World War Two bombing and 1970’s re-development were the last major events to change the look of the Green Park area – down beside the banks of the River Avon above Midland Bridge – but now a radical new flood defence system is proposed to effect another make-over.
It’s all to do with climate change and the threat of raised water levels but – unlike the transformation achieved by installing new flood defences in the 1970’s – this won’t cut off the river behind sheets of piling but allow the city and its people to come closer to it.
I found out more about the Bath Quays Waterside Project at a get-together at Green Park Station with many of those who will be affected and at which views and suggestions were being gathered.
This scheme could begin in May 2014 and take a year to complete. It will involve re-profiling sections of the river and mean re-routing a section of Green Park Road.
Some river walls will rise and flood defences will need to be improved on existing buildings fronting on to the river. The works will affect both sides of the river between Churchill and Midland bridges.
It’s a five million plus project – to reduce flood risks – especially for residents and businesses along Lower Bristol Road – but also enable the safe regeneration of key sites to support planning and economic strategy. It could also help re-connect the people of Bath with their river.
Past history lives on in names. Broad Quay once led on to Narrow Quay. Two industrial areas in which goods were transferred to river barges to and from the port of Bristol down stream. City commerce involved trade and industry.
The river and Kennet and Avon Canal were vital connections in that and integral parts of the Bath communication and transportation system. The barges disappeared and so did many of the warehouses and mills and malt houses as Broad and Narrow Quays were built over. The city turned its back on the river.
Sounds like another urban centre l know a little further downstream and – where Bristol has re-vitalised its derelict Floating Harbour and reintegrated it into the city’s cultural and recreational heart – Bath hopes to do something a little similar with its normally gently flowing Avon.
Putting all the benefits of flood relief to Lower Bristol Road and the reduced risk to economic regeneration of run down areas to one side – the bit about this scheme l like is the way they want to bring city and river back together again.
In the Green Bank area – and elsewhere – they want to dig out the steep sloping banks and set them further back in a tiered arrangement that could have separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians and areas for children to play or people to sit and watch the world go by.
There would be room for cafes, public art, park benches, new trees (re-arranging the road will mean many mature specimens will have to be removed) and play areas for children and adults!
The Project leaders talk about ‘animating’ the river – bringing back its life and vigour. It is all about teaching people how to renew an old acquaintance with a natural resource that can be seen again as friend and not foe.
What do you think?