Clifton and Hotwells
Improvement Society (CHIS)

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Brian Worthington
CHIS was established in 1968 and now has a membership of over 1,000. It is one of the biggest societies in Bristol and one of the largest amenity societies in the country. The area which CHIS covers is urban Bristol 8, which is a diverse area, including Hotwells, North Clifton, Cliftonwood, the west of "The Strip" and Clifton Village. Different problems or different solutions to the same problem arise. Each planning and licensing application is considered on its own merits, bearing in mind its location. Then there are the matters which affect the whole and adjacent areas: public transport, parking, licensing laws and the knock-on effects to retailers, residents and visitors if alterations are made to these. Within the past three years there has been increasing concern about the number and size of either conversions to multiple occupancy or purpose-built developments. Given the relentless increase in population in Bristol 8, it is hoped that the area's substructure will be able to accommodate the newcomers, usually in rented properties.
Over the years CHIS has earned the reputation of holding sound and balanced views and not acting on rumours. Facts are checked first. We are now consulted by the Council, the Police and other bodies and our opinion sought on many occasions. This is good and a reputation of which we are justly proud. I am sure that you all appreciate the amount of work the members of the Committee undertake and the care and diligence with which they fulfil their responsibilities. I thank them all very much for this and for their help and support to me.
When there is a worthwhile cause CHIS does fight and fights well. We win some outright victories, but more often our objections are taken into consideration and a compromise drawn. These are the matters which make the news and to a great extent how the Society is judged by non-members. Our influence is enhanced by an interested and substantial membership. All amenity societies suffer from the fact that they can appear to be a predominantly negative force. In this Annual Report I will show that CHIS has also been positive in the year from November 2003.

Social Events.

We have had a full, interesting and wide-ranging programme of talks and local walks organised by Mike Pascoe. There were talks on Sedan Chairs; You Are What You Eat; Smoke, Grime and Little Sootier; and Characters and Curiosities of Bristol and a Victorian Magic Lantern show. Again audiences were sizeable and some at record levels. Next year's programme promises to be equally good and varied. The elegantly restored Clifton Hill House is a delightful venue. Group visits to the Theatre Royal, front and backstage, and to the Mansion House's City Treasures were a great success. The highlight was the charity dinner, taking up a generous offer by the Rodney Hotel's Marguerite Restaurant on 7 April when 36 of us entertained the Lord Mayor, Councillor Simon Cook and the Lady Mayoress; our Treasurer, Roger Snary and his wife Janet to recognise his 20 years in the post; and RoseMary Musgrave, former Chairman and continuing worker for CHIS as minutes taker, licensing officer and renovator of St Andrew's churchyard. An address by "Dr Clive Richards of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister", in reality the actor and corporate-entertainer, Clive Panto, followed by his magic show, completed a jolly evening which we hope to repeat. The CHIS pre-Christmas lunch had to be cancelled for lack of sufficient bookings; we hope for better success this coming season.


CHIS has funds which it gives to help local initiatives. We are grateful for gifts from the Old Cliftonians Society and the Mrs H R Greene Charitable Settlement towards the plaque to Sir Henry Newbolt on Clifton College Close. Funds from the Brazier bequest went towards small plaques on the handrail at the corner of Harley Place and Canynge Road which the Thorne legacy had underwritten. Pledges have been made to the residents of Bellevue to help enhance the communal gardens and gates. Pledges have been received by individuals in case of possible expenditure arising out of the Society's appeal over the Suspension Bridge Road (Visitors' Centre) Stopping Up Order, to be heard on 13 and 14 October.

Letters of Appreciation.

These are offered when a building, landscape or something else positively improves the area. We congratulated Mrs Dinah Moore for obtaining a donation for the Newbolt plaque and the Secretary of the Old Cliftonians Society, as well as for the splendid refurbishment of the Pavilion on College Close. We appreciated the prompt response of Dr Jo Gipp, Director of the Zoo, in agreeing to a less gaudy colour for a high wall in Northcote Road; and the help given by Dorothy Brown and her team painting the St Andrew's churchyard railings; and the offer by the Urban Creation team to discuss their plans for the Pro-Cathedral as well as to George Ferguson, President of RIBA, for the same concerning the development of the Mall Garage site. Major congratulations went to Mike Pascoe for being awarded the Lord Mayor's Medal for being services to Bristol. We are especially grateful for the interest and support of three Clifton Clifton councillors, Barbara Janke (Leader of the City Council), Brian Price and Simon Cook and to our former MP, Valerie Davey and to her successor, Stephen Williams.

Documents Studied and Meetings Attended.

