Bridgwater Town Council has been engaged in negotiations with Somerset County Council for over a year to try to find a Community led solution to the future of Bridgwater Docks. However, as the parties edge closer to that solution a new threat to the project has emerged as a result of Canal and Rivers Trust’s (CRT) instruction to boat owners to remove their boats by 31st January 2021 as they have given notice to Somerset County Council to end their lease. Boat owners are determined to resist this move and have launched a petition which is already picking up hundreds of signatures.
Petition organiser and boat owner Tim Gilbert says “We oppose this request on the grounds that the request is premature whilst discussions are ongoing to try to secure a successful future for the docks, which includes retention of the boats and moorings. We are significantly concerned that instructing boat owners to find other moorings whilst Coronavirus persists potentially causes risk to health, especially as movements to other areas is restricted and options to move locally are non-existent.”
Why is this important?
Tim continues in the words of the petition “Bridgwater Docks is a unique environment and the boating community brings life and purpose to the docks which is hugely valued by everyone within the town. If this listed site is abandoned and left to decay will eventually become unsafe and an eyesore in the area and for the community. We, the undersigned, therefore feel strongly that the boats must remain in Bridgwater Docks and ask that Somerset County Council instruct Canal and Rivers Trust to rescind their notice to boat owners to move their boats by 31st January 2021 until all other avenues have been exhausted.”
Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover), who has been working on the Docks project as part of her BTC Community portfolio, added “The lease did actually expire in July 2020 but it was extended indefinitely under the same terms, with CRT required to give 3 months’ notice, which they have now done, so the lease now expires on 1st March 2021. They did not require a new lease. The terms of the lease are such that CRT are required to return the docks to SCC empty. However, as talks are progressing on a viable option for the future management of the docks, we believe that SCC should request CRT to rescind their notice to boat owners.”
Town Council Leader and Westover Ward Councillor Brian Smedley said “It is a really inopportune moment for CRT to take this course of action when we have a community solution and potential source of funding in place to save the docks and bring one of Bridgwater’s most famous heritage sites back into the public domain and restore it for future generations. But key to that is the existence of a living working community within those docks. We totally support this petition and urge Somerset County and CRT to instead prioritise working together on this solution and recognise that this must include the people who live on the docks staying there with their boats so that we go forward with a vibrant existing community with ownership, experience and dedication.”
Please sign the petition
The petition can be found here.