Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Mick Lerry "Alternative Budget"
As Sedgemoor District Council held it's final meeting of 2011 the Labour group made it's own New Years Resolution to present an Alternative budget for the first time in years. 

Labour leader Cllr Mike Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) said "Much of the budget we can go along with but there are key areas of difference and we have made manifesto commitments regarding Housing, Homelessness and Communities. We have to look at the level of tax raised because Sedgemoor has traditionally been a low spending Council and while we don't object to the use of balances to offset cuts there are areas of great need not being addressed."  So far the Tory budget has still been presented to various committees in bits and pieces and would not be fully open for discussion until February. Cllr Lerry promised that this year Labour would continue to comment on the developing Council budget but also promised that this year Labour would submit an 'Alternative budget'.

                             OPPOSE TORY SELL OFF OF QUANTOCK HILLS

Also at the council meeting Labour went on the attack about two areas of cutbacks proposed by Tory Sedgemoors friends at County. Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) called on the portfolio holder for Community Cllr John Swayne (North Petherton) to object to the County sell off of 2000 acres of the Quantock Hills. Cllr Swayne said he was in full agreement.    

                                  NO TO TORY CUTS TO YOUTH SERVICE

Cllr Ian Tucker (Bridgwater Dunwear) called on the  Council to intervene in the County's proposed slashing of the youth budget by 70%. "The youth are our future!" said Cllr Tucker  "We can't say it's nothing to do with us. I would ask the leader to consider forming a cross party committee to see what can be done to try to mitigate against the serious effects of these cutbacks". 
Ian Tucker-'The Youth are our future"

 Tory leader Duncan McGinty (East Polden) replied "I'm prepared to consider anything, but more weight is carried by those amongst us who are also county councillors".

                  "Are Sedgemoor  Hiding something?"

Less accommodating words came from the Tory benches as Labour ward councillor for Westover Brian Smedley called on action on West Quay where traders were facing extreme hardship with little support from the District Council  . Referring to a meeting which had suddenly been held secretly at a different date to the one suggested he said "Sedgemoor seems to be hiding something". This drew denials from the Leader who then read out a prepared statement (which in fact had been circulated to the press just as the meeting was starting) saying that the said meeting had agreed a course of action on West Quay with the other agencies (principally the County). Tories joined in the fray with Cllr Neville Jones (Burnham North) telling critics to "stop carping" and refering to the 1981 seafront collapse in Burnham taking 7 years to be repaired. Cllr Jane Morton (Huntspill) attempted to divert attention to Bridgwater Town Council  asking "What had they done? " . Cllr Smedley pointed out that in fact it was Sedgemoor who had been the Port Authority since 1974 and this "may be the reason they're nervous."

                      "Tackling the key issues"
Julian Taylor-"Community Scrutiny"

Labour deputy leader Cllr Julian Taylor (Bridgwater Eastover) presented a report as Chair of the Community Scrutiny committee which showed his committee were tackling the key issues that Bridgwater people were demanding answers to. Already this year the Committee had passed motions recognising the Community support for a Northern By-Pass and the issue of the Post Office providing an unpopular temporary location on the former Splash site.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


 Woods and moorland in designated areas of outstanding natural beauty ammounting to 1,950 acres,could be sold by Somerset County Council. The Tory controlled authority which has recently cut back it;s Arts Funding and is proposing to do the same for it's Youth service , has announced its intention to "dispose of three parcels of land" including Great Wood, Custom Common at Over Stowey, and Thorncombe Hill near Crowcombe. 

David Huxtable  the Tory-councillor responsible for the sell-off, said " I really don't think the public need to be worried about who owns it "   and maintained that the sell off would bring in "significant sums of money"  .

Letiticia Kelly, chair of the Friends of the Quantocks, said they were concerned about the management of the land under private ownership. "All the rights of way would have to stay and all the conditions of public access would have to stay," she said."So whoever buys it would have to be very publicly spirited because it's not a money spinner any of these pieces of land."

 Labours candidate in the recent District elections for the Quantocks ward, Over Stowey resident Shaun O'Byrne (left) said "Our County Council's intention to sell off nearly 2,000 acres of the Quantock Hills is a disgrace that must be stopped. This designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, the first in the United Kingdom to be so named, is for the enjoyment of the people and should stay in public hands. This is doctrinaire vandalism based upon a belief that private ownership is good and public ownership is bad. Private ownership of this land carries with it future risks for access and upkeep and I urge your readers to email or write to The Deputy County Solicitor at County Hall to oppose this proposed disposal of OUR land."

