The Bath Chronicle has just announced yet another major city centre development. Really quite suddenly, out of the blue. This time it is the Grand Parade and Undercroft. That will put the entire riverside either side of Pulteney Bridge under development, including the Guildhall Market.
The station (bus and train) is also under development, not even finished by any means. Shops and restaurants there. More shops and more restaurants at the new development. Shops and restaurants empty in other parts of Bath. So the station and the river are under developmental control. The major transport interchanges. Its just like the Monopoly Board says. Development is a great way to block off public areas from the public.
The outflow of the Hot Springs to the river is by the station development, and this is not good. In fact almost the whole of the city side of the river seems to be under development or proposed development. And in particular, both sides of Pulteney Bridge. Part of the new development proposal suggests restoration of the Bridge itself, which would no doubt mean temporary closure.
The Grand Parade and Undercroft development proposes to retain the Guildhall as the “Seat of Power”. By coincidence, the A-Z map shows the Guildhall actually inside an electric plug. They want to expand the Guildhall market. That will mean shutting it down while it is “developed”. How will small traders survive that? Or maybe “improving” the market and putting up the rents. So that businesses can’t afford to stay. The Guildhall Market is one of the few places left in Bath that has independent traders, ones where you can buy useful things like food, haberdashery, hardware, and it works really well. That’s why they want to change it.
The Guildhall market traders have not been consulted. They know very little. The council are not saying much about what will be done with the inside of the existing market, despite making a big press announcement. They have been vague, which is not good. No consultation with the traders shows a complete lack of concern. They are just expendable pawns in the bigger scheme of things.
The history of these things in Bath says it all. The Independent in 1993 talks about there being only two independent shops left in the Colonnades development. BHS soon moved into the empty space. In Southgate, the huge brand new shopping centre, the only independent part is already declining, just ripe for a corporate takeover. The Podium, next to the river, has just evicted all the independent shops, to expand the Waitrose Store, currently under development. Duck, Son and Pinker, the long running family business next door, mysteriously closed down. Now under development.
All these places are closed off, and noisy, and chaos and confusion reigns. Noone knows what’s going on. As I write, I am sitting in the library, luckily saved from development so far, with drilling from nearby Waitrose going through my body and ears.
Yes, it would be lovely to open up the Undercroft, the colonnades by the river, why haven’t they bothered before, it’s been an eyesore for decades. All they need to do is clean it up a bit and take down the barricade that stops people going there at the moment. We don’t need any more development.
What is happening underground? Bath is a many layered city, and there are layers below the current city floor. According to the local paper, the area under the Guildhall was once used as a slaughterhouse. They didn’t say what got slaughtered and why, and they didn’t say if it still is being used in this way. Underground Bath is riddled with caverns and tunnels. “As above, so below” said William Blake. He was a high up freemason, so he would have known these things. Another world could be going on below the city, with the happy shoppers above oblivious to it.
The new development will either expose the underground activities of now and the past, or hide them with fenced off development, noise, and chaos, new confusing layouts and hidden spaces.
Remember Chris Patten? He was the MP for Bath 20 years ago, before he got voted out and then moved to be governor of Hong Kong, despite the fact that he was not wanted by the British people. Or indeed the people of Hong Kong i would guess. Poor people of Hong Kong, they have even less say than we do. Landed with a rejected British MP. Chris Patten was a major player in the way Bath is going. His job was to raise the business rates so high that lots of small businesses in Bath could not survive. Thus he cleared the path for the the corporates to stealthily move in and take over.
The corporates won’t win. There is too much of the human spirit around for that. But life becomes a struggle when faced with their apparently mighty power on a daily basis. Trying to live life by your own truth is hard work when everything you stand for is constantly squashed and under attack. Life doesn’t have to be like this. The corporates, councils and governments included, rely on us supporting them with our money and our labour.
It’s extraordinary how much money is being spent on development in a “recession” that is so tight, they are going to axe the mobile library to save a few thousand pounds a year. There is no recession. There is loads of money about. It’s all about control.
The standard reaction to this is a sort of powerless acceptance “But there’s nothing we can do”. I disagree. I think we are very powerful, but we give our power to the corporate structures. Look at your own life, research what you are doing, research where your labour and your money and your energy is going, and what you find may propel you to make some changes.
(See also earlier posts: The Bath Waitrose Store, Killing the Hot Springs, Boring Bath, Stories of the New Borehole, Hot Springs Go Cold, Decoding Monopoly)