Play to our heritage strengths - manage tourism better (and the environment too)
Bath could really build back better if it played to its strengths. Its USP - what makes our city unique not just nationally, but internationally - is its heritage. On occasion, our heritage has appeared to have been treated as an inconvenience, but making it the prime priority would enable the city to prosper more.
The starting point must be the currently neglected management of tourism. Visitors need to be encouraged to stay in the city for a few days and explore it on foot. The free-market tourist anarchism of the past has to be replaced by the regulation, licensing and planning of all visitor accommodation and hospitality in the city. That would enable short-stay integrated visitor packages that could involve revolutionising the story presented to tourists. The narrative needs to shift to the dramatic way of how the Georgian city evolved through marred visions, impossible impediments, and triumphs against adversity.
Those wishing to use Bath as a base for the south west should be directed to accommodation on the edge of the city rather than in its centre. That would make more environmental sense, as would dramatically reducing through-traffic. Queen Square, for example, has for years been treated as a glorified traffic roundabout. Cut out the traffic and it could become a thriving café society.
By restricting easy vehicular access into the centre of Bath, the result would be, a strengthening of its brand: more exclusive, but an exclusivity based not on price, but on being prepared to make the effort to stay and spend time (and money) here. This would benefit local businesses. As at Stonehenge, restriction of access would create more demand through a heightened appreciation of something very special – something that exists nowhere else in the world.
Bath’s not just about tourism, of course. It serves as the cash cow for its hinterland in North East Somerset, but cash cows need maintenance and restoration. We should no longer tolerate streetscapes that have become shabby and tacky. Integrating our heritage into the heart of all planning would resist damaging and pointless residential developments that solve little of the current needs. That’s not to say the city needs to stand still. Evolving retail spaces lend themselves to diversity, such as to provide low-cost housing for people who work locally, and conversion for other business uses to create jobs. Industries that require more space could be situated by the villages and towns surrounding the city – closer to where their potential workforce lives.
Why the contribution is important
The lesson from the past neglect of our heritage goose is that fewer golden eggs have been laid. Through a focus of resources on what makes Bath unique, this generation could for once earn the respect of future generations by leaving them something to bolster local pride. Do that and a stronger foundation would be laid for the future prosperity of everyone in our city.
by PaulJ on January 02, 2021 at 11:51AM