Georgette McCready visits Holburne Park, the latest development in Bath which will see the former Ministry of Defence site on Warminster Road transformed to create more than 200 new homes
When Bath’s largest employer, the Ministry of Defence, pulled its staff out of the city there was widespread consternation – not least from the Bath families who faced either moving near to the new offices in Bristol, or a tiresome daily commute.
The bright side of this mass exodus is that it freed up three brownfield sites at Foxhill, Ensleigh (Lansdown) and off Warminster Road, on which much-needed new homes could be built. Like many others on the eastern side of the city, I have been watching with interest the transformation of the Warminster Road site from nonedescript office huts to a pile of giant matchstick rubble, followed by the site of clear bare earth ready for streets to be created. And like others, I had some questions about the new development, which developer Francis Firmstone of HardRock Developments was happy to answer.
Francis was pleased that the renowned architect Robert Adam, whose team designed Prince Charles’s award-winning village Poundbury in Dorset, was involved from the very early stages of the plans, visiting the site with his sketchbook and camera, with a keen eye on the buildings on the other side of the valley, below at Grosvenor and higher up as the Georgians, Victorians and 20th century builders after them, created terraces and streets along the contours of the hill. All are very aware that this is a very public spot, which can be seen clearly by many city inhabitants.
On this, most gentle of slopes with enviable views that take in Walcot and Camden to the west and commanding views of the countryside to the east, the new streets will also echo those natural contours. More than 200 homes will be created here, between the A36 and the Kennet and Avon, with a green border of trees, grass and footpaths running down to the canal, giving the new residents somewhere to walk their children and dogs.
Francis, who lives in Limpley Stoke, has much experience of creating homes on brownfield sites, particularly in Bristol, says his team has been especially diligent to Bath’s sensitivity to new buildings. Given that this is a World Heritage City, that’s not surprising.
So Bath ashlar stone will be used to face the new buildings, local contractors are used whenever possible and he is proud to have worked with the Holburne Museum to pay respect to local heritage – hence the name, Holburne Park. The new streets will also be named after members of William Holburne’s family and ships he sailed in.
The homes at Holburne Park will consist of two, three, four and five bedroom houses plus one-bedroom apartments in three large mansion blocks.
From early interest, Francis and estate agents Savills of Bath, are confident that there will be a nice mix of residents, from young professionals perhaps on shared ownership schemes, through to young families whose children can walk to nearby Bathwick St Mary Primary School, and on to those who may be downsizing and like the idea of living within walking distance of Bath’s many city centre charms.
Unlike many sites that have been recently developed in Bath, Holburne Park is more of a gentle stroll than an uphill slog. Waitrose is a 20 minute walk away and the delights of the Kennet and Avon Canal and its opportunites for walking, running and cycling, are even closer.
Being aware of the impact of new families arriving in the neighbourhood HardRock Developments has agreed to make a substantial contribution to St Mary’s primary school to allow it to expand and take on extra pupils.
We talked about the environmental impact too as I expressed concern about the considerable expanse of hard-standing roads and parking spaces. Francis and his team has designed the site with permeable hard surfaces which will allow the rain to soak down into unseen tanks below the road. From here that soakaway water will be filtered and eventually trickled into the canal. Around 100 trees will be planted on the site and the green belt between the houses and the canal will be retained, with footpaths and a fitness trail.
The houses themselves, faced in locally quarried stone, have large windows and will be very well insulated. Some also have chimneys, which adds to the village feel of the streets, and those houses will also be able to enjoy the latest low-energy woodburning stoves as approved for smokeless zones. They are designed with all the appeal of classic Bath townhouses, but all the comforts and convenience of modern properties.
AERIAL VIEW: Holburne Park on Warminster Road, Bathwick, as seen from above, with the Kennet and Avon Canal, mainline railway and River Avon to the left of the site.
Award-winning Cotswold based interior designer Emma Sims Hilditch has created the style for the homes, offering a choice of contemporary or traditional kitchens for those who buy off-plan to choose from.
Unlike some brownfield sites there were no issues with existing or potential contamination. Until the 1940s this had been farmland and the Ministry of Defence staff who worked here after that date were working on pensions and payroll, so the only issue to be dealt with was an old oil tank which had to be dug out.
The diggers are busy on site already and the first phase of 35 homes should be ready for occupation later this year. The building work will roll out over three years, creating as little disruption to residents as it goes, with eventual completion due in 2020.
To enable potential buyers to get a real feel for what the developers are creating at Holburne Park, there will be a two-week viewing period at the new marketing pavilion, which affords great views across the site, from Saturday 14 January, before homes are released for sale on Saturday 28 January. During the preview period, potential buyers can make an appointment to visit and find out more about the homes, see examples of the layouts and materials being used, as well as a 3-D model of the development showing the homes in situ.
One of the great draws of the site are its views. Whatever the weather, I defy anyone not to be impressed at the wide skies overhead, Solsbury Hill’s unspoiled summit and the sweep of 300 years of Bath architecture laid out in front of you. Anyone interested in registering their interest in purchasing a home at Holburne Park can contact Savills on 01225 474591.