What does the new year hold for our city? Following on from our last article, read what six more figures have to say about what is happening in their sector as they are immersed in the ways of Bath…
ECO CHARITY: Peter Andrews, Advisor, Transition Bath
Last year was a fine year for Transition Bath. It attracted more committed volunteers and started some fine new low-carbon projects. I hope and expect the trend to continue as more and more people realise that, in the middle of a climate crisis, business as usual or doing nothing is no longer an option.
Let’s also hope that 2024 is the year that the new building regulations, of which B&NES Council are rightly proud, are rigorously enforced. Also that the penny drops that we urgently need more affordable, warm and cheap-to-run houses to buy and rent for actual people who want to live and work in Bath.
I hope that the tiny minority of car-obsessed residents realise that a 20 mph limit and a clean air zone doesn’t mean the end of civilisation”
I have a faint hope that the tiny minority of car-obsessed residents finally realise that a 20 mph limit and a clean air zone (CAZ 4 anyone?) doesn’t mean the end of civilisation – climate change is doing its best on that front – but that it actually leads to less pollution, fewer childhood respiratory diseases and fewer serious accidents. All of which helps to take the pressure off our wonderful, but overstretched, NHS.
Finally I expect that 2024 will see that the idea of ‘ecooperation’, (a coming together in a spirit of cooperation of 35 local, low carbon, organic and environmental groups to share information), will continue to expand and flourish. And that this in turn will make Bath an even more pleasant and healthy place to live and work.
CITY OF BATH: Dr Bharat Pankhania, Deputy Mayor of Bath
The last few years have been extraordinary; we are still living with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic which has altered our world, and continues to do so, especially a new condition, long covid. The last year also saw the continuing war in Ukraine and the tragic conflict in Gaza and Israel. The recent Conference of Parties meeting (COP28) saw global leaders dragging their feet over fossil fuel use reductions, and saw our own government lying to us that it is cheaper if we drill for oil and open a new coal mine, too.
Amongst this feeling of hopelessness, I aspire to bring positivity. While we are not able to control global events, we can make small positive differences which translate into giant acorns.
I would like our beautiful city to continue to thrive as a World Heritage City. As Deputy Mayor of Bath, I now have a better insight about our heritage and diversity. We have many exciting, challenging, and enriching societies plus amenities, and I would like everyone here to have a share of this beautiful, multilayered cake.
Green issues are also our future. While the time to plant trees, to green and cool our avenues and streets was 30 years ago, it is not too late, and I would like to have as many of our roads planted with shade-giving, cooling, life-giving trees. Locally I am troubled that our beloved allotments in Combe Down are under threat further to the end of the land lease. I will do all I can to garner support and my best present for 2024 would be to save the allotments.
My advice to everyone would be to look after yourselves… Make it your resolution to eat well, sleep well and exercise”
Our city is a great place to live, but it is also expensive and we must not forget that many people cannot afford public transport fares. My long-term aspirations would be to reverse the deregulated, free-for-all providers offering transport only as they see fit and when it’s profitable; it will be a good day when we can control and provide good public transport for everyone. I can aspire and dream.
Our NHS is not in robust health, and my advice to everyone would be to look after yourselves. Prevention is the best possible action you can take. Make it your resolution to eat well, sleep well and exercise. Make sure you give yourself and your children the best protection possible by being up to date with your vaccines. Take your seasonal influenza vaccine and, if invited, take the COVID-19 vaccine. Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful and – with more trees planted – 2024.
VISITOR ECONOMY: Kathryn Davis, Managing Director, Visit West
We have seen the emergence of screen tourism, or ‘set-jetting’, being featured as a major source of travel inspiration in the UK. With the critical acclaim of Wonka, Season 3 of Bridgerton on its way, and Season 4 of McDonald and Dodds, we will continue to see visitors coming to Bath inspired by these productions, and others, with Bath’s rich heritage of being seen on screen. Beckford’s Tower and Museum is also high on my list of must-sees this year, when it reopens this spring after huge investment.
