Sedgemoors planning committee voted by 7 votes to 6 against the wishes of ward councillors, residents and Bridgwater councillors present, to approve the controversial proposal for a 45 bed care home on the site of the Sion chapel burial ground in Bridgwater’s historic Friarn street.
Proposing the motion Cllr Derek Alder (Con Kings isle) said “There maybe some overshadowing of nearby properties but by Bridgwater standards it’s quite reasonable” . He was seconded by Cllr Mike Mansfield (Ind Highbridge) who said “We’ll all need care homes soon”. But one where the only amenity space is a graveyard??
Why are we building a ‘workhouse’?
Bridgwater Mayor Cllr Dave Loveridge (Labour Eastover) said “This looks like a workhouse! Why are we building a workhouse!? There’s no ‘dignity’ in this. It’s horrendous. “
He was supported by Bridgwater Councillor Graham Granter (Labour Fairfax) who said “This is overdevelopment, 7 parking spaces is too few, it’s the 13th application there’s been and really they should go back and produce something with adequate parking and amenities.”
Cllr Gill Slocombe (Con Wyndham) made it a full deck of Bridgwater councillors present objecting saying “Is this a care home or a prison? People will be expecting visitors. I am very concerned about the historical aspects being overlooked and there are human remains here.”
Bridgwater resident Bob Cudlipp said “There is also a flood risk as the Durleigh brook goes right through it and this has caused flooding in Blake gardens in recent months. Will the developers be paying the Flood Tarrif?” He was told they wouldn’t.
‘Little joined up thinking’
Westover ward councillor Brian Smedley addressed the meeting to object and said afterwards “Again there’s little joined up thinking here. Of all committees that you’d expect some ‘planning’ it’s the Planning committee. This is clearly an example of overdevelopment in a historic and congested part of the town . We don’t object to brownfield development but we believe that this kind of site requires a more sensitive proposal. This application is for a building of a significant size and would seem to be out of proportion with other historic buildings in the street. “
Cllr Smedley, who has been discussing residents parking schemes with the County Council for almost two years and currently on the cusp of a breakthrough, also criticised the lack of co-ordinated response between agencies including the County who hadn’t objected to the development. “We are also opposing this application because of the impact on parking in this part of the town where residents have demonstrated that congestion is such , due to overdevelopment, that some drastic action is needed to address this issue and instead this scheme will make things worse.Although 7 parking spaces for a 45 bed complex might technically match the so called ‘county standard’ in reality parking will be required for staff ,visiting care workers, friends and relations who will want to visit and it is unrealistic to expect all but a few to arrive by bus or bicycle. There is extremely limited on street parking along adjacent streets and this proposal will only add to the congestion. You have to also ask what will be the quality of life for all these additional people squeezed into an already overcrowded small street.”
At the end of the day, with 13 previous successful applications never getting taken any further, maybe this one also won’t actually stack up financially. Cllr Smedley concluded “It’s all very well cramming these places into any bit of space you can find on a map but who picks up the pieces afterwards? The residents are the ones that have to live with the consequences.”