. There are unexplored possibilities for the re-use of the building that would be of far greater community benefit that a short-stay car park.

IMG_1692For example, there is a serious shortage of low cost workshop space in the city (‘making space’). Parkside would be ideally suited for such a use (similar to the ‘stadwerkplaats’ in the Netherlands: https://stadswerkplaats.nl ). Such a use would benefit rather than harm the local community.

Furthermore I wish to object to the intention of locating a 100-space short-stay car park in this location. (Actually 194-spaces; although there are a number of existing spaces that have been included in the numbers their current use is completely different from the proposed use which will generate many more vehicle movements.)

Of relevance is that:

• Charlotte Street is currently a long-stay car park (minimum 4 hours). Introducing short-stay spaces will produce conflict and proportionately many more vehicle movements per space.

• While the justification is that that it will be substituting lost Avon Street spaces, the potential for pollution is far greater. This is an enclosed site surrounded by residential housing and community facilities (tennis, bowls, crazy golf, etc.) approached along the narrow, enclosed Charlotte Street. It is a complete contrast to the open, riverside and windswept Avon Street site.
• Additional car parking at this location is contrary to B&NES’s recently-adopted parking strategy which “supports the need to reduce the level of intrusion of vehicles into urban centres, reflecting concerns about the impact of traffic congestion on the environment and air quality, as well as the need to protect the historic fabric of the World Heritage Site in Bath”.
• It falls within the proposed CAZ. Even though it is intended to provide electric charging points the majority of car will undoubtedly be petrol or diesel.”
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On their website Bath and North East Somerset Council says:

“Bath & North East Somerset Council is proposing to extend the south-east corner of Charlotte Street Car Park, on the site of the existing Parkside Children’s Centre, which is relocating, to provide around 100 additional short-stay surface car parking spaces.

This is ahead of work to demolish Avon Street Car Park as part of the council’s flagship regeneration project at Bath Quays North, which will create new office space, homes, jobs and includes a smaller 320 space modern basement car park.

As part of the Council’s plan the Children’s Services teams from Parkside Children’s Centre and 117 Newbridge Hill are moving into nearby 12 Charlotte Street to create a new facility. The two teams provide social care support to families and some of the most vulnerable in our community.

As part of the council’s wider transport and parking strategies the expansion will maintain an adequate number of parking spaces to support short term visitors to the city, which has a positive impact for local shops and traders.”

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