Bridgwater Town Team flying the flag for local retailers

Market in Town Centre
Focus on the Town Centre

Bridgwater Town Team is flying the flag for local retailers in Bridgwater and celebrating the contribution independent businesses make to the UK economy. Across the country on 4 July 2014, the public will be encouraged to buy at least one item from their local independent shops to celebrate Independents’ Day 2014, and in Bridgwater we encourage shoppers to continue that support through the rest of the month and beyond!

Organised nationally, by the National Skills Academy for Retail and People 1st and locally by Bridgwater Town Team, it is now in its fourth year. The campaign celebrates the contribution independent businesses make to the UK. It is also helping small businesses develop their skills, with a package of support available to destinations across the UK.

Bridgwater Town Team are delighted to have been able to broker this support to help local independent traders. Avenue Blinds & Curtains, BB Gowns, Blackmore Farm, Earthstation, Fine Memorials, Ken Baker Hair Design, Inspirational Crafts, Jools Jewellery, SHHH!, Timeless Images, Treacle Well Tea Rooms, and Wilkins Jewellers, have all completed the WorldHost customer service training. Running in July, eighteen Independent Retailers are also signed up for a one to one Business Mentoring scheme.

Independents day

town team
Recent tour of the town by the Town Team

To raise awareness of this year’s campaign, there will be a range of “special offers” to shoppers in stores and on the FREE Bridgwater Town Guide app, along with a range of events and activities. For example, Christelo’s Art Boutique will be offering an “Independents” 10% discount to the first 10 customers every day, from the 4th to 31st July, and a free gift with every purchase for every customer on 4th July – Independence Day!

Friday 4th July, Inspirational Crafts are running an Encaustic Workshop (Painting with an iron & beeswax) and a “Make & Take” card Making session. The Weekly Bridgwater Castle Market in Fore Street will be in full swing and is fully behind the campaign.

In partnership with, the Town Team will be running an “Independents Trail” Competition. Shoppers can follow the trail map on the Bridgwater Town Guide mobile app, find the clues inside stores and enter some basic details to put yourself into a draw for your chance to win a fantastic prize package valued at over £600! An Apple iPad Mini, donated by Town Guide Apps, a Hamper from Cornhill Indoor Market and vouchers from participating retailers, AI Fosters, Armoury Gallery, BW News, Cornhill Grocers, Cornhill Indoor Market, Christelo’s Art Boutique, Flowers International, Hooks of Bridgwater, Inspirational Crafts, Jools (Jewellers), La Kage Restaurant, Lane-Hammett (Stationers), Richard’s Aquatics, SHHH! (Retro Fashion), Timeless Images (Photographers), Tim’s Cameras, Treacle Well Tea Rooms, and Wilkins Jewellers.

Local Dignatories

mayor steve
“There’s no substitute for great customer service and that sense of community that comes with shopping close to home, and we want to remind people of that.”Cllr Steve Austen

Local Dignitaries will be out shopping on July 4th, and we have teamed up with the Bridgwater Mercury to run a fantastic window dressing competition. They are offering a great business package prize for the winner. £200 shop improvement grant, Commercial Photo-shoot by Timeless Images, Free ¼ page of advertising in Bridgwater Mercury, Free ½ day Business Mentoring Session (subject to eligibility), Display the “Bridgwater Town Team Cup” . The theme for this window dressing competition is “A beautiful Summer Day” Judging will take place on Friday 18th July 2014.

Bridgwater Mayor and Westover councillor   Steve Austen says “The number of empty shops on British high streets is an issue for all Town Centres, and the only way to stop that happening is for people to visit them, and support them. While many people do shop for convenience online, or at one-stop centres, there’s no substitute for great customer service and that sense of community that comes with shopping close to home, and we want to remind people of that.”

