Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Monthly Archive: February 2021

The security zone plan that still doesn’t add up

In their update to residents and businesses on their plan for a 24/7 ban on virtually all traffic into and out of Bath’s historic centre as an anti-terrorism measure, neither the police nor Bath & NE Somerset Council get around to answering the principal objection to the proposal, which – as has been reported by the Bath Telegraph – is designed to protect areas of high footfall from terrorists who have weaponized cars and vans.  

The plan’s highlights are:

•          Severe vehicle access restrictions for delivery vehicles

•          Access points operated 24/7 by the council’s CCTV control room

•          A parking ban across the zone, even for disabled residents and drivers

•          Re-enforced static and sliding protective bollards

But readers need not have extraordinarily high IQs to see that this is hardly a ring of steel that would prevent attacks by terrorists travelling on foot – as we’ve seen in recent years in Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Tunisia, and Kenya – or on roller-skates, motorcycles, cycles, and e-scooters. The proposal will therefore do little if anything to make, as the council promises, the town’s ‘crowded streets and spaces safe and secure from the threat of terrorism’.

More than 500 consultation responses have been received by the council on its plan. It’s highly likely that many of them have echoed comments posted on Bath’s online forums, of which the following are examples:

  • ‘This is a joke surely? It’s ridiculous.’

  • ‘Looks like I’ll be refusing any jobs in the zone, unless the council provide helpers to carry the carpets etc. to the resident’s house/apartment.

  • ‘Bollards didn’t stop bombers in the Middle East; they just started using scooters and bikes instead.’

  • ‘All prospective bombers are guaranteed to use a car?’

It doesn’t sound as if the plan has met with unmitigated approval by residents and traders. Councillor Joanna Wright, joint cabinet member for Transport Services, says: ‘I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation, and I want to re-assure people that we will listen to businesses and residents and especially people with restricted mobility.

However, I am also asking people to understand the rationale behind the proposed restrictions. We know from experience that the crowded spaces and places where so many of us live, work and enjoy [sic] are the very places that could be targeted.  Although the national terrorist threat level was recently reduced from severe to substantial, that still means a terrorist attack in the country is likely and the threat level could change at any time, so we are duty-bound to respond to the police advice.

We accept the proposals put forward do impact on people’s everyday lives, but we will work with residents, business, and disability groups to mitigate against these as much as we can.

The council’s next steps, she says, will entail working with an ‘access specialist’ to listen to key local stakeholders. ‘Views will also be gathered from a panel representing members of the community and local accessibility organizations, organized by the council’s equalities team. Together they will then recommend a package of measures to mitigate the impact of the scheme.’

A final report, says Coun. Wright, will be made in the spring. ‘There will be a further opportunity to comment on final proposals later this year when the traffic regulations orders are advertized. I encourage people to check the project webpage for updates at www.bathnes.gov.uk/citycentresecurity.’

Nice work if you can get it...

Spotify has paid the Duke and Duchess of Sussex a reported £18 million to produce and host podcasts ‘celebrating kindness and compassion’.

Still missing: Bath’s police station

News from Avon and Somerset’s Police & Crime Commissioner – Ms Sue Mountstevens – is often written in Execuspeak, as it is in today’s statement: ‘An increase in the policing part of the council tax means Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens can recruit 70 additional officers and enhance investigations capacity to improve outcomes for victims.’ Improved outcomes for victims presumably means, in English, more convictions.

The statement goes on to say that the extra money ‘will also go towards developing the force’s estates strategy by re-developing and improving our police station provision’.

… developing the force’s estates strategy by re-developing and improving our police station provision … Could this mean, again in English, that Bath might get a proper 24/7 town centre police station not unlike the one it used to have before it was sold and replaced with a part-time inquiry desk (which is currently closed) in the council’s One Stop Shop (pictured) on Manvers Street? Let’s not hold our breath.

Clearing up, knocking down …

Land clearance around the brutalist Avon Street multi-storey car park due for demolition as part of the Bath Quays regeneration project.

Pictures by Geoffrey Breeze.

More time to speak up for The Bell

The deadline for comments on a planning application that might affect the future of The Bell (pictured) on Walcot Street, Bath, has been extended from February 4 to February 26, which means there is more time for the pub’s many loyal regulars to have their say.

The Bell is what was and – we hope – will be again one of the best live music pubs in the South-West, hosting musicians – blues, soul, C&W, folk – on weekday evenings and Sunday lunchtimes. The Sunday sessions can be big crowd-pullers, filling the bar and its large beer garden.

