Pavement politics

Many of you may have already noticed that a large swathe of pavement is being renewed in Old Bond Street.

Sadly, for some, the new surface is made up of concrete slabs – and that’s not the appearance they want to see or – indeed – what the council itself should be doing in not complying with its own rules.

That’s according to Roger Houghton, who sent me the following email.

“Walking through the centre on Friday I noticed that the pavement is being renewed in Old Bond Street. Sadly, though, it isn’t being laid in compliance with the instructions set out in either the Council’s own Streetscape Manual, an SPD adopted in 2005, or Vol. 2 of the Bath Pattern Book (e.g. sect. 5.2.1).

According to the Manual “random width rows across the pavement using slabs of different lengths… is to be adopted in all new paving schemes”. In Old Bond Street, though, 600mm square slabs are being laid. Not just that but also concrete slabs rather than natural stone.

Presumably Old Bond Street must fall within the category mandated for natural stone paving in sect. 4.20 of the Manual (see below) and should ideally also match the stone paving in the adjacent Milsom Street and New Bond Street.

Roger’s own images

Cost can’t explain the failure to adhere to the guidance on laying pattern but nor can the difference in material cost be that significant for what is a relatively small project. The concrete slabs being used (Marshalls A3291) cost £31 sq metre (ex VAT) whereas, for example, Forest Pennant (one of the stones suggested in the Streetscape Manual and which was recently selected for the Cleveland Pools) costs £60 sq. metre.

Then there is the carbon footprint. Forest Pennant has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any stone and is quarried just 30 miles from Bath. Concrete, by contrast, has one of the highest carbon footprints of any building material.

And if the Council doesn’t comply with its own adopted SPDs how can other contractors be persuaded to do so?”

Roger has sent an extra from the council’s own ‘rule book.’

Bath Streetscape Manual (Adopted, April 2005):

4.20  Materials to be used where major repaving works are being undertaken:

Bath streets with a predominance of listed buildings and/or on key pedestrian routes in the city centre: Natural stone.

Pattern of laying paving (Bath)

  1. 4.21  Paving in Bath is typically laid in random width rows across the pavement using slabs of different lengths, and laid so as to avoid creating an obvious regular pattern of joints when viewed along the footway. This is a pattern used throughout much of the city and is a characteristic that is to be adopted in all new paving schemes. The approximate range of sizes to be used to achieve this are as follows:
  2.  750mm x 600mm (43%) 
  3. 450mm x 600mm (37%) 
  4. 450mm x 450mm (20%)

Thanks for that Roger. I have approached cabinet members at B&NES for comment.


  1. I will be interested to see the outcome of this.
    As another of your articles Richard where the paint is being taken off the Bath Stone pillars.

  2. Another example: the pavement on the east side of Marlborough Street (just off St James’s Square and in the conservation area) where stone slabs have recently been partly replaced with tarmac!

  3. It is really disappointing to see the very important requirements of the Bath Pattern Book and Public Realm and Movement strategy are not being compiled with. Many thanks to Roger Houghton for bringing the details to your attention and also highlighting the environmental aspects of the different materials.

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