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Housing is our challenge in 2024

Members were recently treated to a privileged, behind the scenes tour of the University of Bath’s amazing Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) at the Science Park at Emerson’s Green.


It’s an impressive building, housing work going on at the cutting edge of a range of subjects, including engines, batteries and the potential uses for hydrogen. When it was formally opened by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen dubbed it the third most important facility of its kind in the world. We should all be proud of the work that is happening on our doorstep, expertly contributing to the nation’s net zero targets for transport.


The building blocks are all in place – the test-bed spaces and the state of the art equipment. But there is a threat to what might be achieved, and this is connected to building blocks of a different kind, the sort used to provide housing for people across the West of England.


James Dyson has long been the standard bearer for engineers, saying the country is woefully short of the skills needed for the economy to flourish in the coming years. His warning is echoed by the people at IAAPS who confirm it is not easy to find enough people to satisfy the demand for their services. That is partly as a result of the shortage in the supply of engineering talent, though the University is working hard to do something about that, but it’s a lot to do with the affordability of housing.


Post graduate engineers are continuing to live like students, renting rooms in shared houses, if they want to work with the team at IAAPS. It’s no surprise many of them are looking elsewhere to pursue their careers.


The plain and simple fact is we need to build more houses, and lots of them. And we know that wherever it is suggested they are constructed there will be opposition from the lucky people who are already enjoying the benefits of their own home.


After hearing about the high end engineering our members were able to find out about the kind of project which would deliver much needed housing, which will help businesses in every sector. This one is called Newton Meadows, on the Duchy of Cornwall land near the Globe. The imaginative thinking is this site could be developed in such a way as to create a multi-modal transport hub – involving cars, buses, trains, bikes and even boats. Homes built on the site would have a ready-made transport corridor to both Bath and Bristol and it could become its own identifiable community.


No doubt it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if we are serious about helping keep the likes of IAAPS as world leaders by finding homes for their staff, some hard decisions are going to have to be made, so perhaps that might be a New Year’s resolution we should all think about.



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