The Bristol Evening Post is read nightly and relevant items followed up. The Western Daily Press often consults CHIS as do the Clifton Life and Bristol Life magazines as well as BBC and HTV local stations. Members of the Committee have attended meetings on many topics including rubbish collection and street cleaning, Bristol in Bloom, street lighting consultation, Remembrance Day, the Museum of Bristol, Suspension Bridge Trust, University Botanical Gardens, Clifton College and Canynge Road rifle range projects, the Civic Trust SW Association, Conservation Advisory Panel of the City Council, Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association, Licensing Act, Clifton Gardens Competition, Clifton Christmas Windows Competition, St. John's Residents' Association, National Organisation of Residents' Associations, Avon Gorge Hotel and Spa Pump Room projects, McArthur's Warehouse project, the Downs Stakeholders' Committee, the Paty Project, a demonstration of the proposed lighting of the Suspension Bridge, the installation of the new Vicar of Christchurch, the Inspector's enquiry into the Visitors' Centre Road Stopping Order, Urban Creation's project for the Pro-Cathedral, the Mall Garage site plans, projected development of the W H Smith - Aruba caf6 site, the plans for the former Chamber of Commerce, the celebration of the Civic Society's centenary, the CPRE talk on regeneration in Bristol, studentification and the City Council's Forum for Recycling schemes. A survey for the Civic Trust and Heritage Link was responded to as was one from the Council on transport possibilities. The first of quarterly meetings between our planning group and the Leader of the City Council, the Chief Planning Officer and the Clifton Area Co-ordinator was held. The Piloti column in Private Eye gave passionate support to our views about the projected demolition of McArthur's warehouse. We are contributing ideas to the Brune1200 project at their invitation.

Parking and Traffic.

After a legal delay, officers promise to allow two hour parking in central Clifton before the end of 2004. It has yet to be implemented. We are still opposed in principle to applications to turn front gardens into hard-standing, off-street parking. We welcome the developing controls on parking and riding on the Downs. We encourage the City Council to establish a promised re-assessment of yellow lines etc in the area and to stop cars parking dangerously at corners on lowered pavements. The ward police officer has helped in the re-instalment of the cycling police in our area and is strict in filming lawbreaking cyclists.


Four newsletters are circulated to members each year containing items of local interest and information, a list of future events and details of major planning applications and their outcomes. Occasional inserts have been included.

Local Matters.

The Committee has not been idle. In addition to achievements previously documented, a commemorative plaque and stand commemorating Sir Henry Newbolt was unveiled by the Leader of the City Council at Clifton College Close, adjacent to Worcester Crescent, where he lived as a boy. A plaque to Jeremy Rees, founder of Arnolfini, was unveiled at his former home, 20 Canynge Square, by his widow, Annabel. We hope to restore the fountain by Victoria Square and have repainted the railings of St. Andrew's churchyard. The gates are still to be done. We are still lobbying the City Council about several unsightly aspects of the unfinished Victoria Square development eg. some crude paving, wrong placing of alighting platforms, cycle racks, unemptied bins and seats and screening for the waste bins as well as planting. The prevalence of graffiti and illegally posted bills is a national problem; we are investigating ways of tackling it and appreciate the City Council's actions. We will continue to support the aims of those trying to retain the Whiteladies Cinema. Developments such as the Observatory, Bristol University's plans which would move the Students' Union activity to Redland, the large-scale Avon Gorge Hotel project and mobile phone companies' applications to erect antennae such as at the Zoo are under scrutiny. The steady restoration of the Rocks Railway is actively supported by CHIS and by Stephen Williams MP whom committee members accompanied on a tour of the tunnels. We are glad to hear that it may be Bristol's entry for the BBC's Restoration programme. Committee members supplied information for a forthcoming BBC TV programme on the Grand Spa Ballroom and its band, Mike Pascoe gave a talk on CHIS for Radio Bristol's Best of Bristol series and I was picked via the website by Newsnight to comment as an uncommitted voter on our marginal constituency. The website continues to expand in range of information and audience at home and abroad - a reward for the work of Sue and Jon Goodland and Maggie Shapland.

Monitoring of Applications.

Although I have put this last, it is the most important and valuable aspect of the work CHIS does. All planning, tree and licensing applications for Bristol 8 are studied and when necessary, action is taken. Members who live nearby are notified. Our thanks to Gill Blakeman and her planning group Richard Bland, Michael Woodman-Smith and Peter Rendle, to Roy Vaughan, Richard Bland and Frank Martin who look after trees and to RoseMary Musgrave who monitors licensing. Without this vigilant approach many undesirable applications would be granted because of lack of opposition. CHIS maintains its links with outside bodies and has worked with local residents' groups including Cotham and Redland, Clifton Garden Society, the St John's Road Residents' Society, Clifton Communal Gardens Society, the Civic Society, the Hotwells and Cliftonwood Association, the Police and Bristol in Bloom.
I am sure that I have omitted some of the things which CHIS has achieved; perhaps I will be reminded at the AGM where I hope to see a good number of members.
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