Former Labour Chairman of Sedgemoor District Council Sandy Buchanan says " As an ex-councillor, a rambler and a local historian, I strongly protest against the proposal to sell one of the best known and most popular parts of the Quantocks. The area has given inspiration to thousands of Somerset residents over the years. It is an enormous learning facility for youngsters of all ages. Above all it forms a vital part of the County’s heritage and should be preserved for public use. Has this County Council got no shame and no sense of history. They would not dare to put such a proposal in an election manifesto!"

 Members of the public have until 23 December to respond to the proposals. The County Council has published a notice about the proposed sale and anyone who wishes to object to the disposal of the land should forward their written objection to:  Honor Clark, Deputy County Solicitor, Legal Services, County Hall, Taunton TA1 4DY (ref: CNV0038/1/JAH) by 23 December 2011.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


At The Bridgwater Parish Cluster meeting of Wednesday 7th December, Labour councillors proposed a spending package to kick start several long awaited projects for the towns youth, including the long awaited Skate park plus cash for play areas and sporting facilities.

The Cluster Groups are a forum for Town, District, Parish and County Councillors of the various areas within Sedgemoor to discuss issues pertinent to their own areas and to recomend spending priorities within those areas. A key element of the money earmarked for the town comes from the RLT fund which is the money paid in by developers to compensate for the loss of green space due to their developments.

Of the 5 Sedgemoor Clusters, only Bridgwater has a sizeable Labour majority on it. The others (Coastal, Cheddar, Moors and Quantock) are all Tory dominated.

Cllr Steve Austen
"Reviving the Skatepark campaign"
   Following discussions between Labour Councillor Steve Austen, Martin Hodgson at the YMCA  and Sedgemoors Teresa Harvey, the Labour Group managed to get the issue of the long awaited Skate Park back on the agenda with a potential resolution for the sticky issue of 'the land' finally having a potential solution. Teresa Harvey speaking at the meeting said "We have an offer from the YMCA that will solve the land issue if it's agreeable. We now need to re-establish the Task & Finish group to look at this offer."

Cllr Brian Smedley supported the proposal saying "The money is in place from Town & District Counciland the only issue has ever been that of the land. It is important now to make sure this site is what the skating community actually wants and therefore crucial that they are now involved at every stage of the project." 

The meeting agreed with this and the Skate Park was made the Clusters top priority with it;s budget of £150,000 ring fenced to achieve it.

Cllr Mick Lerry, the leader of the Sedgemoor Labour Group, proposed a further priority spend from the Cluster which was similarly voted through. This included
£80,000 Victoria Park  (Victoria)- to include a Multi Use Games Area and outdoor Gym.
£48,000 Mansfield Park (Hamp)-to establish a play area in accommodation with the current football usage possibly including relocation of the pitch.
£34,500 Cranleigh Gardens (Eastover) -to include  facilities such as a Trim Trial.
£34,500 Coronation Park (Sydenham) -to enhance the play area with additional features.

The meeting identified future works and funds which could enhance further the facilities including a potential £500,000 from EDF as 'mitigation money' regarding Hinkley point, plus a section 106 agreement which would bring additional provision to the North East Bridgwater area including the relocation or otherwise of the Inovia Sports and Social Club.
Cllr Ian Tucker
"Young people are angry"

Cllr Ian Tucker (Dunwear), highlighted the need for youth funding in the wake of the County Council cuts to Youth services, saying "SCC has reduced all funding for youth work by 75%. Because of this most youth workers will be made redundant and youth centres closed including the Rollercoaster.   The young people  are very angry that this is happening and I believe the District Council can't hide it's head in the sand over this and needs to take an active role in dealing with the knock on effects."

Cllr Tucker added "It is very obvious that facilities like the Rollercoaster have been a lifeline for many youngsters on the Sydenham estate as well as those coming in from other areas."

