The new Bridgwater Skatepark at Friarn Avenue in the Westover ward, was officially opened on Saturday 14th December 2013. The park was opened by skate park users, staff from the YMCA, Sedgemoor District Council Chairman, Councillor Peter Downing and Bridgwater Mayor, Councillor Dave Loveridge.
The skatepark includes ramps, a bowl, rails and even has a centrepiece carrying the names of the local young people who formed a user-group and invested a great deal of time and effort into the project. The opening finally saw, after a long campaign. the user-group and other young people enjoy the facilities for the first time.
The YMCA, and Sedgemoor, had always planned, after this more formal event, that in the early spring of this year, a skate-jam would be held. This will take place on Saturday 12th April between 12noon and 4:00pm and is being run by Crucial BMX. The event will be free and is open to all BMXer’s, Skaters and Scooter users to come along and join in- as well as spectators.
The land for the park was provided by Bridgwater YMCA and the £150,000 project was funded by a £20,000 contribution from Bridgwater Town Council and £130,000 from funds held by Sedgemoor District Council. Westover ward Councillor Steve Austen and Brian Smedley were members of the steering group. Cllr Smedley explained “The bulk of the Sedgemoor money came from RLT sources, which is money contributed by Housing developers instead of providing green space and play amenities on their developments. This money was accumulated over the years and allocated to the wards of the town for play facilities. Knowing the key issue for the achievement of the skatepark was the lack of land and being aware that the YMCA was prepared to make the most important contribution in this respect, Westover members agreed to allocate the entire Ward RLT accumulation in order to finally achieve this site that some people were beginning to think might never happen. “
Westover Town Councillor and Deputy Mayor, Steve Austen, has written to the Group manager (Environment) at Sedgemoor District Council with his concerns about the impact of recent high tides on the riverbank in the ward, particularly at Blake Gardens. Cllr Austen said “ If you stand at the Broadway bridge and look towards the town bridge you will see that the bank on the left by Blake Gardens is falling into the Parret – I am concerned that a) this will again reduce the flow, b) could in time affect the path and c) affect the outflow of water into the Parret from Durleigh Brook .”
Phil Perkins, replying on behalf of Sedgemoor, said “During the recent heavy rainfall and the increased flows in the river a small section of bank has slumped near to the Blake Gardens footpath adjacent to the river. The Environment Agency have been informed and there will be an inspection at low tide on 28th March. The flow in the river does not appear to be restricted by the slump but the bank will be monitored. There have been several bank slips on the river over the past few weeks which are being monitored. Sedgemoor District Council have inspected the area and will be erecting a temporary fence in the location affected”
Planning applications for Bridgwater are considered by the Town Council’s planning panel for comment and then decided at Sedgemoor District Council’s Development Control committee. Non contentious decisions can be decided by the Planning officers but in these cases the role of the ward councillors can be crucial because if our views are different to the recommendations of the planning officer the matter is forced to go to committee for decision and can’t simply be nodded through.
Members of the public can view applications on the town councils ‘Planning Website’ (or in person by arrangement with the Planning Officer) and can make comment directly. However, as your ward councillors we would urge you to also raise your concerns over specific planning applications – either for or against-with us as well.
The current applications relevant to the Westover Ward are listed below.
BRIDGWATER POLICE STATION,NORTHGATE
Demolition of existing buildings, erection of four storey building to form 37 retirement apartments, communal facilities and car parking.
The Mobile Homes Act 2013, which will be implemented on 1st April, will pass most people by unnoticed. This Act, however, has come about due to persistence by a group of mobile home owners who have refused to be broken by the bullying and unscrupulous actions of some mobile park home site owners. These owners have willfully run down sites, ruining the lives of park home residents who were not part of their redevelopment plans. Typically, these site owners would run down sites, thus making the mobile homes impossible to sell. They would then step in and offer a pittance for the homes on their site. Vulnerable elderly residents would often have no choice but to sell, losing tens of thousands of pounds in some cases or continue living on the site, facing further abuse and misery.
Over three years ago, Westover Councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce took a brave contingent of owners from the Lakeside mobile home park on Taunton Road to the Houses of Parliament.These residents had seen their site deteriorate over the course of a few years from being a very pretty site with communal grass area and lake, advertised as a “site of quiet enjoyment for the over 55s” to a run-down, desolate place, where Police drug raids became the norm and access to the communal areas and lake were forbidden.It was not unusual for homes to be burnt on site around the remaining residents, who struggled to carry on normal life.
Kathy says “We had gone to Parliament to join a in a nationwide campaign and to meet a cross-party committee who were investigating the problems faced by residents on mobile park home sites. There were groups of people from all over the country with harrowing tales to tell the committee. At that time, we did not believe that it would take over three years to achieve changes in the law.”
‘fit and proper’
Brian says “This Bill, although overdue, has to be welcomed and will essentially enable Licensing Authorities (ie Sedgemoor District Council) to grant, refuse or revoke licences and to issue compliance notices to site owners if they fail to comply with site licence conditions. Crucially ,Councils will be able to determine whether an applicant is deemed to be ‘fit and proper’ to hold a site licence and refuse or revoke, if necessary.”
Kathy added “This is a real victory due to the persistence of mobile home owners and campaigners. Sadly, for many of the residents of Lakeside it has come too late as many of the original campaigners have died or moved on. However, it should provide protection for mobile park home owners from now on and is a lesson in never giving up.”
Well, you might be because according to newly released statistics the average person in the Westover ward of Bridgwater is a 41 year old white male who rents a property, works in a technical or manual job, has average qualifications and is in reasonably good health.
To be honest, this is pretty much the picture across most of Bridgwater – until you hit the Durleigh end of the town, now known as the ‘Wyndham Ward’ (named after the former Dr Morgans Grammar school ‘house’ that recruited it’s membership from that part of town and itself named after the Royalist Governor of Bridgwater Castle during the siege in 1645). Whilst the average age and ethnicity of that ward is consistent with Westover there are stark differences in Housing with a massive 83% owning or in the process of owning their homes in Wyndham compared with 48% and a mere 16% rented compared to 49% in Westover. The class divide continues with 16% of those in Westover in council houses and just 3% similarly housed in Wyndham.
If we look at Education Wyndham leads Bridgwater with 23% highly qualified to degree level or higher whilst Westover stands on 15% dropping to 11% in Hamp and Sydenham and 10% in Dunwear. 31% Westover residents have no qualifications compared to 23% in Wyndham and 37% in Dunwear.
In terms of Employment it won’t now be a surprise that the Wyndham end of town continues the long standing tradition of being home to the people who own and run the town with 36% of it’s residents in professional or higher management jobs whilst in Westover that drops to 20% which is about average for the rest of the town. Westover now can claim the highest unemployment rate in the town at 14%, outstripping Hamp on 12% and Eastover on 11% whilst Wyndham finds itself with a happy 4%.
Sadly, Westover also beats the rest of the town for bad Health with 2% of our population claiming this and only 38% boasting very good health (compared to Wyndhams 45%).
These are the first comparative statistics that have been made available based on the towns new ward boundaries and date back just to 2011. What it does show is their remains a social divide in Bridgwater and if you compare the towns statistics with a sample out of town area within Sedgemoor such as Burnham North you can see how similar that is to the Wyndham area of Bridgwater and generally across Sedgemoor.
As the Council prepares to celebrate 40 years of Sedgemoor District Council next week it’s acutely clear that social disparity remains entrenched in the system.
And that’s before we even get on to foodbanks……
To find the other wards and more detailed statistics go to the web site below.