Fewer cars and more ‘walkies’ – a vision for Bath?

Fewer cars and more ‘walkies’ – a vision for Bath?

london road 1Making Bath the UK’s most walkable city is just one of the aims set out in the Getting Around Bath Transport Strategy which was formally launched by Bath & North East Somerset Council today (Wednesday 30 April) at the Bath City Conference – held in the Guildhall.

It will be considered by Cabinet at their meeting in May following which it will be subject to formal public consultation. The Strategy is a high level review of existing transport policies and commitments in the light of the Council’s housing and economic growth agenda within the city. It looks to develop a set of policies to support this growth and has proposals for:

(1) A walking/cycling strategy to make Bath the UK’s most walkable city

(2) A parking strategy to support the economic growth but at the same time reducing the amount of off-street spaces within the city centre

(3) Supporting greater use of buses and rail to reduce the number of cars entering the city.

(4) Continue to expand our existing P&R sites, where we can, to reduce the number of parking spaces within the city.

(5) Better management of HGVs within the city

(6) Finding a new location for coaches to park once they have dropped off visitors in the city centre.

The Strategy was endorsed by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Commissioner for Transport for London, at the Bath City Conference and its launch was welcomed by Cllr Caroline Roberts (Lib-Dem, Newbridge), Cabinet Member for Transport, who said: “I would like to thank Sir Peter Hendy for his advice and guidance over the last year in helping us develop our new Transport Strategy for Bath – a strategy which can guide the Council in developing the right interventions to deal with the transport problems we face at the moment and to help accommodate the new jobs and housing which we all agree the city of Bath needs.

We aim to bring this growth forward with the right measures to protect this precious city for future generations.”

Cllr Paul Crossley (Lib-Dem, Southdown), Leader of Council, said: “We’re looking forward to hearing people’s ideas on how to resolve a number of transport issues that affect Bath and the roads in to Bath, so we’re inviting comments from members of the public and businesses.”

Work starts at Somerdale

Work starts at Somerdale

The first sod has been cut to mark the beginning of works at leading homebuilder Taylor Wimpey’s forthcoming Somerdale development in Keynsham, paving the way for the first new homes to be released for sale in the coming months.

Cllr Paul Crossley (R) at Somerdale.

Cllr Paul Crossley (R) at Somerdale.

The first sod was cut by Councillor Paul Crossley, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, at a celebratory event held on Monday 28th April

Planning permission was granted in February for the new mixed-use development on the former Cadbury factory site, with Taylor Wimpey set to deliver up to 700 new homes together with a primary school, employment space plus a range of community and sports facilities.

Councillor Paul Crossley, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said, “It is extremely positive for Keynsham that Taylor Wimpey is making a good start on the regeneration of the Somerdale site.

This vibrant new location will provide an excellent range of homes and community facilities for local people, contributing towards the overall rejuvenation of the town which encompasses the Council’s £34 million town centre improvements due to be completed by autumn 2014.”

Having now formally completed the purchase of the development site, Taylor Wimpey Bristol has started preparing the land for construction.

The first new homes at Somerdale are expected to be made available to purchase this summer, and homebuyers are being urged to register their interest today.

Meanwhile the Virtual Museum is still waiting to hear from English Heritage as to the listing of the site of the Roman town of Trajectus – which lies under the existing playing fields at Somerdale.

Current in the past

Current in the past

Elsewhere in this cyber museum you will find stories about Bath’s River Regeneration Trust and plans for harnessing the flow of the Avon at Pulteney Weir to generate electricity. It’s seen as a great idea for the future.

Sunshine on the River Avon at Pulteney Bridge.

Sunshine on the River Avon at Pulteney Bridge.

This morning – April 29th 2014 – l was leafing through a bound copy of Corporation minutes for the year 1923 at the Records Office and in February of that year Bath’s ‘Electricity Committee’ were considering a hydroelectricity scheme utilising water at the city weir.

The Corporation had employed an expert to gauge water flows and take into account rainfall, flooding and – more unlikely – periods of drought!

It was interesting to read that the area draining into the River Avon above the City weir was calculated to be 600 square miles.

Also that the volume of water passing over the weir has been recorded as varying between a minimum depth of three inches to a maximum two feet seven inches.pulteney weir

Flooding over the past hundred years had seen levels go as high as 13ft 3ins in November 1823 and to 12 feet 6 inches in 1882.

