A French bench
I am always grateful to get a response to items published here at Bath Newseum, but it’s an extra bonus when someone reacts to the monthly column l write for The Bath Magazine.
Currently – in the August edition – I was arguing for the appointment of a ‘Heritage Tsar’ – an independent individual to guard our assets!
“One of the biggest bees under my bonnet is the fact that the city’s historical fabric – its architecture and urban/rural setting – is not guarded by someone who is aware of the sensitivity of Bath’s World Heritage status and how best to utilise and enhance that in terms of tourism.
Someone who would keep an eye on all things affecting our heritage assets.“
My thoughts on the subject brought a response from a Bathonian who – while they would rather remain anonymous – are happy to quote their email in full.
Here it is:
“I feel compelled to respond to your article in the August edition of The Bath Magazine, which highlights that Bath, a city with World Heritage Status, is not measuring up to this accolade in any way – other than with the beauty of the Georgian architecture & the history which we are so lucky to have.
For some years, we have felt saddened at witnessing the decline of the city -the rubbish, the dirty pavements, the seagull deposits, the weeds, the potholes, the empty shops, etc. & it is dispiriting that everything you mentioned & more is either being neglected or wilfully ignored by the council, put simply Bath looks grubby & ‘unloved’ & any so-called improvements appear to be perfunctory with little thought for aesthetics & too much focus is made on cars by a council keen to eradicate them from the city.
Cycling & walking are both great options for some people & it would be wonderful if everyone could do this, but we live on hills & many people can’t cycle or walk up & down & the bus service availability is limited in many places, therefore, whether the council like it or not, cars are still a necessity to many. Go to France & they still manage to encourage cars to visit & support their local shops, bring life to their towns & villages & even provide two hours free parking for lunch – how civilised is that!
The photos attached speak for themselves & it will not be difficult for you to guess which ones belong to Bath! The beauty of the French bench is a thing of wonder – the World Heritage version in Milsom street is a disgrace.
The photos that were taken in France, are representative throughout the country of the love & care & pride that the French put into the places they live & when we visit the continent & return to Bath, the difference is glaring & it is impossible not to feel anger & actually rather ashamed. I have even heard people say that we no longer deserve the World Heritage & who knows, it could make the council question why & perhaps step up to the mark.
Thank you for bringing it to people’s attention & I do hope that you get the support that you wish for.”
I have to agree with your anonymous responder. There are many Bath residents who have been here for years, who were born & bred here, or who chose to come here because they loved the city. I hear those I know often expressing how they are saddened to see the deterioration of Bath in recent years. Some of them have even moved away. Bath is a unique city and its primary importance is due to its history and heritage status. We have an unelected bicycle mayor but no one to safeguard the city’s heritage. We have a council leader in charge of heritage and culture with, to the best of my knowledge, no experience in the field. In fact, where are the council members with any experience in culture and the arts to represent us on the world stage? And why would you choose the title ‘Heritage Tsar’? Have we not got our own words for such a position, or are we now too ashamed of being British. Bath needs a dedicated Heritage & Culture Emissary/Ambassador with knowledge of history, art & culture and a willingness to listen to the ideas of Bath residents, local businesses and reach further to deliver a creative vision and direction to enhance the Bath experience for all, whilst we still have our treasured World Heritage status. We need to preserve it.
I don’t think many people appreciate how much local authority funding has been cut – reduced by 37% in the last decade at the same time as ever more responsibilities were being transferred from central government. Add on the recent costs of Covid, the loss of rental income and upcoming increases in utility costs. Bath City Council was awash with money, to the extent that it didn’t even levy a rate on its residents, but B&NES has to struggle to make ends meet. It’s more likely to be making staff redundant than creating new ones. (And is it really the Council’s fault if residents put out their rubbish in flimsy black bags (on the wrong day too judging by the look of the rest of the street) rather than using the gull-proof sacks provided?
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