Thirty people attended the latest Town Development Forum meeting at Bridgwater Town Hall to hear Sedgemoors Principal Development Officer Sam Harper outline the latest phase in the plans to enhance the Town centre as part of the CIM Bid that included such innovations as the Quayside festival, now in its second year, and the much heralded Celebration mile. The meeting was chaired by Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley with minutes taken by Deputy Leader Cllr Kathy Pearce.
Cllr Smedley said after the meeting “The purpose of these Development Forums is to keep the public on board with these plans that affect them and our town. People eagerly grabbed the chance to offer their views, to add ideas,expertise and extra vision where necessary and to criticise where appropriate. However, the overwhelming majority present supported the plans as they’ve been worked up and we will be reporting this to Full Council along with the other ideas that came up.”
Cllr Pearce’s full report of the meeting below;-
Cllr Brian Smedley opened the meeting by welcoming everyone . He introduced Sam Harper and Carla Modley of Sedgemoor District Council, who were present to give an update on works planned for the town centre funded by the HPC CIM (Community Impact Mitigation) bid.
SH commenced by giving the background to the bid:
- The need for investment in the town centre to improve the retail environment
- The Bridgwater Vision
- Fore Street being at the heart of the Celebration Mile
- HPC presented impacts and opportunities
- The elements within the CIM bid had been incorporated into the SDC Core Strategy and Economic Development Strategy, therefore giving legal status to plans for the town centre enhancement.
The CIM bid submitted by BTC/Town Team in partnership with SDC included four elements:
- England Coast Path – improved signage – to encourage tourists to explore the town
- Retail Support Initiatives which included training and support to retailers
- Events programme (Quayside Festival, Snowflakes and Shopping, Food Festival)
- Physical enhancements to Fore Street.
He explained the consultation processes which had taken place and proposals included in the bid:
- Updating and decluttering signage, including Twin Towns sign
- Tree replacement on Cornhill
- Freshening up the Fore Street furniture
- Seating in focal areas
- Reconfiguring and removing the railings from the raised platform at the Fore Street/West Quay junction
- More flower displays
- Re-siting bins
- Improved cycle parking
- Interpretation boards
- Employment of Town Centre Co-ordinator
- Funding for ongoing maintenance of improvements.
The next steps would be:
- A planning application to Somerset County Council – late March/early April
- A legal highway agreement
- Tender for works
- Construction to commence late June/early July.
- Lighting for the town bridge
- Improvements to town bridge/Eastover junction to improve connectivity and the flow of pedestrians and traffic
- Improvements to Clare Street – resolving the conflict between pedestrians and traffic and flow to Northgate and Angel Precinct
- Eastover feasibility.
The meeting was then opened up to questions:
T Powell;-: Would there be opportunities for further recycling – ie recycling bins?
A: Clean Surroundings was actively involved. Currently there were no plans to increase recycling but SH would take that back to Clean Surroundings for further consideration.
N Gibson: Parking is limited in High Street because of taxi ranks and loading bays. This deters shoppers.
A: SH to take this back to Town Team.
N Gibson: Could there be more cycle parks to make it easier for cyclists to shop?
A: Yes, more cycle parks had been included in the bid.
N Gibson: The paving on Cornhill was beginning to break up. Had lime been considered instead of concrete? Were shops charged for any building debris left behind?
A: SH to take this back for further consideration. He explained that much of the damage was caused by vehicles parking on the paving. Measures would be put in place to deter this.
M Slade: Was there any money for a Town Constable?
A: There would be a ‘Town Co-ordinator’ to work with businesses, public, police and other agencies. The town was covered by a very efficient Town Centre Beat Team, who had resolved many of the anti-social behaviour issues in the town.
M Kelly: Believed Bridgwater was a dying town and that the pedestrianisation was a cause. He also believed this had attracted ASB to the town centre and felt that traffic should be re-introduced and the statue moved back to the Cornhill. He noted that M&S were returning but this was to a Retail park. So what was being done to attract new businesses into the town centre?
A: The plan was that public sector investment would make the town more a more attractive place to shop and stay for a coffee/meal etc. National retailers were not interested in the small shop spaces within the town centre and it was hoped that the enhancements to the retail park which was bringing in M&S and other national chains, would also have a knock on benefit to the town centre as it was within easy walking distance.
S Coram described the proposals as ‘fantastic’ and congratulated S Harper on his work
R Smith said Bridgwater was not at all a dying town and was in better shape than many.
M Lerry pointed to the opportunities of the EDF investment to provide a legacy project
At the end of the questions, Cllr Smedley thanked Sam and Carla for attending and invited the audience to stay and discuss the proposals further. Which they did.
Recommendation to Bridgwater Town Council: The TDF welcomed the proposals, as set out with the additional comments included within the minutes
Future projects for consideration: Dates to be scheduled
- Library Service
- Youth Focus – ie provision and young groups looking at civic space (CIAM6 conference)
- Transport Strategy for Bridgwater
- Proposed University of Somerset
Cllr Brian Smedley Leader of Bridgwater Town Council firstname.lastname@example.org