It’s now Month 3 of the Northgate project and ward councillors continue to meet with Sedgemoor officers and Wilmott Dixon staff to pass on concerns by residents. At the latest meeting we look towards July when the Construction phase is due to start, residents concerns about ASB, lighting, litter and disturbance need addressing and a new development arises with a major discovery underground – a hole with bricks in it which no-one expected -so we got the Historians in.
Following reports that a cellar had been discovered over the weekend near the Mount Street entrance to the main site we spoke with site manager Jonathan Owen who told us they had uncovered a cellar which they believed belonged to a registry office. He assumed this as an older worker had said he had been married there. He also said they had found a concrete floor some 20 feet below surface and a fuel store on the site of the actual brewery. There was also a whole granite cobbled yard and flagstones under the tarmac. We asked him to make sure he had photographic and graphic recorded evidence of this and we asked SDC if the County Archaeologist could be brought in.
We also consulted local Historians Miles Kerr-Peterson and Tony Woolrich who were interested in the site as it could be early Victorian and certainly was likely to be related to the Union Workhouse nearby as after the Poor Law of 1836 registrations were introduced. There was also the possibility of an earlier house on the site. Miles said “There looks to be a building on the site in the 1730s. See Stratchey’s Map, then the 1819 map (here). This looks like a Victorian villa, later incorporated into the Brewery. However, 1810s Town Plan suggest a building on the site, so could be older. There were also some Medieval suburbs in the area too, but unlikely to be them if west of Angel Crescent. If 1730s, even if reused for the Victorian villa, its certainly a feature of note and the county archaeologist should be notified”
Residents Concerns raised and answered
Beyond the historical excavations, residents were concerned about the increase in ASB due to groups of youths accessing the site, scaling fences and so on. We were told “This is a Secure yard – people seem to be getting into the walkway as a cut thru and whooping it up and disturbing residents. However, there is security on site and they do respond. Residents have heard the remote voice addressing intruders. CCTV is regularly up and down on a pole and when workers leave the site it goes in the air and is monitored. There’s a security guy on call who has been going out when needed. That was 3 times over the weekend.”
Ward councillors have asked police to step up patrols in the area and this has been agreed.
Residents have also been concerned about the increase in litter with the diversionary through-route now going into Blake Car Park where there are NO Litter bins. Ward councillors asked for this to be addressed with a litter pick and the introduction of bins. This was agreed
Parking is a particular concern of Blacklands residents who used to use the Splash car park out of hours but this has now been closed off. Ward Councillors asked what arrangements could be put in place beyond offering again ‘residents parking’ in the street -a lengthy process. We were told – “Residents using the Mount st West permits were offered Blake permits instead – however, with this being now a long way from Blacklands due to the site closure we could reconsider this and maybe offer Market street. “
Lighting has been an issue for residents. Finally lights have been put in along the custard wall that diverts people around the west side of the site….but there’s no bulbs in them. we were told “Getting the lighting energised has been a problem , however, we are now on top of it and whilst we admit it should have been done we assure residents that it is being done this week.”
Bikes and even motorbikes have been witnessed going through the pedestrian lane. This is not on and we made this clear to officers who said “Motorbikes using this is very anti social and cyclists should certainly dismount. We will address this with signage.” Ward councillors have also informed Police of the situation who will also keep an eye out.
Following the surface work on the Brewery field some residents complained of ‘Oily deposits’ and that they weren’t told to expect this. SDC officers insisted that “…people were told that works would start. However, this element of the work is now complete so it won’t recur. The bulldozer is likely responsible and there will be other vehicles – so we will ask them about types of vehicles and emissions and be more careful .”
What Happens Next?
What will be happening next? “Working on site will vary. At the moment it’s mainly plant equipment so not so many people. Then we’ll move to the fitting which will increase manpower. This is pre-construction work -surface diversion, stripping away car park infrastructure -all hidden, some below ground, pre-construction work is never going to be that exciting nor labour intensive. So this week they’ll be working on the bell mouth on the western side, by the traffic lights. This is being formed – so there’ll be a new set of temporary traffic lights – slightly moved to the west and re-orientated so access will be easier . Then there will be a piling machine brought in and they’ll be creating a piling matt so residents can expect a piling machine on site and the foundations being formed. This will be a drilled bore rather than a ‘kedong kedong’ sound. At the same time there will be sewer diversion work.”
“Other things that should start to pop up these next few weeks will include on the Hoardings -this will include graphics around the school area and the school art work competition – By the 2nd week of July the pre-construction work will be complete and then they’ll move into the construction programme. So we are on track with no delay.”
Changes to the Swale
Another major development will be on the Brewery field where they were looking at reducing costs but instead are seeking extra funding to address an issue with the Swale after consultation with the WWT (Wetlands and Wildlife Trust) who spotted issues. “Basically WWT looked at our proposal and expressed concern about drainage. Surface water from the car park and the public realm would go into the pond – but in fact we’d just be sending pollution into it and hamper bio growth-so we’ve looked at it again. This has been solved by 2 headwalls creating a new pond reed system which will clean and purify the silt out of it while the original will drain the urban realm. So this will be cleaner , although costing more, but we have the funds. The new look will see a series of little ponds, reeded up, slowing the flow, dropping to a deeper pond. This is a kind of solution in use in Sweden for instance where it rains a lot. We are also revisiting the ‘Play areas’ and will introduce naturalised play into the landscaping also saving trees and not destroying any more,”
Residents with issues such as access or immediate problems are reminded that they can contact the site manager and that the number has been circulated through letterboxes and is available on the surrounding walls.
Wilmot Dixon direct contact details 07970699221 (Michael Mackey) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ward councillors will continue to commit to daily site visits and to respond to all issues raised by residents.
Anyone keen to keep an eye on the site can visit the timelapse camera here.