A sunshine tour.

A sunshine tour.

The hottest April day since 1949 and some good news amidst the sunshine.

 

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Welcome back!

 

The fountain in Laura Place is back in action after the installation of a new pump. It’s the only real fountain the city has and – just like what is left of Mr Pieroni’s architectural offering on Bog Island – is in need of some long-term tender love and care.

Both fountains need real money spent on them or – long term – they will be lost.

Back to the good news. I have been gently chiding Garfunkel’s Restaurant – on the ground floor of the Empire Hotel – about their exterior planting troughs full of plastic flowers.

Somehow it seemed ironic to me that they should be there when just across the road was a riverside park which has constantly won awards for its living blooms.

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Now you see them.

Bath seems to have more success in saying it with flowers – thanks to an overstretched and under-funded parks department – than it does with celebrating its waters.

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Now you don’t!

But back to the restaurant where – l am pleased to say – the artificial flowers are gone. The manager tells me he is looking to source some living plants to go outside his restaurant. At last! It will help make his business bloom!

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The area between the two eight-storey​ buildings is gradually​​y being transformed into a​ riverside park.

Good to see the new riverside park taking shape as part of the Crest development down by Victoria Bridge.

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Royal View with Sovereign Point – still under construction – beyond.

Whatever you think of the new eight-storey apartment blocks – taking shape on the riverbank – it’s fair to say Bath has not seen anything like them before.

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The photography exhibition by David Molina Gadea in the Holburne Museum Garden.

Back into town and the Holburne Museum cafe-goers are sharing their garden space with an exhibition of photographs called The Long Way Home which reflects on the long journey that refugees across the world undertake when they decide to leave their homes in pursuit of a new place to call “home”.

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These contemporary ‘monoliths’ are part of the photographic exhibition by David Molina Gadea who is a member of the Portuguese agency of photojournalism. They make a striking sight in the museum garden.

It’s a striking display with a strong message.

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Who has set up camp in Sydney Gardens? The tepees are part of a ‘corporate event’ being held here on Friday, April 20th. B&NES is looking to get more revenue from its parks but – somehow – it’s a bit of an affront to the people who use this public space that part of it is being ‘denied’ to them. Even on a temporary basis.

Into Sydney Gardens, where three large tepees have been erected for what l was told, was a ‘corporate event’ today – Friday, April 20th. The cash-strapped Council is obviously out to extract more commercial value from its parks – and cannot be blamed for that. l just feel its a temporary denial of public space for the benefit of a private enterprise. I am not aware of any notices going up to warn of the event.

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A bit of a tidy up

Onto the towpath and finally, the Canal and River Trust is removing the growing rubbish heap that had been created in and around a bag of grit that had been left on the grass verge by the path down to Grosvenor Bridge.

The Trust doesn’t provide proper rubbish bins and so – maybe – you can’t blame people for looking for somewhere to put litter. It’s one of the reasons we find so many discarded dog poo bags on the towpath too.

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I am always full of admiration for the one-man team B&NES employs to keep the city clear of graffiti. Caught him at work on Grosvenor Bridge. The horrid concrete replacement for what was a fine suspension bridge that disappeared many years ago.

Finally – across Grosvenor Bridge – where the one-man-band that is the city’s Graffiti Unit was hard at work removing more evidence of this urban blight. It’s a spot from where l have often stopped to photograph a half-submerged tree up-river of the bridge on the Avon.

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There’s life in that old river tree yet!

It’s bare branches look stark in the winter. I often wonder how long it will be before what is left of its roots gives way and the tree is carried off during the next rain-induced flood surge. Yet here – on this sunny morning – one of its branches was covered in new growth. Takes a lot to make Nature lose her grip.

 

 

 

Now we know why the ‘thermals’ were in full flow!

Now we know why the ‘thermals’ were in full flow!

It’s the first time l have witnessed Bath’s thermal waters visibly draining into the River Avon from the edge of Parade Gardens – but now l know the reason why it was happening!

