At this months meeting of the Bridgwater Town Development Forum, organised by the Town Council in order to bring together different organisations in the town through a system of delegates, NICK TAIT(Senior planning officer Sedgemoor District Council) gave an overview of the consultation results to the Local Plan, focusing on Bridgwater, and including the main development site options , transport and the Tidal Surge Barrier.
Mr Tait said Sedgemoor had an annual target of delivering 505 houses but were currently delivering 580 and they had to consider whether to spread development around the district or to concentrate it. In doing so they had to be aware of environmental impact and infrastructure requirements specifically transport, schools and health. Other key considerations included minimising greenfield development and the danger of flooding.
He pointed to several proposed developments which could impact on Bridgwater-
This was the Cokerhurst farm proposal which could see housing in the Wembdon and Durleigh parishes abutting the A39 beyond the Whitegates roundabout. This was greenfield and presented some problems with steep sloping valleys. It would also provide the opportunity to relocate Haygrove school. Infrastructure would be delivered through 106 agreements and CIL.The area is private farmland with a development option.Clearly the implication was that the outer Parishes would reap the financial reward and Bridgwater would suffer the strain on existing infrastructure.
This was the development between existing Bower manor and the motorway and was in flood zone 3A. It could provide 400 new homes but had little transport impact. The area could however be opened up consequent to the new Colley lane relief road and would also require additional primary school provision. There was SCC land for this possibility.
This was primarily the Huntworth development which was largely employment focussed and based on junction24. It also included possible land south of the motorway which was Notaro owned and could be used to improve the motorway services and relief congestion on the A38.
Proposed development of up to 2,500 homes in the Chilton Trinity area was on a ‘less likely‘ list largely due to variables concerning the potential developers requirements to tie it with the Barrage and a bridge and also a tidal bund stretching from Wembdon Hill to the Poldens. The area was a floodplain. However, such a development could open up the way for provision of a Northern By Pass.
Whilst all the above were of varying degrees deliverable in the short term, the road infrstructure to compliment these were all ‘long term‘. Three major roads were envisaged but none looked iminent.
- A Northern By Pass linking Dunball to Sandford corner –this had long been a major aim in particular to free up town centre congestion and to provide a tourist route westwards
- A Southern By Pass linking Huntworth to the West of the town (this was seen has having the most benefit)
- An Eastern link road – was seen as less achieveable due to the complex net of river, canals and ponds on the way but also with the least beneficial outcome.
Nick Tait explained that there was now greater flexibility in High street planning following the campaign which achieved variation with the highway 61 test case. There was also the acceptance of the need for a leisure focus following a popular campaign plus the aim for mixed leisure, retail, education on Northgate.
The target for this was 2024, and had been brought forward 15 years in the wake of the serious flooding in 2013. He was working closely with the Environment Agency and consultants CH2M had been appointed to take the options forward. 7 locations for the barrier were on the table and these would be reduced to a key target area by the summer. It was clear that the options became cheaper the narrower of the river and there was a concern that the final choice might be cost led.
Contributions from the floor
Nick Gibson (Bridgwater Forward) said he was concerned that the ever growing house building without appropriate road infrastructure would see the country end up like Hong Kong. He felt Bridgwater was just part of a large metropolis stretching from Wellington to Burnham. He felt SDC overlooked the tourist potential of Bridgwater in favour of Burnham,Cheddar and the Quantocks and just saw it as a location for cheap housing developments which at the same time paid no concern to our heritage reference the recent case of the Hope Inn.
Mike Slade (Friends of Bridgwater Docks) said that more attention should be given to water penning in the river which could open up the waterways as a focal point. He was also concerned at the potential overdevelopment of areas which could create additional flooding potential with water run off.
Ray Alexander (Inland Waterways) said the Barrier project provided a great opportunity for Bridgwater and more thought needed to be given to future planning that kept options for the future open such as a lock which could lead to navigability of the river, the opening up of the docks and canal and making use of our water assets for regeneration purpose as they have done in Bristol and Exeter
Ian Tucker (Bridgwater Forward) said he could see a lot of houses but was worried that employers might not provide the jobs necessary if the infrastructure of the town made it an unattractive place to locate. He felt park and ride was essential and park and leisure amenities crucial
Tricia Walsh (Dockside residents) urged the looking into how European cities managed their waterways and regeneration through their arterial systems
Alan Jeffferey (Blacklands residents) said Town Centres should be a social meeting place
Recommendations to Bridgwater Town Council
Chairing the Forum, Westover Councillor Brian Smedley, Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, summed up the feeling of the meeting. “There is concern that Housing development would go ahead without the neccesary road infrastructure and that therefore transport options should be a priority. It’s clear that these major housing developments have the green light to go ahead in the short term but that the By-Pass and distributor road networks needed will not be achieved at the same time – if ever. This clearly isn’t acceptable because housing without infrastructure will simply put an increasing burden on our medieval road network. This will be compounded by the fact that the developments proposed are all ‘greenfield’ and all ‘edge of town’ in neighbouring parishes so in fact those parishes gain a precept and Bridgwater bears the consequences.”
“There is also clearly great concern about the destruction of our heritage through planning decisions which create further problems at the same time. A key example is the destruction of the Hope inn and the chaos that will be created by over development along the busy Taunton road and so it goes without saying that priority should be given to preserving Bridgwater‘s built heritage before it’s all gone”
Cllr Smedley concluded “Despite these major setbacks there are also opportunities which we need to grasp. There is great enthusiasm around the Forum for the opening up of our Waterways including the river, canal and docks and these should be a key consideration when determining the Barrier provision, location and type. A lock system and penned water levels should also be considered now before the opportunity is missed. Also it’s perceived that Bridgwater is being overlooked when it comes to Tourism when in fact we have a lot to offer, so naturally the Forum believes that a greater emphasis on regeneration through Tourism should be made.”