Bath's disused Colonnades at centre of redevelopment plan

Colonnades next to Pulteney Weir in Bath First phase of the Grand Parade and Undercroft project involves reopening the Colonnades near Pulteney Weir

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Plans to reopen 17th Century Colonnades with cafes and restaurants as part of a £5m development of Bath have been given the go ahead.

Councillors at Bath and North East Somerset have approved the four-phase Grand Parade and Undercroft project.

The first phase involves reopening the Colonnades next to Pulteney Weir, in the city centre.

The Bath Preservation Trust said it supported the plan as long as it was done "sensitively".

'Beautiful buildings'

Bath and North East Somerset Council

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The project includes:

  • Phase 1: the Colonnades and Empire Colonnades, including reopening access routes via Boatstall Lane, Parade Gardens and Slippery Lane
  • Phase 2: enhancing Bath Markets
  • Phase 3: redeveloping Newmarket Row, including residential accommodation on the upper storeys
  • Phase 4: other development opportunities such as Pulteney Bridge and Boat Dock

"Bringing back the Colonnades to life has to be a good thing," said Caroline Kay, from Bath Preservation Trust.

Analysis

Bath and North East Somerset Council is to renovate Grand Parade, New Market Row, the indoor market, and the historic colonnades.

If you are over the Great Pulteney Street side of the Weir and you look across towards the centre of Bath, you'll see the historic columns just above water level stretching from Pulteney Bridge to the Parade Gardens.

Going back a century or two this was always a buzzing area and full of people. Beau Nash would've been gambling in the banquet rooms behind me. New Market Row was built in around 1770, with stables in vaults along the river bank, which were used as slaughterhouses until the 1890s. When the Empire Hotel and the rest of Grand Parade were built, the market would have been in full swing. The Colonnades would've been a lively area too, but they gradually fell out of favour - today they are mostly used as council store rooms.

Now the council wants to bring the huge area underneath the road back to life. It wants to renovate and extend the market, and there is also a plan for new homes here. The idea seems to be to try to attract cafes and restaurants here.

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"It's a most important space, under the levels of Bath that we're used to, that sits there looking potentially beautiful and in reality unused."

The council hopes the project will bring in a revenue of more than £300,000 a year.

A number of "positive responses" have been received including several Michelin Star restaurants, the council said.

'Future jobs'

"We've already had 15 firm indications on restaurants that would like to come here," said Councillor David Bellotti.

"This is going to be a romantic location, and I think people will want to come here, have some food, a glass of wine, look at the weir, and just enjoy the past while actually it's providing jobs for the future."

Talks are taking place between English Heritage, Guildhall Market traders and Bath Tourism.

"I wouldn't like to enter into a debate about whether this is yet more competition for other players in town really, but the fact they are intending to get those spaces let before doing the work I think is positive. It reduces the risk," Mr Bellotti added.

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