The next Cluster meeting will be March 7th and will look at Youth provision and also at the position of the Bridgwater Arts Centre at the end of the financial year.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Dear Labour Party members, supporters and sundry chums
This years  Labour Party Christmas Social Event will be on
Bridgwater Arts Centre
7pm prompt.
We have decided to do an event to support the Bridgwater Arts Centre.
So the plan is this.
There will be a social event which includes food, music, a raffle and a quiz.
The Arts Centre Bar will be open.
at 8pm on the same evening the Art Centre  will be hosting live the 1960's tribute band THE MODS
Labour Party Party-Goers can go to see this event as part of the social evening or choose to continue socialising in the Art Centre Bar or in the Studio which we will have soul use of for the evening.
NOTE;- The Labour social event is free-however, If you wish to see the MODS gig you should either buy your ticket from the Art Centre in advance or ask me to reserve tickets (and pay me on the night)Tickets for the gig are £14 (non members) or £12 (Members/ concessions/students/pensioners/unemployed)Or risk turning up on the night and paying £15.
Please respond to this email if you will be coming to the Social and if you wish gig tickets set aside.
Brian Smedley
"Funkmaster General"
Bridgwater Labour Party

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Workers from across Somerset converged on Taunton today to join a 2,000 strong protest against the Coalition Governments plans to devastate their pensions and trash public services. 
SDC Unison delegation in Taunton

A TUC 'Day of Action' had been called Nationwide with the turnout in Somerset   described as a "Fantastic response" by Unison Regional Organiser Helen Eccles

The march ,which started at the old Cattle Market , wended it's way through crowds of applauding shoppers in Tauntons town centre many of whom joined in as the demonstration approached them.

Glen Burrows from Bridgwater Trades Council and the RMT , addressed the marchers as they gathered at the start of their protest saying "This is not just a campaign to defend oublic sector pensions. It is a campaign for all pensions: state, private and public sector. It is saying to the Government loud and clear ! We will not pay for a crisis caused by bankers' greed and speculation. Hands off our pensions! Hands off our NHS! Hands off our schools! Hands off our Welfare State!"
Brian Smedley & Glen Burrows Bridgwater Trades Council

Bridgwater Labour Party members and Councillors joined the march today and supported the action by not crossing picket lines. Group Leader Cllr Mick Lerry carried the National Union of Teachers banner on the march whilst Group Secretary Cllr Brian Smedley ,walked alongside Sedgemoor Unison strikers. 

District Party Chair Cllr Kathy Pearce said " Public sector workers are being squeezed all ways - higher contributions to pensions and later retirement age.  In the meantime those of us working in public services are expected to bear the brunt of dealing with the consequences of the co-alition government's cuts to public spending.  The strength of today's protest and public support is testament to the strength of feeling that enough is enough. "
Labour Leader Mick Lerry with the N.U.T

At the culmination of the march -County Hall- speaker after speaker from many different Unions stressed the message of the day 

"The Unions want proper negotiations. The Government is storing up a crisis for the next generationof pensioners unless we win pensions justice for all now"

"Never be ashamed to stand up and fight for what is fair and just"

"People are here because they're angry. 700,000 job cuts in public services and pay cuts of 16% pay cut are making  moderates into militants!"
Speakers at County hall

"Today is about ordinary workers. in the NHS you're lucky if you leave with £4,000 pension - hardly gold plated!"

"It's not just pensions we;re fighting for it;s about the quality of life for ordinary workers, for a decent education system and for properly funded public services"

Unison said that 200 schools across Somerset were closed due to the strike action and even Tory Education secretary Michael Gove had to admit that 76% of state funded schools across the country were affected.

Schools, hospitals, courts, passport offices and ports were among the services disrupted.

The TUC said more women than ever before had taken part in the strike.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


West Quay before the Flood defences were erected in 1982
A week after the carnival night collapse of the river wall flood defences along Bridgwater's West Quay, the townpeople are still waiting for the wall to fall into the river. Sedgemoor District Council says that no decision will be made on the security or otherwise of the riverside road and houses until the wall actually falls in.

