CHIS Newsletter, January 2014

Letter from the Chairman

It would be unthinkable to write to members without recording the death of Dorothy Brown. She was one of the early CHIS members and the most persistent, informed, active and generous of fighters against the (alas not quite departed) philistinism that worked to destroy much of Bristol that had survived the Blitz. We pay a fuller tribute to her life and work later in the Newsletter. We normally instal a commemorative plaque some time after the person’s lifetime but, so notable is Dorothy’s legacy to Bristol and beyond that we are going ahead, the intended date being Spring, 2014.

In 2005 we dedicated a plaque, at Glendower House by Christchurch Green, to Sir Fabian Ware, Bristolian and creator of the Imperial War Graves Commission during the Great War. The excellent Empires of the Dead by David Crane records Ware’s extraordinary achievement and is reviewed on later pages. English Heritage is catching up, with a blue plaque in London in 2014.

One of the distinguished architects of the grand funerary monuments on the Western Front is Charles Holden. We owe to him the Central Library, the 1910-12 Bristol Royal Infirmary and the 1919 Memorial Arch at Clifton College. The hospital was engulfed and spoilt in the 1970s extension and the Central Library is threatened by the crass plan of Bristol Cathedral School to turn two lower storeys into a Primary School. So far there is no threat to the Arch ....

How pleasant it is to congratulate an educational institution, in this case Bristol University, for its completion of the project to clean the frontage of the Wills Tower and adjacent buildings, along with the Millennium Garden. They look magnificent.

We visited the nearby Museum for a guided tour by the Director of The Roman Empire: Power and People exhibition. It remains open until the 12th January and should not be missed for its clever presentation of objects intelligently described in astutely set and aesthetically fine sections. There are ingenious modern technical features to inform and entertain young and old. I completed an assessment form, complimenting the exhibitors, and was sad to be told that most visitors either give no response or mostly complain about occasional features.

That event and the Annual General Meeting as well as the St Andrew’s Memorial Service on Remembrance Sunday, where Richard Bland laid our wreath, completed the year’s events. The Publicity Group has put its mind to the 2014 programme, details of which are enclosed.

Sadly, we must soldier on without a long-standing and invaluable member of the Committee, Sharon Baker. She has been energetic, persuasive and inventive; in particular as regards Clifton and Bristol in Bloom, relations with the Village traders and tirelessly addressing Bristol City Council and May Gurney about the unending challenge of waste disposal and litter. Her work will be greatly missed but we hope for her to return once she has completed her academic work. She will be glad to see the Council’s initiative in combating cigarette litter, having established the putting in place of cigarette binlets in Clifton Village.

All the more welcome, then, is the return to the Committee of Olwen Laszlo, who is already providing practical assistance in the Publicity Group’s planning.

Our area cannot escape the national challenge to the nature of our high streets, for all the known reasons. We see it in the applications to convert shops into licensed restaurants – particularly in Queen’s Road and parts of Clifton Village. The dilemma is this: if a trader cannot continue, is a derelict building preferable to another food outlet; if a road becomes full of such establishments, will a trader want to return? The minimum CHIS urges is restrictions on hours of selling alcohol.

There is continuing debate about the effects of the proposed residents’ parking scheme (charges, hours, ticket machines etc.). We repeat our suggestion that a bus from the Park and Ride areas should take visitors directly to the Zoo and the Village. However, some people may not be keen on returning if, as is threatened, the public conveniences by the Suspension Bridge and on The Downs are closed.

Unsurprisingly Bristol has been judged the most congested city in mainland Britain. The Post’s letters page is a battleground for competing accusations about cars, buses, motorcycles and cycles and our roads. Interestingly, another city with an elected Mayor (in both case by the City Council) has initiated a nine-months trial of suspending bus lanes, to see if they cause more trouble than they are intended to save. Bristol should not follow Liverpool’s example in one major respect. That former City of Culture has in the last decade demolished 36 listed buildings in the Duke Street Conservation Area and World Heritage Site against the advice of English Heritage. Our Civic Society has commended the Whiteladies Road traffic scheme with its Award, which may raise mixed responses from the public.

More rurally, we have been asked by Radio Bristol to comment on the suggested pedestrian bridge over Bridge Valley Road. Connecting two walking paths along the side of the Gorge, it should be aesthetically appropriate, whether traditional or contemporary in design and would offer an alternative crossing to the perilous one where five roads meet – if people would detour from The Promenade to use it.

Large-scale developments in BS8 which are complete or going strong are the Pro-Cathedral (student dwellings á la Ritz), the Nuffield Chesterfield Hospital and Mortimer House. Still planned or seeking permission are the W.H.Smith site on Clifton Down Road and St Mary’s Hospital as-was on Brandon Hill. The future of the former Habitat store and the T.A. ground in Whiteladies Road remain undecided. What is promising is a scheme to restore the much-missed Whiteladies Cinema, which local amenity groups welcome wholeheartedly.

Nick Shaw has been a prominent and valued beat constable in our area for many years, enforcing the law in a genial and firm way on drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Local TV and papers have recorded his heroism in a fire at Wickwar as part of his greatly appreciated service. We shall miss him in his retirement and wish him the very best for 2014 and beyond – as to all our members as well.

Brian Worthington