CHIS Newsletter, April 2013

Letter from the Chairman

Major changes in the paired photographs in Will Musgrave’s Clifton Through Time that strike me are the absence of road signs and cars but the presence of railings. Probably most members today would welcome fewer of the former and more of the latter; it’s always cheery to see where railings have been restored after Queen Mary’s well-intentioned purge. Vyvyan Terrace gardens are an example to everyone. Not so good is the replacement of hedges with fences, at best plain and usually ugly, as may be seen in College Road.

As an aside, one statement in Clifton Through Time has fluttered some dovecotes: Jeffrey Archer was not a pupil at Clifton College but of Wellington School (where by chance he was in the same Sixth Form set as David Suchet and Keith Floyd). The interesting exhibition on Bristol writing in the Central Library includes Archer but puzzlingly omits the eminently successful Henry Newbolt, who was a pupil at Clifton College.

The topic of the hour is Traffic and Parking, especially after Mayor Ferguson’s announcement of 18 proposed parking zones to cover most of the city, 4 in our patch. Asked to comment by Radio Bristol and ITV West, I recalled that: ten years ago residents of Clifton split 50-50 on the principle of RPZ; the knock-on effect of zones in Kingsdown and Cotham had changed some peoples’ attitudes; in Clifton Village a major consideration was the interests of Residents, Traders, Visitors and Tourists; and some people feared having to pay yet find parking as difficult as now.

The commuters who park from 7.00 a.m. onwards before walking, cycling or bussing into town need an alternative: better bus and train services. The Downs must be protected from all-day parking and Zoo visitors. Surely the Park & Ride Bus could stop at the Zoo and Christchurch Green? CHIS has already met the Village BID Manager to consider traders’ interests, reassured by the Mayor’s promise to bear in mind the particular conditions of each zone.

As long ago as 1994 we helped to commission the far-sighted Clifton Traffic and Parking Survey and in 1998 asked the architect George Ferguson to produce a feasibility study for the south side of Merchant’s Road (then Hartwell’s Garage). It showed that 200-250 cars could be accommodated in a three-storey car park behind single aspect apartments. Despite local support, the scheme failed. Prophets are rarely heard in their own land.

Cycling is of course a much encouraged element in the debate about traffic. When the Mayor discussed road schemes with Ken Livingstone, I wonder whether one of Livingstone’s ideas was mentioned: that cycles should have clear number plates and the owners be insured, as are motorists. Last month an elderly lady walking through St Andrew’s Churchyard was struck from behind by a cyclist, suffering 3 broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. “No Cycling” signs have been suggested but on The Promenade, Christchurch Green and Victoria Square they are honoured more in the breach than the observance as momentary myopia seems to strike many cyclists.

Our talks programme was resumed after the apparent end of wintery weather, with Leonardo the Anatomist by Dr Jonathan Musgrave and The Silent Engineer – the Story of Thomas Guppy by Gordon Shaw. Audiences were impressed by the detailed presentation and enthusiasm of the speakers. We look forward to the wide-ranging talk on The Avon Gorge by Dan Evans on St George’s Day and subsequent visits during the summer.

Plans for creating the long-promised Cumberland Piazza are attractive as are those for the permanent Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre (given a grant from the Lottery Fund). It is to be on one of the sites suggested by CHIS six years ago as an alternative to demolishing the public lavatories on the Clifton side. So much litigation and bitterness might have been avoided!

The sensitive opening up of the Iron Age Fort site, preserving the foundations, has quieted many fears. The Downs generally look as though they’ve had a haircut from a top-class barber: volunteers have helped to free the hawthorns from ivy and scrub. Controversial plans to re-design the children’s playground below the Observatory are to be re-thought in view of general disapproval. There was little controversy at a meeting about establishing a playground in Victoria Square; the residents were unanimously opposed.

The first of the two trees funded by CHIS has been planted on Christchurch Green just beyond the zebra crossing. The Easter Garden near Quarry Steps is under partial threat by a developer; we support the residents’ determination to preserve that charming public place. We welcome the outcome of the Planning Inspectorate appeal by which the Whiteladies Cinema may be retained in any development.

The Union Building extension is complete, with its elegant lines. However, a number of people lament the dull slate-coloured slabs of brickwork. Replacement saplings have been planted. I wonder whether the University would win brownie points by planting some in Buckingham Place opposite: there are gaps. The University’s re-ordering of the gardens by the new Life Sciences building as a continuation of the invaluable Royal Fort Gardens is under way.

Still on a sweet note, it was generous of the Rotary Club to invite me and the Chairman of the Redland and Cotham Amenity Society to lunch at Redland Lawn Tennis Club in order to see whether the societies might work with them. Ideas from our members would be most welcome.

There is, I’m afraid, always a sour savour. We are fighting: a rash of banners, of all sizes, materials and vulgarity, the lurid BT broadband illegally stuck on their already obtrusive green boxes, and the stickers on BT telephone boxes and of course slumland, bins and boxes left out permanently.

I am sure members wish us luck.

Brian Worthington