Bath hosts Great Spa Towns gathering

It’s an important week for Bath to be showing off its assets!

However, l am not talking tourists here but a gathering in the city of all the mayors and site managers from the eleven towns that make up the Great Spa Towns of Europe.

Tomorrow (Thursday) sees the organisation hold its second General Assembly in our World Heritage city. 

The UK’s UNESCO Ambassador, Her Excellency Laura Davies will also be present at part of the meeting and will attend a drinks reception and dinner tomorrow evening at the Roman Baths where she will present the official inscription certificate of the Great Spa Towns of Europe World Heritage Site to the leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Cllr Kevin Guy.

Bath, which is one of the ‘Great Spa Towns of Europe’, a serial transnational World Heritage Site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2021 is hosting the General Assembly at the Guildhall.  The meeting brings together all the Mayors and Site Managers from the eleven towns which make up the Great Spa Towns of Europe (GSTE), as well as Chiara Ronchini, who took up her new role as Secretary General of the GSTE just two weeks ago.

Mayor of Baden bei Wien in Austria, and Chair of the Great Spa Towns of Europe, Mr Stefan Szirucsek said “As one of the best known of our Great Spa Towns of Europe, the City of Bath has a very special place in our Association, and we are delighted to be spending a few days here on the occasion of our second General Assembly.  I am looking forward to meeting my colleagues again, both from our member towns and from the States Parties.  The city of Bath is a good place to decide the next steps in the care and preservation of our common world heritage. I am especially pleased to be welcoming Her Excellency Ambassador Laura Davies, alongside Councillor Kevin Guy at the Roman Baths reception on Thursday evening.

World Heritage Site Manager Tony Crouch said “Bath is the largest of the Great Spa Towns of Europe, and with its double World Heritage inscription is well placed to share examples of best practice and over thirty years of experience in this technical field with delegates who are gathering not only to discuss the business of the GSTE, but to celebrate and to learn during their three days in the city.  This is a great opportunity for my colleagues in the Great Spa Towns of Europe to experience Bath’s unique architecture, and to learn about how we manage our World Heritage Site.  Although the programme is tightly packed, we will be taking in the Royal Crescent and Circus, and will visit the City’s latest prestigious projects, including the Bath Abbey Footprint Project, the refurbishment of the historic parkland at Sydney Gardens, the newly-restored Cleveland Pools and of course our brand new World Heritage Centre.” 

Not forgetting the thermal waters which are the original reason for the development of Bath, some delegates will have a chance to bathe at Thermae Bath Spa, before experiencing the magical setting of the Roman Baths at night, for a drinks reception and dinner hosted by the Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Cllr Kevin Guy. The Mayors of the Great Spa Towns will also meet Mayor of Bath, Cllr Rob Appleyard at an intimate and quintessentially English gathering in the Mayor’s parlour for afternoon tea.

Local World Heritage and Spa expert and consultant, Paul Simons now becomes a Special Advisor to the Great Spa Towns of Europe, having served as its Secretary General since 2013 after three years of involvement in the early stages of the project.  His involvement in the Great Spa Towns of Europe has helped this extremely complicated World Heritage Site to be nominated and then inscribed in 2021. 

Speaking from his office near Bath, he said “This will be my last meeting with all the members of the Great Spa Towns of Europe, and it’s a bitter-sweet moment, as on the one hand I am pleased to be showing off this great city to colleagues, while on the other hand, I will also be handing over the reins to the new Secretary General, Chiara Ronchini.  It has been an immense privilege to work with this group of spa towns, and I have to pay tribute to the many talented experts and dedicated politicians and officers who have helped me to see this project through to this stage.  I am very proud of our collective achievement so far and am very happy that as a Special Adviser I will remain involved in the future.”

New Secretary General Chiara Ronchini, who has just returned from her first familiarisation visit to Baden-Baden in Germany said “For me, this visit to the beautiful City of Bath is going to be about meeting people, diving straight into the work of the Association with the General Assembly, and getting up to speed with all the projects that we will be working on for the next 12 months. I am immensely grateful for the support I have already received from Paul Simons and our Chair, Stefan Szirucsek, and I am looking forward to meeting and working with colleagues from the seven countries.  Our transnational co-operation has already been recognised by UNESCO as an example of best practice, and it is an exciting time to be joining the Great Spa Towns of Europe.”