Bath Western Riverside

The regeneration of a derelict industrial site has provided an opportunity to create a new residential quarter with green spaces and a riverside walk in a prominent location at the gateway to Georgian Bath, a city renowned for its World Heritage status.

The 44-acre site on the south bank of the River Avon is being redeveloped with some 3,000 homes, three parks, a primary school and commercial space.

Residents started to move into the first phase of homes in 2011, but this large-scale development could take up to 18 years to build out in full. Alongside the first homes, key infrastructure elements are being put into place. The nineteenth century footbridge crossing the River Avon at the heart of the site has been refurbished, a new open space created beside it leads to the newly created riverside walk, and between the new homes courtyard gardens with herbaceous planting provide spaces for quiet reflection as well as fruit and vegetables to harvest. The first phase of the project alone saw the planting of more than 18,500 trees and shrubs, a mix of mature and semi-mature plants and seedlings.

Description

Developer Crest Nicholson takes a sustainable approach to development of both homes and the spaces around them, its definition of sustainability embracing such factors as land remediation, ecology, energy, water, recreation, value and lifestyle. Debbie Aplin, Crest Nicholson Regeneration managing director says of the landscaping: "The open space and public realm is just as important as the buildings and homes. They provide an extension to the total living space."

The landscape masterplan, created by landscape architect Grant Associates, covers some 19 acres of public open space in all. Crest Nicholson’s landscaping brief called for a strong identity in creating a new urban quarter of  streets, squares and open spaces that would complement the historic city. "We did a lot of work analysing the details of Georgian Bath to see how they could be reinterpreted in a contemporary manner," says David Finch, senior associate with Grant Associates.

But the former industrial site had been reclaimed by nature over a long period of abandonment. The new landscape design had to therefore sustain and enhance the site’s biodiversity, as set out in a comprehensive ecology survey.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the design team, however, was flood mitigation. Bath’s location leaves areas of the city vulnerable to flood risk so the riverside site’s design ha to comply with Environment Agency demands. As a result, the landscape is split between the more formal public realm above the open parkland that is designed to be inundated at times of peak flood levels. The planting species selected for these areas reflect the different characters and constraints.

Bath’s heritage is reflected in the hard landscaping’s Pennant Stone, the carefully proportioned railings and details like the random rubble Bath stone clad retaining wall enclosing the ‘scoop’ of the riverside park. The restrained planting of the public realm gently echoes Bath’s formal green spaces. Contrasting with the formal public realm are the communal courtyard gardens to the apartment blocks, which are designed as "garden rooms". "We’ve created diversity in the courtyard gardens so that there is something for everyone," says Finch. Courtyard gardens feature herbaceous planting, vegetable plots and a range of fruit trees, including espalier pears, apples, cherries and redcurrants. There are also outdoor tables and benches and children’s play equipment so that residents can really make the most of the space.

This is only the start. When the scheme is complete, its landscaping will include:
•    Three new public parks
•    Open spaces and facilities on river banks, including new boat landing
•    River edge habitats, floating reed beds, bat roosts and otter resting platforms
•    Communal gardens, lawns, fruit and vegetable plots, sensory planting beds, and a range of trees
•    Sustainable urban drainage system, with green roof areas, artificial wetlands, reed beds and formal water features
•    Brown roofs, planted with the seeds of more than 20 native plant species collected from the site prior to redevelopment
•    Pedestrian and cycling routes with views of Bath and the surrounding hillsides and landmarks
•    Play features, public art, and information on the history and ecology of the site.
Time might bring a few changes to this long-running project; the Environment Agency has a fresh strategy on flood risk in Bath and this will inform future phases. But Finch adds, "The landscape design has a strong concept and approach to its detailing – it will be exciting to see how this applies to the new constraints and opportunities."

Key outcomes to date
•    The developer has recorded healthy sales success on the site and is accelerating development
•    The green and pleasant environment is proving a big hit with the people of Bath, both with residents and the wider community. Finch says: "It’s wonderful to see the open spaces being used and people being able to engage with the river."
•    The scheme is already gathering awards for its quality. The landscaping was recognised in the 2014 New Homes and Garden Awards and Elmtree Garden Contractors was rewarded in the British Association of Landscape Industries Awards 2014 for its work on the project.



Lessons to date
•    Historical analysis of the Bath context has proved useful for this large-scale scheme. "It has given us a well-considered kit of parts – effectively a design code," says Finch.
•    It pays for developers to advance procure the plant stock in line with their development programme to ensure they get the best possible quality planting stock. With a number of plots coming on stream in the future the developer can secure  stock as well as find inspiration by making nursery visits and well in advance.
•    It can take time and effort to get the right suppliers for special features. On this project finding the right supplier for the Pennant Stone turned out not to be quite as simple as expected.

     Project team            
Developer Crest Nicholson Regeneration
Planning consultant Savills
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
 
Civil engineer Buro Happold
Landscape masterplan Grant Associates
Quantity surveyor Davis Langdon

Ecology

Podium landscape contractor

 IES Consulting

Elmtree Garden Contractors

This case study is from Horticulture Week's Landscape4Places campaign hub. Landscape4Places is a new campaign which seeks to highlight the contribution of quality landscaping to great placemaking. For more on the campaign, go to www.horticultureweek.co.uk/landscape-for-places


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