£18m Bath Abbey revamp plans approved by council today
The first phase of a £18 million scheme to modernise facilities at Bath Abbey has been approved at a council planning meeting this afternoon.
Councillors on Bath and North East Somerset Council’s development control committee discussed plans to improve public and ancillary support facilities at the church, which include alterations to 8-13 Kingston Buildings, the basement of Abbey Chambers, the 1920s Jackson Extension to Bath Abbey, the Clergy Vestry and adjoining vaults and cellars, with a new song school.
The church also proposes the creation of newly excavated underground spaces north of Kingston Buildings and below the Jackson Extension, and landscape improvement works to the garden north of the Seventh Day Adventist chapel.
Bath Abbey has today been granted planning permission and listed building consent by Bath and North East Somerset Council.
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The abbey said seven years of consultation, planning and work had gone into the current plans with 444 people recording their support for the project on the B&NES website.
Rector the Rev Edward Mason said: “We are thrilled to have been given planning permission, and are especially grateful for the warm encouragement and professional cooperation we have received. The vote is indicative of the strength of partnership of the abbey with B&NES and many other organisations in the centre of Bath - a shining example of how people can work together for the community’s good.”
The proposals form part of a larger project known as the Abbey Footprint, and a recent survey of the congregation found overwhelming backing for the plans to open up extra space at vault level, and create new toilets, meeting areas and a heating system which exploits energy from the city’s hot springs.
Charles Curnock, director of the Footprint project, said “This is a very significant day for the abbey, for the council and the city. We can promise you that we’ll continue to work closely with B&NES and all who long to see the abbey and our community flourish. A huge amount of consultation, discussion and listening has gone into this and we’re very grateful to everyone for their contributions. Together, we want to protect the fabric of this precious building and to make it a space for everyone, and this is a big step towards this goal.”
Documents submitted by the church say: “In addition to being a place of worship, the abbey is a significant visitor destination as well as a venue for concerts, performance and other events.
“Bath Abbey has an important role in the musical life of the city and is responsible for three choirs.
“The proposal would provide both essential and enhanced facilities across the development site and includes a number of interrelated elements.”
Work includes removing walls and ceilings at Kingston Buildings to create a double height choir practice room, and alterations to the vaults beneath Abbey Chambers to create kitchen spaces, publicly accessible toilets, storage for the abbey archives and an archive work space.
The church is keeping an open mind over what sort of seating will be used in the historic building when the later stages of the scheme are completed.