Andy Mckay, the chief Engineer on site, says "We know the wall is moving and will inevitably topple into the river but at the moment we're glad it's still standing so that it acts as a waterbreak while we pump concrete into the foundations of the Quayside. It it wasn't there there would be more rapid tidal erosion under the road further undemrining the security of the buildings. We will make a decision on what to do next when it finally goes over. "
West Quay 10 minutes after the flood  of Nov 4 2011

Westover ward councillor Brian Smedley & Kathy Pearce, held an emergency meeting for the West Quay  traders  with Sedgemoor District Council this week and were told they wouldn't be allowed to return to their premises until the all clear was given for the whole of West Quay.  Cllr Smedley said "The waiting is excruciating for the traders whose busiest season is approaching. If  they can be told it's safe to go back they can start trading again. If not , and they can be given a timescale, then they can judge if to claim on insurance or seek re-location to other premises which Sedgemoor Estates Valuer Tim Mander has been deployed to help them with. Already the furniture store has been relocated to Highbridge,  but other premises-such as the Green Olive restaurant, are finding it harder to locate adequate premises. "

Dr Peter Cattermole from the Blake museum has supplied Sedgemoor with maps of the  archeaology of the area to help them identify the strong and weak points plus the history of the sewers , the collapse of which could have been the cause of the major water surge last friday. Dr Cattermole says "The castle wall is some 4 metres thick  and runs about 2m-3m behind the fronts of the buildings to at least ground level, sometimes higher (as in The Fountain). The rear of the properties is unlikely to fail given the substantial butressing effect of the wall.  However, the fronts may behave independently of the rears. A careful check for cracks is required. There are substantial masonry structures to considerable depth to the east of the sewer and in front of the present quay wall (which probably dates from ca. 1725). There are also significant lateral features which probably increase the stability of the underlying quay structure. Nearer the Town Bridge, there is a "mass of solid Lias masonry 4m wide at 2m depth", which probably represents the footings for an earlier bridge."
The 18th Century sewer unearthed in 2008

County Archaeologist Bob Croft, has further written to Sedgemoor "In addition to the statutory heritage interests, this is an Area of High Archaeological Potential and the line of the medieval waterfront adjacent to the scheduled Water Gate to the castle may survive below the road line.  Works in Castle Street in 2008 discovered the edge of the medieval foundations and an 18th century drain that ran down Castle Street towards the river. This drain may have been a contributory factor to the water discharging into the ground adjacent to the Quay. "

So far the Agencies have not agreed on what may have caused the wall to break away but the key factors were extensive rainfall on the landward side leading to heavy flooding and the sewers reaching overcapacity.  In 2008 works to the historic sewers by Wessex Water included an award winning innovation by Leanne Ford which reduced the 5' high sewers down into a 2' square funnel diversion at the bottom of Castle street in order to preserve the unearthed castle ruins, approximately where the wall broke last week. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Latest news from the Sedgemoor District Council control centre concerning the incident at West Quay whereby a section of the Quayside collapsed.

Council Leader Duncan McGinty said "The river wall has moved 7mm overnight and the experts feel that it is only a matter of time before it collapses.The Utility companies are onsite and continue to work towards securing utilities in that area by laying pipes and cables around the damaged area. So today there is a wider area of disruption whilst large holes are dug to cut and divert. Wessex water are concerned that no salt water should enter the system as this would have a catastrophic effect on the sewerage treatment process."

"The area around the collapse continues to be unstable and people have not been allowed back into the properties to collect anything. The only exception is the Vets have been allowed back in to remove some animals and feed others."
The area along West Quay continues to be blocked off and will continue so for the foreseeable future. Cllr Brian Smedley and Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover ward) have called on Sedgemoor for an emergency item at Wednesdays full council meeting to address the consequences for local residents and businesses..
Cllr Smedley said "Local traders will presumably get some relief from their business rates but regarding compansation I would suggest the businesses need to check the terms of their insurances to see if any claims can be made. It may be that  the Environment Agency has the key liability as the responsible authority and we are urging Sedgemoor to clarify the situation and to continue their excellent work to date with affected residents and businesses to mitigate the effects of this disaster. "
Cllr McGinty said "Tomorrow the SDC team will be working to find more permanent solutions for the affected tenants - so please bare with the us as this will mean some reassignment of Officers from their normal duties."
The M5 Motorway remains closed following the catastrophic incident there on friday night between Bridgwater and Taunton. The Highways Agency hopes to have the southbound carriageway on the M5 around Junction 25 open by 17:00 GMT. Police anticipated the M5 would be open both ways to traffic between junctions 24 and 25 on Monday morning.
Cllr Smedley said "The carnival committee called for a one minute silence at 12.00 today to remember those killed and injured on Friday night at the height of the Carnival. Carnival supporters and members of the public responded wonderfully and filled the area around the Guy Fawkes statue, all around Cornhill and along the High street."

