SDC Scrutiny Committees team up to look at Maritime Matters

'Could joined up thinking lead to the opening up of the Sedgemoor waterways?' Cllr Brian Smedley steering a steady course
‘Could joined up thinking lead to the opening up of the Sedgemoor waterways?’ Cllr Brian Smedley steering a steady course

On Monday 5th October the Sedgemoor Scrutiny Committees – Corporate chaired by Brian Smedley and Community chaired by Kath Pearce, will meet jointly to look at all matters maritime that might benefit from some joined up thinking in the wake of the proposed River Parrett Tidal Barrier.

Brian Smedley explained “There is a great opportunity here to get this right. The Barrier is certainly going to happen –but exactly how it operates will determine whether or not the river can be accessible in future and therefore navigable. That’s already an issue due to the fixed span bridges that have been put in over the years seaward of the docks. However, there are proposals that could keep the river at a consistent height and therefore open up navigability to the Town Centre and further upstream towards the interior of the Somerset levels- to Weston Zoyland Puming Station and to Langport for instance. If that’s feasible then there’s the option to re-open the docks – maybe via the barge lock. If that’s possible then there’s no reason the Bridgwater-Taunton Canal couldn’t be linked into the waterways and coastal tourism network which would bring great economic opportunities. All this will depend on the operational nature and mechanics of the barrier. On top of this there’s the proposals for a Tidal Lagoon in the Parrett Estuary –and joined up thinking would require advance consideration of that in this whole series of possibilities. We can’t just go blindly into this.”

Cllr Kathy Pearce "Tidal barrier is crucial to what else can be done on our waterways"
Cllr Kathy Pearce “Tidal barrier is crucial to what else can be done on our waterways”

What will work and what’s ‘pie in the sky’

Kath Pearce said “The meeting will be in three parts. The Tidal Barrier is crucial to what else can be done on our waterways. First we’ll ask SDC to give us the background to situation and where we are with the options that are being considered. Then it will be over to the Environment Agency to explain why delivery of the Barrage is being accelerated and what progress has been made, what their preferred option for the barrier is and then the likely impact on the port and the docks and the proposed Bridgwater Bay tidal lagoon. Finally we want to bring in Community groups like the Inland Waterways Association, Military Boats and the Friends of Bridgwater Docks who have big plans for the river, canal and docks that are dependent on these first stages. Crucially we need to fathom out what will work and what is pie in the sky”

The meeting, which will start at 2.30pm at Bridgwater House,Kings Square, will be open to the public and will bring together experts and campaigners involved in a wide range of key areas.