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Queensberry has tunnel vision for Bath restaurant quarter

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SouthGate developer to transform railway station arches into food area.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s lesser-known masterpiece of the vaults beneath Bath Spa railway station are being converted into the city’s first restaurant quarter.

Work began last month after the demolition of a ramp from the ground to the platform level, which had obscured the entrance to the vaults for as long as anyone can remember.

Queensberry, the company spun out of Multi, which, together with Aviva Investors, developed SouthGate shopping centre opposite the station, is now restoring the vaults. It has just begun to market them.

Stuart Harris, a Queensberry partner, says:

“The vaults were used for a variety of different used by the railways, including storing coal. There is a turntable (to aid movement of coal trucks on a narrow-gauge railway beneath the station) above one of them, and we have got to protect this.”

The vaults vary in size. The smaller five “finger vaults” are about 200 sq ft each. One will be used as a bicycle park, and the others as kiosks.

Restaurateurs have already shown an interest in the six larger vaults.

Harris says some are considering combining two to create a 4,000 sq ft restaurant, and others may take just a 2,000 sq ft space, where the high floor-to-ceiling height will allow for a 2,000 sq ft mezzanine. On top of the restored vaults will be 5,200 sq ft glazed contemporary restaurant.

Multi and Aviva opened SouthGate in 2009. Restaurants are positioned throughout the 420,000 sq ft centre. The last two years of trading has given Harris confidence in the vaults.

“The restaurants in SouthGate are trading really well, especially in the evenings,” he says. “Bath doesn’t really have a restaurant quarter, especially places where families can go.”

The opportunity for the new restaurant quarter opened up when Drivers Jonas Deloitte negotiated a restaurant use for the vaults with Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Work will complete in July and the first restaurant will open in September.