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Looking across to Parade Gardens from the other side of the River Avon. You can see the steam rising!

I know this hot spring water has passed through a Roman drain that has been doing its job for two thousand years.

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Part of the two-thousand-year-old Roman drainage system.

It’s an ancient monument which carries water from the Sacred Spring and Great Bath with branches running from the King Spring and another from the Hetling Spring. They join under York Street before passing Bog Island and under Parade Gardens.

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Another shot of the Great Bath only about a third full.

Seems yesterday – Tuesday, March 27th – was the day they decided to empty the Great Bath. Pulling the plug on 250,000 litres of hot water was enough to create a bit of a surge.

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The Great Bath is gradually being refilled.

Stephen Clews, the Manager of the Roman Baths, told me:

‘The Great Bath was drained down yesterday for routine cleaning purposes, so this does explain what you saw.

It is drained down several times a year – usually at fairly short notice – as we fit it in between evening function commitments and other out of hours operational activities. We will probably drain down again in early June and then again in September.’

The operation is carried out to deal with the growth of algae and to take out anything visitors may have thrown into the water.

A similar cleaning operation was being carried out on the King’s Bath – formerly the Sacred Spring of the Roman builders of the baths and nearby temple.

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath

As the water level in the former Sacred Spring falls you can see two of the pedestals that would have supported Roman gods. Photo : John Cooper.

Fellow Mayor’s Guide John Cooper snatched a couple of shots while he was visiting with a group. Thanks for passing them to us also John!

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath. Photo: John Cooper.

Bath’s hot springs have flown through the centuries. Rainwater falling on the hills around the city percolating down to a vast underground lake two miles beneath the surface.

Superheated by the Earth’s core it returns to the surface – under great pressure – through three cracks in the strata. You could fill a bath in eight seconds!

 

Saving our river from rubbish.

Saving our river from rubbish.

Bath won’t be missing out – when it comes to community action – during next month’s  ‘Great British Spring Clean.’

There’s an invitation for more to join in on a mammoth litter picking exercise – from 2nd to the 4th of March – along the River Avon  through the city. For the first time ever this will include cleaning up the river as well as its banks.

Do check out the poster below for more information.

Litter Pick with Boat Poster v3

 

Flood works tree felling underway.

Flood works tree felling underway.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has started removing trees and vegetation on the south side of the River Avon near Churchill Bridge. It is part the next phase of works to transform the riverside in Bath as part of its flood mitigation works.

The Bath Quays Waterside project, which started in 2016, involves flood mitigation and defence works to the north and south banks of the River Avon, between Churchill Bridge and Midland Bridge.

Once completed, the project will reduce flood risk for more than 100 existing residential and commercial properties and enable the development of Bath Quays, a new office and creative quarter.

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The start of tree removal on the south side of the river.

Following on from the completion of the new south facing park late last year, the next phase of flood defence work will has begun, to remove trees and vegetation on the south side of the river adjacent to Bath Quays South (Newark Works) site, in preparation for completing the flood defence wall and lowering the river bank along this section.

New trees and planting will ultimately be introduced, completing the council’s programme to introduce more than 150 new trees to the river corridor at Bath Quays.

In addition, ecological enhancements will be incorporated including a new bat roost and an otter holt.

Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) cabinet member for Economic & Community Regeneration, said:  “The regeneration of this area will bring a wide range of benefits to the economy and the ecology of this area. Together with additional tree planting on the south bank, this will improve the long-term resilience of the riverside ecology and reinforce the presence of the River Avon as a wildlife corridor in the heart of Bath. Through these improvements the riverside has not only become a new destination in the city centre, it also provides a distinctive place for relaxed sitting, strolling and observing nature right in the heart of the city.”

The completion of the flood defence along the south edge of the river, will be undertaken as part of the Bath Quays South development scheme which is envisaged to commence in the spring.

 

Not a pretty picture.

Not a pretty picture.

As far as ‘photo opportunities’ go, Grand Parade is THE spot for tourists to stop and take a ‘selfie’ with the iconic – Robert Adam designed – Pulteney Bridge behind them.