It was decided – that as the volume of water and its fall were not constant – than neither would the supply be.

A regular 14 inches of water could generate 210 kw but summer flows might reduce that to a mere 20 kw a day.

The scheme was costed at £21,275 pounds and it’s maybe no surprise they decided to spend the money on another land-based steam-driven turbine instead.

Not worth it’s metal

Not worth it’s metal

 

The Building of Bath Museum

The Building of Bath Museum

The Building of Bath Museum seems to have got slightly more than it bargained for when it asked the local authority if it could have some of the directional ‘fingers’ – relating to itself and other Bath Preservation Trust run city-attractions – from an old traditional signpost which was being taken down in Abbey Churchyard.building of bath

The whole cast-iron signpost was duly delivered and lies in the courtyard of the old Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel.

My source tells me some thought was given to erecting it ‘in-situ’ but that would involve digging and cementing a hole in a sensitive and listed mid-18th century environment so – the relevant fingers will be removed – and the post disposed of.

building of bathI have no idea of the scrap value of what would be left-over so decided to check it out with a local scrap merchants who, unfortunately, do not deal in ferrous metals.

However, if they did,  it would still not bring very cheering news. Seems cast iron has a value of around ten pence a kilo compared with copper at £4 for the same weight.

The Virtual Museum remembers being there – some months ago – to witness the old sign being dug up and carried away.signposts
It seems the vast majority of traditional signs are being replaced with the monolith wayfinding map information installations which is now widespread across the city. I was told 33 map monoliths – to give them their proper title – have already been rolled out.

The Council has apparently received ‘excellent feedback about the maps which provide people with a clear sense of their surroundings and enable them to explore and experience the hidden streets and the alleyways of the city and to appreciate the breadth and number of attractions on offer.’

A map 'monolith' near Bath Abbey

A map ‘monolith’ near Bath Abbey

The intention has always been – l was told – to replace the existing finger posts with the new City Information System as part of a plan to de-clutter the streets of signage –  but a small number of finger posts will be kept on the edge of the city centre where the map monoliths are not present.

A specialist independent report commissioned by B&NES had concluded that having two information systems in place at the same time would be unnecessary and confusing.

Seems the existing finger-post are often inaccurate and pointing in the wrong direction or the direction offered was not sufficiently readable.

Returning to that Bath scrap merchant – they did offer to take the post off the museum’s hands – if they could get it across to them and might even offer a fiver for their troubles!

Bath students help with London’s history

Bath students help with London’s history

Researchers at Bath Spa University have created a new interactive app that explores the historic origins of London’s streets.

‘London Streets’ is an immersive and interactive iOS and Android app that takes users on a journey through the old streets of London, their origins and history.

Developed at Bath Spa University’s Centre for Creative Computing, this mobile app gives users an interactive experience of how these streets have developed over many centuries and the people, events and buildings that have shaped the growth of this modern City.

The app includes historic maps and images of over 40 streets which can be viewed  - past and present – by tapping images to view them full screen, pinching the screen to zoom in and out of images, swiping sideways to reveal more images as well as the use of a unique lens able to ‘see through time’.

The app features a range of multimedia and interactive content including over 100 historic and contemporary images; three historical maps from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; original sounds and music; three Victorian-style inventions including an early CCTV system; and a panoramic view of London from 1616.

The Old Watling, Watling Street - as it was

The Old Watling, Watling Street – as it was

The London Streets app builds on the research of Dr Jerry Fishenden, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University. Dr Fishenden is researching ‘palimpsests of time’.

The transformation from past to present begins.

The transformation from past to present begins.

These ‘palimpsests’ or historic layers of the same place over time, help to reveal how places looked and sounded in the past. This research has identified more evocative ways for users to explore content using new and original computational techniques.

The app builds upon Dr Fishenden’s research which effectively place the same images from different times on top of each other allowing the user to see and also hear the changes and transformation of over 40 streets in London.

The transformation is complete.

The transformation is complete.

Dr Fishenden said: “This app brings together years of research into developing more engaging ways for users to enjoy and interact with historic content. When users explore details about Fleet Street, for example, they will be able to use a ‘time lens’ that reveals how the nearby Old Curiosity Shop looked in the past. Feedback from early users of the app is helping shape and improve future updates.”

The team at the Centre for Creative Computing is now planning to create a similar app for Beijing. PhD student Sicong Ma will be leading on the development of this project in collaboration with Beijing Union University Tourism College.

