Westover councillors Steve Austen and Brian Smedley sit on the Town Council’s Planning panel and are able to pass comments and observations on applications before they go forward to the Development Control Committee at Sedgemoor District Council which has the final say. This month saw yet another increase in flat conversions in preparation for the EDF workforce, an update on the controversial Hope Inn demolition and a couple of changes of use for town centre premises.
Bridgwater town centre needs people prepared to commit themselves and their ideas for economic regeneration to it but planning clearly needs to be selective about what we actually should be supporting.
Exactly how many bookies do we need?
An application by the successful Bar Brunel on the corner of Penel Orlieu and Broadway to extend itself into the adjoining disused chipshop was supported by the Panel, but a bid by Bookies Paddy Power to move into the former Burton’s premises at 11 Cornhill was objected to. The Cornhill, a prime shopping area, was already the site of several gambling outlets and the Panel was not happy with the thought of even more of these places taking up key retail space. The Town Clerk advised the Panel that Paddy Powers had successfully faced down a similar objection in Taunton and won on appeal as ‘competition’ isn’t grounds for an objection in planning terms. The panel nevertheless wanted to make it clear that we didn’t think a Paddy Power was appropriate in that location and so stuck to it’s objection.
With a large EDF workforce heading in this direction alongside the ongoing need for increased housing the panel looked favourably on Brownfield sites for such projects. At the same time we wanted to ensure there wasn’t over-development and therefore unsustainable pressure on neighbourhoods were this was proposed. The former skate property at 13-15 Penel Orlieu was following Government guidelines by encouraging residential above retail, but in this instance was refurbishing 2 flats to form 4 flats. As they were intending to refurb and maintain the ground floor retail aspect the Panel supported this.
Brownfield sites on the increase for Housing
Nearby, the former Kampress printworks at 73-75 St Mary street was being converted into an 11 bedroom unit which would include several 2 bed appartments. Whilst there was concern at the lack of parking and a possible over-development around the Green Dragon lane area it was noted that the development was much larger than it looked from the street view and there was some element of family based usage within the plans. The project however had been nevertheless welcomed by the Bridgwater Heritage group and so the Panel noted their comments and supported.
The former Ivy House daycare centre at 23 Friarn street was another property up for flat conversion. 7 two bedroom flats and 1 bedsit was planned. The panel recalled that this very attractive building had once been residential and that there remained extensive parking and a large area of green open space within the compound and so supported, whilst at the same time regretting the decision that it had stopped functioning as a day centre for the elderly.
Hope springs eternal
Taunton road’s Hope Inn was a long standing bone of contention between ward councillors and the developers. Land Promotions Ltd, who had been buying up and knocking down public houses across Bridgwater had set their sights on the Hope and had taken off the roof of the main building and outbuildings already.
In an attempt to prevent the loss of an iconic building in a key location the Town Council and the Civic Society were co-operating to get SDC to declare the building as a ‘Community Asset’ so that community groups could bid for the property to save it. This process was currently being appealed by LP ltd who in turn had now submitted an actual planning application for demolition. This was seen as a strange tactic by the group as in fact they didn’t need to apply for planning permission for demolition. However, seeing as they had the Town Council naturally took the chance to object to demolition to maintain their view that the public resented the activities of this company.
The Town Council planning Panel endorsed the statement by the Heritage group and agreed to refuse in the strongest possible terms the proposed demolition of the Hope Inn. A submission from Miles Kerr-Peterson of the Bridgwater Heritage group stated “Flattening a building and starting from scratch where conversion is more than possible counters sustainability. Outraging a large proportion of the town’s residents can in no way be described as inclusive. The existing building could easily be used as a pub or converted in to a wholly residential use. The Hope Inn is a considerable asset to both the historic environment and the aesthetic environment of the town…Sedgemoor’s ownstrategy and national guidelines render the application untenable.”
Westover Cllr Brian Smedley said “As Chairman of the Town Council’s Community Assets Panel I have written to Land Promotions Ltd and urged them to engage with the town instead of just wrecking it. So far they haven’t replied and so we have to continue to bject in the strongest terms to their activities.”
The appeal hearing for the Community Assets panel will be the 24th November.
Pressure on the Taunton road end of Westover was also raised during the final item of the Panel’s considerations where plans to convert and change the use of dwellings at 94 Taunton road with the erection of a further dwelling to the rear was commented on. Whilst not objecting, the Panel passed observation that with the proposed development over the road at Paragon laundry site, increased traffic use on Taunton road and repeated parking obstructions on the nearby junctions, the access and entrances to the development need to be sympathetic to residents concerns.