The Hope Inn – Confronting the developers

Hope inn - not a roof repair, a demolition job.
Hope inn – not a roof repair, a demolition job.

As the Hope Inn on Taunton road joins the long list of iconic Bridgwater buildings left to rot by one particular active and destructive developer, Westover councillors have confronted them directly to challenge their activities and to  find a way forward.  In a letter to Vince Nguyen of Land Promotions Group ltd, Westover councillor Brian Smedley, also chair of the Town Council Community Assets Panel, has asked the company to re-consider their activities which are destroying iconic buildings and therefore the heritage of Bridgwater and to meet him and the public to look at a better way forward.

The Hope inn was registered as a public asset by Sedgemoor District Council on 29th September but is being appealed by LPG on 10th November. The attempt to save the Hope came after a campaign by the Town Council and the Civic Society to stop the destruction of  our heritage by using the new Government ‘community right to bid’ legislation. If Mr Nguyen’s appeal is rejected the community then have 6 months to put in a bid – however at the moment Mr N has left the Hope without a roof!

Trail of devastation around Bridgwater

LPG in action around the town
LPG in action around the town

On Friday 7th November Mr Nguyen wrote to Cllr Smedley asking if he could add the Taunton road toilets to his Hope Inn development and purporting to speak for residents and claiming to be ‘one of your constituents’ (although giving his address as ‘Rooksbridge’) and   saying “I am the general manager for Land Promotions Group ltd, the owner of the Hope Inn, Bridgwater. I have seen your name in the papers and write to let you know that I can be contacted on the details below. If you want to speak or meet please let me know and I am happy to make myself available. The reason for writing to you is to do with the public convenience just in front to one side of the Hope Inn. I have been approached by a number of nearby residents who would like to see it close. The main claim is that is is frequented by 2/3 people per day and not very well kept. I have no preference other than the fact that it might be suitable to be considered and regenerated at the same time as the Hope Inn. I have contacted Tim Mander at the Council who basically was not interested. The purpose of this communication is to seek your view concerning the public convenience after which I will relay to those who seem to think we have sway. “

Offer to find a way forward

Councillor Smedley immediately took the opportunity to engage directly with Mr Nguyen and replied

Dear Mr Nguyen

Unfortunately, for both of us, Westover ward doesn’t stretch to Rooksbridge so you’re not my constituent. Having said that you are clearly very active in my ward – much to the disappointment of many of my actual constituents.

Your company, Land Promotions Group Ltd are the people who have been demolishing pubs around Bridgwater-correct me if I’m wrong but this includes the Black Horse, Hamp’s last surviving pub , the Pig and Whistle along with the Withy Cutter -the last pubs in Sydenham and the Berrow Inn. Your actions seem to many to ammount to nothing more than asset stripping them, leaving them open to the weather and then landbanking them for some future development.

A view of Hope ...from the toilets.
A view of Hope …from the toilets.

As you know people are appalled at this type of operation and in response we have tried to rescue the Hope Inn from this fate by making it a Community Asset under new Government legislation. I am aware that your appeal hearing is this Monday, but ultimately any real success for our community will depend on getting a successful community bid in to prevent yet another iconic feature of the Bridgwater landscape biting the dust

Today you are asking me about adding the Taunton road toilets to your brief and purporting to speak for residents. There are very few public conveniences left in Bridgwater and no resident has yet approached us about wanting less.

Whilst I am extremely concerned about your activities and ask you to please consider the damage done to our town by them, I would take this opportunity to ask you directly to put a halt to them and to devote some of your time, energy and money instead to improving the look, feel and lifestyle of our communities and not adding to our woes by systematically destroying our heritage.

Yes I would be willing to meet you, but only to discuss ways in which your operations can in future be of benefit to the community.

Would you like me to urgently set up a meeting between us which other councillors and members of the public can talk with you openly about what we want for our town and would you be prepared to join us in that vision?

Yours sincerely
Cllr Brian Smedley