Saturday, 5 November 2011


The Wall due to collapse (Photo Jana Branecka)
Sedgemoor District Council operated a Rest Centre at Bridgwater Arts Centre, Castle Street overnight (Friday, November 4) for residents evacuated from West Quay and nearby dwellings DUE to the collapse of part of the riverside road. Approximately 30 residents initially used the Rest Centre, the majority went to stay overnight with friends and family; four remained at the Rest Centre overnight. The Rest Centre has now relocated to the Sedgemoor Room at Bridgwater House. SDC would like to thank the Arts Centre for their help with this incident.
Water drainage staff are assisting the responsible organisation, Environment Agency, with advice. It is hoped that the dwellings will be unaffected, declared safe and that people will be able to return home sometime today .Sedgemoor District Council’s reception in Bridgwater House at King Square will be open, to give information and advice.
A spokesman said "The Environment Agency has inspected the wall and it looks clear that a 20-30m section will collapse. This may take some days. The consequences will then be assessed as a result. The good news is that work is now almost complete to secure services and utilities running under the road. This means that electricity, water, sewerage and gas systems will still work for the majority of the rest of the town should the wall and road collapse. The challenges are that 19 families have been moved from their homes and will only be allowed back over the next day or two in order to collect their belongings."


The horrific incident on the M5 which saw all available Emergency units called out of Bridgwater at the height of the Carnival procession and led to the cancellation of the Squibbing means the motorway is likely to be closed until Sunday lunchtime. This is to enable Police to recover burned out vehicles, clear debris and carry out their investigations into what is now classed a crime scene.

A meeting of Gold Command has finished and as a result, North Petherton carnival has now also  been postponed.

There are still no confirmed figures for the number of fatalities but it is known that more than 50 people were injured in the incident. SCC has teams of people assisting where appropriate.

Leader of Council Duncan mcGinty said "This incident will now see local authorities take the lead. Sedgemoor District Council responded speedily and effectively on the night with support from various teams among SCC. The impending collapse will see further SCC involvement and the eventually repairs and restoration is likely to take weeks if not months."


Friday, 4 November 2011


  On the night of Bridgwater's famous Guy Fawkes Carnival a major civil emergency is unfolding on the town's ancient riverbank. A large section of the flood defences along the West Quay collapsed with the pressure of  built up water from drains  caused by torrential rains which caused  massive sudden flooding the force of which cracked the wall and pushed it into the river.

Emergency Services cordon off West Quay
(Photo Jana Branecka)

Cllr Brian Smedley, one of the Councillors for the affected Westover ward, was on the scene as events unfurled and described what happened. "The heavy rains were causing the drains in Castle street and surrounding areas to fill to capacity and the pressure build up searching for an exit simply pushed a 20 foot section of the tidal wall along west quay into suspension above the river. I was called to the waterfront by worried shopkeepers and residents at approximately 4.15 and saw a further part of the road next to the watergate hotel subside and then collapse".

Wall collapse as West Quay falls into the river
(Photo Jana Branecka)

Westover resident Steve Coram saw the original wall collapse "The flooding was a foot deep and you could hear the rush of the water under the shop in the drains and then the wall suddenly broke away."

The extent of the damage on West Quay-
seconds later the road section subsided
(Photo Jana Branecka)

The town, filled up with visitors for tonight's carnival, was suddenly the centre of a major civil emergency. Sedgemoor District Council Corporate directors Bob Brown and Doug Bamsey were on the scene as Police and the Fire Brigade  closed roads, including the town bridge. Bob Brown said "Sedgemoor has activated it's Civil Contingencies Unit under Malcolm Brooks and is dealing with the situation." 

Doug Bamsey confirmed that the collapsed wall meant "..a potential breach in the Flood defences"  but that "..emergency action was being taken and that the Art Centre had agreed to take in any displaced residents."

Civil Emergency on Carnival night
(photo Jana Branecka)
 Cllr Smedley said "The flood wall was only built in the early 80's and the section just appears to have peeled away and is currently suspended over the river between West Quay Records and the Watergate hotel. Theres clearly a continuing danger of  further encroachment at high tide and further potential collapse."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Sedgemoor Labour Group was the first of the Political parties to engage with the Tesco consultation process tonight as the Superstores consultants were invited to put their case to their meeting at Bridgwater House.

The Labour Group increased their share of the seats on Sedgemoor District Council at this years Local elections in the Bridgwater area after a strongly fought campaign against the closure of the Sedgemoor Splash and yet another supermarket coming to the town.  The Tesco development had been steamrollered through by Sedgemoor Council's Tory majority group - 4 of whose members in the town lost their seats.

