THE SOUTHGATE PROPOSAL - A PUBLIC CONSULTATION

Chaired by Don Foster MP on 8 May 1998

A public meeting called to discuss the proposed Southgate Project turned BRLSI on May 8th into a civic forum. Victor Suchar welcomed those in attendance and explained how the invitation to hold the session emerged from the first Architecture Masterclass given by Keith Bradley on 26 January and from a subsequent workshop. The meeting was attended by a capacity audience including B&NES Councillors, with Don Foster MP in the chair.
Representatives from General Accident who are to finance the project and Shearer Property Holding, the developers, stressed the degree of consultation which had already taken place and the general support received from those completing the questionnaire at the exhibition of the project model held in December 1997. They elaborated on the classical design elements they had attempted to incorporate in their project and how the architecture and history of Bath were always a priority.
Keith Bradley, representing the workshop, in his opening statement emphasised the need for further consultation as Southgate was one of the three largest sites under development in the entire country and therefore an important opportunity for Bath. He suggested a series of improvements including more public space, a greater relationship with the river and the Bath Spa Project, a mixed use with more housing and a reduction in retail space and better public transport provision. He concluded by saying ‘we should expect more than a standard shopping centre in a World Heritage city especially as we approach the Millennium.’
Patrick Hutchinson focused his remarks on urbanism - the study of towns and how people use them - and stressed the need to construct buildings that fit the location, such as the terraced form in Bath.
Martin Sturge said‘for Bath, England's most beautiful city, we certainly need a dream, a dream for the 21st century that reflects the meaning of Bath as a city.’

Comments from the audience included the following:
Should be looking at modern architecture.
Must consider the importance of the tourist industry in Bath. Tourists do not want chain stores but history and culture.
Bath architect, Aaron Evans, said ‘the ingredients are fundamentally wrong, we don't need a scaled-down Cribbs Causeway in Bath.’
Should concentrate on the gateway aspect of the area with the river, rail station and bus station. It should be the gateway to the city not just to a commercial development.
Although an improvement on the earlier scheme, the proportion of retail is too high and the amount of housing too low.
Bath needs a medium sized arts venue.
We need to look at the environmental impact.
The development uses natural Bath stone and is of an appropriate scale but too little public space. Consider the possibility of a public square where the current police station is located.
The car parking increase of 27 percent seems contrary to the green emphasis needed in Bath.
The Roman Road runs through the development giving an opportunity to integrate aspects of Bath history into the plan.
Buildings should be adaptable to reflect changing conditions and should be constructed to last, thus eliminating the need for future disruption.
People come to Bath for a different shopping experience not to find those shops that are all over the country.
Trams and pedestrians can go well together.
Outside areas like Corsham should have rail links.
Bath architect, Robin Jacques, questioned whether the design was appropriate to the philosophy and culture of today. ‘It seems to be a for a previous era,’ he said.
Cultural amenities have been omitted.
Will lead to further congestion in Widcombe.
Hilary King, owner of the Little Theatre, predicted the demise of Bath's three cinemas if the proposed multi-screen cinema is built.
Developers should consult with Bath architects on what improvement could be made.
The Council should take the lead with a brief for an urban regeneration project worthy of the 21st century.

In their closing remarks the developers reiterated the amount of consultation that had gone on during the last 10 years, that as a commercial undertaking the demands of retailers had to be considered and that while the bus station was not being enlarged its new design would permit greater numbers of new passengers to be served. Their research also supported the building of a new multi-screen cinema in Bath.
Don Foster thanked everyone for their contribution. He said ‘the project must be commercially feasible with a view toward the 21st century.’
Betty Suchar