Saturday 12th July there will be a “Food Market” in Fore Street between 9am – 3pm. Selling local produce, including cider, ice-cream, and Bath Bridge Bakery – who make the famous Bridgwater Manchips! There will be some familiar food traders from our Bridgwater Castle Market and new faces who will be bringing an international flavour to the occasion. There are a few stalls available. Contact Steve Griffiths on 07764 156 621 for further information.

Saturday 19th July Steel Rose Tattoo Studio are running a Charity Tattoo Day, offering a wide range of Tattoos for £30 each.

Andrew Bradbury from Lane Hammett Stationers said: “ Independents Day and Independent Retailer Month is a really important time for shops and business, and we’re calling on shoppers to come along and see what we have to offer”.

Last year, thousands of businesses in over 150 locations across the UK took part. Jane Rexworthy, executive director of strategic partnerships for People 1st said: “The Independents’ Day campaign has gained considerable momentum over the last four years and we are certain that this year’s campaign will be the most successful yet. We are calling on destinations across the UK to support small businesses in their areas and celebrate the valuable contribution they make to the local economy on 4 July.”

Town Centre Action Plan

mick makes a point
The Town Team takes a long hard look at what needs to be done with input from local councillors,traders and shoppers.

A Town Centre Action plan has been submitted to the Town Council by Westover councillors and will be discussed by members along with a presentation by the Town Team at the Town council meeting of August 7th. Members of the public and especially traders are invited to come to the meeting.

See what is happening locally on Bridgwater Town Team Facebook Page. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter @IndieDayUK, #IndieDay, Facebook and visit The Independents’ Day campaign is sponsored by Mondelez International.

For more information please contact:

Alan Hurford: Town Clerk Bridgwater Town Council Tel: 01278 427692

Allison Griffin: Corporate Director, Sedgemoor District Council Tel: 01278 435741

Roger Smith: Angel Place Shopping Centre Manager Tel: 01278 429191

Bridgwater Town Team includes representatives from:Angel Place Shopping Centre; Boots; Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce; Bridgwater College; Bridgwater Industrialists; Bridgwater Mercury, Bridgwater Town Council; Federation of Small Businesses; GPR Traders; Hooks; Lyndon Brett Partnership; Magnox; McKinlays; Pardoes; Sedgemoor District Council; Small Industries Group; South West Businesses Against Crime; Tamlyn & Son, Timeless Images and Wilkinsons.

Canal Clean Up – Volunteers wanted

canal clean up
Volunteers are a crucial part of Canal maintenance

On Wednesday 9th July 2014, from 10.00am – 2.00pm, you can join the Inland Waterways Association West Country Branch at Bridgwater Docks to tidy up the area surrounding the canal.

Volunteer Mike Slade said “Volunteers meet here regularly to keep the area smart and tidy. You can take part in this contribution to the local community whilst enjoying time outside this summer. Volunteers are meeting outside The Admirals Landing, The Docks, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 3E at 10am and working to around 2pm.”

“Volunteers are advised to wear suitable clothes and be prepared for the weather. Under-18s welcome but must be supervised by a responsible adult. If you are interested in getting involved do not hesitate to get in touch for more information.”

The future of the canal

new canal path
Works are being done to upgrade the canal towpath

The future of the Bridgwater-Taunton canal was raised by Westover councillors recently as they undertook to carry out a community consultation on what was wanted.

Cllr Brian Smedley, who attended his first meeting this week as a Sedgemoor rep on the Somerset Waterways Advisory Committee, said “The SWAC group has been in existence for sometime looking at ways to improve the Canal with ever dwindling resources and things don’t seem to be getting any better. The aspirations of the IWA are to get the canal back functioning again with navigation and enhanced use for tourists as well as the current users. The reality is that different agencies are working together to make their own contributions where possible and so we have seen the recent towpath improvements, most recently extending through the Westover ward between Albert street and Hamp bridge. This has been achieved  with funding from the DfT Sustainable Transport Fund and managed by Somerset County Council.”