Ian Thorn (Lib Dem candidate
turned PR guru)
 Tesco's newly employed consultants, former LibDem parliamentary candidate for Bridgwater (2001) turned PR man 'Ian Thorn' and Emma Heesom, who has only been with Tescos for 10 weeks yet is their Corporate Affairs manager, said that Tescos would regenerate the town centre and prevent 'leakage' of shoppers to other towns. They said that 66% of the people they had spoken to supported the proposal with only 31% against. However they admitted that the consultation thus far had shown that the public were massively unhappy with the loss of green space due to the sale of the Brewery field , the premature loss of the Splash swimming pool in order to facilitate the deal ,the potential damage to the town centre and the widespread belief that there was enough supermarkets in the town already.
Cllr Ian Tucker
"Calls for a public meeting"

Labour councillor for Dunwear Ian Tucker confronted them about the destructive effect of supermarkets in other town centres and cited Shepton Mallet and Yeovil . Ian said “Three years ago SDC were quick to level the splash and now it seems that the Splash area wasn't even required!” Asking the Consultants whether Tescos would agree to a public meeting he was told that they had “given 2 days to public consultation as agreed with SDC and that was enough.”

Group leader cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria) said Bridgwater's most recent experience with a supermarket promising regeneration was ASDA which had in fact led to decline and made no linkage. He felt Tescos could be a 'one stop shop' which we didn't want. He further stressed the need for a Local Labour force Agreement. Mick said “we need to engage with the next stage. We have to go with the section 106 agreement and the planning process to see how best we can affect this and we need to put the emphasis on SDC to see if in fact they really do support business in the town centre”.

Cllr Julian Taylor (Eastover) said that his concern was the leakage claims were not comparable examples and he had long ago proved that what was claimed to be leakage was in fact simple shopping elsewhere that wouldn't be done in Bridgwater. . Julian, who was concerned about the validity of the consultation process,said “ Tescos aim is clearly to increase it's market share at the expense of others and in this case that would be town centre traders. Job numbers brought in would be equal to jobs lost. Furthermore, Ian Thorn said that the council needed to carry out a retail impact assessment, so far the council has not agreed to this. “

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Eastover) said at County Council that he had been offered condolences by councillors from other areas of Somerset that Tesco had moved into and asked what lessons had been learnt from Stokes Croft in Bristol.

Cllr Reg Winslow (Fairfax) requested that Tesco produce artist impressions of the building from ground level and expressed concerns about the poor visual impact such a large building could have on what is a prime town centre site.

He also expressed concerns about proposed traffic calming measures in Northgate and suggested that the increased volume of traffic coupled with the calming measures could lead to problems of more traffic congestion in Bridgwater.

He enquired about opening hours, and was told they are going to be the same as adjacent stores although 24 hour opening was a possibility in the future.

"We're being Shafted"
Cllr Adrian Moore

Cllr Brian Smedley said as Westover ward member his concerns were for the nearby residents whose properties were perilously close to the site and asked what would be done to prevent light pollution and nuisance from 24 hour service vehicles in close proximity.

Cllr Adrian Moore (Hamp) , who chaired the meeting said he felt the town was "..being shafted" and that “... it was a done deal and it looked like we were going to end up with a Tescos no matter what !”
Cllr Leigh Redman (Dunwear) said “ We have to encourage local residents and traders to engage with the consultation. We have to stress the Local Labour Force Agreement, learn the lessons from the failings of the Asda development and continue to push the importance of High street regeneration.”

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Councillor Mick Lerry has been elected as the new Leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council. In a statement today the Labour group explained that this is because Cllr Kath Pearce has decided, for personal reasons, to stand down from the post of Leader which she held since the death of Cllr Roger Lavers in 2009.

   Cllr Mick Lerry, recently elected as member for Bridgwater Victoria Ward, explained that this was a great disappointment to the Labour Group and that he was determined to take forward the values of Cllr Kath Pearce. 

At a meeting of Sedgemoor District Labour Group on Tuesday 11th October Mick was voted in as leader unanimously by his fellow Labour Councillors .

