Bridgwater’s historic St Matthew’s Fair brings yearly disruption to the lives of the people of the West street area of Westover and at today’s meeting of Agencies and Residents to look at preparations it was clear that a further degree of displacement will occur due to the loss of the adjoining field used for parking and the construction of the new access road
Sedgemoor’s legal officer Nigel Osborne holds annual meetings to review arrangements for the Fair told those attending today that this would be his last year due to transfer of responsibilities from SDC legal department to SDC Community. His replacement, Rob Semple, was also in attendance as were representatives from the Police, Fire and rescue services, St Johns Ambulance, Trading standards, Homes in Sedgemoor, Environmental health and the Showman’s Guild along with ward councillors from the parts of Bridgwater affected, Westover and Wyndham.
Nigel told the meeting that the Fair would be held from 24th to 27th September and that West Street would be closed from 9am on Tuesday 23rd September . SDC would run an operations centre at West Bow House and said he could be contacted throughout on 07876131027. He further pointed out that the Showman’s Guild 10 year contract had been renegotiated and that SDC had confirmed it would continue the same format of the Fair as usual including a funfair on St Matthews Field, a one day market on the Wednesday and street trading along West street.
New Development Brings New Challenges
However, some things were presenting a challenge, notably the pressure from Housing Developments on the periphery of the Fairfield itself. This had led to the Showman’s Guild seeking an alternative location for the parking of their major and sizeable fleet of transport vehicles. Nigel accepted that this still hadn’t been concluded satisfactorily despite there being only 3 weeks to go to the fair. A proposal to locate the fleet on the former Splash car park was objected to by Westover Councillor Brian Smedley who said “The Splash site is not suitable for large transporters, it will be a nuisance to residents in Blacklands and Mount street who will be in close proximity, the access is not appropriate for such sizeable transports and the road is a regular traffic jam already”
He was supported by John Allen of the Showman’s Guild who said he also didn’t think the offer was suitable and would seek elsewhere adding that “security would also be an issue”.
Cllr Smedley also raised concerns at the new West street/Broadway junction where he believed it would now be even more difficult than usual to get the larger vehicles into West Street.
West Street Resident Dave Winter said that Parking disruption was an ongoing issue and although some improvements had been made it remained a major problem for residents. Nigel Osborne said that a successful controlled barrier system had worked well last year and would be continued thanks to the extra hours put in by West Street caretaker Chris Osborne. Ashley James from Homes in Sedgemoor said that a possible residents parking scheme could be in place in future but this was still to be negotiated as part of a forthcoming Neighbourhood Agreement.
Beat officer Tony Freeman, speaking for the Police, stressed that “ a sizeable, high vis and targeted Police presence would be at the Fair” and “ wanted to reassure the public that in fact Fairtime crime was very low”. There would be a “no tolerance of alcohol rule and this would be enforced in line with the DPPO that applied in the area. Drinking would be restricted to the area around the Horse and Jockey and then only from plastic glasses”.
On the afternoon of Friday 12th September there would be a site visit to finalise arrangements relating to the new access road and on the Tuesday 23rd there would be a pre-Fair walkabout during the morning with Councillors and the relevant Agencies.