A video overview of the app can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YEeapsgye0&feature=youtu.be

The free London Streets app can now be downloaded from:

· Apple’s App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/london-streets/id834307566
· the Google Play Android store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.voetek.apps.London_Streets
· Amazon’s Android Appstore at http://www.amazon.co.uk/VoeTek-London-Streets/dp/B00ITOV56W

The Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University offers a new range of computing courses aimed at enterprising students who want to combines excellent technical skills and their ability to be creative. Students at Bath Spa are encouraged to think differently and to make connections across traditional boundaries and Creative Computing fits perfectly with an approach that’s both imaginative and practical, preparing graduates for employment opportunities that may not even exist yet.

Give me shelter!

Give me shelter!

Well the new paved pedestrian area around the north side of the Abbey and on the High Street is not looking as empty and desolate as it did when first laid out.

Workment busy cementing in the first High Street shelter

Workmen busy cementing in the first High Street shelter

After the installation of two lines of benches by the Abbey we now have two bus shelters going up opposite the Guildhall.

The two road signs mark the spot where the second shelter is to be installed.

The two road signs mark the spot where the second shelter is to be installed.

The first was being set in place this morning – Monday, April 28th – with another due to be installed further down towards Starbucks and Bar Ha Ha.

Passers-by are already pointing out that the shelter seems to be offering around four to six seats while – with a bigger canopy – a lot more people could at least stand under a shelter.

While the advertising boards haven’t gone up yet – the structure is at least painted gray to attempt to blend in more with its historical architectural surroundings.

Digging gets underway in Sydney Gardens

Digging gets underway in Sydney Gardens

With the electrification of the Great Western Line from London to Bristol and beyond underway – and likely to affect Bath in the summer of 2016 – Network Rail have moved into Sydney Gardens to start digging what they refer to as ‘test pits’ beside the main line to London.

The notice from Network Rail.

The notice from Network Rail.

A notice – pinned to one of their parked vehicles – explains the pits are ‘in order to find out what effect – if any – future works will have on the established trees close to the rail line.’

It’s clear though that the men are checking out more than just tree roots.sydney gardens

Red sprayed square indicate excavations being made on and around one of the stone bridges across the line.

I am told they are also checking retaining walls beside the railway line.

This morning there was a deep hole in the corner of one of the railway bridges in the gardens.

It exposed the layer of concrete put in on top of the bridge when Brunel’s rail-building team went through the park.

The deep hole at the corner of the rail bridge.

The deep hole at the corner of the rail bridge.

Though not written yet in black and white there is every indication that the track passing through the historic Sydney Gardens will have to be lowered so that the poles bearing the power line will be able to be accommodated under the existing bridges that cross Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great engineering work as it passes through this Georgian-built pleasure garden. This could be by as much as six feet.

The men working behind the existing barrier that is already in place through the gardens

The men working behind the existing barrier that is already in place through the gardens

This is scheduled for the summer of 2015 and – at the same time – there will be a six-week closure of the Box Tunnel to enable the track there to be lowered too.

Network Rail will be holding a survey at Bath Spa Station this summer to see where exactly people are travelling at that time of the year. This will help them plan travel arrangements for the summer period in 2015 when the tunnel near Chippenham is due to be closed.

The notice that’s appeared in Sydney Gardens  says the trial pit digging is part of on-going maintenance for the track but l feel that is being a bit coy.

Brunel designed the rail passage through these gardens to be as open-plan as possible so people could see his marvellous steam-driven locomotives chugging through. Unfortunately – though electricity is cleaner – it’s also highly dangerous. Network Rail will have to provide much more of a safety barrier but have promised to be as sensitive as possible to the existing lay-out so people will still have some sort of a view.

The men at work beside the track through Sydney Gardens

The men at work beside the track through Sydney Gardens

To quote from today’s notice: ‘We are working with B&NES and English Heritage to ensure that the unique characters of the gardens is protected. All works are being supervised by the Council’s Parks,Greens and Grounds Supervisor.

In the event of any archaeological items being found, all works will cease immediately and the relevant authorities will be contacted.

Access to the gardens will be maintained at all times but, while we are working, we will need to close off the area around the rail viewing point from the low balustrade wall in the gardens for your safety.

We apologise in advance for any inconvenience this may cause, however both road bridges and the steel pedestrian bridge, will be open during this time for those who wish to view the trains.’

