September 1944 and an important meeting in Bath.
‘Professor Stanley Frith, an expert from the Urban Town Planning Faculty at a leading university and engaged at a cost of many guineas, was drawing his speech to an end. The late morning sunlight flooded through the tall windows of Austwick & Co’s conference room., creating a halo behind his generous mop of unruly blonde hair, which was continually on the move as he attacked his subject with enthusiasm.
“The challenge of rebuilding Bath after the war will be immense. The 19,000 properties, together with those of its finest buildings, like the Assembly Rooms, destroyed or damaged by the bombings, has reduced the city to little more than a collection of bomb sites. It is these large derelict areas, which provide a golden opportunity – probably the first in three hundred years.”
His small but attentive audience followed his sweeping gesture towards the city outside, reduced to a honeyed blur by the strong autumn sunshine.
“I anticipate costs in the region of many millions of pounds. That, gentlemen, is where you play a vital role.”
The ten men, seated in two rows facing the professor, had enjoyed listening to the man’s vision, but as always it came down to cost.
“The City Council has one invaluable tool – the ability to compulsorily purchase every single one of the buildings with the necessary land. But it will be private enterprise that will be required to provide the money and the development expertise. To put it succinctly, gentlemen, if the city can be persuaded to acquire the land, it will be for you to rebuild Bath.”
The professor sat down to applause. Greed drove his audience’s interest.
Ken Kohut stood up, belly amply filling his waistcoat, fob watch chain almost at full stretch.
“Gentlemen, Professor Frith has kindly agreed to answer any questions before we break for lunch.”
The start of Chapter Twelve of ‘Go Swift and Far’ – the first novel in The Chronicles of Bath