Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Monthly Archive: June 2021

Bath Christmas market extended for an extra week

MUCH to the dismay of a great many Bath residents – other than those who need to stock up on wooden ties and over-priced scented candles – the Xmas Market is not only back this year but it will also run for an additional week.

For the first time in the market’s 20-year history, that it will run for 25 days. This year it will launch with a residents’ night on November 24 and finish on Sunday, December 19.

Bath council leader says: ‘I have asked that we extend Bath Christmas Market so it runs for an additional week. The market provides a huge boost not just to the stallholders but also to our retail, accommodation, hospitality, and tourism sectors and this year it will play a critical role in helping business get back on its feet.  

‘I’ve been talking to businesses and what I am hearing is: ‘why does the market finish so soon in the run-up to Christmas?’ This year is an opportunity for us to trial an extension and run it closer to Christmas. I hope this will give more people the chance to visit the city and spend more time at the market which I’d say is one of the best, if not the best, in the world!’

Allison Herbert, chief executive of Bath Business Improvement District, welcomed the decision: ‘Bath Christmas Market is ranked in the top 10 in Europe and attracts 400,000 visitors per year, with an estimated spend in the city of £32.5 million in 2019.

This year the council is investing £27,200 on improvements to the chalets, which for Covid-safety measures, will be reduced from 205 to 161. This will allow more space for visitors to move through the event site during traditionally busy periods. Pitch fees are being advertized at a reduced rate to help with the fact that people have struggled for many months and there will be some very short-term pitches for traders who are either starting out or have always wanted to sell at the market but maybe couldn’t make enough stock or are unable to attend the full duration of the market.’

The proposed site will have a similar footprint to 2018/19 with the re-introduction of the areas around Bath Abbey.

Councillor Guy added: ‘We want to make sure our stallholders are supported as much as possible, and while the event is not being marketed internationally, because of Covid, an exciting and enhanced online market will complement the physical event. Making sure the market is accessible and sustainable is very important for the council and I am pleased that we will have Mobility Helpers for visitors with accessibility requirements.

‘The council will continue to monitor Government advice very closely throughout the planning and delivery stages of the market, so please be assured that the health and safety of visitors, residents, and all those participating is, and always will be, the utmost priority.’

E-bike offer for tourists

A BATH charity is launching an e-bike scheme for tourists which will raise cash to reduce homelessness and tackle long-term unemployment.

 With a grant from the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), the Julian House Bike Workshop is investing in a fleet of e-bikes which they will rent out to tourists.  

Rod Standing (pictured), says many people visiting Bath want to see the locations from Netflix’s Bridgerton and are disappointed to find them spread out across the town, making an e-bike a great way to take in all the sights.

This will be a new income stream for the social enterprise business.  Its core business is refurbishing second-hand bikes while offering training opportunities and work experience or those wanting to re-enter the job market.  All profits go to the charity allowing it to provide more services – particularly in the areas of homelessness, domestic abuse, and criminal justice.

Helen Bedsor, CEO Julian House says: ‘This grant means we can dramatically scale this project allowing us to buy e-bikes, something we could not achieve without additional funding. With the resurgence in cycling, families and tourists will be able to hire a bike to suit their fitness levels and enjoy a sustainable, enjoyable,  and eco-friendly form of transport.’

Wanted: Your views on policing

AVON & Somerset’s Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) wants people to tell him what policing issues matter most to them by completing a police and crime survey.

The survey, which takes 10 minutes to complete, has questions covering a range of topics including anti-social behaviour, burglary, hate crime, rural crime, and domestic abuse. The PCC wants to ensure he is listening to communities’ concerns and thoughts and would like as many people as possible to share their views.

PCC Mark Shelford said: ‘The PCC’s priorities and objectives are the cornerstone of a Police and Crime Plan. As your PCC, I am the bridge between local people and the police, and it is absolutely essential that I hear from as many local people as possible, including victims of crime, about my proposed Police and Crime Plan and the direction I am setting for policing in Avon and Somerset.

‘When I came into the role, I promised I would make Avon and Somerset a safer place for everyone and part of this is listening to your views, thoughts, and concerns. The survey is an opportunity for residents to tell me what they want their police service to focus on. Your voice matters.’