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Not so busy at this time of year but thronged with tourists in the high season – all wanting to get a picture of themselves in front of Pulteney Bridge.

While some may linger to admire the waters of the River Avon rushing over the weir beneath them, l can’t imagine many taking in what is lurking on the other side of the stone balustrade they may be leaning upon.

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Here’s the view – looking through the cafe window.

Here’s the view through the window – from inside the Bridge Coffee Shop – and it’s sad to see the weed-infested stonework that makes up part of what is a Council-owned listed structure.

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Looking towards the bridge, on the other side of the balustrade.

Meanwhile Pulteney Bridge – completed in 1774 to connect the city with the new development taking place on the Bathwick Estate – has also grabbed my attention.

A Grade 1 listed structure, it’s been repaired and renovated several times with the last work – including bolstering its foundations – taking place around the time the current weir was constructed – in the early 70’s – as part of a flood prevention scheme.

Looking over the balustrade – from time to time – l have noticed an horizontal crack in its masonry that seems to have grown wider of late.

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The crack is below the cafe window and above one side of the first bridge span.

Not that l am saying – in anyway – that the structure is in danger – but would be keen to know whether the Council’s engineers have carried out an inspection.

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Hopefully you can see the crack in the horizontal seam between the masonry.

While we are in that historic location, B&NES recently appealed for a private developer to come in and help the Council breath new life into the Colonnades – a column-fronted space supporting Grand Parade above.

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Looking across the river towards the Colonnades.

Bath Rugby have now started the process of changing the look of one side of the riverbank at this point – and we await – with interest – to see what may or may not happen on the other side.

 

Plans submitted for major riverside development

Plans submitted for major riverside development

An outline planning application has been submitted to Bath & North East Somerset Council for the development of Bath Quays North, following public consultation towards the end of last year.

Bath Quays is the Council’s flagship regeneration project to create a new and vibrant commercial quarter for Bath’s flourishing businesses in the heart of the city. Bath Quays North, near Churchill Bridge, is a major part of the scheme.

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Looking towards the Bath Quays North proposed development from Churchill Bridge.

A Bath Quays North Masterplan has been developed and plans for the site include the delivery of up to 25,000 sqm of new office space, creating up to 1,900 new jobs, a minimum of 70 new homes for local people and a new, modern basement car park.

The Bath Quays North application is an important step forward in the Council’s economic strategy to create jobs and opportunities for local people.

The Council gathered feedback on the scheme prior to the submission of the outline planning application, through a series of public events and an online consultation during November 2017.

Cllr Paul Myers (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield, Cabinet Member for Economic & Community Regeneration), said: “The Bath Quays project is a key part of our wider vision of creating a vibrant, prosperous city with flourishing local businesses, job opportunities for our residents, and new homes for people to live.

“Bath Quays would meet the needs of Bath’s successful local business community who wish to expand, as well as encourage others to move to the area, bringing with them higher-wage jobs, investment and economic growth for the city. This would help to provide more opportunities for our residents and young people, especially in Bath’s successful high tech, creative, financial and professional sectors. In addition, an increase in business rates income would support frontline Council services.”

Planning for the future

As part of the proposed scheme, the old multi-storey car park would be replaced with a new and safer basement carpark with up to 485 spaces, of which 320 will be public spaces.

The scheme is in accordance with the aspiration to encouraging greater use of sustainable transport such as bikes, buses and trains and Park and ride sites to reduce traffic levels and improve air quality. The strategic location of the Bath Quays North site close to the bus and train stations and on the cycle path would maximise the opportunity for sustainable travel. Cycling would be encouraged further with cycle storage and changing facilities being provided for occupiers living and working at Bath Quays North.

New spaces for public life

The proposed layout of the site is intended to reinstate the historic street pattern and create space for public life with pedestrianised squares and shared cycle routes linking the new Bath Quays Bridge and river path to the rest of the city.  The addition of waterfront cafes and restaurants would also help create a lively location accessible to all. The recently completed south-facing riverside park was the firststep to improve this area of the city.

