Sedgemoor District Council Portfolio Holder for Business and Development Mike Caswell (Con, Quantocks) came under pressure from almost every Bridgwater Labour Councillor today at Full Council over his claims that the long promised ‘Celebration Mile’ is a ‘High priority’ project although ‘progress is slow’.
The Celebration Mile stretches from Railway Station to Bridgwater Docks and links the two via the main shopping streets and promises regeneration. However, very little appears to be happening and the general feeling is that the whole project is just about paying lip service and not delivering. Cllr Caswell said “Discussions are continuing with a number of agencies including Network Rail,The County Council and others.”
‘Fund waiting to be accessed’
The Celebration Mile was presented as a major project to regenerate Bridgwater by improving the Town centre, especially the access routes, with lighting, trees, street furniture, signage, pedestrian and cyclist friendly routes providing a welcome to shoppers and attracting new businesses whilst creating safe access to parks, residential areas and community facilities whilst celebrating Bridgwater’s heritage, yet nothing at all has happened to progress it.
Cllr Mick Lerry (Lab,Victoria) said “There is £800,000 in a County Fund just waiting to be accessed, people don’t understand what the delay is. We want to know who you are engaging with to get these works done! Who are the ‘others’?”
Cllr Caswell (Con, Quantocks) said “I’ve been to several meetings involving Sedgemoor, Somerset, First Great Western. This is a major project and it keeps getting held up by one group or another but things are progressing”
We want a timeline
The idea behind the Celebration Mile was to transform areas of the town and attract further investment whilst creating a better experience for residents and visitors.
Cllr Moira Brown (Lab, Eastover) said “I just see prevarication. You don’t know when it’s going to happen, you’re full of ‘ifs’ and ‘we are going to’ but there’s no end in site. We want a timeline.”
Cllr Caswell said “If people were positive and not negative then we might get it done”
Cllr Brian Smedley (Lab,Westover) said “We are being positive. We positively asked for £100,000 to be spent on the Docks and you voted against it, we’re positively backing CIM bids for the town centre. It’s fine you being all aspirational but we want something thats implementational. Amongst these ‘others’ do you include Bridgwater Town Council? We have stated we want to work with you on this project.!”
Cllr Duncan McGinty (Con,East Polden) jumped to his beleaguered colleagues aid “They are and we do!”
Project ‘not being taken seriously’
The Celebration Mile was designed as a major facelift project for the town centre as part of the ‘Bridgwater Vision’ and was intended to create a pedestrian priority route taking in the Station, St John Street, Eastover, the Town Bridge, Fore street, the Cornhill, Northgate and the Docks
Cllr Wes Hinckes (Lab, Hamp) said “The people of Bridgwater want to be part of a vision and are upset that this project is not being taken seriously. Can’t you take some responsibility and tell us where we are with it and give us at least a timeline?”
Cllr McGinty said “It is aspirational and it isn’t just about SDC. We simply can’t give you a timeline. Anyone who has tried negotiating with a Trade Union can tell you these things take time”
County influence needed
At it’s Northern end the Celebration Mile includes Northgate and the Docks which the document says ‘will create a distinctive and attractive new destination and northern gateway to the town centre’ and encouraging a greater use of the water.
Bridgwater Town Council has clearly stated these are shared objectives, Sedemoor appears to share the ‘aspiration’ and County holds a pot of money.
Cllr Caswell pleaded “If any of you are also County Councillors I urge you to exert some influence there”
Cllr Leigh Redman (Lab, Dunwear) said “You should influence your own councillors as they run County. I’m sure it isn’t hard to call a meeting of all double hatters. Our side all support this project.”
To read more about Celebration Mile click here.