The survey will help to shape the PCC’s statutory Police and Crime Plan for the force area. The plan will include various aspects about policing in the area, such as how the Chief Constable will be held to account, and how the commissioner will use his office’s budget to deliver an effective and efficient police service and support other services such as victim support providers.

The Police and Crime survey will run until September. To complete the survey, visit: https://bit.ly/3h78BQe

What the Romans left for us …

A ROMAN stone sarcophagus (pictured) containing two burials has been unearthed by archaeologists at Sydney Gardens in Bath. The find is said to be a very rare glimpse into local burial practices 2,000 years ago.

The coffin is a Bath limestone casket and lid containing the preserved remains of a person laid in a prone position and the partial remains of a second person laid at their feet. It was found within a grave approximately 6ft long. Its north-facing aspect suggests a pagan burial. A possible votive offering of a small pot containing food remains was found near the grave, along with a number of other finds including small red and blue glass beads.

Sydney Gardens in Bath is a former 18th century pleasure garden currently undergoing building conservation and landscape work by Bath & North East Somerset Council and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which led to the discovery of a Roman wall.

Archaeologists L-P Archaeology who had been watching the groundworks began to excavate the area around the wall which lay on the edge of the Bathwick Roman cemetery. It was then that the stone sarcophagus was revealed.

Kelly Madigan, partner at L-P Archaeology, said: ‘This is a real career highlight, it isn’t often that you come across an in-situ stone coffin complete with occupants; especially on a watching brief! The excavation by our team of specialists was a huge success and needless to say, undertaken to internationally high standards of archaeological excavation and recording. Having a human skeleton directly associated with a coffin is a rarity and to have this one associated with a probable votive offering and nearby human cremation, allows a very rare glimpse into funerary practices in the region almost two millennia ago.’

Steve Membery, Senior Historic Environment Officer for South West Heritage Trust and advisors to the council, said: ‘The discovery of the sarcophagus in Sydney Gardens shows why Bath deserves its international reputation for Roman archaeology and its designation as a World Heritage Site. The find offers a fantastic opportunity to use cutting edge scientific analysis to learn more about the lives of the individuals within the coffin, including where they originally came from and if they are related.’

Take a walk …

THE Bath Preservation Trust will be offering walking tours this summer, from July to September.

They’ll take in the town’s Georgian highlights, the entertainments of the period, and the background history to Palladian architecture.

The tour dates are:

  • Tuesday 6th July
  • Saturday 24th July
  • Wednesday 4th August
  • Sunday 22nd August
  • Tuesday 7th September
  • Sunday 26th September

The walks start at 2pm outside No 1 Royal Crescent, and the price is £7 per person. They are suitable for those aged 12+ and groups are limited to 10 people.

Tickets need to be pre-booked in advance, which can be done at www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk

Picture –

© David Kernek

Oxford’s clash on LTNs …

TODAY’S Sunday Times (June 27) carries a dispatch from Oxford, where Low Traffic Neighbourhood strife appears to be at fever pitch. This is Josh Glancy’s report from both sides of the LTN barriers …  

INFRASTRUCTURE is burning. Fake news is circulating. Allegations of bribery and corruption are flying. There are demonstrations on the streets and protesters have risked their lives to shut down the roads. Checkpoints are being rammed by thugs in 4x4s. Neighbour is turning against neighbour and rancour stalks the land. This is not Aleppo, or Bogota, but the dreaming spires of Oxford, where spitting rows over the introduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods — LTNs — have escalated to the point of civil unrest.

Since the first “mini-Holland” was trialled in Waltham Forest, London, in 2014, these new traffic-calming measures have begun springing up all over the country. But during the pandemic, with cars idling in driveways, councils given emergency powers and government funds made available for cycling and walking schemes, the country has witnessed a surge in LTNs. There are now more than 100 in London alone, with others springing up in Bath, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. Even Oxford Circus in London is now due to become a pair of pedestrianized piazzas.

