At today’s meeting of Bridgwater Town Council Planning Panel several key issues affecting Westover were brought up. Cllr Brian Smedley was there and reports on the meeting.
The main issue of contention today was the plans to demolish the Northgate Workhouse site. County staff have moved out of here and the site is earmarked for Tescos. If they’re actually even still going ahead is another major question at the moment. So it was of great concern to locals that a major disposal operation of a historic building was now being rushed through the planning process via the ‘demolition’ route. In meetings with the planning officer it was made clear that in this case ward members couldn’t object to the actual demolition, just to the process of demolition. However, there was plenty to object to, not least the fact that SDC appear to have botched the process including calling for consultation until 27th August, yet a decision has already been taken and that the decision was that ‘no decision was needed’. I have asked Chief Exec Kerry Rickards for a full investigation into this as it’s an area of major controversy which the planning officer accepts includes ‘a regrettable error’ and SDC needs to be seen to be totally transparent during the process.
Breaker Morant’s birthplace to be broken up
The Workhouse was the birthplace of the famous ‘Breaker Morant’ (who you can learn about in the 1980 film starring Edward Woodward) . At the Town Council Planning meeting we made the key points that the site was of great historic interest to the people of Bridgwater and supported the Bridgwater Heritage Group’s observations that a full photographic record needs to be made of the building before it’s too late and the views of residents concerning intrusive hours of demolition and maintenance of rights of way be recognised. SDC’s record on this plot of land is not great and we have had to scrutinise in great detail issues in the past from the disposal of the land to the issue of payment of planning fees. Very soon there will be a decision on whether Tescos really are going there and if not what will then happen to the Brewery field and these buildings – and of course by rushing demolition through now the playing field is yet again changed for any Plan B.
Contaminated land at Friarn street
Another area of contention at today’s meeting is the sudden emergence of advance works on the Sion Chapel Burial Ground in Friarn Street. Westover ward councillors had objected to this not just because it disturbs a historic cemetery but also because of issues of overshadowing and parking. It seems the advance works are suddenly going ahead but without the proper conditions being observed. The Panel asked SDC to delay this development until all the necessary consents are actually given including those from the Dept of Justice regarding contaminated grounds.
Paragon of variability
The Planning Panel raised objection to the proposed variation of planning conditions at the former Paragon Laundry site on Taunton road. Ward councillors had already objected to the development on behalf of residents who feared overshadowing although SDC planning committee had voted it through. This attempt to vary the hours of delivery was considered unacceptable.
Around the ward in 8 minutes
Less contentious issues included the display of a non illuminated fascia on the Scope shop on Binford Place to accommodate their new logo. Members were mildly irritated by the inclusion of an E in Bridgwater and so hoped to make the point by replying to Scop.
Another expression of disappointment within the Westover ward was with the County Council for their poor notification of the TRO-Temporary Road Closure for works in Hamp and Elmwood Avenues which they had already been forced to repeat and had just about got away with it. Residents had expressed disappointment in the process to ward councillors.
A further item affecting Westover – although you may not notice it – was the request for changes to the cashpoint facility at the Taunton road shops. This seemed uncontentious enough.
Bridgwater Town Council Planning Panel recommendations are forwarded to SDC’s Development Committee where the actual decisions are made regarding planning – but it’s good to see if you’re being listened to or ignored anyway. The next Planning Panel meeting will be on September 18th and members of the public are welcome. If only to keep Bob Cudlipp company in the gallery…