Bridgwater Town Development Forum launched in Town’s historic Charter Hall

Bridgwatter Town Council throws open it's doors to a Peoples Assembly.
Bridgwater Town Council throws open it’s doors to a Peoples Assembly.

The long awaited inaugural meeting of the Bridgwater Town Development Forum took place last night (Wednesday 12th August 2015) at the Charter Hall within Bridgwater Town Hall and was attended by 50 people delegated from 26 local Organisations ranging from Resident and Community Groups to Trades Unionists to the Business Community who were all active in Bridgwater life.

The meeting was opened by Mayor of Bridgwater Cllr Leigh Redman (to the refrain of various melodies from the Marketeers Carnival club rehearsing in the main hall  for Bridgwater carnival concerts (Tickets available from website or direct from carnival centre) and chaired by Leader of Bridgwater Town Council Cllr Brian Smedley.

Cllr Smedley said “The main focus of the meeting was the future of Bridgwater’s Northgate site now that the Tesco project had fallen through. The Town Development Forum is to be a key local consultative body and will make recommendations directly to the Town Council.”

Doug Bamsey(SDC) and Julia Ridge (SCC) fire the starting pistol for Northgate II (the Movie)
Doug Bamsey(SDC) and Julia Ridge (SCC) fire the starting pistol for Northgate II (the Movie)

All eyes were thereafter on Doug Bamsey -Sedgemoor District Council’s Corporate Director charged with working up such a project and Julia Ridge, Somerset County Council’s schools supremo.

Doug Bamsey stressed that nothing had yet been decided and they were looking for ideas but a comprehensive plan for the whole site was needed and they had accepted the public desire for leisure and recreational use, the saving of the green space and the preservation of historical buildings.

New primary school for Bridgwater is Somerset’s priority

Julia Ridge explained that SCC were keen to progress the idea of a primary school on their part of the site. The school would be for 210 local pupils. She said that this was a new plan as Bridgwater ‘s primary school age population growth was considerable with a 20% increase in the last 5 years. She told the meeting that Sedgemoor had the 3rd highest birth rate in Britain.

The Local Authority officers then took questions and proposals from the floor. The full minutes of the meeting can be found here

Bridgwater Town Council's new Town Development Forum hold;s it;s first meeting
Bridgwater Town Council’s new Town Development Forum holds it;s first meeting


The TDF proposed, discussed and agreed to submit the following recommendations to the next meeting of Bridgwater Town Council.

1.The Town Development Forum (TDF) doesn’t object to the building of a primary school at this stage, and asks that SDC should produce a report in conjunction with SCC including a business case for the school as part of their proposals and that this be considered at a meeting in November

2. The TDF should seek more information on ‘Social Enterprise’ initiatives for a future meeting’

3. The TDF asks for consideration that whatever development ends up on Northgate it should endeavour to use and support local tradesmen, local businesses etc to keep the benefits local.

Chair of the Town Development Forum Cllr Brian Smedley "looking towards a new era of genuine public participation in local government decision making'
Chair of the Town Development Forum Cllr Brian Smedley “looking towards a new era of genuine public participation in local government decision making’

4 The TDF would oppose any Northgate development that would have an adverse effect on businesses in the traditional town centre.

5. The TDF asks that SDC investigate the possibility of the ’expertise budget’ not just being spent on commercial expertise and that should have a focus on Health and Well Being and that we should consider this at a future meeting

6.The TDF believes that there should be a wider discussion about a comprehensive vision for the town and the next meeting should focus on this.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Brian Smedley said ” This is a promising start for a new era which the Town Council hopes will bring genuine public participation to local government decision making. We’ve brought together representatives from all walks of Bridgwater life who can report back to their sending organisations and thereby widen the network of information , consultation and therefore input. We’re operating in a spirit of consensus and that seems to be working.  Next time we’ll be looking at  a wider vision for Bridgwater, how we can create opportunities for business, whether we can widen that to promote social enterprise and how we can ensure that local people reap the benefits from all this.”