One of the most iconic and most visited cities in Britain is Bath. While the larger cities continue to build large modern mixed-use properties Bath has remained true to its traditional British architectural style. Discovered by the Romans it was known for its thermal spas and wool industry. The spas continue to attract visitors along with the neo-classical Palladian architecture that has made the city famous. Starting in the 18th century by George III this style of architecture and design can be found most notably at Queen Square and the Royal Crescent.
Today the city of Bath is still popular with residents, students and visitors. But what about moving to Bath and the expectations of the local property market? And will development take away the look and feel of this iconic city?
Sales of properties in the Bath market for 2017 have risen 15% thanks to the fall of the pound sterling and international buyers. Knight Frank reports prospective buyers for the summer months into August rose by 14% compared to data in 2016. Viewings of property rose to 27% in the same time period.
While buyers have remained cautious for the Bath market Knight Frank reports that demand for the local market has increased. Registration of new prospective buyers for this summer has risen by 14% compared to the same period in 2016 with viewings of property increasing 27% over the same period. With adjustments to asking prices sales volumes have risen by 42% over this time as well.
The drop in the value of the pound sterling has increased the interest by international and British expats returning to the UK with sales figures showing 15% of buyers in 2017 were from abroad.
The volume of properties available to buyers was 20% higher at the end of July 2017 compared to the previous year.
Price values per square foot for prime property have averaged between £400 to £500 which is seen as being particularly good value especially with Bath’s schools and transport links.
The current forecast is expected to see very little change in demand.
Changes, Good or Bad?
Recently activist and film director Ken Loach has complained that his home town of Bath is being ruined by developers and volume of tourists could eventually lead to Bath losing its Unesco world heritage status.
Interviewed in the Guardian Loach who has lived in Bath since the 1970’s said:
“Bath was dusty and a little shabby when we moved here. It did look its age and you felt its history in its streets and buildings and little alleyways. The sense of the past was palpable. There were some bad modern buildings but there was a patina of age.”
“The problem now is that it has been sharpened up for the tourists. It’s too clean. It’s like an old person with Botox. You don’t get the same sense of the past. It’s too clean, too sharp.”
Loach fears that as a result of local councils and planners trying to maximise the tourism sector this has also given way to new property development thus putting the classic architecture and history in jeopardy.
Loach said that planners attempt to:
“Preserve the city in a minimal way rather than try to make big architectural statements”, adding: “It’s like when you are restoring a picture – you do the minimum you have to just to keep the picture intact and make sense of it. That should be the approach.”
One concern Loach has is with the Georgian-style SouthGate shopping centre, that opened in 2009. He has also labeled the new construction of a new rugby stadium along with new student housing as being “grotesque”.
Loach complains that :
“There’s too much imitation Georgian architecture,”
“Most cities are eclectic. There’s a bit of medieval, Georgian, some Victorian and some 20th century. That’s fine. Bath is different because it was built within 100 years or less. It has a homogeneity. You spoil that if you have an eclectic mix. You eat away at the homogeneity. You need to preserve the city in a minimal way rather than try to make big architectural statements.”
Could this all lead to Unesco world heritage status being taken away?
Unesco praises Bath for its “quality of architecture and urban design, its visual homogeneity and its beauty.”
But also warns:
“The main pressures currently facing the site are large-scale development and the need for improved transport.”