These days – in this World Heritage city – there’s almost as much hot water flowing through espresso machines as into the Roman Baths.
The hiss of steam – from these stainless steel deliverers of caffeine nectar – joins the squawk of urban gulls, chattering French students, ambulance sirens and slow-moving, brake-squealing juggernauts in helping to make up our daily cacophony of street sounds.
It’s all being played out against a background of Georgian and Victorian architecture and within urban spaces visited by four and a quarter million day visitors every year.
You cannot blame our cafes and coffee houses for taking advantage of those seeking rest and refreshment and – despite our unpredictable seasonal weather – for organising an additional stream of income by extending their business outside.
It’s not just A boards that are popping up everywhere on our pedestrian thoroughfares.
Bath’s coffee culture is spilling over onto the street with more and more businesses seeking approval for some outside drinking space and an accompanying array of tables and chairs.
There are long-established businesses that already have this facility. Indeed B&NES itself runs outside catering in Abbey Church Yard via its Heritage Services.
While the Bath Newseum does not seek to take sides or condemn an extra way for local businesses to make money – over and above profit consumed by rents and rates – l am beginning to worry that we have allowed another potential pedestrian hazard to take hold in the city.
I am concerned that B&NES is so distracted by road transport issues – that it has taken its eyes off the pavements.
If Cabinet is discussing A boards policy – when this ‘inner B&NES council’ meets in May – maybe it’s time to reflect on how much free movement it wants for pedestrians around the streets.
But is it too late though to formulate a controlling policy?
Those denied an array of external tables and chairs are hardly likely to accept a refusal if they can point to others around them who ‘enjoy’ that facility already.
Some may say that narrow pavements obstructed by lines of tables is not a good idea. That it is potentially dangerous and unsafe.
What do you think?