Bowerings Animal Feeds on Bridgwater’s iconic dockside ceased trading in spring 2019 following a fire, after trading for almost 100 years , but now could soon just become the latest pile of the towns heritage rubble if a planning application goes through which proposes yet more housing. But angered by yet more of their history disappearing before their eyes the towns people are fighting back with objections from Bridgwater Town councillors and the Bridgwater and District Civic Society.
At a meeting of the Bridgwater Town Council Planning Panel in 2019 members voted unanimously to request the listing of the Victorian era Bowerings seed mill on the docks with its harlequin chimney, the last industrial chimney in Bridgwater. At the time Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) Leader of the Town Council, said “Following public concerns about the possible demolition of the chimney and a call by the Civic Society for the Town Council to quickly intervene to safeguard this key bit of our heritage, we brought the partners around the table to start the process. While the setting is within a conservation area, the building itself is not listed -which includes the chimney, although many thought it had been. The site will now be immediately deemed a ‘Non-Designated Heritage Asset’ while the process of listing starts. This should ensure that any potential developers work with what is there rather than demolish and the eventual listing means the building will be protected by law.”
Civic Society urges ‘Reject Application’
Bridgwater & District Civic Society wrote “We urge you to reject application [16/01/2020] the demolition of the Bowerings Mill complex. This structure is a key heritage asset and a
valuable part of the historic setting of two adjoining listed buildings and one scheduled monument. While we do not object in principle to the redevelopment of this site, we strongly urge the retention of the southern façade and the brick chimney especially – an excellent example in good condition, and the last such structure left in Bridgwater as a reminder of the town’s lost industrial heritage.”
“Although no part of the mill complex is listed in itself, it is an important local heritage asset, and a key part of the setting of the adjoining Grade II listed docks complex. Its contribution to the docks setting is mirrored by Ware’s Warehouse on the south east side of the docks (also Grade II listed), which in itself should be an important reminder of the possibilities of conversion of former commercial premises (even those with inconvenient window openings, as the application implies). The mill and its chimney are also part of the visual historic landscape that includes the Brick and Tile Kiln of East Quay, a Scheduled Monument. As such it is clear that this building is due some protection a heritage asset in its own right and as a key part of the setting for three others – this application should therefore be dismissed under National Planning Policy Framework article 129.”
“NPPF132 also notes that heritage assets should not be demolished unless substantial benefits can be demonstrated by their replacement. This application does not outline any tangible benefits, merely the possibilities of a ‘pastiche’ replacement. As such we feel this application should be rejected, pending revised proposals with demonstrable benefits for the community and the historic environment. Ideally we happily support proposals that would retain at least part of the current façade preserved and incorporated into a new development. Regardless of this, the application in its current form should be wholly rejected as insufficient.”
Ward Councillor Objects
Ward councillor Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria) has put in a formal objection “The Strategic Priority 7 of the Local Plan states quite clearly regarding Enjoying and Achieving to conserve the heritage and historic environment. Bowering’s Mill is an important part of Bridgwater’s historic environment and is set in the important conservation area of Bridgwater Dock. The Harlequin Chimney is a landmark historic feature placed within the Bridgwater Vision and Celebration Mile. The Harlequin Chimney and supporting brick building must be protected from demolition. With the redevelopment of Bowering’s Mill this will be an opportunity to secure and protect this historic feature of Bridgwater. This is an opportunity to protect and enhance this historic environment, as outlined in Strategic Priority 7 of the adopted Local Plan.The Local Plan is to promote and support the delivery of identified projects and contribute to delivery of identified projects, such as the Dock’s Renaissance and the Celebration Mile.Policy D25 of the Local Plan also refers to the protecting residential amenity and the Historic Environment and the value that historic environment contributes to the residents cultural, social and economic life. This application is also ignoring the Government Statement on the Historical Environment in England in conserving Bridgwater’s heritage assets and utilising Bowering’s Mill and the Historic environment in creating sustainable places. To demolish Bowering’s Mill is also in breach of the National Planning Policy Framework (paras 126 – 141) at the same time the Local Plan refers to: “The “Conserving and enhancing the historic environment” section of the government’s Planning Practice Guidance website has provided planning-related advice on the historic environment since its inception in 2014. Historic England also provides planning advice and technical guidance on the management and preservation of historic buildings…… The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal is also a historic feature with its associated designated assets (e.g. listed bridges) and its role in the historic development of trade in Bridgwater. The Somerset Historic Environment Record (HER) is an online source of information about heritage assets within Sedgemoor. 7.217 The richness of our history has significant tangible benefits to our local economy, attracting significant numbers of tourists and visitors annually, and should be seen as a key attribute in securing future economic prosperity for Sedgemoor. I would like to remind the Planning Authority that the Local Plan mentions in 7.220 .
“The presumption is against the demolition or total loss of listed buildings but alternative viable use will be positively encouraged where these are consistent with the historic character and features of the building”. This should also apply to historic Buildings in conservation areas. The Local Plan in Policy D26 Historic Environment General Development states that: “proposals should avoid harm to, sustain and, where appropriate enhance the significance of heritage assets and their setting (including those on Local Lists), in a manner consistent with their historical significance. This will ensure a continued role in distinguishing the District’s unique sense of identify and place”. I therefore totally object to the demolition of Bowering’s Mill as it is no longer a business and that this must now be seen as an opportunity to preserve and enhance this important Historic feature in a conservation area.”
Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley says “We believe there’s hope for saving at least part of the mill within the confines of planning policy due to its location. Our preference would be for saving these elements of our heritage and essentially recycling buildings rather than obliterating them.”
Consultation is now open and members of the public are welcome to comment. The earliest decision date is 26th February 2020. Bridgwater Town Council will be considering the item on February 13th and an objection could see the process being put before the main Development Control Committee on Sedgemoor District Council who will have the final decision.