Keynsham in Somerset has long been an important communication node, lying at the crossing point of the River Chew on the principal road between the cities of Bristol and Bath. In the early 1960s, a substantial part of its historic core and surviving tight medieval urban grain was erased to create a large flat aggregated site – on otherwise a steeply sloping and uneven site – for a new and architecturally-mediocre Town Hall. The majority of the buildings that were destroyed to make way for the amalgamated redevelopment site were actually protected as Grade II listed buildings, but that made no difference to their fate. Keynsham’s townscape character has been significantly damaged ever since – although, despite that, the Town Hall site was included in the Keynsham (High Street) Conservation Area that was designated in 1997.
As part of a team led by Capita Symonds as the project manager and AHR (then Aedas) as architect, Heritage Places was appointed by Bath and North East Somerset Council to provide built heritage advice into the planning and design of redevelopment of the Town Hall site for a new Civic Centre. In heritage terms, this involved developing an understanding of what Keynsham had lost through the 1960s development, what heritage value remained in the surrounding area, and how that could be utilised and enhanced within a heritage-sensitive redevelopment of the site. This was drawn together into a heritage statement for planning purposes. Working iteratively during the design process and responding to this understanding of the town’s heritage and potential impacts, AHR developed a scheme to transform the town centre and its damaged sense of place. Breaking down the aggregated site, they have created two new pedestrian streets and a cluster of inter-locking buildings that respond to and build upon the character of the conservation area and enhance long and short distance views to and including the new Civic Centre development.
Client: Bath and North East Somerset Council
Images: before (left) and after (right)