We have seen the emergence of screen tourism or ‘set-jetting’… and we will continue to see visitors coming to Bath inspired by productions…[such as Wonka and Bridgerton]”
One of the benefits of the work we do at Visit West is getting to know what’s happening ahead of time, as we develop content for our Visit Bath site and our work with the travel industry, so getting to plan ahead is always a bonus. Bath has an outstanding line-up of exhibitions and performances coming in 2024. I am particularly looking forward to The Victoria Art Gallery’s The Wonderful World of the Ladybird Book Artists and Toulouse Lautrec – Masters of Montmartre and the Holburne’s Henry Moore in Miniature and Mr Doodle, bringing a huge energy to Bath this summer. As always, the Theatre Royal has an incredible line-up, (I will be getting my tickets for Bouncers and Blue Beard) plus the Forum, which celebrates its 90th birthday this year, and Komedia have a whole programme of top stand-up throughout the year.
Finally, I am going to be compiling my new list year of foodie places to try, and am especially excited for the new vineyard tours at Minerva Wine this spring and Flourish Food Festival in June.
Property is a hard business to forecast. Around Bath there is definitely more demand than supply in the rental market and I think that will stay the same. The rental prices have gone up a lot everywhere, and in Bath there is a shortage of supply. This is a result of all the measures the government have brought in, and because the interest rates have gone up many landlords have been selling properties.
Selling and buying property next year depends on what’s happening with interest rates. At the moment the Bank of England are unlikely to bring them down. If they do come down in the latter part of 2024 lenders will reduce the interest rates a bit. They are, however, likely to offer long fixed deals, which means buyers will get tied into a high interest rate.
Selling and buying property next year depends on what is happening with interest rate”
There is a reasonable demand for buying properties, particularly family homes. A fair amount has come on to the market, but it’s not necessarily what people want and I think that will continue. This year prices have come down, there’s no question, perhaps by 5% in the past year. Small apartments aren’t selling as easily as they normally do, because there haven’t been so many people looking to buy to invest, although that has begun to change. That’s because people are looking to invest money in property, because prices have come down – and with rentals so high it’s quite a good time to buy. The other point is that people want to buy new homes and the new homes’ stock around Bath is not going to be as significant.
My dream would be for somebody to review the whole property legal system and try and make it a lot easier. It just gets more and more complicated and so much time is wasted.
OFFICE DESIGN: Sarah Pasquall, Senior Designer, Interaction
Thinking about the future of office and workspaces, many businesses want to attract people back into the office, but they’re having to encourage them in. There has been a huge drive to create more welcoming and flexible work environments with an emphasis on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Employees also want to work for companies that share their ethical and environmental concerns. So the trend towards more inclusive and sustainable workplaces that offer healthy spaces will continue to grow this year and beyond.
When we design workspaces, we adopt a people-first approach and try to involve all employees and stakeholders in the process to create a sense of ownership of the space. Providing a variety of configurable spaces for all types of working styles and personalities is also important when attracting people back into the office. Pods of desks for focussed working need to be balanced with social and collaborative areas where teams can come together. The aim is always to create an inclusive workplace that’s better than home, with real domestic comforts. Having cutting-edge technology and acoustics is also crucial to ensure hybrid working is seamless.
Working culture and inclusion have never been more important”
Working culture and inclusion have never been more important for companies that truly value their people. A great shared office space is a really effective way to demonstrate a commitment to both in a way that allows everyone to work to their full potential.
MUSEUM: Dr Chris Stephens, Director, The Holburne Museum
This year promises to be a really exciting year for the Holburne. We are working on a capital project which will considerably expand and enhance what we offer and all going well construction work will begin in the summer for completion in 2025. This won’t affect our programme of thrilling exhibitions, from Turner-Prize winner Lubaina Himid through Henry Moore to Paula Rego and Goya, and including the first museum show of internet sensation Mr Doodle. Do Google Mr Doodle.
Much of what we do goes unseen by many people. Some of our most important work supports people experiencing challenges and social isolation, especially those in the least affluent areas of the city. We offer creative opportunities, safe spaces to develop skills and improve wellbeing. It is this work which delivers against our ambition of ‘Changing lives through art’. We do this with no public funding, relying on ticket sales and the generosity of donors. I worry about how precarious that situation is, but the Holburne has survived, cash-strapped but independent, for almost 150 years.
Some of our most important work supports people experiencing challenges and social isolation”
I find some solace in that fact as many cultural organisations are facing the toughest time in living memory. With costs continuing to climb and increasing demands on us all, government support for the arts is at an all time low, and more and more local authorities are getting close to bankruptcy.
At the same time, we have to look to the future and think how we can adapt to meet the needs of new audiences and do our bit to mitigate the climate crisis through making our organisation as sustainable as possible. For the Holburne at least, the future is looking bright.