At Septembers meeting of the Town Council Planning panel, Westover councillors Steve Austen and Brian Smedley were able to add their views to the key planning and licensing issues coming up to help formulate Bridgwater’s position before submitting this to the Sedgemoor Development Control committee for final decision. Some of the main items relating to Westover are highlighted below.
The first item on the agenda was the imminent demolition of the Hope Inn on Taunton road. All members were angry at the failure of the new Community Assets legislation to prevent this.
Cllr Brian Smedley, who chairs the Community Asssets working group, said “We tried to save this building by getting it listed as a Community Asset which should have protected it for 6 months while the community could look at options for taking it over, however, the legislation is totally flawed and doesn’t prevent demolition in that period. SDC Community Assets panel have the final decision to register it and that doesn’t meet until the 28th. No planning permission to demolish is required, it’s not in a conservation area and there’s therefore no breach of planning conditions that can bring about a ‘Stop Notice’. There needs to be a way to stop this kind of thing happening and it doesn’t seem to be this piece of legislation!”
The growing trend to convert buildings into multi-occupation is on the up. Possibly in light of the EDF workforce heading for the town. Today the panel was faced with the proposal to convert 13 High street (Subway) into a multi-occupancy dwelling with 7 bedrooms. Concerns were raised at the lack of communal area within the plans but as the site was previously flats there were no planning ground for objection.
Considerable concern was expressed at a proposal to add 2 extra ground floor flats onto the Westgate House (former tax office) development at the expense of a bin store and with egress onto Penel orlieu. Cllr Smedley said “We support the development of these flats with access from the rear into a self contained space but the history of ground floor dwelling on Penel Orlieu proved to be a disaster. There is further extra expanse into the public highway with a proposed 3 foot high fence”. The Panel objected also on the ground of lack of detailed information and absence of a planning statement.
The Panel were minded to support a request from the Manley Gardens developers Yarlington for additional railings and gates to some front gardens there along the Old Taunton road. This area , which could be suffering some overdevelopment, is throwing up some concerns and a degree of extra protection for exposed parts of it was needed. Cllr Smedley said “There is an increased population in this small area and an increasing number of dogs so I hope the finance committee will support the introduction of extra dog bins we have proposed there.”
An update on the 7 flats proposed for the former dentists at York Buildings was brought to the meeting where it was welcomed that SDC had rejected this on the grounds of density of development.
Following objections from ward councillors, residents and the Heritage Group, a Stop Notice had been issued on the work at the controversial Sion Chapel in Friarn street. There had been objections to the failure to carry out an adequate archaeological survey and also a badger survey.
On Northgate our previous objections to the proposed demolition of the Workhouse had been ignored by County who, despite initially submitting to the planning process now decided that they needn’t have and so were not bound by it. There was also an assumption that there was an imperative to act quickly to remove perceived ‘illegal occupants’.
A licensing issue flagged up to the Panel was the progress of the new Jazz café in the High street. This hard fought for and innovative development was well on the way to being opened up and had now submitted it’s hours to licensing. The Panel supported the proposal for 8am-1am opening (9am to 12pm Sundays) with live music 9-12. The venue would serve food and encourage an over 21’s policy.
Some highway issues came up, noticeably the controversial County changes at Penel Orlieu, Broadway. Members had consistently object to the changes and were not convinced by SCC supremo Harvey Siggs assurances that things would get better over the next 3 months, Town Clerk Alan Hurford said “I have half a dozen people a day call in to complain about this. The problem is 90% of the traffic is now channelled into the right hand lane and this causes the congestion“. Cllr Steve Austen said “The ordinary person in the street could see this was wrong and I don’t think the county people did any real study, I think it was just a case of ‘computer says yes’.” Cllr David Baker said “Heads should roll”.
The TBW(Bridgwater way) cycle route was brought to the attention of the panel for 2 proposed items which raised some eyebrows. A suggestion to open the railing on the south section of Blake Gardens in order to avoid the subway and divert town centre bound traffic onto broadway and into salmon parade was seen as a bit of a diversion when people would still head under the subway. Cllr Baker said “I don’t think they should be spending money on this whole project anyway”.
An additional concern was a suggestion to add a larger entrance space into the south section of Blake gardens from Old Taunton road to apparently increase visibility for cyclists by removing some parking spaces and introducing some small traffic islands.
Cllr Smedley said “I don’t believe residents would be happy with this as Old Taunton road is difficult enough as it is. You cant easily see what’s coming and you have to commit yourself before you know it. This may provide a ‘passing place’ but then it would immediately bring drivers into conflict with cyclists in exactly the same space.”
Comments on the Old Taunton road and Blake gardens proposals can be made by the 24th September via the County website.
The next Town Council planning pane meeting will be on Thursday 16th October.