One issue that has caused surprise is the failure to provide ‘mixed use’ signage designating both pedestrian and cyclist access on the footpaths. County Councillor for Bridgwater South, Leigh Redman, said this was a concern to him but it was ‘county policy that footpaths had to be a certain width and include seperated pedestrian and cyclist lanes’. “This has caused a major logistical problem in Hamp Ward alongside Brownes Pond where the footpath is clearly too narrow for two lanes and runs alongside a ditch yet elsewhere in the country council’s manage by not operating this restrictive policy”. There are plans for cycle paths to extend from Bridgwater on to Dunball as part of the Bridgwater Way.

Serious funding issues

bri on a boat
“Re-opening the canal for boats requires major levels of funding. But first we need to find out if the people want this.” Cllr Brian Smedley

The maintenance work of the Canal falls within the remit of the Canal and River Trust, which has also been involved in flood mitigation, recovery and assistance. However, there were serious funding issues for the future as although SCC, SDC and Taunton Deane have contributed £46,000 for 2014-15 it is unlikely that this level of funding will be maintained.

Cllr Smedley said “It’s clear that there will be a gap between aspiration and reality and that gap will be defined by what funding can be brought in. On the one hand we can rely on volunteers to do the great work they’ve been doing, cleaning up, picking litter,lending a hand and attempt to keep the maintenance costs to a minimum or we can make a serious effort to attract funding. To get the canal back to a navigable standard, dredging and weed clearance is a priority but one which seems currently unaffordable.”

At the County meeting Cllr Smedley undertook to raise the issue as a priority at Augusts Bridgwater Town Council meeting where councillors and members of the public can have their say on the future of their canal. The meeting will be on Thursday 7th August 7.30 Bridgwater Town Hall.

New Sponsor for Bridgwater Flower Show

Bridgwater Flower Show
Bridgwater Flower Show 22 and 23 August

A new sponsor has been welcomed to the ranks of Bridgwater Flower Show’s supporters. Summer Land Air Conditioning Ltd, who are based at Acorn House in St. Mary Street, are to sponsor the photography section of the Show. “This is an extremely popular section” said Show Secretary Jackie Sealey “the ten classes attract more than 100 entries every year, it’s a part of the Show that anyone can enter. There are new subjects every year, and the level of skill our photographers show in their photographs is impressive”.

Presently celebrating their tenth year, Summer Land AC supply and install air conditioning and cooling/heating systems throughout South West England, in commercial, retail buildings and domestic properties. “We are delighted to support Bridgwater Flower Show” said Paul Kingston, Company Director “being local ourselves, we know how important organizations such as this Flower Show are to the town; they help to retain the important history of Bridgwater as well as securing a future for the next generation.”

Westover District Councillors Kath Pearce & Brian Smedley
Westover District Councillors Kath Pearce & Brian Smedley at last years Flower Show

Flower Show 22& 23 August

Bridgwater Flower Show will take place on August 22nd & 23rd in the Town Hall with over 500 exhibits on display, including plants, flowers, vegetables and fruit, hobbies and crafts, art, photography and cooking, as well as Children’s classes, with sections for Novices, Senior Citizens and Allotment Holders .

Contact: Jackie Sealey 01278 445158

The Bridgwater Taunton Canal: Is it time for action?

The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal as it passes through Westover.

Winding it’s way through the Westover ward of Bridgwater and much neglected in recent years, is the Bridgwater and Taunton canal. This vastly underused resource surely deserves some attention paid to it. With this in mind Westover ward councillors brought together enthusiastic officers of the Inland Waterways Association and Sedgemoor Corporate Director Doug Bamsey to brain storm some ideas and see what exactly might be possible.


The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal runs upstream for 14.2 miles from Bridgwater Dock to Taunton and was restored in the early 1990’s. However, the Ship Lock and the Canal at Bridgwater, which were built to give access from the River Parrett to Bridgwater Dock, were not restored, thus denying sea-going craft renewed access to both the Dock and the Canal.

