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Blitz past preserved for future generations thanks to £7.65m redevelopment scheme

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A memorial plaque has been erected at one of the city’s last buildings to still bear the scars of the Bath Blitz.

The plaque has been mounted on the former Labour Exchange, on James Street West, which recently underwent a substantial redevelopment project led by development management firm Rengen.

The scheme, which was a Joint Venture with the building’s owners Bath & North East Somerset Council, included the creation of 78 student rooms over three new floors and 4,000 sq.ft. of commercial space on the ground floor.

The new plaque details the history of the building and commemorates its historical significance. Under the planning consent its historic bomb damaged façade was preserved.

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Rengen’s Chief Executive Officer, Iestyn Lewis, said “This has been an interesting and challenging project. The easy opportunity for us on this site would have been to demolish the building and build something from scratch.

“In my career I’ve never taken the easy route so rightly we decided to preserve the building and today marks the end of that process. We are proud to unveil this plaque, which is in memory of all those people who died in the Bath Blitz.

“We are really pleased with the building and proud of what we have been able to achieve and protect.”

English Heritage, Bath Heritage Watchdog and the Bath Blitz Memorial Project all contributed to the project.

Speaking at a special unveiling ceremony Brian Vowles, chairman of the Bath Blitz Memorial Project, said “This, the former Labour Exchange on James Street West, is the only one now left which bears the scars of this, the most dramatic episode in Bath’s long history and for that reason it is as equally important historically as the Roman Baths, the section of the medieval city wall the Crescents and the Pump Rooms.

“That is why, in May 2002 with the prompting of the Bath Blitz Memorial Project, this building was granted Grade II Listed Building status as we feared that it would also disappear altogether in the wave of new development sweeping the city.

“Fortunately when development of this building did finally take place we are pleased to say that the original façade, along with the pitted gashes caused by the flying debris from the violent nearby explosions, has been preserved for future generations to see.”

At the unveiling ceremony Reverend Roger Driver, from St Michael Without, said a blessing and paid tribute to those who had died during the bombing raids over the city in April 1942.

The plaque unveiling was also attended by Bath Mayor Councillor Paul Crossley, members of the Bath Blitz Memorial Project, representatives from Bath Preservation Trust, and Kingsmead Ward Councillors Andrew Furse and Chris Pearce.

Demolition work started on site at the end of 2015, with building work commencing earlier this year.

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The new student accommodation will be operated by Empiric Student Property who bought the building in a deal worth £7.65 million.

Bath & North East Somerset Council will retain ownership of the ground floor. Furniture retail specialists Nisbets are due to occupy the commercial unit.

All construction work at the former Labour Exchange building was carried out by local firm IKON.

Rengen has been involved in a number of high profile schemes in Bath, including the redevelopment of the Widcombe Social Club and the former Radway Service Station at Wellsway. Rengen is also taking the lead on plans for a new headquarters for the Bath Sea Cadets.

The company, a subsidiary of property consultancy and engineering firm Iesis, provides global property services such as project management, quantity surveying, and structural and civil engineering.