The Podium, in my home town of Bath, used to be a nice building with an airy atrium, some small independent shops on the ground floor, and some nice cafes on the first floor. This also created a nice inviting entrance to the library, somewhere where people can go to research interesting things, learn about stuff that’s not in the newspapers and the TV, and generally think a bit differently. Remember the destruction of the great library in Alexandria in the 4th century? Why is there so much effort to remove our collective knowledge?
Things have changed at The Podium. Just to repeat that this was no eyesore that needed knocking down or redesigning. It worked very well as it was! Waitrose have taken over the entire building to expand their store. Apart from the library, which has now got a somewhat hidden entrance or a tatty back stairs to get there. The library only survives at all because certain people fought hard to keep it there. And now all the building work in Waitrose is making the library a very noisy place to be.
The new first floor has a cafe, a Waitrose cafe, all shiny white like a hospital, to replace the independent cafes. Great! That’s a big change in facilities, which really helps justify the planning permission. I know of at least one small business that was driven out and is now closing down as a direct consequence. And Bath used to be known for its independent shops. Which are being driven to closure, not just by Waitrose, but by Southgate too.
But what does all this development work hide? Well, there is no atrium any more. The whole layout has changed to confuse you. There must be loads of hidden spaces everywhere on all levels. A lot of areas are blocked off, including the river access. Developments are always useful excuses to block off whole public areas for many months. It backs onto the river where there is an old passage underneath for boat access.
ALL the neighbouring buildings are either under Council or major corporation control, or closed down, or under development at present This is prime land in Bath, neatly positioned between the old North Gate and the old East Gate of the medieval city. Duck Son and Pinker mysteriously closed down last year after 163 years of family ownership. Their building goes down several floors, possibly 6, below street level where you could see the old medieval shops. Across the street is the Victoria Art Gallery (with its dome), the Guildhall market (with its dome), and the Empire building, which was the home of the UK Admiralty HQ.
Between them all, the whole river front is covered either side of Pulteney Bridge (with its dome). The buildings all go down very deep, deep enough to go UNDER the river via tunnels. Pulteney Bridge is part of a major Bath Alignment, from the Holborne Museum, down Great Pulteney Street, through Laura Place Fountain, across Pulteney Bridge, up to Whiteway Round Hill. On the map, it forms a large masonic key. The alignment is East North East out of the centre of Bath. This East North East entrance is similar to other sacred sites, such as Stonehenge, and Buckingham Palace. What is going on here that is being hidden from us?
I have not found anyone yet who likes the new development, and many who are angry about it. If you don’t like it, don’t shop at Waitrose. Let it die. It can only survive with our collective support. Then maybe something else can rise in its place. And keep visiting the library, keep it going. Libraries are still important alternative sources of information.
(See also: The Bath Keys, Round Tables, Stories of the Borehole, Hot Springs Go Cold, There are Four Jerusalems, Cash on the Nail)