Bath already a Clean Air Zone?!

Elsewhere on this page, you will see a story regarding the initiative – set up by Bath Tourism – to try and support local traders while the city is off-limits to its normal tourist industry.

It’s an idea that has brought a quick response from Bath Newseum follower George Feiger who sent me the following email.

“Rich, I appreciate your concern for the businesses that depend on tourists, but not having the tourists has revealed some previously emerging truths in full detail.

The air is much cleaner, the streets are now available for residents to walk on, it is much quieter early in the morning and late at night, we don’t hear endless rumbling of the wheels on rolling suitcases.

I have a portable pollution meter that I have been using to measure the incredibly high level of diesel particulates that come from cars, buses and trucks. All is much healthier now.

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As many World Heritage cities and other places have found, it is possible to have too many tourists and to have regular life destroyed by them. As to the shops, we have seen the departure of unique and family-owned businesses, to be displaced by chains that pay higher rents and thrive on the excess flow of tourists.

The character of Bath is being degraded at the same time as the stone facades and the health of the residents is being degraded.

If we want to prevent Bath from becoming a kind of decaying Disneyland, we need to take measures to restrict tourist inflow and traffic inflow.”

4 Comments

  1. Well said!

    When I was the editor of the then Bath Evening Chronicle, in the 80s, I wrote a line for the marketing dept: ‘Bath – the best little city in England.’ I wouldn’t write that now. What sort of city doesn’t have a police station, or proper post office, or a concert hall?

    It’s been clear – to some of us at least – that Bath’s increasing reliance on low-rent, day-trip tourism and a transient student population (that is likely to be smaller after the Covid-19 shutdown) has damaged the quality of life in the town. In many ways, the projection of Bath by the council as a sort of 18th and 19th century fantasy zone is far more accurate than the Guildhall’s public relations people would like to admit. There is anti-social behaviour, homelessness, begging; all that’s missing – as far as I know –are the Red Light quarters.

    Anyone who still thinks Bath deserves its ranking as a World Heritage City should see what Kingsmead Square and Westgate Street looks like on Friday and Saturday evenings – not currently, of course – but when the town is open for business.

    I trace much of this decline back to the ill-begotten merger of Bath and NE Somerset.

    Yes, Bath’s heritage as a centre for rest and recreation is important, but over-tourism and the lack of sustainable employment risk turning it into a World Heritage slum, its streets jammed by day with large parties of schoolkids whose interest in Roman history and Georgian architecture is less than zero, and by night with hen parties and students who think they can hold their booze but can’t. If I were a tourist lured here by the council’s Georgian Gem fantasy, I’d want my money back.

  2. Whilst I agree with what this gentleman is saying, I feel tourists play a big part in keeping the local economy buoyant, local and national businesses creating jobs for locals as well as keeping the city vibrant.

    The major problem here is expensive travel for commuters,(£7.50 from Saltford to Bath on a bus, nearly £9 for a 10min train journey from Bristol). Families have to drive their children to schools away from where they reside. Aside from this and the above comments and other infrastructure details we hear all year round there needs to be a whole rethink on how this city is run to combat pollution. More investment is needed to pretty up the city along side the teams that do a great job to keep the city clean.

    I do feel the student population is great for local businesses but not for the councils income as Council tax is not paid on most or all student properties. More focus should be building really affordable housing for young people who are born and bred in Bath to stay in their native city.

    Lets not forget the shift to online shopping has had a drastic effect on the High street and we must remember that the Visitors are still key to the survival of local small independent businesses in Bath.

  3. I agree with the sentiments expressed.

    We need to have a sensible debate about what we want our city to be. Unfortunately, our politicians of all political persuasions have tended to put this in the “too difficult” tray.

    Whilst tourism is undoubtedly important to the economy of the city do we really want to end up like Venice with hardly any local people living in the city and workers having to commute in because housing is too expensive? The cost of housing has already driven many young Bath people out and added to pollution as they commute back in from areas where housing is more affordable. The increase in Airbnds has already taken too much housing stock out of the market.

    The percentage of students is also too high with site after site lost to student housing when desperately needed affordable housing could have been provided and family homes turned over to HMOs. I agree that a vibrant university is an asset for the city but we have now reached beyond saturation point.

    History teaches us that Bath’s tourist economy in the 18c starting imploding when it became too busy and people started staying away. The city was of course eventually rescued by Victorian industrial businesses. What balance do we want to strike between tourism, students and local business enterprises?

    I the absence of any clear political direction perhaps Bath Newseum could generate a debate of what sort of city we want to live in?

    David

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