For some, these changes represent the long-overdue arrival of a new green utopia. For others, they’re an example of technocratic middle-class fantasies ruining the lives of ordinary working people. In east Oxford, the introduction of three LTNs in March has caused a furious backlash, with residents claiming they were not properly consulted and arguing that the measures have caused a massive displacement of traffic, disrupting commutes and school runs, damaging business and diverting pollution and congestion onto main roads.

Cutting through the spin and rage over LTNs can be difficult, so I visited Oxford Thursday to see this transport war in action. My first guide was Tom Sinclair, a tall, languid, extraordinarily friendly resident of the Florence Park neighbourhood, where one of the LTNs has been installed. I was late to meet Sinclair (traffic) and found him leaning proudly on a “no through traffic” sign. As well as being a fellow in moral philosophy at Wadham College, he’s also a member of Oxford Liveable Streets, a citizen group that has been a prime mover behind the introduction of the LTNs.

Sinclair got involved in the liveable streets movement because he was worried about his children growing up in Oxford’s “terrifying” roads. His home is just outside the LTN, but the children’s school is inside it. He walks me there, making a point of strolling down the middle of the road. “It’s just lovely here at the end of the school day,” he says. “Floods of children, bikes riding in the road, no big exhaust fumes. It’s lovely.” He points out a disabled resident wheeling down the middle of the road. “You wouldn’t have seen that six months ago.”

Sinclair is right, it seems lovely inside the LTNs: quiet, peaceful, calm and safe. Yet, clearly, not everyone is pleased. Outside Flo’s — The Place in the Park, a nursery, we come across a partially incinerated planter. It is placed there to demarcate the beginning of the LTN, blocking the road off to cars.

On the morning of June 6, shortly after 1am, Greg, a neighbour of Sinclair and another Florence Park local, was cycling home when he saw firefighters leaving the area. “The planter was blackened and burnt out,” he recalls. He took a picture of the damage that soon went viral.

Greg says he’s so wary of the anti-LTN lobby that he doesn’t want to share his surname. “It’s very shouty, aggressive, angry, really does border on bullying,” he says. “It puzzles me why people are so furious when you suggest that they might re-consider driving 500 yards to pick up some milk from the Co-op.”

Elsewhere in the LTNs, one planter had its flora ripped out. This has been replaced, with the addition of signs declaring how much the community loves its planters and the strawberries that grow in them. Bollards have been rammed by frustrated motorists. In one recent incident, residents appointed themselves “human bollards” to block traffic and protest against people ignoring some of the traffic-calming measures. Sinclair tells me that one house bearing a proud “no through road” sign (held aloft by a giant gnome) had rotten waste put through the letterbox. He suspects some organised sabotage and also worries that money from the car industry might be filtering into the anti-LTN movement.

https://335af2615d1d751922e1bd682bf981b8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html https://335af2615d1d751922e1bd682bf981b8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html The cultural and indeed ethnic divide over LTNs in east Oxford is stark. Tom and Greg — who works in digital marketing — are what you might call nice white middle-class parents, often working from home in white-collar jobs. But shop owners on the busy Cowley Road complain of reduced footfall. “Everybody is peed off,” says Nisar Hussain, who runs Oxon Carpets and Beds. “Delivery times have increased. The pollution is bad. It’s really bad news.” Many residents I spoke to feel the new measures are fairly pointless and a number of houses have leaflets declaring “No to LTNs” pasted in their windows. “We are road users, not rat runners,” they proclaim.

Sinclair is somewhat baffled by the backlash, pointing out that poorer people suffer most from pollution. “I’ve never voted Tory, so it’s odd all these people I consider myself on the same side as are suddenly so furious,” he says. “We’re trying to help.”

One person who really, really doesn’t want this help is Mazhar Dogar, a rambunctious property investor and businessmen in Littlemore, another of the LTNs. Dogar helped to organize a protest against the new measures in Manzil Way Gardens last weekend. I meet him at a Costa Coffee to hear his side of the story. He is, to put it mildly, apoplectic, arguing that the council’s consultation over the LTNs was entirely inadequate and used the pandemic as cover to disrupt people’s lives and implement “green gentrification”.

