Retrospective Planning application 5 Bladud Buildings

This application seeks retrospective consent for air conditioning and air extraction equipment which has been positioned at first floor level immediately adjacent to the front and rear elevations of a Grade II listed terraced property at 5 Bladud Buildings in Bath city centre.  The building is used for mixed restaurant and residential accommodation.

We ask that the application be REFUSED on the following grounds
1.     At the rear of the building a single air conditioning compressor unit has been positioned though it appears not currently to be in use.  At the front of the building in the well above the restaurant entrance no fewer than three items of mechanical equipment have been placed at some time in the past.  We have been able to find no information in documents supporting the application as to the size, specification, appearance, material composition, output or sound and odour emission characteristics of the unit at the front of the building for which consent is now sought.  It is therefore difficult to determine whether the equipment is consistent with details approved in the discharge of conditions under a previous consent (13/01901/FUL).  Moreover the item of equipment currently operating for which, as we understand it, consent is now sought appears to be different from equipment shown in documents supporting the application.

1. This unit is unsightly and emits a continuous, harsh humming sound which varies in intensity but is at its most offensive in late evening hours when the restaurant is at its busiest and ambient noise levels from the street are relatively low.

At the front of the building the unit for which consent is sought is a few feet from the first floor kitchen and living room windows of the adjoining residential property at 4 Bladud Buildings and the air conditioning compressor at the rear is immediately adjacent to the main bedroom.  Neighbouring homeowners at this address, who have been in residence for more than ten years, are therefore in the actual, or potential, position of being unable to open their windows at night due to noise emitted by apparently illegally installed compressor and extract fans. While the noise from the equipment is most noticeable in the kitchen, living and main bedroom areas it can be heard throughout the property and kitchen smells are also noticeable.

When commercial and residential uses are established, permitted or encouraged in single terraced structures it is vital that commercial premises do not, as a result of accumulating planning applications, some of them retrospective, gradually undermine the amenity of local residents.  Noise, lighting, ventilation and kitchen smells are of particular importance and that is what we contend is occurring in this case.

2.  In our view it is plainly unacceptable to introduce noisy and unsightly mechanical equipment which partially obscures the front and rear elevations of a Grade II listed terraced property in the centre of Bath.  This is particularly the case at Bladud Buildings which was planned by Attwood and Jolly in the 1750s to have elevations of equal status viewed from both the north and south.  The applicant intends to provide at the front of the property a raised screen to mask the equipment consisting, as we understand it, of a black painted steel balustrade and artificial box plant material.  This material is likely to deteriorate quickly and, in our opinion and with all due respect, is a crude, unsympathetic and inappropriate solution to a problem that ought not to exist.  Moreover, to grant consent for the current proposals risks setting a dangerous precedent for other properties at Bladud Buildings.

Beyond the use of a metal grill not so far installed there are no proposals, so far as we are aware, to screen equipment at the rear of the property.

If however, the committee is minded in principle to grant consent we ask that any decision to that effect be deferred, or made conditional, until noise and odour assessments have been carried out by competent persons at both the front and the rear of the property and that any necessary mitigation measures have been implemented to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority.