Leisure led regeneration will finally return to Northgate following a vote today by Sedgemoor District Council members to approve the project for a 7 screen state of the art cinema and an 8 lane bowling centre on the site of the former Sedgemoor Splash. Members agreed to proceed to the construction phase of the project and to invest up to £15m into project. The Full Council voted 31.0 (with 6 abstentions) to support the scheme. Welcoming the decision was Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) who spoke of the long road to reach this point saying “This scheme has been a long time coming. It was just over 10 years ago that we were fighting bitter battles to stop the Splash being closed and to prevent a massive Tesco being dumped on the site. At the end of that battle, as throughout, we called for the return of leisure to that site because we knew that, as with the splash, it was a key anchor and brought people into the town. We knew it was an important facility for families and we knew it retained customers in the town as well as attracted people from a wide distance. Today that ambition has come within touching distance. “
Cllr Smedley continued “We set 4 conditions for supporting any future development and we are happy to say that these have been met .”
“We said that the scheme should be leisure led– the cinema and bowling achieves this and these are things the people of Bridgwater have said they wanted and so we very much appreciate the businesses that have put their faith in our town to make this happen”
Town Centre Friendly
“We said that the project had to complement the town centre. It’s crucial that it complements and doesn’t detract from the traditional centre. We believe it does and in particular follows the celebration mile which after this development it also opens up the ‘docks’ as a key area to focus on and crucially the moving of the cinema from its current location allows the council to focus further and deal with the Penel Orlieu eyesore.”
Enhanced Green Space
“We insisted that the project enhance the Brewery Field . It does this plus it regains even some lost green space. But this phase needs greater consultation and so we welcome the commitment to take this proposal to the Town Councils ‘Town Development Forum’ so that nearby residents can have a full say in this phase. That undertaking has been given. There is clearly a need for a high quality town centre park which can be freely accessed and increased planting and landscaping which will make the site environmentally friendly”
“We wanted something that was a regeneration project. This clearly is and mainly we have to appreciate the Sedgemoor approach to this, which we urged on them just a year or so back – in this case the ‘developer is no longer king’ because WE are the developer here, and that’s an important mark of confidence in Bridgwater and the local councils commitments to regeneration. So we support this project, because it’s a large amount of money to spend in Bridgwater on facilities that people have asked for, but there are 2 crucial extra considerations which we have concerns about and will keep monitoring”
“The new tenants must be Good neighbours– whilst it is a Town Centre site there are still residential areas nearby so there is a concern about late licences and potential overspill. However, the project managers today gave extremely strong reassurance about their intentions to run orderly houses and police their premises so we are reassured by this , however, we will be monitoring and maybe reviewing this as the situation develops”
“And finally we have to talk about Climate emergency . Sedgemoor is about to publish its climate action plan which we hope will influence developments such as this. So in this case we need to scrutinise the ‘futureproofing’ built into this project and ensure that in future building projects this is not just an afterthought but integral to the build plan. So sustainability is the key here and we are confident that this is the direction Sedgemoor will be moving in.”
Cinema, Bowling and a Town Centre Park
At the meeting it was confirmed that ALLSTARS Bowl Ltd have signed a lease for part of the scheme. ALLSTARS Bowl will have up to eight lanes of ten pin bowling, a Sports Bar with large-format TV screens for sports events, state-of-the-art video games as well as traditional games on the upper level of the second building proposed for the site. Consultations over the past years have always showed that residents are clamouring for a bowling alley and this will be a great addition to the town.
WTW-Scott Cinemas Ltd have already announced that they are proposing a seven-screen cinema on the site with the latest in audio and visual technology. There will be a boutique studio auditorium and a Director’s Lounge, which will be available for presentations, meetings and corporate events. The building will be fully accessible with dedicated wheelchair access to all screens. The director Mark Williams described it as “their biggest project to date and a flagship”.
Sedgemoor’s commitment to the Northgate development can be seen as part of the council’s strategy both for helping deliver the post-Covid recovery of the town centre and wider district, as well as setting the cornerstone for long-term success and sustainability. The project should be up and running by the summer of 2022 by which time Covid will have been left so far behind us that people will be flocking to leisure centres with a renewed passion.