Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Labour councillors disappointed at Scrutiny Committee outcome
Sedgemoor Labour Groups attempts to get the decision to dispose of the Brewery Field made by Corporate Director Doug Bamsey reviewed and taken back to full council for further reflection in the light of Public concerns was defeated today at a meeting of the Corporate Scrutiny committee by 5 votes to 4. Tory committee members proposed that the decision be accepted and no further action taken. 3 Labour councillors and 1 independent voted against.

Committee chairman Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour,Westover) said "Since the decision was taken to turn Northgate into a Tesco-Extra  , public opposition has grown. The recent election saw the loss of 4 Tory seats in the town and the new Town Council recently voted to press Sedgemoor to review the policy. In the light of this the decision by Mr Bamsey had to be challenged and Public opposition reflected . Mr Bamsey had totally failed to respond to a Labour group letter listing key pointers against his decision. This is why we chose to go for a 'Call-In' ."

The First Corporate Scrutiny meeting of the new council was run in a accordance with the new Chairman's stated aim of 'Constructive Inclusivity' whereby the room was set up Round table style  and michrophones were provided for members of the Public to contribute to the ongoing debate and question the officer several times as opposed to the usual proceedure whereby members of the Public were given 3 minutes at the start of each meeting.
Kath Pearce agrees with Alec Westerns call for 'reflection'
29 Members of the public were in attendance including many from the campaign Group BRIDGWATER FORWARD who have been leading the campaign against the Northgate project. 9 members of the Public spoke although Sedgemoors legal officer was constantly advising that questions mustn't stray into 'planning matters' - which caused some frustration. One speaker commented "I would suggest the deputy monitoring officer wear red instead of green socks.  He was all stop and no go! "

Labour group leader cllr Kath Pearce (Bridgwater Westover) who opened the meeting with a summary of the case against the decision said " We tried a last ditch attempt to overturn the disposal of the brewery field and despite the Tory majority voting down the chance for a review  we remain opposed to the disposal on the grounds that there can be no guarantee that Tesco will not overturn any covenant or Section 106 Agreement to preserve it for posterity.  We also questioned the need to dispose of the Brewery Field if Tesco don't actually want to build on it. I also feel that residents spoke well and with passion, expressing their concern that this land would not remain in public ownership and the Tories ignore this at their peril."

Corporate Scrutiny Committe member Councillor Mike Lerry (Labour, Victoria) said "The officers did not advise that aspects of the call in were outside of the remit of the committee, for example retail/economic impact assessment and this led to dissapointment from the Public present. However, the meeting showed that  the Labour Group will continue to campaign on behalf of Bridgwater people with a united approach from Town and District members. Also it's important that the greater  involvement of the public could lead to possibly a change in old habits of engaging with citizens which is long overdue."

Cllr Ian Tucker
Veteran campaigner Ian Tucker (Labour,Dunwear) said "I think the outcome of the meeting was as we expected but I thought it was good to keep the subject in the public eye, A few of us have now got a chance on Friday to bring the matter up with Ian Liddell-Grainger MP. High on the list will be to ask him how he feels about SDC going against the majority of people in Bridgwater, the Bridgwater Challenge, LDF and the subsequent core strategy with regard to leisure, open spaces and the development of the high street. Policy D16 in the core strategy states 'Development proposals that would result in the loss of land or recreational and/or amenity value or unacceptable impact upon the residential amenityof occupants of nearby dwellings and any future occupants will not be supported'  . Virtually everyone agrees that it would have been preferable to see recreational use on Northgate but no one had been forthcoming to build anything as these facilities did not make money. I believe that things are changing in the retail market with the big stores failing and in some towns the small trader even enjoying a come back. It would be a disaster if the 7 retail outlets adjoining Tesco were built only to find Boots and W H Smith moving into them damaging the high street even more or for some of them remaining unused. Surely the remaining site should be used for leisure and not further retail which Tesco could easily grab as an extension."

The next stage of the fight to save Bridgwater's key town centre open space looks set for the Planning Committee.