Dogar says the four mosques in the Cowley Road have become impossibly crowded during Friday prayers. At rush hour, he says, the Cowley and Iffley roads, two central arteries through Oxford, are now unbearably clogged as a result of traffic displacement from people who can no longer drive through the LTNs. Oxfordshire county council, which is responsible for the LTNs, has not provided any solid data on this congestion, but after spending an hour walking the Cowley Road at rush hour the idea of commuting on it gives me shivers of imagined road rage.

 “We’ve been treated with contempt,” rages Dogar, suggesting the area’s large Muslim community has been trampled over. “We’re cannon fodder to these people. They imagine some utopia where every f***er is walking or on a bike. Not going to happen man … It’s pissing down with rain about nine months of the year,” he says. “Then we’ll see how fun it is to cycle everywhere. This is England, not California.”

Campaigning alongside “Maz” is Chloe Clarks, a local mother of two who is disabled and suffers from incurable inflammatory arthritis. She says the traffic from the LTNs has effectively forced her to continue Covid-19 isolation.

“My car is my independence,” she says. “I can’t walk very far, I can’t cycle and I can’t scoot. I want to do what I need to do as a mum, but journey times have at least doubled. I can’t afford the extra fuel costs. I feel trapped. I understand we’re in a climate emergency and we need to cut pollution, but there are better ways of doing this.”

What quickly became apparent to me in Oxford is that the LTN debate is much more than just a familiar tale about transport, traffic and how we all rub together on this crowded little island. It’s really a much bigger story about what our green future is going to look like and who owns it. Unlike less tangible upheavals such as Brexit, these changes have immediate, daily effects on everybody they touch. Will the burden of transforming our society fall fairly? Who will these changes be made by? And who for? How much of a say will any of us have?

There will be many other LTN-style innovations coming down the track and the battle lines being drawn in Oxford highlight the contours of future green wars: technocratic greens against cultural conservatives, cyclists versus motorists, progressives against traditionalists. It’s a culture war of course — what isn’t these days? — but in Oxford at least it also cuts across party lines, with crunchy Carrie Johnson conservatives allying with Labour’s granola-making base, while ethnic minority voters stand alongside more traditional Tories in an anti-LTN alliance.

Advocates of low-traffic neighbourhoods acknowledge that change can be difficult, but believe it’s worthwhile in pursuit of a greater good. After my Oxford tour, I called Rachel Aldred, professor in transport at Westminster University and something of a guru in LTN circles. She was on speakerphone and expressed her delight at hearing the birds chirping in the background of our call (LTN advocates talk about birdsong a lot). So what about all that disruption? “Travel behaviour is very habit-driven,” she says. “Obviously not all disruption is good but it’s also disruption that helps change behaviour. It is often a difficult process, but it’s how we find new solutions. It’s how change happens.”

Aldred argues that the LTNs are experimental, which means they should be flexible, adapting to local demands and feedback. Sometimes this works; indeed even furious residents occasionally make peace with the new schemes over time.

Andrew Keys, a graphic designer in Hither Green, south-east London, was outraged when an LTN was introduced in neighbouring Lee, a more expensive area. He says his previously “lovely residential road” became a heaving thoroughfare for cars trying to reach the busy South Circular road.

“Pollution aside, we had cars and vans and lorries at a standstill outside our house from two in the afternoon to half six at night,” he says. “We were effectively trapped in our house: can’t get in the car, don’t want to go for a walk.”

Keys helped to organize protests against the LTN and petitioned Lewisham Council. The council responded, adjusting the barriers to allow more throughflow. “It is much better than it was, to Lewisham’s credit,” he says.

A key theory behind the LTNs is called “traffic evaporation”. Over time, it is argued, once driving becomes more difficult, most motorists will adapt and find other ways to travel. They might walk more, cycle, take buses or trains. The LTNs on their own are not a silver bullet, Aldred points out, but should be part of a revolution in how we travel, improving quality of life and rescuing us from climate disaster.

More of this is certainly coming. For the first time in its history, Oxfordshire County Council is being run by a progressive Lib Dem-Lab-Green alliance. Fourteen further LTNs in east Oxford are being mooted.

