On Thursday 16th April the Bridgwater Town Council will meet for the final time before the election on May 7th and crucially the parting shot to prepare the ground for the incoming council will be a discussion on the recent public meeting about Northgate following the Tesco debacle. But also on the agenda will be joined up proposals from Military Boats people Paul and Rhian Childs whose innovative ideas for the docks could have a bearing on future plans for the Northgate site.
The meeting , which will be held in the Council Meeting room on the first floor of the Town Hall is at 7.30pm, is open to the public and people can register to speak with Town Clerk Alan Hurford in advance of the meeting or turn up and listen to the discussion.
Northgate up for discussion
Town Council policy for the Northgate site has consistently been in opposition to Tesco and in favour of retaining the green space of the Brewery Field whilst supporting a Leisure and Recreational solution for the area that compliments but doesn’t detract from the existing town centre.
The Public meeting held at Trinity Hall was in accord with this view and crucially insisted on continued public consultation, a theme that was picked up at this weeks Community Assets Panel, chaired by Westover Councillor Brian Smedley who explained “The Community Assets Panel is a Forum set up to bring together Town Councillors and members of the public with an interest and expertise in our Heritage and was formed in co-operation with the Bridgwater and District Civic Society. The meeting was adamant that consultation was the order of the day and that the secrecy of Sedgemoor District Council throughout these projects and in any future developments should be challenged. We need the people of Bridgwater to be involved from the start with any new plans and proposals for Northgate and anywhere else that principally affects our town.”
The Community Assets panel heard that the Town Council’s attempt to get the Magistrates court listed as a Community Asset had been rejected by Sedgemoor District Council and that the court itself had been bought at auction. Cllr Smedley said he had made a point of immediately contacting the new buyer who was keen to co-operate with the community in developing the site and was prepared to attend a future meeting to discuss ideas for the building.
Saving our Heritage
The meeting also lamented the fate of the Hope Inn, which, although demolition had been halted by a stop order, nothing further had been done to prevent the building falling into further disrepair. Cllr Smedley said “The lesson for both of these sites is to act quicker and well ahead of possible demolitions or sales and crucially to bring the community with us with well advanced ideas and plans otherwise we’re saving these places for nothing. We need to identify buildings at risk well in advance and have a plan as to how to take them forward.”
Derek Gibson of the Civic Society flagged up the Bridgwater Hospital site on Salmon Parade and said he felt this would make a wonderful riverside hotel. Alan Hurford, Town Clerk, advised that planning permission for the nearby Eastover Hotel was already well advanced and the use may be in conflict.
Glen Burrows of the Civic Society noted the potential threat to many Public Houses in Bridgwater and whilst not sure if we could try to register all of them as community assets, pointed to the imminent threat to the Mansion House, an iconic building in it’s own right and in a prime location, but also urged identifying other notable buildings with key amenity space which could become under future threat and cited for instance the Castle Club in Castle street-the former Legion site, which has a large public meeting and performance space within its compound.
The meeting also looked at recent County promises not to demolish the Union Workhouse building on the Northgate site and wondered how long the stay of execution would last and which buildings would and should be saved and to what use they could be best put. Derek Gibson pointed to various ‘Bridgwater Vision’ statements in the past which had referred to the site but had been steamrollered over by District and County in the quest for ‘the maximum price’.
Cllr Smedley said “County have undertaken not to demolish the workhouse building and in recognition of public concern have agreed to consult first. Sedgemoor have said that it’s now too premature to consult, but clearly they’re awaiting a mandate from the elections on May 7th as they’ve identified June as their new start date. In view of all that’s gone down so far I think the public would be very advised to ‘keep an eye’ on Sedgemoor District Council.”