CHIS Newsletter September 2020


The March edition with its bon-bon, “The Story of the Hot Well at Bristol“, was well received by many members. Yet when the editor requested Newsletter contributions for September the temptation was to wonder whether, in these half-paralysed times, we would find much news to report. In fact there is plenty, as may be seen later.

The Downs

In the forward-looking Act of Parliament (1861), Clifton and Durdham Downs are preserved for the benefit of the citizens of Bristol, and much appreciated they are. Even so, this year has caused the area to be a magnet, from morning till night, for citizens of Bristol and beyond. As a result immense use has caused abuse (barbecues, litter, squalor etc.) and continuing disgrace and degradation, all the worse since funding the Rangers has been reduced.

Along with others CHIS welcomed one novelty, the pop-up restaurants in a series of tents which resemble a jolly medieval tournament near the water tower. They have been approved pretty generally and were at once booked up for the whole of August.

The Downs Loop is a major project affecting pedestrians, cyclists and motorists; it is a proposed new route of just over two miles round the western area of the Downs. It would follow Rockleaze and Downleaze, Circular Road, Ladies Mile and part of Stoke Road [see the map on the inside cover]. To find out more about the proposal see The report and comments sent by Paul Main, who represented the society at walks and discussions are in this Newsletter. All I would add is this. Along with other committee members, the fear is that the needs and rights of pedestrians too easily come last. One reason may be the national Default Position that Pedestrians-and-Cyclists are the same, presumably since neither needs an engine (but what about e-bicycles or e-scooters?). You might as well say Cyclists-and-Motorists are a group as they both need wheels.

Sustrans is constitutionally dedicated to help the interests both of pedestrians and cyclists, which does not always seem to be borne in mind.

Zoo Parking.

The Zoo has long been used to negotiating permission to park visitors’ cars for up to 31 days per year on a restricted area at peak periods, reviewed every three years by the Downs Committee, which is made up of six Councillors and six Merchant Venturers. CHIS wishes the Zoo well, especially in these straitened days, so it is disturbing to hear that extended permission for twenty-one years has been granted for such parking by a committee that refuses to allow access to its proceedings and minutes. We have agreed to support Downs for People therefore in legal moves to ask for transparency about the decision-making procedures.

Another major impact of the Corvid-19 blight has been the nation-wide enforced closure or narrowing of roads, which may be found in many parts of Bristol and Clifton, notably in the Princess Victoria Street sector. Mercifully, the startled concerns of traders and residents have had some effect but we are not alone in worries about further alterations without ample consultation with residents, traders and groups. The Suspension Bridge one-way pedestrian system looks, as we suggested, to be a long-term arrangement, surely to general approval.

Larger-scale planning topics remain: the Mayor’s Western Harbour plans and those for the new Bristol University Library on the Hawthorn’s site at the corner by Woodland Road. We maintain vigilance. We welcome the approval by Bristol City Council of plans to improve the frontage, access and forecourt of the Royal West of England Academy and the rejection of a planned tall 5G mast by The Close, Clifton College.

Alas, there are too few rejections of applications for Houses of Multiple Occupation, almost always to be student-occupied. We oppose all but a responsibly planned few, on grounds too obvious for me to spell out. Bristol of course is not alone in these pressures. A recent obituary records the sterling yet forsaken fight by Leeds MP (the late Harold Best) decades ago to stop the Headingley suburb from becoming 75% student occupied, through the conversion of family homes into HMOs. We are on a not dis-similar trajectory. AGM. Along with many charities we are unable to plan dates for booking the AGM or speakers. Please see the relevant notice letter in the Newsletter.

Our plaque to Beryl Corner stands proud at the corner of Rodney Terrace and Waterloo Street. We still intend to give a proper dedication when conditions allow. The daughter of two of our long-standing and most devoted members, the late Pat and Roger Feneley has asked CHIS to suggest some memorial to them on Christchurch Green. Details will be given in due course.

A tribute

Our area is blessed with a considerable number of food stores, a benefit which has been increased by the steady, uncomplaining, imaginative and helpful work of staff in many shops. Their contribution to the general good continues to be impressive.

Finally, here’s hoping for a resumption of the popular CHIS Talks and Visits sooner rather than later.

Brian Worthington