Bridgwater Town Council has long advocated the restoration of the towns waterways including the preservation of the docks, enabling the tidal barrier to have a sea lock so that the river is navigable and upgrading the canal. Recent news that the Canal and River Trust (CRT) lease on the docks is coming to an end and that they do not wish to renew it from the owners Somerset County Council, has meant an new urgency to finding a solution. This has combined with the threat to boat owners who may even have to remove their craft from the basin. Further to this there are major repair works needed to the docks, particularly to the Bascule Bridge with it’s ancient mechanism for opening and closing which hasn’t been used for some time, and the perilous predicament of the river facing lock, the collapse or deterioration of which could see an ingress of salt water mixing with the canal water. With the threat to the future of the docks Bridgwater Town Council has stepped forward to find a solution.
Community and Environment Portfolio Holder, Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover) who is fronting the Docks Campaign said “It is Canal and Rivers Trust responsibility for the repairs under the terms of their lease and so Bridgwater Town Council is endeavouring to work with Somerset County Council and the CRT, despite the fact that neither has acknowledged our emails sent weeks ago, but we will continue to work with interested parties to try to find a solution.”
Cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria), the Towns Economy spokesman, said “We are investigating a new Consortium, involving interested parties to take on the responsibility for the running of the Docks and Canal. We had initial meetings this week but it’s important to get the right partners around the table and to establish funding sources. Our next port of call will be Sedgemoor District Council.“
Cllr Glen Burrows (Eastover) Transport portfolio holder for the town , said “ Bridgwater Town Council is determined to maintain the docks as part of our local heritage. We deplore the neglect of the infrastructure and the lack of respect shown to the occupants of the boats there. We are using the space provided by the extension of the lease , and I didn’t think this was directly linked to Covid 19, but to arguments over responsibility for repairs, to persuade Somerset County Council, Canals & River Trust and representatives from the docks community to work jointly to achieve a proper management of the docks.”
Docks Need Investment
Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) said “There is, in all this, the opportunity here for our vision for the future of the Docks to be secured and greatly enhanced. However, this needs new sources of investment because the Docks require significant outstanding works to meet dilapidations-and by that we mean the cost of restoring the Docks to at least the condition they were previously in, along with significant liabilities ,not least the preservation of the Bascule Bridge and the restoration of the Barge Lock The project could also include some substantial areas of land around the docks, maybe linking in with the long promised ‘Celebration Mile’ which is now receiving an injection of money with the imminence of the Northgate project which adjoins the docks, and so the site can play a strategic role in not just opening up wider navigation possibilities but in the broader economic development and tourism potential for the town . This is why we’re investigating the formation of a steering group made up of local people who share our vision of Bridgwater’s role as a centre of navigation with a sustainable transport infrastructure at the heart of a green recovery out of this current covid crisis.” .