It has to be said the low wall has been fenced off for several years now to stop people getting onto the line.

Network Rail ‘anticipate that all works will be completed no later than 4th May.’

 

 

 

 

 

When cabbages flourished in the Royal Crescent

When cabbages flourished in the Royal Crescent

English Heritage is publishing a book of aerial photographs of Britain in the 20th century which shows the changing social, industrial and architectural face of this nation over the years.

The collection of photos – dating as far back as 1919 – including an aerial shot over Bath – taken in 1949 – which shows the allotments dug into the grassland  in front of the Royal Crescent as part of the war effort.

Bath from the air 1949. © English Heritage

Bath from the air 1949. Click on image to enlarge.
© English Heritage

Look carefully and you can see the roofless Assembly Rooms – gutted by incendiaries during the Bath Blitz of April, 1942 – to one side of the Circus.

Behind the Royal Crescent – the ruins of  St Andrews Church – another victim of wartime bombing and finally completely demolished in 1960.

The image is contained in a book which also tells the story of the men and women behind Aerofilms, the first company to pioneer aerial photography in the UK.

Aerofilms was founded by WW1 Royal Navy aircraft navigator and photographer Francis Lewis Wills and Claude Grahame-White – an aviation celebrity who made his first solo flight without a single lesson, was the first Briton to receive a pilot’s licence and made the world’s first ever night flight.

The success of Aerofilms led to Churchill personally requesting the company to form a new intelligence unit briefed to carry out aerial surveillance across enemy lines during WW2.

The Aerofilms Collection includes 1.26 million negatives and more than 2000 photograph albums. Dating from 1919 to 2006. It includes the largest and most significant number of air photographs of Britain taken before 1939.

The collection was acquired by a partnership of English Heritage, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) in 2007.

The collection is also available to view online at http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/

Aerofilms: A History of Britain From Above is published by English Heritage at £25.

 

Rent-a-bike still on track – despite slight delay.

Rent-a-bike still on track – despite slight delay.

Last year visitors to Bath were able to rent-a-bike from stands established around the city – including this one (pictured below) next to the Holburne Museum.

The still-empty rent-a-bike stand at the Holburne Museum - complete with notice. Please click on images to enlarge.

The still-empty rent-a-bike stand at the Holburne Museum – complete with notice. Please click on images to enlarge.

The company operating the system has changed and notices on the empty stands say the ‘new and improved service will be up and running in April’ – although, as the month draws to a close, nothing has happened yet.

Cllr Nigel Roberts – who is cycling ‘champion’ for B&NES and represents Odd Down ward – now tells me the new system is being installed from tomorrow – Monday, April 28th – and the stands will be ‘operational’ from mid-May.

Apparently there was an issue with the electricity supply to the cycling hubs – hence the delay – and the signs were not updated.

Let’s hope B&NES spreads the word that all is well just in case – like me – you were wondering when exactly the bikes were coming back!

 

 

Humanising Southgate.

Humanising Southgate.

Southgate Place with car and tree.

Southgate Place with car and tree.

The ‘new’ classically enhanced shopping complex at Southgate might have made a commercial ‘nod’ in the direction of Bath’s Georgian past but nowhere was it part of the planning brief – it would seem – that something artistic should be done to humanize its empty spaces – especially where shopping avenues converge on Southgate Place.

Indeed – just recently – the only piece of public art – the Bath-stone torso of British swimmer Mark Foster – was moved away from the approaches to this modern mecca of a market place – to hide behind a wall at the City of Bath College.

Planting a tree in this space is great but can we hope to see something more permanent than the occasional new car promotion to soften and humanize this area.

Car promotion in Southgate Place

Car promotion in Southgate Place

Commercial sterilisation l call it.

In a city of running waters – both hot and cold – this would be an ideal spot for a fountain. I am amazed B&NES didn’t make the provision of public art part of the planning permission.

Southgate Place

Southgate Place

This is private land with security people to stop ‘visitors’ – aka shoppers – from chaining their bikes to railings or holding picnics on the paving slabs – so they could keep an eye on any interference with the installations.

I must say the sculptured torso suffered no damage that l am aware of during its brief sojourn nearby.

A contemporary fountain installation would be fine. A competition for artists maybe?

Just remember we are historically the city of Aqua Sulis - the waters of the goddess of health and wisdom.

Around our city are slogans extolling the virtues of water being ‘best’ – so why don’t we start celebrating the fact!