A proposal to open up the Colonnades underneath Grand Parade for commercial use has been greeted with a no vote from councillors when the matter was considered by the planning committee this week.
This long-neglected and valuable site beside Pulteney Bridge and Weir – one of the most iconic public spaces in this World Heritage city – was being touted as a valuable addition to Bath’s attractions.
It was argued that apart from being a great location for two restaurants, it would also provide daytime access for tourists who want a different photographic angle of the River Avon and its surrounding architecture at this point.
However, for every positive there has to be a negative and the biggest fly in the ointment here has been how the public would access this new facility.
This has to be a viable proposition before investors will take a bite out of this latest ‘beauty of Bath’ proposal and that’s why the Council is keen to provide both lift and walkway access to what is beneath.
Problem is that would involved building structures on Grand Parade and altering the pavement and bus stops to make room for them.
The idea of raised shelter entrances to what is below brought a howl of protest from esteemed bodies including English Heritage, The Georgian Group and Bath Preservation Trust.
Not to forget the residents of the old Empire Hotel who are concerned about noise and the smells from kitchen extractor fans.
The proposed access point nearest Pulteney Bridge is the one producing more emotional foam than you get from the waters of the weir below. A regular perceived blot on the Georgian landscape.
There were other access points being discussed. Access through the city’s last remaining medieval East Gate via Boat stall lane and also down nearby Slippery lane – a narrow pathway that used to lead down to the ancient river ferry crossing point.
There could also be a way in through Parade Gardens – but access at night would be a problem.
However, none of these provide easy and close links with what is below and there was also the question of how to open up this new area to those who are disabled. A legal requirement – and rightly so.
Councillors turned the idea down – and with it the two access points members had described as huts or oversized loos.
Is the idea dead in the water or due for a re-think. The Council say they still want to find a way of using the space. We will have to wait and see.