Following the Tesco’s debacle, which followed the Sedgemoor Splash debacle, everyone is now working together for a third time lucky option for Bridgwater’s key Northgate site. The next chance for major public input into what happens next will come mid May with a series of meetings and decisions.
The Story so far
In 2009 , despite being faced by a wave of popular opposition, Sedgemoor District Council decided to demolish the popular swimming pool, the Sedgemoor Splash, in order to pave the way for a major retail led development. The site was flattened in anticipation. And stayed that way ever since,
In 2014 the ‘major retail option’ (unsurprisingly Tesco) decided it wasn’t coming after all and instead sent a big pile of money as compensation.
After the 2015 elections saw Labour Bridgwater and Tory Sedgemoor agreed to work together to find a ‘leisure led’ solution to the site, which had been sought all along by Bridgwater Town Council and by poll after poll of Bridgwater people.
A mutual way forward
Bridgwater Town Council set up a ‘Town Development Forum’ as the key outlet for ensuring public involvement on the way to achieving this and between August and November 2015 it was clear the popular way forward was
1.a major leisure facility on the Splash site (as yet undetermined exactly what, but a Multi-Plex cinema and associated attractions and outlets was a strong option)
2. The enhancement of the Brewery field as a public open space
3. An outcome compatible not in competition to the existing town centre.
Very strong support for the above was tempered only by the news that a school was now the favoured option for Somerset County Council and their bit of the land. After several presentations and consultations, plus the hard facts that a new school was in fact desperately needed, a majority supported the school idea on condition that it was served by new sustainable pedestrian walk to school routes and that the very likely traffic increase was recognised and dealt with adequately.
By 2016 there was a looming crisis over the possible demolition of the workhouse hospital which would be required to allow space for the school. A campaign to convert the building and preserve the existing shell or at least materials was on the Launchpad, but cooled as an emergency round table meeting between Town, County and Campaigners reluctantly accepted that compromises had to be made to get the school up and running.
The guns have fallen silent over the lines of daffodils planted to mark the Tescos battlefield (they’re still there) and now the next phase is being laid out before us.
The Northgate Spring
On 18th May Sedgemoor District Council will be presented with the next stage of proposals at a public meeting (starting at 1430).
Thursday 19th May 1400 will be the turn of Bridgwater Town Council Planning Panel to add it’s views to the mix.
27th May is the final deadline for replies to the consultation, currently online here.
And 21st June will be the date of the Sedgemoor Planning Committee that final decides yes or no.
Bridgwater Town Council is therefore holding a Town Development Forum meeting at the Town Hall on Tuesday 17th May where the plans will be presented and delegates will have the chance to ask questions, make comment and submit motions to help influence Town Council policy. Town Council Leader Brian Smedley says “The Town Development Forum is designed on a delegate basis so that people can attend and report back to their community organisations that appoint them. It includes resident groups, Trades Unions, Business associations, environmental groups, activist groups and many others. If you would like to be represented and are part of a community group with an interest in the town please contact us as we want these meetings to be as representative as they can be.” You can contact Cllr Smedley on firstname.lastname@example.org
The main features of the Northgate proposals
- Phase 1 is the creation of the School with it’s associated access routes, re-aligned footpaths and lighting
- Phase 2 will be the Leisure facility. This remains as planned, a major built facility on the site of the Splash. It could be a multiplex cinema-though that hasn’t yet been agreed and there are other options. If it is it could include the existing Scott’s cinema. Such a facility would attract associated outlets such as food and restaurant chains plus be compatible with the town centre.
- The Brewery Field and it’s enhancement will not be considered until after the leisure facility has been agreed as the planners are keeping their options open regarding the footprint needed. In accordance with public response in recent years to this open space planners are minded to ensure whatever happens on the site is developed in agreement with the public.
- Following the public reaction to the initial proposals, Traffic has been recognised as the major issue and the plans include a major investment in junction, lighting and road re-alignment in order to cope.
- The final jigsaw of the piece is the land immediately opposite the Glass Cone on corner of Anson way. There are 2 options for this. The preferred option is some form of retail-such as a small scale supermarket-as it would bring in more revenue or a hotel/pub.
In terms of what’s actually going forward it can be seen in detail online at SDC planning application 08/16/00063
The key details of the proposal are
- Two form entry primary school using existing access including hard and soft landscaping, informal and formal play areas, revision to existing footpath route, means of enclosure and parking.
- Outline details of foodstore (up to 1,858m2 / 20,000sqft) or (as an alternative to the foodstore) 70 bed hotel and public house (A4) with reconfigured customer vehicle and pedestrian access and new service access off Northgate to serve hotel and pub or retail store (in the alternative) and highway works;
- cinema/leisure complex building including up to 6 cinema screens, 6 A3/A4 or A5 food and drink uses and Health and Fitness use (up to 4,645m2 / 50,000sq/ft GIA) with new and reconfigured vehicle and pedestrian access off Mount Street, all with private and public parking, servicing areas, open space and public realm works, infrastructure and landscaping.