And now an ‘open letter’ to B&NES

Following on from today’s stories regarding the future of the High Common – and the golf courses that lie within its acres – l have received a copy of an open letter that three lower Lansdown residents’ associations have sent to B&NES councillors – including the leader.

It’s addressed to the council leadership, Lib Dem councillors and opposition group leaders regarding the future of the High Common.

It was written on behalf of St James’s Square Bath Limited, The Cavendish Road Society and Cavendish Crescent Residents’ Association.

“Dear Councillors Guy and Warren

We the undersigned are Resident’s Associations in the lower Landsdown area of Bath. Together, we represent hundreds of residents who live adjacent to or near the High Common.

On behalf of our members, we have come together united in our opposition to the Council’s proposals to commercialise the High Common which will prevent residents and visitors alike from having free and unrestricted access to this iconic open parkland.

Since golf ceased on the High Common, there has been a huge increase in the number of people using the High Common enjoying a much more diverse and inclusive range of activities, such as dog walking, children’s games, picnics, yoga, jogging, Nordic walking etc.

People of all ages and all backgrounds are now enjoying this park. This is precisely because people and their pets no longer face the risk of being hit by a golf ball or harmed by chemicals. They are free to use the whole space, let dogs off leads or sit in the park and enjoy the fresh air and views. Your proposals will reverse this immediately and will cause immense disappointment to residents.

Your Council has previously recognised this. On 11th February 2021, just over a year ago, your Cabinet resolved unanimously under item 92 (2) That the High Common is retained as public open space which should increase the range of informal uses on the site. Six of your Cabinet members who voted in favour of this are still Cabinet members today, including both of you.

Two days after this meeting, Cllr Paul Crossley gave a detailed interview on the High Common https://bathnewseum.com/2021/02/13/approach-and-listen-on/. In this interview, Cllr Crossley made a number of statements that still hold true today. Similar statements were made by Cllr Crossley at the Cabinet meeting.

These include the health and ecological risks of chemicals used for golf in contravention of the Council’s own climate commitments, the strong preference of residents to retain the park as open green space available to all and for the park not to be commercialised. Key statements include:

  • 2:12mins: “The message was very strong from a very large number of my correspondents that they don’t approve of commercialisation of the High Common”
  • 5:20mins “The Council has declared a climate and ecological emergency and to run a golf course you are spraying three sets of chemicals all over the fairways and greens. Some of those are neutral, but one of those at least has a chemical that is causing great concern to the World Health Organisation for its impact on drinking water, and the other one is glyphosate

that we as a Council are trying to get rid of in every place that we can because of the concerns that people have about it…”

  • 6:16mins “…The infrastructure for the golf was completely worn out and would have required a lot of investment to put it back. There were a lot of the reasons why golf didn’t proceed…”
  • 7:06mins “We can now see what the impact of not putting these chemicals down is on the return of birds, bees and insects which are so vital to all of life”
  • 7:28mins “The High Common will be included in the Parks budget under a different heading”
  • 8:02mins “…The High Common will be treated as a park for the next couple of years at least..”
  • 9:35mins “…First thing is that we have made the decision that nothing is happening so it will be parkland…The 18 hole has several public right of ways across it and its very popular with dog walkers, joggers, and a variety of exercisers. So the dog walkers, there has been a running dispute going back several years now, had to keep their dogs on leads so none of that now will be necessary and so a lot of people will be able to easily enjoy it now. As Cllr Ball said several of his friends have now started visiting it because they now don’t have to worry about being hit by a golf ball…”
  • 10:54mins (In response to a question about the High Common will now become more popular as there is no golf to worry about and people are not going to want that situation to change in the future…) “That’s a question for a future consultation. I think at the moment we have listened, and the message is pause, reflect and no future commercialisation”. In summary, just over one year ago, your administration recognised the very significant benefits that retaining the High Common as an open space would have and that the overwhelming view of residents is that this iconic park should not be commercialised. Our members strongly support this. While the leader of your administration may have changed, the majority of the Cabinet who voted in favour of this position have not and no circumstances have changed which would warrant a different approach being taken now. The reintroduction of golf now will result in all of these benefits being lost, in favour of a single activity which has a much narrower range of users who will need to pay for access. It will involve the re-introduction of chemicals on the High Common, with the attendant risks to biodiversity, water courses and animals, in contravention of the Council’s own climate and ecological commitments. It will increase the risk of injury to other users and pets. It will lead to conflict and confrontation between golfers and other users. In Cllr Mark Elliott’s statement at 21st February 2021 Cabinet meeting, he said “The Lib Dem manifesto in 2019 said we would listen to residents and put them first. We committed to opening up the council to make sure the people in charge hear your voice. Letting residents make decisions to get better outcomes, and making the council more transparent and responsible”.

The view of residents, as recognised by your own Council, and confirmed by our own surveys, is to retain the High Common as an open parkland with free and unrestricted access available to all and for this iconic asset not to be commercialised. Furthermore, you have failed to properly consult with residents about the full range of options for this Council asset, instead citing a private petiton relating to disc golf, which our resident associations adopted and drove as a means to prevent this activity blighting the High Common, at our Councillors Mark Elliott and Lucy Hodge’s request.

We now ask that you adhere to the manifesto promises that you made and were elected on. We ask that you listen to the local residents that we represent, residents who supported the position reached by the Council on 21st February 2021. In summary, we ask that the High Common:

  • is maintained as parkland for free and unrestricted use by all.
  • is kept 100% free of any chemical input.
  • is not commercialised, now or in the future, and that the Council’s financial resources are not used to subsidise a commercial operator.
  • is treated as a park and included in the Parks’ budget. Your Council has a unique opportunity to preserve this wonderful parkland in perpetuity for the benefit of all the residents of Bath, as was intended when the land was gifted to the Council by the County of Avon Act 1982. Such a bold decision by this Council would be overwhelmingly welcomed by our residents.”

Yours sincerely,

St James’s Square Bath Limited
The Cavendish Road Society
Cavendish Cresent Residents’ Association

3 Comments

  1. These arguments are very good ones. However, they’d be even better had there not already been a golf course there for a very long time, a lot longer than the good people of Cavendish Crescent, I’d suggest.

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  2. Absolutely agree, it should be kept as The High Common open to all with maybe some donations to provide a few park benches for the benefit of elderly visitors.

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  3. Hi Richard I live up on Haycombe Drive above the City Farm since 2017. I am always looking for new dog walks and during lockdown found the High Common to be a better walk than Victoria Park which has more controls (dog on lead ) at ponds and Botanic Gardens. The former golf course is a wonderful wild space looking across to the City Farm fields, where dogs and people can socialise, and enjoy the view. Not possible when hard balls are flying around. We love making our way up the hill and walking across the top and past the allotments. I moved here from Lewisham near Beckenham Place Park which is now visited by all ages. It used to be solely for the use of a few golf enthusiasts, now a great social and green success. Lea ( retired doula ).

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