Ward Councillors object to ‘burial ground’ ‘Care Home’ proposals

kath pearce at sion
Cllr Kathy Pearce , objecting on the grounds of ‘over development’

Plans to build a care home on the site of a cemetery are being contested by Westover ward district councillors Kathy Pearce and Brian Smedley when it comes to Development Control Committee on Tuesday 18th March .

The proposal by Acorn Developments will see the erection of a 4-storey building to form 45 bedroom elderly persons Care and a 3 storey building to form 6 Extra Care apartments for the elderly on Land between Friarn Street and, Broadway, Bridgwater. Whilst the site is currently vacant and has been overgrown for a number of years it is situated within the designated Bridgwater Town Centre Conservation Area and historically was occupied by the Sion Chapel (latterly the Salvation Army citadel) erected in 1822. Although this building was demolished in 1971, the 1822 building replaced an earlier building which had been in ecclesiastical use for a number of year prior to its replacement and contains a large number of graves possibly in the order of 90.

Cllr Kathy Pearce said ” Friarn Street is one of the oldest streets in Bridgwater and is steeped in history dating as far back as 1230 when the Franciscan Grey Friars settled in the town and took possession of some of the land. We therefore believe that this kind of site requires a sensitive proposal. This application however, is a building of a significant size and would seem to be out of proportion with other historic buildings in the street. Therefore we are objecting on the grounds of over-development”.

Cllr Brian Smedley, who will put the ward members case at the Tuesday meeting, added “We are also opposing this application because we believe that 7 parking spaces to be insufficient for a 45 bed complex. Parking will be required for staff , along with visiting care workers plus friends and relations who will want to visit and it is unrealistic to expect all but a few to arrive by bus or bicycle. There is extremely limited on street parking along adjacent streets which is subject to short time restrictions. Friarn street is an applicant street to the Westover residents parking scheme and is in the process of looking at ways to alleviate the pressure of parking due to overdevelopment already there and this proposal will only add to the congestion. You have to also ask what will be the quality of life for all these people squeezed into an already overcrowded small street.”

“Who picks up the pieces after these developments are approved?”

sion chapel site plan
Sion Chapel site plan in Bridgwater’s Town Centre conservation area.

Kathy continued “We accept that at the moment it’s an eyesore and we support the concept of brownfield development but you have to ask in cases like this why there have been so many applications for this site over the years and none of which have actually been taken any further. Maybe it doesn’t actually stack up financially.It’s all very well cramming these places into any bit of space you can find on a map but who picks up the pieces afterwards? The residents are the ones that have to live with the consequences.”

Bridgwater and District Civic Society have also objected saying “The design is uninspiring – the height is overbearing, it is unattractive and disproportionate to Friarn Lawn.The access is ill conceived and there will be potential conflicts. There has been a lack of community consultation. There is a lack of reference to features of historical and archaeological significance. Archaeological remains (graves) may be of national importance. The impact of the application cannot be accurately evaluated without proper reference to the historiographical material.”

The Bridgwater Heritage Group have also objected angrily citing “ poor community consultation” and continuing “ The site is contaminated with industrial waste from Bristol; the proposal may result in a significant adverse environmental impacts; there is a lack of information regarding drainage and the existing sewers crossing the site; lack of ecological Heritage Assets is inadequate, in particular setting and the listed building opposite (The Priory); the detailing of the proposed buildings is poor; the front building should be set back; the access is wrongly located; parking is unrealistic and inadequate; the travel report is fundamentally flawed and worthless; the Friarn Street frontage has some merit; the form of the main block is unsatisfactory and too high, it will have an adverse impact upon the setting of Friarn Lawn; the design does not meet the criteria of the LDF and NPPF; certain materials should be employed.”

The proposal has raised doubts in the minds of many residents and several further objections were submitted including “The proposal will block out daylight resulting in higher utility bills” “The road and entrance will be too narrow” “Increase in traffic at unsocial hours” “The Georgian sewer is overloaded and will not be able to cope;Sewerage has previously flooded a neighbouring properties cellar” “Four floors is too great, there are no other four storey high buildings in this area”

You can visit the councils planning web site to add your comments below.

Sion Chapel Planning application