 

Construction of a new high quality office block at Bath Quays South alongside the Newark Works building, which received planning consent last May, will begin in early 2018, as will a new pedestrian and cycle bridge located in-between Churchill Bridge and Green Park.

For further information about the Bath Quays North development visit www.bathquays.co.uk.

To view the outline planning application, go to www.bathnes.gov.uk/planningapplications.

For your information.

The Bath Quays development is divided into Bath Quays North which is currently home to Avon Street car park and coach park on the north side of the river; and Bath Quays South, the derelict Newark Works buildings on the south side of the river and adjacent to A36/Lower Bristol Road.

The Council is seeking outline planning consent at Bath Quays North for a total of 38,000 sqm comprising:

  • Up to 25,000 sqm of Grade A office space
  • Minimum of 70 residential dwellings
  • Up to 4,500 sqm of retail/food outlets
  • Basement car park with at least 320 public spaces and additional parking for business/residents

 

Quays side riverbank re-opens.

Quays side riverbank re-opens.

Initial works to transform the river bank between Churchill Bridge and Green Park have been completed in the latest phase of the ambitious £6.2 million Bath Quays Waterside project.

The scheme when complete will protect more than 100 commercial and residential properties from flooding, support the regeneration of Bath Quays, and reconnect Bath to its riverside.

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The re-sculpted bank is designed to let the river flow up it during flood risk periods​. 

Work began early in 2016 with the diversion of Green Park Road, allowing a new south facing park to be created on the river bank, alongside the proposed site for the Bath Quays North development.

The area is now being landscaped, planted, seating installed and new spaces created for activities, benefitting residents, future businesses, workers and visitors.

On the south side of the river, work has been undertaken to provide the first phase of a flood defence between Churchill Bridge and Midland Bridge.

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Pictured at the completion of initial works between Churchill Bridge and Green Park are Councillor Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip) Leader of the Council, Councillor Charles Gerrish, Councillor Charles Gerrish, (Conservative, Keynsham North), Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency and Councillor Bob Goodman, (Conservatives Combe Down) cabinet member for development and neighbour

Bath & North East Somerset Council has been working in partnership with the Environment Agency on the scheme. Deborah Steadman, from the Environment Agency, said: “We are excited to see public access to the park so that people can see some of the work being undertaken to protect the city and improve access to the river. This is the culmination of several years of planning and hard work from all involved.

Completion of the initial work marks the first milestone in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s multi-million pound flagship regeneration project, Bath Quays. The development will transform this part of the city creating a major new commercial and business district with new office and creative work space, homes and improved public realm that will re-connect Bath to its river.

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Pictured are pupils from St Andrew’s Church of England School helping plant the area with l-r Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration and Councillor Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip) Leader of the Council.

Councillor Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip) Leader of the Council said: “The development of Bath Quays will contribute towards our commitment to deliver up to 9,000 new jobs and 3,500 new homes within Bath and North East Somerset. In addition, by enabling new office development, this will also help diversify the council’s estate for the benefit of future generations, creating an ongoing income for the Council that can be reinvested back into supporting local services.”

While the new park will be there for the public to enjoy, its primary function is to accommodate flood water. For safety reasons when there is a risk of flooding, no-entry signs will be used and the area will be closed to the public with bollard and chain barriers. It is anticipated that this could occur several times a year.

Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, added: “This work, which included the diversion of Green Park Road northward, away from the river, has created an opportunity to open up the river to the city. It is a major asset and has the potential to make a large contribution to the city’s future both in economic and in leisure terms. It is important however in any river setting that we all keep safe, take care and look out for warnings when the river is in flood.”

Although the initial phase of works on the north bank has been completed, sections of the open space will have to close again to enable regeneration work to continue.  A formal official opening of the Park will be planned for summer 2018.

 

The final section of flood defence works along the south edge of the river will be undertaken as part of the Bath Quays South development scheme, on the old Newark Works site, envisaged to be completed in 2019.