CHIS Newsletter, August 2014

Letter from the Chairman

If you have the good fortune to live in as attractive an area as ours and take visitors for a walk it is often a welcome jolt when they express their admiration and even envy of what we might take for granted. This year’s surge of greenery at a near-tropical pace in the not infrequent sunny spells has increased the attractiveness. However, in some streets the resultant impending shrubs and trees show that nothing is perfect, especially property owners, who don’t trim hedges.

The CHIS-sponsored traffic island below the Victoria Rooms has at last flowered noticeably; the Easter Garden at Quarry Steps is abundant; the new garden and old sweet chestnut at the Chesterfield are flourishing as are the Downs, goats and all. A tree fell down near the new children’s playground below the Observatory. No-one was hurt nor damage done to the newly-installed equipment, which is mercifully free of the all too frequent crude colours and coarse materials that do no service to children’s aesthetic awareness. The promised CHIS seat should be inspirational in design.

Still on green thoughts, intense efforts and research by residents and our Planning Group, together with developing consultations with Clifton College Council have produced a happy compromise in the dispute over the re-positioning of the recently installed cricket nets on the Close by Pembroke Vale. Residents have been reassured too about the College’s intention to establish at Nos. 4 & 5 Worcester Road two suites of greatly needed classrooms.

Consultations:

  • The Nuffield Group promised a publicly sited statue when applying to rebuild the Chesterfield Hospital and various places have been considered, including Victoria Square. At a recent public meeting that was opposed by residents. An historic and aesthetic ideal would be on the bastion at Goldney House: the statue is to involve Alexander Selkirk, origin of Robinson Crusoe, who was rescued by one of Thomas Goldney’s vessels. It would, however, be essential for Bristol University to enable greater public access for the spot than now. Negotiations continue.

  • We are disturbed to receive confirmation of rumours that the “WHS site” on Clifton Down Road has been sold on. Having spent many an hour in pre-application discussions to agree on the imaginative plans which Bristol City Council approved, we fervently hope our voice will be heard when we meet the new developers to discuss their ‘modest changes to the previous consented scheme’.

  • We expect to be consulted about the plans for Beacon House (formerly Habitat), which has been bought by Bristol University, and about the site at the end of Alma Vale Road near the back of Sainsbury’s complex. We support the Clifton Down Residents Association in their concern about such a considerable students’ residence (70 plus places have been suggested) especially bearing in mind the number of students resident in the area already and the development of student flats on Whiteladies Road.

Alma Vale Road is cherished by traders and locals, with elegant Christmas trees and lighting and street fairs, but their efforts are degraded by the squalor of student waste bins left out permanently at either end of the road. We thought that that plague had departed but the corner of Hanbury Road and Pembroke Road recently looked like a mini-Naples. Good news there, however: an application to convert a good portion of the garden of the Channings Hotel to a car park has been rejected.

Parking — the very word is like a bell to toll alarm. It took two years for CHIS not long ago to help traders and visitors persuade the authorities to extend daytime parking from 1 to 2 hours. Recently a tank on the lawn by the Bridge has been used to publicize the need to extend parking time in the new Scheme from 1 to 2 or more hours! There’s irony also in the fact that the rapidly developing Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre (no easier title has been suggested) is on a site that CHIS suggested nearly ten years ago, having to resort to the extreme of action in the High Court to help stop the outrageous alternative proposed on the Clifton side!

The plan by Medinbrand to develop the long-neglected Whiteladies Cinema by constructing six flats that would help finance a two-screen cinema has been approved by Bristol City Council Planning Committee. As may be seen in our April Newsletter, CHIS supported the scheme, faute de mieux, but later asked the Planning Committee to give serious consideration to the alternative plan by the Whiteladies Picture House Group, supported by English Heritage, to restore the whole building as a single full auditorium, plus the ballroom, foyer and a small lecture room/screening room available for community use. There the matter stands.

I began with the delights of BS8. They don’t, however, make us parochial, so our two trips out of Bristol have been greatly enjoyed. At Beckford Silk Workshop, the last in the Kingdom, we saw the complicated processes at work and the exquisite, fashionably appreciated results, we lunched at a packed Moreton-in-Marsh and took the air at Batsford Arboretum with its great range of species.

Comparably enjoyable were some hidden gems of the Vale of Glamorgan: Ewenny Pottery, in its eighth generation of potters, the nearby Norman Priory with a learned lecture by Dr Eirof Evans and coffee with Welsh cakes and Bara Brith from his wife, lunch at the charming town of Cowbridge and a spirited guided tour of Fonmon Castle. The organizers, RoseMary Musgrave and Linda Edwards, were sincerely congratulated on the imaginativeness and efficiency of their arrangements.

Back at the ranch, or more accurately the Apostle Room, we had greatly enjoyed the exhaustive and enthusiastic Trevor Thomson in his advocacy of the achievements of the neglected engineer Charles Robinson, of the Severn Tunnel and much else in the early Nineteenth Century.

Brian Worthington