The Joint Bridgwater Town Council and Civic Society Panel on Community Assets met this week under the Chairmanship of Westover Councillor Brian Smedley to consider what action could be taken to save key buildings in the town for the community and is urging the public to help identify buildings under threat of sale or demolition before they are lost.
Cllr Smedley said “By the Town Council successfully registering a building on the Community Assets register we are able to prevent a sale for up to 6 months thereby giving the Community a chance to put in it’s own bid or to compel developers to clarify their aims for that building to guarantee whether it is being removed from Community use. The panel is comprised of Town Councillors and Civic Society delegates but we welcome attendance in future by concerned community groups who are prepared to take ownership of identified properties and who have specialist information.”
Putting Hope on the Agenda
Civic Society Chairman Dave Chapple proposed that the Hope Inn on Taunton road and the Magistrates Court on Northgate, both in the Westover ward, be immediately registered. The Panel, which includes Westover councillor and Mayor Steve Austen, Fairfax councillor Pat Morley ,Wyndham councillor Gill Slocombe and town clerk Alan Hurford, discussed the proposals at length and voted to support.
Cllr Smedley said “The Hope inn is currently under offer and so would be a test case as the process of registration would make clear what was being proposed on the site, which is currently unused and surrounded by fencing. There are important ancilliary buildings of an historic nature and a famous skittle alley.”
Jury’s Out on the Magistrates Court
The Magistrates court was a more difficult subject as it’s listing meant that future usage was limited by numerous conditions. Cllr Slocombe said “Several community groups including the Carnival and the Museum had already considered it but had been put off by the limitations.”
Cllr Morley said “We could look at film locations and the media in general, I’m sure they could find a use for this building.”
The Panel agreed to apply to register the Courthouse but also to organise a visit with appropriate experts to explain those restrictions with a view to holding a public open day there.
Cllr Austen said he “Supported the registering of these buildings and the attempts to save them for the community providing that we weren’t giving false hope to people.”
Public Views Sought
Dave Chapple proposed also looking at the Somerset Bridge School – which was outside of Bridgwater but as a neighbouring Parish we believed we should have a view, and also to consider if land could be included – such as the Sion Chapel Burial Ground which was currently being prepared for building a care home on.
Town Clerk Alan Hurford was asked to clarify key legal questions and call a further meeting to look at the answers and to identify, with the help of the public.
Sedgemoor District Council, who manage the register through officer Tim Mander, commented on the next steps “There is a formal application process which involves the applicant identifying the property which should include a plan and provide details of freehold and leasehold interests. The panel of 2 who consider applications consist of the Portfolio Holder for Community and Scrutiny and The Group Manager Community Development. If they agree to registration the owner has two rights of appeal firstly to the Monitoring Officer and if she upholds registration then to an external inspector appointed by the DCLG.“