The Year in Westover 2013

Westover News 2013On Friday 6 December, Councillors and residents met up at the Bridgwater Arts Centre for an informal chat about the years key events in the ward at a christmas social. It was a chance to see where we were on certain projects, introduce new developments and exchange forthright views on things that were contentious.

First item under scrutiny was West Quay. It was just over two years since the collapse of the wall on the riverfront had brought misery to many traders and residents but the repairs were now complete and the new pedestrianisation up and running. As far as the wall collapse went most people had now received some form of compensation and the wall itself looked like not collapsing again in the near future. The pedestrianisation,which had come about as a result of a petition by the West Quay Action Group, was now in place but having some teething problems. There were concerns at a newly installed gate which SCC wouldn’t let us lock and inevitably traffic still using the street as a result. Ward councillors had also managed to get the town council to extend the christmas light show onto the Quay this year for the first time. The general view was that pedestrianisation needed time to settle in and people should try to make it work. Continue reading “The Year in Westover 2013”

Long Awaited Bridgwater Skatepark Finally to Open

Skatepark being buildBridgwater people have been campaigning for a skatepark for years and now the grandchildren of those original campaigners (well almost) are finally to witness that dream become a reality. The new Bridgwater Skatepark will be at the YMCA on Friarn Avenue, and will officially open at 10.30am on Saturday 14th December 2013. The park will be opened by skate park users, staff from the YMCA, Sedgemoor District Council Chairman, Councillor Peter Downing and Bridgwater Mayor, Councillor Dave Loveridge.

Land and Freedom

Westover ward councillors Brian Smedley & Steve Austen were members of the Wheeled Sports Facility Panel that guided the final phase of the project in to it’s current location at the YMCA. Cllr Smedley explained the history, “The site wasn’t arrived at without complications and the main issue locally was always ‘land’. The campaign has been obviously going for years without that issue being adequately addressed and at one stage we thought it was solved when Sedgemoor gave planning permission to land at the College for the skatepark, then that use was suddenly changed, and then they suggested land at the Clink, but this land wasn’t really in their power to gift, so none of these happened. This is why the users formed the Skateparks Campaign Group to try to drive the issue forward. This resulted in the modest gain of the 2 mini-parks on Cranleigh Gardens and Victoria Park. However, there was a concern that the big park that everyone really wanted might never happen now that they’d provided the mini-parks so the pressure had to be kept on and crucially the issue of land addressed. Eventually we produced a comprehensive list of all possible sites in the town and put it to the users and partner groups and as a result they accepted the YMCA site. For the people of Westover it’s a good choice as it’s slap bang in the middle of our ward but also easily accessible to the rest of the town and also sufficiently out of the way to preserve it’s independence whilst at the same time being alongside the YMCA which is without doubt the leading youth facility in the town.” Continue reading “Long Awaited Bridgwater Skatepark Finally to Open”

New Bridgwater Hospital agrees to keep ‘Mary Stanley’ name

Castle Street
Castle Street

Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has confirmed that the proposed name of the midwifery unit at the new Bridgwater Community Hospital will be The Mary Stanley Midwifery Unit thereby maintaining the link with old Castle Street Nursing Home (right) where many Bridgwater children were born until it was closed in the 1980’s.

Cllr Brian Smedley, who lives in the former building, now flats, welcomed the news saying, “When they tried to close down the original Nursing home we organised a major campaign against it with the result that although we didn’t save it we managed to retain a delivery suite at the Salmon Parade Hospital with the same name. When the Town Council learnt that the new hospital was planning to ditch the name we raised the issue of historical continuity and this time that was all that was needed.”

Get the right Mary Stanley!!!

Cllr Smedley added a word of caution, “Much has been claimed of Mary Stanley’s illustrious past-but often without much actual thought or research. For instance on the Bridgwater Mercury website this week you’ll see them repeating a wikipedia page about a totally different Mary Stanley (one who came from Cheshire and was in the Crimean War with Florence Nightingale). This one isn’t ours…although several former Bridgwater historians – including Roger Evans in his book ‘Bridgwater with and without the E’ claims Mary to be the Crimean Stanley. In fact as her death records show that she died in 1920 aged 77 it means she would have been born in 1843 and therefore 9 when the Crimean war started. Our Mary Stanley was in fact the eldest daughter of a famous Whig (Country gentry 19th century liberals) who became Lord Taunton and MP for that town. She was therefore part of the landed gentry in Somerset living at Over Stowey, related to the Tory dynasty of Heathcote Amorys and eventually married Tory MP for Bridgwater EJ Stanley who also has a street named after him and who was part of the vicious Lord Salisbury Government which often used troops to break up strikes-including in 1896 in Bridgwater. In fact Stanley only had that street – up in Hamp- named after him in the early 90’s after I named a street there Frampton (after the 1896 Brickyard workers strike leader Robert Frampton ) and another councillor added Stanley (the MP of the day) …’for balance’….although not much balance was shown by the troops who cleared the High street of strikers at bayonet point.”

However, the new facility will be named after Mary Stanley as this was felt to provide an association with the existing community hospital and acknowledgment of the support given to the social welfare of women by the Mary Stanley during her lifetime and it’s true that it’s a fondly remembered place in the hearts of many Bridgwater people lucky enough to be born there..

The new £32 million pounds Bridgwater Hospital is currently under construction on land just off Bower Lane, and is due to receive its first patients in April 2014. It will replace the town’s existing community hospital which was opened in 1813.

The Mary Stanley who died in April 1920 has her death records online here:

Jazz Blues Cafe Rejected by Development Committee

Jazz Blues Cafe
Jazz Blues Cafe

Westover councillors supported the bid by SRL promotions to establish a jazzblues cafe at 18 High street. However, the vote was tied 7.7 and rejected by the Chairmans casting vote. Below is the speech by Westover councillor Brian Smedley.

Speech to Development Committee 26.11.2013

I’m Brian Smedley and I’m one of the ward councillors for Bridgwater Westover which includes the Town centre. I spoke at the last meeting and this time I want to stress that I have been asked to speak by ALL of the Westover ward Town & District councillors and by many others who are as impressed by the initial project as they are concerned at the possible negative impact of strict interpretation of the Policy. Continue reading “Jazz Blues Cafe Rejected by Development Committee”

Westover Councillors Call for Planning Policy Review After Jazz Cafe Rejection

Jazz Blues Cafe
Jazz Blues Cafe

Westover Ward councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce have called for a total review of Sedgemoor Planning policy for the Town Centre following today’s disastrous split vote at the Development Committee which saw members divide evenly and the Chairman’s casting vote turn down the project. Cllr Smedley has written to Sedgemoor expressing his concern at the present policy and say’s he will ask the Corporate Scrutiny committee to review the Planning policy at it’s next meeting.

The planning application from SRL Promotions for a Jazz-Blues Cafe on the site of the old Bridgwater Bookshop at 18 High Street was put to the Planning committee in October and was supported by Councillors from the Westover Ward which includes the Town Centre and by the Bridgwater Retail Initiative. Bridgwater Town Council had raised no objection to the proposal at it’s own planning panel and so it was all down to Sedgemoor District Council’s Development Committee to give the go ahead or to reject. Continue reading “Westover Councillors Call for Planning Policy Review After Jazz Cafe Rejection”