Westover councillors Brian Smedley and Steve Austen sit on the Town Council Planning Panel along with councillors Lerry (Victoria) Morley (Fairfax) Tucker(Dunwear) Turner(Hamp) and Baker (Wyndham). Each month they get a cursory glance at the town’s planning applications and can pass their recommendations on to Sedgemoor’s Development Control Committee which makes the final decision.
The first issue up at the January meeting which affected Westover was an attempt by Nat West bank, at York Buildings to re-advertise themselves with some extra and replacement signage including fascia sign with illuminated lettering, signs that projected from the building and some extra panels. Members objected to this as the building was of a historical character. Cllr Austen said “Replacement fixtures need to be like for like.” Cllr Mrs Morley said “This is just a vanity project, people know who NatWest are.” Town Clerk Alan Hurford stressed that objections had to have a planning reason and “Vanity wasn’t one”. Cllr Smedley urged rejected on the grounds that the “Historical aspect had not being taken into consideration and the proposed changes did nothing to enhance the area”.
Flat Conversions and Tree trimming
With the imminent arrival of the EDF workforce the panel was receiving more and more house conversions to multiple use. The refurb of 6 flats at 13-15 Penel Orlieu along with the replacement of the former ground floor restaurant with a takeaway, was accepted by the panel with words of caution that the timber window frames needed retaining and an area kept aside for recycling.
The trimming back of a tree in the grounds of the Lions Club on West Quay was acknowledged as being necessary and thereby supported with cllr Baker saying “It just needed a haircut”.
Neighbouring ward issues
Planning matters of some concern affected neighbouring wards and caused considerable debate, such as the Federal Mogul development in Colley Lane Eastover. The proposal there to remove ‘condition 7’ of the previously granted planning permission thus leading to the demolition of existing buildings on the former industrial site and thereby allowing the building of 126 homes was supported after some debate about the nature of housing developments around the town. It was accepted that if houses were needed then such brownfield developments were the way forward. Cllr Lerry argued that there should be “a recognised boundary between commercial and residential and considerable retention of green space with adequate screening”.Cllr Morley was concerned that we were “losing town centre industrial sites by infilling them all with housing” but Cllr Baker said “That’s a good thing, we need to get these lorries out of town”. Alan Hurford said “There is a housing need and brownfield sites are the way to meet this.”
Overshadowing historical sites in West Street
Another issue of concern was a proposed building project along West street. Most of west street is in Westover but the small section from the canal to Durleigh road on the north side is in Wyndham, Owners at 122 West street were planning to add an extension-which was accepted but also to take down a tree and building a 2 story dwelling in the garden. Councillors were concerned at the overlooking impact of this into neighbouring properties and also supported the Bridgwater heritage groups objections about the sensitive nature of the historical site, the neighbouring houses being “considerably earlier than Georgian”. There was also concerned with such possible ‘backland development’ giving access issues onto the service lanes behind the properties. The Panel objected and called for an appropriate heritage statement, archaeologiical monitoring and advice from SDC’s tree expert.
The much heralded ‘Eastover Hotel’ planned for the site of the former co-op (nearby Aldi’s) was now asking for an additional floor to accommodate another 20 beds. Seen as a potential regeneration factor for Eastover this was supported, noting that Bridgwater lacked hotel space and this would now provide 100 beds albeit over 5 floors. Cllr Baker was concerned “Will it be a hotel as we know it or something temporary to house Hinkley point workers? I have a horrible feeling we won’t get what we expect.”
Temporary Road Closures coming to the Panel included those in Durleigh Road which the Town Council had kicked up about. There would be a 4-5 day closure of Durleigh road due to gas mains being in the centre of the road and therefore no margin for continued traffic flow either side during the works. Alan Hurford said that the Town Council had argued for the maintenance of a 2-way flow in Northfield during this time and whilst the SCC diversions involved sending people on a wild tour of the Quantock villages, “99% of locals would know the shortcuts through the estates”.
In Hamp road closures on Rhode Lane, King Georges Avenue, Parkstone and Queens road were being introduced to upgrade the junction works there . Cllr Austen said “This is vital and similar to what has been done by the Rhode Lane shops. This table effect has had a positive result in slowing down the traffic.”
Items of notoriety
Other items of note – if not notoriety – included the change of shopfront paintwork to 32A Angel Crescent – which the Panel was not able to comment on as SDC had already granted this without presenting the Town Council with the option to object and an update on our objections to 10 York Buildings-which had been totally ignored by SDC. The Panel had asked for conditions to be applied to the basement conversion there due to the historical interest of the site- SDC simply decided there wasn’t one. Members wondered if anyone had actually in fact gone to take a look.
Finally approval was given to an illuminated sign for the new Bridgwater College ‘McMillan Theatre’ now being completed on the land off Bath road (which SDC had originally given planning permission for a skatepark to). Cllr Smedley pointed out “The College needs to stop referring to this project as ‘an Arts Centre’ and stick to the McMillan Theatre label as we already have one Arts Centre in the town. Maybe we could remind them of this.”