Northgate School Proposal Passed Amidst Criticism of Design

The new Northgate School-but have they got the design right?
The new Northgate School-but have they got the design right?

At today’s Sedgemoor District Council Development Control Committee the long awaited proposals for a new school on the Northgate site were passed but with a condition that officers re-look at the design to break up the facade. The committee voted 11 in favour 1 against and 1 abstention.

Cllr Brian Smedley, Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, said “The main thrust of the proposal today was to get the much needed school up and running whilst committing the council to a process which would eventually see a leisure complex on site, an enhanced public open space and either a foodstore or a hotel. People were naturally concerned at the massive loss of trees on site but were reassured by the officers that replacements would be forthcoming and they were also disappointed that proposed junction works to provide access to the site were not going to be completed at the same time as the school. It was also widely felt that yet another foodstore was not needed and there was much criticism of the unimaginative design of the school.”

Northgate back on the table
Northgate -a new route from town centre to docks

Nick Gibson (Bridgwater Forward) said “The design is cheap and dull. Do not build yet another eyesore that we’ll have to tidy up in the future. And leave the trees alone because they ain’t making any more!”

Cllr Graham Granter (Labour Fairfax), who voted against the proposal, said “We have to get the infrastructure in place first. This is already a busy  junction. we want the new school but we want the road improvements at the same time!”

Cllr Dawn Hill (Con, Cheddar)  said “The loss of trees is appalling. The design is appalling. There is no reason for poor design. It’s not rocket science and I can’t believe that with a bit more thought we can find a way to break up that facade.”

Full text of Cllr Smedleys presentation from Town Council  and Westover ward.

Cllr Brian Smedley
Cllr Brian Smedley “School is needed now-the rest is a direction of travel we agree in outline”

 “Bridgwater Town Council wants to support this project and SO we have directly engaged in the consultation process,  crucially by setting up our Town Development Forum-which brings together a wide cross section of the town so that this time round the people of the town can actually be a part of a project that affects them. As a result of these meetings we have broadly supported the grand design. However now we are moving into a potentially more critical phase as the detail becomes apparent.

We support the Leisure led facility and the enhancement of Brewery Field but are concerned at the phasing priorities of these options. We feel enhancements should be brought forward, possibly as part of the celebration mile and which included the docks to town centre links as a major attraction – we suggest a 2 pronged approach to the Celebration Mile be a priority – simultaneously focussing on both station and docks to town centre.

We support the focal point Workhouse interpretation feature as proposed and we support the school but a key concern is potentially poor design and traffic issues

We want to be assured of sustainable walk/cycle routes and adequate car parking/drop off which doesn’t affect residents.

We are 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.

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

We are concerned about the major loss of trees – the ‘arb 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. 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 and Land Management or 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.

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.

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

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

“Finally we are concerned about the continued fascination with supermarkets. Bridgwater is well served by Supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Aldi, Iceland, Lidl, Farmfoods and so would urge the alternative development of the hotel option, noting that the current attractiveness of Hotel chains to Bridgwater is a positive development and can further extend the micro economies in neighbourhoods where they are introduced.

Accordingly we broadly support the school, leisure, hotel and green space options but would ask that this be subject to conditions relating to the retention of trees, crucial junction works being brought forward and a rejection of the supermarket option in favour of the hotel option..”

The outline proposals for Northgate
The outline proposals for Northgate