The World Heritage City of Bath is reaping the rewards of reflecting on its illustrious heritage while looking ahead to a bright future. It has world leading digital industries and the blend of old and new continues to attract investors and millions of tourists each year.
The City is now emerging as one of the strongest digital creative clusters in the UK linked to the success of its universities and built environment as a well-connected and entrepreneurial hub.
Testament to this is the fact that, as well as staging its fifth annual Bath Digital Festival this week, the city has also held its inaugural Festival of the Future City; bringing together the thoughts of people from all walks of life – including businesses, residents and architects – to consider how to work together on getting the best of Bath.
Key employers, investors and people with a long-term stake in the city, have come together on the back of the Digital and Future City festivals to share their perspectives on the city of Bath.
Jim Morrison, CEO of Deep Blue Sky & Director of the Bath Digital Festival, commented: “I've lived and worked in Bath for almost all forty years. As the director of a six day, 75-event festival to celebrate our digital economy I have been overwhelmed by the optimism the city has for its future; not just in terms of innovation and output but also in terms of the drive to use our digital-industry's capacity to improve the education of the next generation of creative thinkers and to use technology to accelerate positive social change.”
Norman Springford, MD at Apex Hotels, who have invested over £50m in opening a new hotel in the city, added: “Bath is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage City with world class attractions, festivals and events which attract people from all over the world which is very important to us. We have been hugely welcomed into the city and are delighted to be working with local people and suppliers.”
Greg Ingham, Chair, Creative Bath, said: "Bath is better now than for many, many years - creatively, culturally, commercially. It's a joyful city to be celebrated. It's that rarity: an internationally-renowned beautifully inventive small city with two excellent universities and an aesthetically-stunning past coupled with a confident future. It's not all about heritage tourism, hospitality and retail. The creative, cultural and tech sector is a major driver of growth.”
Nick South, Director of BuroHappold Engineering – which employs over 400 people at its global design hub in Bath – added: “Bath is a wonderful place to live and work, but it has to be more than just a museum. In today’s competitive world, it has to provide the right spaces to attract the dynamic businesses that will provide a range of career options for our residents and the students of our two top rate universities.”
Tarquin McDonald, Chief Executive of Bath Rugby, said: “Bath is an exceptional city. It is of course steeped in history and globally renowned for its grand architecture, but it is also a unique place to live thanks to a rich and vibrant cultural offering, a thriving and entrepreneurial business community, outstanding education and research establishments, and a proud sporting heritage in rugby along with many other sports. The city’s identity celebrates the past, but also focuses on innovation and creativity looking to the future.
Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Bath is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world, but it’s is also a living, breathing, thriving city and one of the most vibrant and creative places in the country.
“As a Council we invest significant sums into improving the public realm, enhancing our heritage assets and supporting the local economy, with major regeneration underway at the city’s Riverside Enterprise Zone, funding for ultrafast broadband, and continuous investment in our world class heritage assets such the Roman Baths”.
“The Council works closely with organisations such as English Heritage and Historic England when considering the design of new projects, and where redevelopments have taken place these have mostly replaced unloved 1960s office blocks and shopping centres.”
All this has been achieved whilst retaining the unique appeal of the city Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 5,000 listed buildings in the City - the highest concentration of grade l and ll* listings outside of central London. The current state of conservation is excellent. A far cry from the soot-blackened walls that plagued the city in the 1970s.