The River Parrett Navigation extended to Thorney Mills (34.3 miles above Bridgwater Bar and 18.7 miles above the entrance to Bridgwater Dock) and both it and a number of tributaries, together with the short Westport Canal, were once navigable. Commercial navigation ceased around 1878 although small freighters still come upstream to Dunball Wharf (some 3.2 miles below Bridgwater Dock), and water-based leisure activities, such as those at Langport, currently make good use of the River.

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) believes that both the Canal and the River are under- utilised and hence undervalued assets of Bridgwater and that their development could create a major community asset for both the town and its surrounding areas. In particular, they consider that the development of the town’s waterways could bring the following:

• Increased boating and leisure activities on both the Canal and the River

• Additional tourism in the centre of Bridgwater and further upstream

• Enhanced levels of economic activity both within and beyond Bridgwater

The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal today

The canal cutting near West street
The canal cutting near West street

The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal is owned by the Canal & River Trust (CRT) and principally comprises the watercourse itself, the towpath, the locks and other structures. However, the Dock at Bridgwater is owned by Somerset County Council and leased to CRT. The Canal is used for a variety of purposes including boating, canoeing, fishing, cycling and walking; in addition water is supplied to Wessex Water. There are some 50 boats based on the canal of which approximately 30, of varying sizes are moored in Bridgwater Dock, a number of which are used for residential purposes. The maximum potential capacity of the Dock is some 60 boats.

Bob Abbot, Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Chairman says “The IWA believes that there would be considerable merit in developing and implementing a 5-year plan to enhance the Canal from Bridgwater Dock through to Standards Lock and thus to increase its attractiveness to existing and potential users, from both the local community and further afield. This would involve consultations with CRT, Local Authorities along the environmental corridor, IWA, canal and towpath user groups, the YMCA, boating societies and local community groups. It would have a clear aim of developing an agreed and affordable plan. Enhancements at Bridgwater Dock would complement and build on Bridgwater Vision’s Celebration Mile proposals.”

A key IWA aim is to replace the existing slipway at the north-east corner of the Dock with one that is considerably more user-friendly and capable of attracting trailboaters to use both the Dock and the Canal. Bob adds “Our target would be to have this in place well in time for a possible IWA sponsored Trailboat Festival to be held in Bridgwater at the Spring Bank Holiday in May 2019, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reopening throughout of the Canal in 1994.”

Linking to the River Parret

Could we see the Canal connected to the National network via the Docks?

For the longer term the IWA has suggested that a suitable lock should be planned for and built as part of the proposed tidal barrier as it is constructed. Bob Abbott says “The dimensions of the lock will need to be such as to allow sea-going craft up to an appropriate size to reach Bridgwater Town Bridge and moorings, and to permit smaller sea-going craft to use the River Parrett above Bridgwater and to access the Dock and thence Canal. Likewise, boats based on the Canal will be able to use the facilities in Bridgwater and access the River Parrett and the sea. The IWA recognises that the key to restoring navigation on the River Parrett lies in the approach taken to deal with the flood mitigation issues and the ability to both provide for and fund a suitable lock when the tidal barrier is constructed. The sight of sea-going craft on these two waterways in Bridgwater will, in our experience, help enhance the attractiveness of both the River Parrett and the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal as well as bringing worthwhile economic benefits to the town. “

The proposal to reopen the River Parrett to navigation from Bridgwater to Langport and reconnecting the River and Canal could create some 27 miles of environmental corridor and help facilitate the protection and migration of wildlife. Training opportunities in reconstruction and environmental heritage would also arise. The waterways will become more attractive not only to boaters based on the two waterways but to visiting sea-going craft, traditional narrowboats and trailboats. In the longer term there is potential scope to extend the navigable rivers much further within Somerset, thus making them attractive for boating holidays and a wide range of related recreational pastimes.


