Focus on the Docks

Bridgwater Docks - the focus of increased Police patrols
Bridgwater Docks – the focus of increased Police patrols

A clamp-down on fishing and anti-social behaviour associated with late night drinking is the focus this week in a the press release put out by Somerset County Council which highlights their co-ordinated action at Bridgwater Docks along with the Police. “While this is welcome, it’s hardly the multi-agency response we’d expect and fails to recognise the hard work being put in by many other agencies and individuals who are working hard to reclaim the docks for the town and the residents” says Westover Ward councillor Brian Smedley.

Whilst Bridgwater Town Council and Sedgemoor District Council have been monitoring the docks for sometime and have been supporting initiatives to clean them up, regain ownership and make them habitable, both appear to have been left out of the current initiative.

The 'litter-free-tidal basin thanks to the hard work of Inland Waterways volunteers
The ‘litter-free-tidal basin thanks to the hard work of Inland Waterways volunteers

Multi-Agency response needed

“The Inland Waterways Association, for instance, has been a key player in the enhancement of the docks with it’s volunteers engaged in regular clean ups and now having a base on the dock side which was part funded by Town Council grant money” says Cllr Smedley, “Last Saturday morning two industrial wheelie bins filled with floating rubbish (a boat full) was pulled from the docks and that was only about a third but it included the outer basin. The group however couldn’t do the sea locks. They say there’s lots more still to do, and then there’s the canal, but it is a start and people should recognise this work and help them out. Groups like this should definitely be involved in any multi-agency approach. Besides the cleaning they’ve also been involved in painting some of the railings.”

Clampdown on ‘illegal’ fishing

Somerset County Council, which owns the docks, has said that some of the perceived Anti-Social behaviour is related to illegal fishing and were keen to point out that Angling is not permitted at the docks and “is considered poaching, which is a criminal offence, whether fish are caught or not. Police have the power to seize any fishing equipment and offenders could be liable for a fine of up to £5,000 if convicted “

The Police have said they will patrol the docks on a regular basis and will be “proactive in tackling any disorder that adversely affects the quality of life for people who live in the vicinity”.

Bridgwater's tidal dock gate, closed for decades and no longer an outlet to the sea..but often a collection point for discarded litter.
Bridgwater’s tidal dock gate, closed for decades and no longer an outlet to the sea..but often a collection point for discarded litter.

Litter in a windbowl

Residents however are divided about the fishing issue but point out the ongoing litter issue that stems from it’s location.” A lot of litter blows into the dock because it’s a windy area so even careful anglers get caught out but a greater problem is the problem of fishing lines and weights hitting the boats in the dock where people live” said one resident “Another problem is the late night parties and these can be loud and a nuisance for residents in a quiet area.

One litterpicker confirmed this saying “We pull out carrier bags, neatly tied, dumped in the water along with tied up full black bin bags containing coke to energy drinks, beer,cider and glass bottles”

Anti-Social Behaviour a major problem

The area also has the quayside Admirals Landing pub to contend with and as with any ‘local’ it’s a matter of getting the balance right between residents and revellers. “There is a lot of antisocial behaviour outside Admirals Landing with the consumption of alcohol around the seated area outside the pub, which is very loud and always accompanied by bad language. On weekends this can carry on until the pub shuts at about 01 30am and of course this is quite distressful for residents who live directly above” said a longsuffering neighbour.

Another sad victim of dockland ASB hits the deck.
Another sad victim of dockland ASB hits the deck.

He was supported by another who added “ When there is a large crowd it gets very noisy and smoke travels up into our apartments, in the summer we are unable to have our windows open because of this. I witnessed a fight between a man and a women on a Sunday afternoon where glasses were smashed and physical fighting went on for some time before people intervened “

Sedgemoor District Council have pointed out that the ownership of the Docks rests with Somerset County Council and most complaints are likely to go there however, in order to build up a case for action against Anti-Social Behaviour they urge that all cases be reported through the Hotline number of 0800 2982009.

Unauthorised commuter parking

Examples of alleged unauthorised  parking around the docks.
Examples of alleged unauthorised parking around the docks.

Another major issue for residents is the continued unauthorised commuter parking on the dockside which some say has “…eroded the grass verge area and created a muddy & puddly mess.” One resident has written to all authorities saying “The grass area should be reinstated and large boulders or bollards erected to protect the area along with parking restriction or short stay pay & display parking spaces created for amenity/fishing use to which this area is possibly intended for. This would be a vast improvement with the Docks area being the ending point of the proposed Celebration Mile..”

Cllr Smedley added “A real multi-agency response would require ALL these agencies, groups and volunteers alongside residents to be involved from the outset. But another key issue here is how exactly people get their areas prioritised for Anti-Social Behaviour. Certainly the multi-agency approach to Blake Gardens has been a success but there are other parts of Westover Ward that have been calling for a focus for some time – this includes the Docks, Brownes Pond and West Street so we hope that whilst we encourage residents to report ASB as requested, the authorities will actually respond.”

Docks Gala on 28th June

Docks gala

The Docks will be the focus of a major community event on Sunday 28th June when a Gala will be held there. For more information click here.