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Ian Thompson, Area Manager, SWRDA; Clive Thomas, Strategic Director, B&NES ; on
7 December 2001
Ian Thompson, Area Manager, South West Regional Development Agency, first described the function of SWRDA. Its aim is to promote economic development in the whole South West. It has a budget of £100M and, at present, three major projects Gloucester Dock Warehouses; Glastonbury Tanneries and Plymouth Docks. In Bath it is involved with Western Riverside. Besides building developments it is concerned with the skill base and inward investment.
In the Principal Urban Areas, the main towns, which include Bath, it encourages the formulation of a vision for the future and also the regeneration of communities in deprived areas of these towns.
For Bath it wishes to develop an integrated transport system involving Bath and Bristol; exploitation of University research in the locality, and an increase in the creative businesses and cultural facilities. Suggestions of other sectors to be improved would be welcome.
Four questions were posed:
• How can Bath contribute to the prosperity of the region?
• How can the links between Bath and Bristol
be strengthened as these are seen as closely associated by the EU?
• Which business sectors should be improved?
• How can urban renaissance be carried out in a World Heritage City?
Bath Archaeological Trust,
Peter Davenport then gave his thoughts as an archaeologist on regeneration of the city. Archaeologists are not against change but the character of a city depends on its past, which should be respected during development. Clearing a site, as was done with Southgate in the 70s, just leaves a blank to be filled and that needs to be done taking into consideration the previous history of that area so as to maintain its character.
Clive Thomas emphasised that a vision must be `owned' by the majority of the inhabitants. He considered there were two threats to satisfactory development of the city complacency and an inward-looking attitude. Political boundaries must not be confused with cultural identity and sense of place. Be proud of the City but acknowledge its mutual dependency on the surrounding areas and towns Bristol, Keynsham, Radstock.
Sustainable growth was one of the topics raised. It is one of the requirements in SWRDA's terms of reference and is ensured for economic, environmental and social projects. Market towns provide a frequent setting. Developers think their plans will be `good for their grandchildren' but the grandchildren often find they are not. Some, such as the Garden Cities, Roehampton and Pimlico are satisfactory.
The RDA has acquired sites for development but usually persuade private sector companies to agree to their requrements.
It is possible to get agreement from national development companies to use local sub-contractors and labour.
An `icon' building is desirable to attract people to Western Riverside. The new Spa building is one such and demonstrates that the Council can provide leadership on such contentious projects.
Western Riverside is so good on the proposed plans that it may over-shadow historic Bath. When will the world Heritage Site have a Management Plan to match? One is under discussion; the boundaries and scope are being considered.
Pollution by tour buses and cars is being tackled but the Office of Fair Trading have prevented a bus quality partnership being completed so a quality contract will need to be sought from the DTLR.
The whole meeting was recorded. A pair of CDs or two tape cassettes can be borrowed by applying to the BRLSI Office