The redevelopment of heritage properties always throws up unique challenges, and rarely more so than when the heritage property in question lies within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was precisely the challenge faced by Bath & North East Somerset Council when they sought to make better use of the city’s former Labour Exchange on James Street West. Fortunately they enlisted the services of multi-disciplinary consultancy, Iesis, to lead on the redevelopment project.
The unusual single story building, which bares very visible scars from the Bath blitz in 1942, had until recently acted as home to a local charity. The Bath stone façade is still riddled with pock-marks from shrapnel damage sustained during the Luftwaffe bombing raid and parts of the building retain a “patched up” appearance following hasty repairs after the raids.
Following a planning application process managed by Iesis, consent for the redevelopment plans were received in early June. Under the terms of the planning consent, the historic bomb damaged façade will be retained to form the ground floor of a new commercial unit, with three new floors built above, faced in Bath stone.
Iesis, a multi-disciplinary property consultancy with roots in the Bristol and Bath area have now been retained to act as Project Managers, Quantity Surveyor and Employer’s Agent, as well as Structural Engineers for the rejuvenation of this important, historical landmark in the heart of Bath. The Iesis team brings extensive experience on projects of historical nature including the National Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral Crypt and the Royal Institution.
The unique World Heritage context of Bath is something Iesis is well-equipped for, having over 20 years of experience of managing development projects in the Bath area, including the redevelopment of 1 – 4 Canal Bridge and Widcombe Social Club, together with Piccadilly Place on London Road, the main thoroughfare leading into the Georgian city centre.
Iesis’ Managing Director, Iestyn Lewis said “We are delighted to have achieved planning permission for James St West and to be retained to lead on delivering this challenging project. The plans have been three years in formation and significant consultation has been undertaken with Bath & North East Somerset Council and English Heritage, both from an architectural and delivery perspective to ensure the development will enhance the local environment. Having myself lived in Bath for many years, I’m acutely aware of the importance of the bomb damaged frontage of this building, which is why it is being retained to form the ground floor of the development. I’m sure a lot of people might not be aware of the building’s significance, and as part of the redevelopment plans we hope to raise awareness of the building’s history with regard to the Bath Blitz.”
The redeveloped building will provide commercial space on the ground floor, behind the preserved historic bomb-scarred façade, with the upper floors providing 78 student rooms, aimed primarily at post-graduate and international students. Work on the development will commence in July of this year and is due for completion in September 2016.