How the UN can help save Bath’s spa waters from fracking!

The King's Bath or Sacred Spring - fed by three-quarters of a million litres of natural water a day.
The King’s Bath or Sacred Spring – fed by three-quarters of a million litres of natural water a day.

Bath’s turning to the United Nations in its battle against ‘fracking’ for possible gas deposits in the region and the potential threat to its thermal springs.

It’s hoping to get a second World Heritage status nomination – as a ‘Great Spa of Europe’ – from UNESCO and will need support from the British Government.

If Bath’s bid IS backed it would be difficult for central government to then endorse fracking actions in the area.

This plan will be discussed in greater detail at a meeting of the Economic and Community PDS Panel on July 17th – in an update on the Bath World Heritage site.

In a paper which will be presented to the councillors it explains that the city is engaged in a project entitled the ‘Great Spas of Europe’.

The Report says:

‘In 2007 the Czech Government approached UNESCO with a proposal to have three of their spa towns inscribed on the WH list for the contribution that spas had made to European culture. UNESCO welcomed the idea, but asked that the very best examples of spas across Europe be identified to demonstrate this cultural contribution. Subsequently a group with the working name ‘Great Spas of Europe’ was formed and Bath sits (by merit) within that group.

The Great Bath
The Great Bath

The group numbers 16 spas, from 7 countries, although it is likely that an assessment process will subsequently reduce this number. The project has reached a stage where an initial application form for a trans-national bid is about to be submitted to UNESCO and if all proceeds well this could lead to a second WH inscription for the city by 2017.

It is important to look at why Bath would want to invest time, money and effort in pursuing a second WH nomination. Firstly, this represents the formation of an elite group of spas. Robust assessments already undertaken demonstrate Bath warrants its place at this table and Bath does not want to be viewed as a second class spa destination.

Secondly, our existing inscription is predominantly issued on the basis of architecture and archaeology, not on the cultural use of the hot springs. It is highly unlikely we would ever pursue a second nomination on this basis ourselves, but here we can take the opportunity of riding on the coat-tails of a project led by others which potentially achieves those aim.

The Pump Room fountain supplying  spa water for drinking.
The Pump Room fountain supplying spa water for drinking.

The benefit of a spa based inscription would mostly be realised through tourism and tourism marketing. Bath already generates an estimated £380m of tourist income per year, but investment in the future is vital. Our unique spa offer as the UK’s only hot springs places us at the centre of emerging ‘wellness’ tourism and the WH inscription validates this offer.’

But it’s the ‘PS’ at the end of this report that might be seen as a valuable ‘weapon’ to be used against the effects of this new and invasive gas mining technique.

The report concludes:  ‘Another benefit is that central government will be required to back our bid to UNESCO and if they do so it becomes increasingly difficult for the same government to endorse ‘fracking’ actions which might subsequently jeopardise the hot springs which may be awarded WH recognition.’