Northgate discussions enter ‘Critical Phase’

Northgate-looking through the tree cover
Northgate-looking through the tree cover

This week is a crucial point in the development plans for the controversial Northgate site in Bridgwater. Today Sedgemoor District Council approved the broad terms for a landowners agreement to allow the project to move forward with a planned date for Planning Committee scheduled for 21st June. Last night the Bridgwater Town Development Forum met to listen to the District and County proposals and add their comments. Today Town Council Leader and Westover ward councillor Brian Smedley put the views of the Forum to the Sedgemoor meeting.

School entrance and a cycle/pedestrian focal point with workhouse interpretation panel.
School entrance and a cycle/pedestrian focal point with workhouse interpretation panel.

Doug Bamsey and Stuart Martin of Sedgemoor along with John Houlihan & Charlie Field of Somerset, told both Town and District meetings about the next phase of plans . Doug Bamsey explained that the ‘Landowners agreement‘ was going to Full Council (wed 18 May), there was also a seperate planning application process, (deadline 21 May).

Stuart Martin said there were 4 different masterplan options and that they had engaged consultants to investigate these. The emerging concept was with the school at the centre, an enlarged Brewery Field, car parking, pub/supermarket, Leisure He outlined the phasing;-

Phase 1 –the Primary school

Phase 2 – Parking

Phase 3 –Commercial marketting

Phase 4 –Brewery field

Phase 5 –Commercial

Former Splash site will be a major leisure complex
Former Splash site will be a major leisure complex

The Celebration Mile would be a feature with a wider path, shared use with cycles, there would be a crossing east-west access point making an established feature of a previous right of way, and pedestrian routes to Blacklands and town. This would be re-routed slightly to the west.  School construction would commence from 29 Aug with completion by July 2017. Early 2017 would see sale of land to commercial interests

The County officers said that  Kier was the main contractor and Wring the demolition crew. Current work included asbestos  being removed. This was criticised by Forum member Dave Chapple (Bridgwater TUC) who said Kier had recently “been fined for anti-Trade Union acts”. More information here.

School design criticised

Town Development Forum members have their say
Town Development Forum members have their say

The school design was explained  further. A MUGA would be created in the school area and academy sponsors would be sought. Negotiations are ongoing with SDC regarding parking. There would be use of brick similar to Bridgwater brick. There would be an interpretation area with historic features to reflect the workhouse history and using original materials which had been developed through discussion with Bridgwater Town Council and the Blake Museum.

There was discontent from some Forum members about the design plans. Trish Walsh (Anson Way residents) said the design was “Not good”  and wished for a “..contemporary design, light and airy “.

school designNick Gibson (Bridgwater Forward) said the proposal was “dull and boring” suggesting the officers felt “…but it’ll do for Bridgwater”.

Derek Gibson (Civic Society) was also critical of the design and added “This has been a problem since 1972 to convince local authorities of this, but Bridgwater needs something uniique”. 

Ian Tucker (Bridgwater Forward) said Bridgwater needed “..a sense of space and in terms of leisure facility needed something that other towns didn’t have.”

Town Position Statement

Summing up the Town Development Forum meeting and presenting the feelings to the Sedgemoor District Council meeting, Brian Smedley said “Bridgwater wants to support this project and we appreciate being involved and consulted this time.  We have supported the original grand design, however, now we are moving into a potentially more  critical phase as the detail becomes apparent.

Concern at priorities - this will be the main road access.
Concern at priorities – this will be the main road access.

We support the Leisure led facility and the enhancement of the Brewery Field but are concerned at the phasing priorities of these options. It doesn’t work building the school and THEN the junction for instance.We are therefore  concerned about the low priority of the crucial Junction works and the tying of them to commercial considerations rather than making them concurrent with the school.

Support for Brewery Field enhancement and celebration mile dock linkage

We feel Brewery Field enhancements should be brought forward , for instance as part of the celebration mile and which includes the docks to town centre link as a major attraction – we suggest that a 2 pronged approach to the Celebration Mile be a priority -simultaneously focusing on both station and docks routes to town centre

Anson way -traffic needs sorting, trees need keeping
Anson way -traffic needs sorting, trees need keeping

We support the focal point Workhouse interpretation feature as proposed. We were sorry to see the Blake hospital go but we support  the school . However, the key concern is potentially poor design and related traffic issues .

We want to be assured of sustainable walk/cycle routes and adequate car parking/drop off which doesn‘t affect residents.

Fears of ‘Treemageddon’


“We are very concerned about the major loss of trees – the ‘arboretorial report’ identifies a loss of 30 TPOs and so we  want reassurance that this will not be some treemaggeddon but  could instead be compensated by replacement and less drastic reduction especially the tree shield along Anson way.

There is extensive tree cover on this waterlogged land for a good reason....
There is extensive tree cover on this waterlogged land for a good reason….

The proposed development would result in an increase in the amount of hard landscaping there and so attention should be paid to the  20 year Flood Action Plan – guide to water & land management….or maybe avoided altogether  by enlarging the school footprint at the expense of the additional retail which would further  avoid conflict with the existing town centre which is another of our stated priorities

 We remain concerned about Sedgemoor’s continued fascination with supermarkets.  Bridgwater is well served by Supermarkets – Asda, Morrison’s, Sainsburys, Aldi, Iceland, Lidl, Farmfoods and on other estate Co-ops & Tesco Express. and so would urge the alternative development of for instance the Hotel option, noting that the attractiveness of Bridgwater to Hotel chains is a positive development and can further extend the micro economies in neighbourhoods where they are introduced

Town centre linkage is crucial
Town centre linkage is crucial

Traffic and Parking concerns

Traffic movements are also a concern, the area around Northgate is particularly busy at what would be school opening and closing times, the towns roads can become gridlocked very easily as has occurred on a regular basis.

Parking is also an issue around Anson Way . Cars are always parked nose to tail along the Anson Way where there is unrestricted parking. This also creates an unsafe crossing area for pedestrians from the brewery field onto the docks area.”

Cllr Smedley "Project moving into a 'critical' phase"
Cllr Smedley “Project moving into a ‘critical’ phase”

Consultation options

As the project moves up a gear public options for consultation are now critical.

Bridgwater Town Planning Panel will meet on Thursday 19th May (10am Town Hall) to add it’s views to the plans and the consultation process remains open until May 21st. People can see the full plan here.