Dogar is revving up for a long fight. Is he optimistic the anti-LTN brigade can turn the tide? “Just wait until the legal boys get involved,” he says. “Our lives are being made a misery. We’re not going anywhere.”

Unanswered question on Bath’s ring of lace

THERE is a question that’s yet to be answered about the proposal – by Bath & NE Somerset Council and Avon & Somerset Police – for a counter-terrorist security zone that would see virtually all traffic, including Blue Badged vehicles and taxis, banned in the historic centre.

The plan’s highlights are:

  • Strict vehicle access restrictions for delivery vehicles within the city centre’s most crowded streets
  • Access points operated 24/7 by the council’s CCTV control room
  • A parking ban across the zone, even for disabled drivers
  • Re-enforced static and sliding protective bollards

The council and the police point to the current terror threat in Britain and say the purpose of the so-called ‘ring of steel’ is to protect areas of high footfall from terrorists who weaponize cars and vans. It has, however, been some time since terrorists have gone to the bother of hiring cars and vans. The Manchester Arena (2017) and the London Bridge (2019) murders were committed by people travelling on foot. Similarly, in the past month there have been no fewer than three Islamic terrorist attacks in Germany and France committed by people who were walking.

For how long can Bath’s council and the police continue with the absurd pretence that their sliding protective bollards will hinder terrorists? What they are proposing is a ring of lace, not steel, that would be no obstacle for killers travelling by foot, cycle, or scooter.

Police publish plan for Bath’s cop shop

PROPOSALS for Bath’s new-look, high-visibility police station have been published and submitted for approval by Bath and North East Somerset Council.  The plan sees the council reducing its space in Lewis House on Manvers Street so that the police can turn what is currently its part-time inquiry desk into something resembling a recognizably traditional police station.

Plans submitted on behalf of the force by Police & Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford’s office say: ‘The existing premises no longer serve its purpose as its facilities do not provide sufficient accommodation to support the level of service provision required in the area. Furthermore, the existing premises are not sufficiently visually prominent for the public to be aware of the police presence within the centre of Bath.’

If the plan is approved, the police will have more than a third of Lewis House.

 The station will be manned daily from 7am to 3am, and ad hoc outside those hours ‘to support the night-time economy’. It will be open to the public on weekdays from 10am to 6pm.

Outside, there will be two dedicated police parking spaces, a police lantern, an alarm box bell, CCTV cameras, and a knife amnesty bin.

Gloves off in Lib Dem-Green clash

‘ … we were not surprised that Joanna has gone back to the Green Party’

THE strong language used by Councillor Joanna Wright (pictured) when she announced her defection from the ruling Liberal Democrat group on Bath & NE Somerset Council to the Green Party has been matched by her former colleagues.

‘The core values of this new Cabinet,’ Ms Wright said, ‘seem to be based upon votes not lives. I can no longer be a member of a group whose moral compass is so compromised.’

In a retaliatory statement, the Lib Dem group accused Ms Wright of using her membership of the Lib Dems ‘as a flag of convenience’ and challenged her to resign and stand as a Green Party candidate ‘so that the voters of Lambridge can have the opportunity of knowing exactly what she stands for’.

‘Our Cabinet,’ says the Lib Dems, ‘took great strides this week by approving the first strategic Active Travel Scheme routes and 15 schemes for the first phase of Liveable Neighbourhoods. Councillor Wright was the lead member as these schemes were developed and the projects going forward are almost entirely what she envisaged. One element [the North Road closure proposal] will be subject to a deeper engagement process with residents and stakeholders to ensure that a workable solution is agreed that does not end up being removed, potentially wasting public funds.

‘Despite these significant steps forward, having lost her Cabinet post in May, Joanna chose to defect to the Green Party. Whilst the timing has surprised us, we were not surprised that Joanna has gone back to the Green Party. Since election in 2019, she has consistently said she is more in line with their values than ours, and indeed has now made it clear she used the Lib Dems as a flag of convenience.

‘We will not be responding to the detail of Joanna’s description of events, save to say that it does not accord with what actually happened … We anticipate that, as her resignation speech focused on her morals and integrity, she will be standing down and triggering a by-election so that the voters of Lambridge can have the opportunity of knowing exactly what she stands for.’