JANUARY 1, 2024

2023: buses, murders, strikes, planning battles, a Tory wipe out and those Bath Rugby stadium plans

By Harry Mottram: The year has been marked by a series of strikes and demonstrations by workers in the city in several sectors. Nurses, doctors, civil servants, school teachers, railway staff and many more have taken to the streets and withheld their labour on a number of days. The rise in inflation, interest rates, fuel costs and energy costs has seen their wages fall in real terms. These were at times unprecedented events as the nation’s workers rejected pay offers that failed to keep pace with inflation. By the end of the year some of the disputes have been settle although some rail unions are still planning more action.

May’s council elections saw a near wipe out for the Conservatives who as recently as 2015 had run B&ANES when they held 37 wards. After the May election they collapsed to just three councillors – none in Bath. It has left Labour to become the official opposition with five councillors, the Independents also with five, and the Greens with three.

The row over the ‘ring of steel’ raised by the Conservatives clearly didn’t connect with voters or the disquiet over the introduction of the RPZs and the anti pollution zone was not as contentious as originally thought. The results were perhaps also a result of national politics which have seen Tory stocks fall in the stock exchange of public opinion. The elections also saw the Mayor of Bath Cllr Rob Appleyard lose his ward to the Green Party’s Saskia Heijtjes – seen by some as a rising star in the party with her high profile cycling persona. The new mayor is Cllr Dine Romero of the Lib Dems who at one time led the party at the Guildhall – that role continues to be held by Cllr Kevin Guy.

Bath continues to grow in population with new housing developments planning and under construction. These are not without controversies. Locals have not always welcomed the plans for around 300 homes in Sulis Fields at Odd Down, the plans to build social support housing off English Combe Lane, the continuing development at the former MOD site now called Mulberry Park, and Lansdown, and of course the former gasworks site. One development that isn’t contentious is the first council owned homes in a generation with apartments at the former council offices at 117 Newbridge Hill for NHS workers.

The city has seen three knife-related murders this year – an alarming situation but one the authorities are keen to combat. The Bath & North East Somerset Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is a multi-agency group that aims to prevent and reduce violence in the area. The Mayor, schools, colleges and the police are all involved.

On a more uplifting note the recovery of Bath City footballer Alex Fletcher recovered from a serious head injury sustained at a match at Twerton Park has given heart to all concerned at the club as he left for a new job with the professional players organisation.

Buses have been in the news with anger over the new ‘dial a bus’ WestLink that has replaced some regular services. It’s led to a clash at times between the local authorities and the Metro Mayor Dan Norris.
One bit of transport news that was welcomed was the decision to trash plans to close railway ticket offices after a public consultation.

Finally – the most read articles on this website and the ones that generated most comments online and on social media was the announcement of Bath Rugby Club’s new stadium plans. The club’s proposals are with the planners and so we must wait to see whether the builders can move in next year and start work. Despite a lack of details in their original plans in general supporters accepted improvements needed to be made – more capacity and improved facilities. Not too much of a debate – that was until the architects Apollodorus Architecture made public their very different vision with detailed drawings of a colosseum and classical redesign of the sports centre. That sparked a much more animated debate with the majority opinion backing the colosseum proposals – which in the end were not taken up by the club. With all the top flight rugby clubs in debt it is possible the reasons for Bath Rugby opting for a more modest upgrade is cost.

And that brings us back to the one theme that has dominated so much this year – the cost of living crisis. Bath’s charities have seen an increase in demand from those most affected – from the food bank to the schools and from the homeless to those struggling on the breadline.

What will 2024 bring? Who knows. The cost of living crisis will continue while it is likely there will be a general election with Labour hoping to seize the keys to Downing Street. In Bath many believe Wera Hobhouse is safe as the city’s LibDem MP when once it was a Tory stronghold. However politics is a volatile business with huge changes in public opinion and anything can happen – so don’t place a bet on who will be the city’s next MP just yet.

Out today the latest issue of Bath Voice newspaper.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

Email him at news@bathvoice.co.uk Bath website: https://bathvoice.co.uk/news/
Bath Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/bdtf2kep  Also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bath_voice Read the newspaper online at :https://issuu.com/bathvoice To advertise to thousands of Bathonians call Erica on 07402 441485 or email her on erica@bathvoice.co.uk

Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and  Email:harryfmottram@gmail.com
Website:www.harrymottram.co.uk Mobile: 07789 864769