The Canal wends it;s way past popular facilities such as the Bridgwater YMCA

Bob Abbott concludes “Once the key decisions are taken on the future of navigation on the River Parrett it would be appropriate to prepare and implement a 5-10 year plan to develop the River, its structures and facilities and thus to enhance its use over time for both boating and leisure use. In the meantime steps should be taken to protect the existing riverside environment from any development which would not be in keeping with the evolving vision for the town and River. “

A way forward that involves the public

Cllr Brian Smedley outlined the projects that were underway or planned that related to the canal and its immediate setting saying “ There are numerous projects that can tie into our aspirations for the canal and these include the Meads Eco Park,the Celebration Mile, the Bridgwater Vision, the work done by residents and volunteers at Brownes Pond, the Bridgwater Way local Sustainable Transport Fund and the Flood Action Plan and these all provide the current opportunity for joined up thinking”

Doug Bamsey stressed that there were “ Severe limitations on Council budgets” and noting “the decisions Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane and Somerset County had made in recent times to reduce expenditure on the Canal” .

Browne's Pond
Community involvement in the canal’s future such as happened with brownes pond, is crucial to taking the project forward.

Cllr Kathy Pearce said “It is  important to ensure that there is public understanding of any projects that emerge for increasing the use of the canal as a recreational amenity, including the residents that border the docks. It is important to get their views and to have their support. “

All present agreed that having boats using the canal was a key outcome and recommended a 3 stage approach:

1. Short term ;- Works to allow boats to move along the waterway, which includes raising the water level.

2. Mid term;- A high profile Trail Boat event .

3. Long term;- Lock gates opened into the Parret.


What do Westover and Gibraltar have in common? The European Elections explained.

gib map
Westover Councillor Brian Smedley attempts to explain the European Elections .

Thursday 22nd May is the European Election. The most publicised in a long time largely due to the headline grabbing antics of former Tory Banker Nigel Farage and his ‘oh no another one’s said something daft’ bunch of Kippers. Voters in both Westover and Gibraltar will be voting for the same set of candidates, so when people in Friarn Avenue, Camden Road, Flat Bastion Road and Bombhouse Lane ask who their MEP is they’ll get the same answer.

So who is my MEP?

Well, you’ve got 6. Westover (yes, well and the rest of Bridgwater) and Gibraltar are both part of the European constituency of South West England. There are 6 MEP’s that represent everything from Gloucester, through Bristol, Somerset, Exeter, down to Plymouth, Cornwall, turn left at Lands End , (jump over Spain) and yes Gibraltar as well. At the moment we have 3 Tories, 2 Ukippers and 1 Lib Dem. That’s what we voted for in 2009 and that’s what we’ve got.

How does the system work then?

When you go into the polling booth – and in Westover that’s either the Town Hall, Westfield Church in West street or Trinity Hall on St Saviours Avenue (but it will say which one on your voting card…which you should have received…) you’ll be given a voting paper which will have 8 Political parties listed on them.

You will be able to vote for just 1 Political party.

If you vote for more then you’ve in fact ended up voting for no-one as you will have spoilt your ballot paper and it won’t be counted. Bad luck there!

gib mayor
This Gibraltese Councillor and this Bridgwater councillor will have exactly the same parties and names to choose from on their ballot papers on May 22nd.

From this point on you’re at the mercy of some 19th century Belgian mathematician called Victor D’Hondt who devised a system of PR (Proportional Representation) which divides up the total votes cast and allocates seats to the parties in a mildly complicated (so let’s not worry about that) way. At the end of the day some parties get one or more seats and some get none. But we won’t know that until Sunday. (That’s when the votes all over Europe are counted).

Who do I vote for?

Glad you asked that. Your Westover Labour Councillors would strongly suggest you voted LABOUR. Don’t forget that your votes go into the same pile as the large Labour majorities in Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth and we need as many votes as possible because the more Labour votes, the more Labour seats. Each party has a list numbered 1-6, so 3,4,5 and 6 for most parties are largely waving from the touchline.If you want to send a message to the Con Dem coalition that you’ve had enough of their ‘austerity’ or if you want to stop UKIP dead in it’s tracks then please vote Labour.