The application is for permission to convert part of the former – and still empty – Abbey Gardens Antiques store next door to the Bell to apartments … and the fear is that owners and tenants of the apartments might complain about the music and attempt to get the community-owned pub’s music licence terminated.

The Bell reports that to date 344 people and organisations have sent comments, and that most of them express a concern for The Bell and its live music legacy.

These three are not untypical:

‘The Bell Inn is one of Bath’s remaining live music and event venues in a city that is rapidly losing its identity in the face of bland, standard entertainment facilities … it should be celebrated and protected. The proposal to create two new dwellings next to the venue creates an immediate threat to its future. The Bell has done so much for so long for the people of Bath and works hard to minimize noise pollution in the immediate area, but there’s a clear risk that by building new homes next to it could lead to noise complaints and the venue loosing it’s live music licence. Perhaps, if permission is granted, the developer should be conditioned to ensure that significant sound-proofing is built into the fabric of the homes adjacent to the pub? Protect The Bell Inn.. so many people have worked tirelessly to retain it as a community pub and Bath needs to do what it can to protect such assets.’

‘The Bell is an intrinsic part of the life and soul of Bath, providing music and refreshments to many Bath residents. To put residential accommodation next to it would cause conflict between the residents and the pub, and that would not be fair to either. Please do not grant this application.’

‘As per all newly-occupied dwellings that appear near or opposite existing public houses that provide music, there will be constant objections to the music with the eventual closure of vital services to the community.’

To send comments on the application, go to: https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/webforms/planning/details.html?refval=20%2F04949%2FFUL#comments_Section

Beware …it’s on The System!

A 32-year old man in his thirties with no underlying health conditions was offered a Covid vaccination because he was incorrectly registered on his GP surgery’s computer system as being 6cm tall – that’s 2.63 inches.

He had a text message from his GP surgery offering an appointment for his first Covid-19 vaccination jab. He called his surgery to ask if there had been a mix-up. He was told he’d been invited for the jab due to his weight, which they had registered – given his height of 2.63 inches – as amounting to morbid obesity.

‘The man’ he said, ‘informed me that rather than having my height registered as six foot two, it had been put into the system as 6.2 centimetres. Combined with my weight, this had given me a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28,000. A BMI of 40 or more is considered morbidly obese. If I had been less stunned, I would have asked why no one was more concerned that a man of these remarkable dimensions was slithering around Liverpool.

Dr Fiona Lemmens, chair of NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group said: ‘I can see the funny side of this story, but also recognize there is an important issue for us to address.’

Yes, there’s an important issue to be addressed: Don’t always believe what The System says … and get a Real Person – remember those? – to check stuff before it’s sent out, especially to people who are 2.63 inches tall.

The new sack of Bath

It wasn’t a handsome Georgian building – yet given its location just off the eastern edge of the Lower Bristol Road, it wasn’t much of an eyesore – but it was useful for customers needing anything from a bag of nails and a pot of paint to nursery furniture and a stack of plasterboard.

Now it waits for the bulldozers – as pictured by Geoffrey Breeze – and Bath makes do without a large DIY store.

Guild Living’s planning application for up to 288 apartments for over the 65s – plus  care facilities, a communal restaurant, wellness centre, and gym – was rejected last year because of the buildings’ six-storey height, aluminium-clad design, and visual impact on the World Heritage site.

There were 190 written objections to the application. One dismissed it as a ‘ghetto for the elderly’, and others said the plan resembled a ‘repeat of 1960s brutalism’. The long-established and rightly highly-esteemed ironmongers in Larkhall – Langbridges – has closed and is greatly missed

How to blame it on Brexit – 2

Following the recent Bath Telegraph item about Bath’s Lib Dem MP, her view of Brexit, and the import/export problems being experienced by Bath’s retailers, a subscriber comments:

‘Wera I assume is of German extract so I suppose that’s where her heart lies – EU at all costs!’-

It’s fair to point out that two of the leading pro-Brexit politicians during and since the referendum have been the then Labour MP Gisela Stuart (now Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston) and the Tory MP Dominic Raab (currently Foreign Secretary). The former was German born-and-bred, while Mr Raab’s father was a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia in 1938.

National backgrounds and family roots can, of course, be a factor in opinions this way or that about the Brussels Empire, but perhaps they should not be read as a definitive one.