Clifton and Hotwells
Improvement Society (CHIS)

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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 sub-structure 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.

The CHIS Pre-Christmas lunch was held in the Apostle Room of Clifton Cathedral on 29 November. 48 people enjoyed the buffet lunch. This year the Summer Reception for new members and those who help the Society was not held in view of an increasingly small response to invitations. Events. We have had a full, interesting and wide-ranging programme of talks and local walks organised by Mike Pascoe. There were talks on Oil, Candle and Rush (a history of domestic lighting), Ann Green of Clifton, Bristol Before the Camera (watercolours from the City Art Gallery), Tyntesfield, Bristol Old Vic and a Victorian Magic Lantern Show. All audiences were sizeable and some at record levels. Next year’s programme promises to be equally good and varied.

Group visits to the Freemasons’ Hall in Park Street and to the newly acquired National Trust property, Tyntesfield at Wraxall, were a great success. Donations. CHIS has funds which it gives to help local initiatives. We are grateful for gifts from Mr and Mrs John and Judy Russell and Mrs Toni Brown and for those donations which enabled us to provide a bench in memory of Adrian Wright and from the Brazier and Savage bequests for a tree as well as flowers and shrubs at Clifton Hill House. CHIS has also contributed to the restoration of Rodney Place gardens, lamps in Wellington Park, railings and gates in St. Andrew’s churchyard, railings at Clifton Library as well as a seat in front of the building.

Letters of Appreciation.

These are offered when a building, landscape or something else positively improves the area. We congratulated Mr and Mrs A Thornhill on the handsomely restored period facades of 35 and 37 Canynge Road, the residents of Worcester Terrace for the beautiful tubs and hanging baskets of flowers, Dorothy Brown upon her persistent work to preserve the Clifton Pool, Dorothy Earp on her award from the Avon and Somerset Police for Neighbourhood Watch work, the Director of the City Museum and Art Gallery on the grand new entrance and two officers of Bristol City Council, Phil Cotham and Gary Reeder for their helpfulness. We are especially grateful for the interest and support of two Clifton three Clifton councillors, Barbara Janke (Leader of the City Council), Brian Price and Simon Cook (Lord Mayor of Bristol).

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, Granby Green, parking on the Downs, building projects for 29 Sion Hill, parking at the Zoo, Bristol in Bloom, a possible Community Centre, 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, Audit Commission of the City Council, Clifton Gardens Competition, Clifton Christmas Windows Competition, St. John’s Residents’ Association, National Organisation of Residents’ Associations, Valerie Davey’s meeting for residents’ groups representatives, Avon Gorge Hotel and Spa Pump Room projects, Avon Gorge Wildlife Project and McArthur’s Warehouse project. We are contributing ideas to the Brunel 2006 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. 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.


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.

Local Matters.

The Committee has not been idle. In addition to achievements previously documented, a commemorative plaque was erected to the engraver and sculptor Gertrude Hermes at 5 Sion Hill. One commemorating Sir Henry Newbolt will be unveiled by the Leader or the City Council on Clifton College Close, adjacent to Worcester Crescent, where he lived as a boy, on 6 November. There is a continuing programme of renovating older plaques and placing new ones before trees planted by CHIS: the oak planted by the Duke of Edinburgh to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and the trees to replace those lost in Victoria Square. We hope to restore the fountain by Victoria Square and repaint the gates and railings of St. Andrew’s churchyard. 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 as well as planting. The prevalence of graffiti and illegally posted bills is a national problem; we are investigating ways of tackling it. We will continue to support the aims of those trying to retain the Whiteladies Cinema.

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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