Local leaders have welcomed the publication of a report which sets out a new long-term vision for the area it calls Bath with North East Somerset.
The report is the result of a wide-ranging engagement exercise which involved more than a hundred local stakeholders in shaping the renewal and recovery of the local economy and communities in response to the Covid 19 crisis.
One Shared Vision sets out a new framework for fairer, greener, more creative and more connected communities. It proposes a new vision for a stronger, low carbon, more inclusive and diverse local economy as we recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
The report highlights that Bath, Radstock, Midsomer Norton, Keynsham, Paulton, Peasedown, Chew Magna and many other villages and rural areas form a partnership of communities which it terms Bath with North East Somerset
It also suggests new thinking and new ways of working to help the area thrive, prosper and tackle inequalities- all within the limits of the planet and the region’s natural resources.
Councillor Richard Samuel, Deputy Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council and Chair of the Economic Recovery and Renewal Board, which led the development of the report, said: “One Shared Vision is the result of work which was started by the Board last summer in anticipation of the need to plan for post-pandemic recovery and renewal. Now that lockdown is easing- albeit with much uncertainty ahead- this forward-thinking is now bearing fruit.
“The pandemic highlighted a number of weaknesses in our local economy and One Shared Vision sets out a new direction. We saw during lockdown the high dependency of our economy on visitors and tourism. As we renew and recover, we will also need to make sure our visitor economy feeds through into a higher-wage economy and also helps us meet our climate and ecological emergency goals – for example, by encouraging longer stays. We have learnt much over the past year and as we emerge from Covid we have the opportunity to build resilience.”
City Global Futures, working on behalf of local leaders, carried out surveys, one-to-one zoom interviews and a series of workshops with residents and stakeholders from a wide range of sectors. Their views, ideas and ambitions shaped the new vision.
Alongside this work, the council ran an online “community dialogue” on the emerging themes of the vision from the stakeholder interviews and workshops, allowing over 70 residents to comment and contribute their own ideas, which were taken into account in the development of One Shared Vision.
Councillor Sarah Warren, Deputy Leader of the council and cabinet member for Climate and Sustainable Travel, said: “We have what is perhaps a once in a lifetime chance to build back greener and better, which will be crucial in helping us tackle the climate and ecological emergency. I’d like to thank everyone who has taken part in the work so far. This is the beginning of a wider process that will for the first time bring together all partners in our area around a shared vision for our future. The overriding message has been that as well as setting out a long-term direction for renewal, we should ensure that our vision delivers real action.”
Local leaders have pledged to work collaboratively to deliver One Shared Vision.
Ian Bell, Executive Director, Bath Chamber of Commerce and the Initiative in B&NES said: "Partnership working will be the key to our future economic success. The business community stands ready to do its bit to achieve sustainable prosperity which will benefit the whole community.”
Professor Ian White, Vice Chancellor of University of Bath, said: “We welcome the commitment to partnership which underpins the One Shared Vision. A sustainable greener future requires the type of innovation at which Universities like ours excel. The vision aligns closely with the work we are doing to develop a new Digital Strategy for the city and collaborative projects under the ‘Our Shared Future’ initiative in the areas of transport such as Bath Beyond the Car and De-Carbonising Building Stock. Working together on these and other initiatives is an essential foundation and framework for renewal.”
The commitment in the vision to addressing inequalities has received a positive response from a wide range of local organisations.
David Hobdey, Chief Executive Officer, St John’s Foundation, said: “Stark inequalities have long remained a feature of the Bath and North East Somerset area and I believe the vision set out will enable us to begin addressing some major societal challenges in the region. This is essential to create stronger communities and greater economic prosperity. The vision paves the way for genuine collaboration and more effective partnership working between different organisations and business across the region and our success in this respect will be critical to fulfilment of its ambitions.”
William Heath, Co-Chair, Fairfield House Bath, added: "The crisis calls for new thinking and new conversations. That means the discomfort of engaging and co-operating with those who are often not heard. This is a good start; we need a lot more of this."
Laurel Penrose Principal and Chief Executive Officer, Bath College, added: “One Shared Vision identifies the key components of our strong heritage, lessons learnt from the pandemic and opportunities for the future. From Bath College’s perspective the ability to support a more equitable, inclusive, economically viable and greener future reflects well and mirrors its own strategic plan. These themes are central to the wellbeing and future prosperity of our communities as we emerge into a post Covid environment.”
Economic Recovery and Renewal Board members will be working together over the coming months to further progress One Shared Vision, including wider engagement with local communities, particularly with the voluntary and community sector and with young people.