Who DON’T I vote for?

Well, you’re spoilt for choice on this one. Mainly DON’T vote for UKIP – the shame of waking up on Monday morning with Britain being represented in Europe by this bunch of foot-in-mouth, scare mongering, possibly a bit ‘racist’ , far right extremist Thatcherite throwbacks (and that’s letting them off lightly) …would be a step in the wrong direction. Unless you are of course a homophobic, climate change denying, Lenny Henry repatriating, afraid of hearing Germans speaking German on a bus,’Mister Angry’ type, in which case it probably IS the Party for you.

Who should the people of Gib and Westover vote for? UKIP want to ‘take our country back’ they say – but Labour want to ‘take it forward’.

We’d suggest UKIP are bad enough without having to say please don’t vote for the 2 even more right wing parties standing. The BNP – yes they’re not totally swept back under the stone they crawled from yet, they’re standing again, but their ‘star’ (I didn’t say swastika) has been picked up by UKIP along with a large pile of their former voters and the English Democrats (“we’re English not British” is their catch phrase) who are offering a novel alternative on the Far Right theme based on an even pettier and more ‘localised’ form of misguided Nationalism.

A slight fly in the ointment for UKIP is the appearance at the top of the ballot paper of the An Independence from Europe party. Totally indistinguishable from UKIP as they’re basically the same crowd of xenophobes–only this lot fell out with the other lot and the good news is that with such a Eurosceptic vote likely then at least they could split it. So if you’re thinking of voting UKIP, hey, why not vote for these instead.

Then of course there’s the Conservatives. They usually do well in the South West – but, well, they’re running country at the moment . Mainly into the ground. That usually means their vote will drop off. And of course UKIP – being led by a bunch of far right Tory extremists who were sad to see the downfall of Thatcher and always thought that Enoch Powell was a bit of a genius, has the other agenda of turning the Tory party back in that direction – hence the bulk of their votes will come from disillusioned Tories.

Then there’s the Lib Dems. I’ll probably stop there as people will have likely as not skipped this paragraph already. Pretty fair to say that their vote will collapse due to the massive disappointment of them putting the Tories back into power and breaking a few promises on the way.

The final party on the list is the Greens. No councillors, MP’s or MEP’s in this area and so a steep hill to climb and may just prove to be a risky vote. And anyway, we want you to vote Labour so we can maximise the anti-Rightist vote.

What happens next?

Well, like us, you’ll probably be staying up all night on Sunday to watch the election results live as they come in, excited at the swing to the left in Thessaloniki or the marginalisation of Beppe Grillo’s Partido di Clowns in Reggio Di Calabria. Or crucially to see Farage and Griffin’s faces when the people finally turn their back on them.

monte cassino
In World War 2, the people of Europe united to defeat Fascism and build a new continent free from war. These fallen Polish soldiers at Monte Cassino in Italy died alongside British soldiers fighting the Nazis for the freedoms we have today.

But what really happens next (despite what UKIP tell you) is we then have 6 MEPs who go off and represent us in Brussels. There they join up with like-minded parties from around Europe and form powerful groupings that represent similar interests and policies. So if you’ve voted Labour you’ll have strengthened the sensible centre left grouping which includes socialists and social democrats, if you’ve voted UKIP you’ll have strengthened the anti-Europe (but still claiming their expenses and not attending meetings) Euro-grouping of crazy right wingers, even crazier than the Tory right wingers (who joined a group to the right of the rest of Europe’s conservatives) but not quite as far right as the BNP.Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm so please use your vote.

However, if you’re not convinced by our well reasoned arguments regarding who to vote for above, then give us a ring on 01278 256377. And we’ll still suggest you vote Labour.