   Mick said  "This is a crucial time for Bridgwater and surrounding areas as major projects are unfolding. The impact of such projects must have a positive outcome for regeneration of the Town, quality employment and growth; enhanced recreation and leisure facilities for all and affordable homes to rent and buy." He further stated that he would embrace this challenge in his  new leadership role in the Labour Group.

Mick taught in a Secondary School in Bridgwater for 22 years, before becoming a lay officer for the National Union of Teachers. He is passionate about equality of opportunity for Bridgwater people. In his Union role he worked hard to develop good employee relations for teachers.

Mick understands the need for good public services to enhance peoples' lives and that is why he is part of the Labour movement.

Mick says "The current Government and Tory controlled Sedgemoor District Council are determined to run down public services while creating higher unemployment and inflation. When there is a lack of growth in the economy, communities need public services and investment."

Mick  believes that Sedgemoor needs good local community services, affordable houses to buy and rent and permanent employment opportunities and Sedgemoor District Council should take responsibility and support the aspirations of the people of Bridgwater.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Bridgwater Labour Party Lotto Club has paid out £100 to its first winner !

Kate O’Byrne of Over Stowey is the holder of number 19 – which was the bonus ball in the first Saturday Lotto draw of August. The attached picture shows her receiving her cheque for £100.

The Lotto Club now has 41 members and will be a valuable source of funds for the Party. All the profits go straight to our new Campaign Fund, to be spent on political campaigning.

The chance to win £100 costs just £4 a month. To join, contact me. If you’re already a member – you could be the next winner. Good luck!

Andy Lewis
CLP treasurer

Friday, 12 August 2011


EDF Transport Assessment
A Community Scrutiny Committee of Sedgemoor District Council met on August 10 to examine in detail the decision by EDF Energy not to recommend a Bridgwater Bypass as part of the development proposals for the new Hinkley Point C Power Station.
The meeting was arranged following the presentation of a 1400 name petition to the council saying that EDF Energy should not be allowed to start work on the new plant until a bypass had been built to relieve congestion in Bridgwater. As a result of the meeting EDF  will be asked to submit a report to the Infrastructure Planning Commission on the local impact of the proposed development. 
Held in the YMCA, Friarn Street, the all-day meeting which was chaired by Labour Councillor Julian Taylor (Eastover) was addressed by representatives of parish councils and wards as well as from EDF Energy. Following a session of questions and answers, councillors agreed to the following resolution:
   "This committee recognises the overwhelming community support expressed at this meeting for a Northern Bridgwater by-pass. The Scrutiny committee urges EDF not to submit a Development Consent Application to the IPC until such time as EDF have robustly and comprehensively assessed traffic impact and means to mitigate it, including a truly comparative assessment of a Northern By-pass and online improvements, to the satisfaction of the Local Authorities. The assessment should align with the NATA/Webtag methodology stipulated in Department of Transport Guidance.
    In the absence of this robust assessment of transport options by EDF, the Council should contribute financial and officer support to the completion of such a study working with the Highways Agency, Somerset County Council and West Somerset Council as appropriate.  It should be completed in the most comprehensive level of detail that can reasonably be achieved prior to the submission of a Development Consent Order application for Hinkley Point C.  It is recommended that this study should form the basis of a decision by the Council on highway matters, when the Council sets out its position to the Infrastructure Planning Commission in a Local Impact Report. This work should commence immediately."
Cllr Taylor-"EDF's duty of care"

Chairman Julian Taylor said " I am   pleased that local people from Bridgwater and the surrounding communities had the opportunity to speak in support of a sorely needed Northern  by-pass for Bridgwater.  I hope that EDF will recognise its duty of care towards the community and get on with providing a by-pass as soon as possible as part of the Hinkley Point development. " 
Cllr Lerry "Denied opportunity"
Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) spoke forcibly at the meeting saying   "It  was clear from the presentation from EDF and Somerset County Council that the real assessment for a bypass had not been considered as an alternative to the proposed road junction alterations in Bridgwater,  because EDF refused to submit their proposals on the Bridgwater bypass to Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council, instead they would only submit the bypass proposal to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. The people of Bridgwater were being denied  the opportunity to be consulted on the bypass, because of a policy decision made by EDF at head office level. Consequently a real traffic assessment has not been carried out."

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Labour Councillors Support Call for 'Local List' to save Bridgwater's Heritage

In the light of the recent demolition of the Colley Lane Drying sheds the question of Bridgwater's industrial and architectural heritage has been brought to  the publics attention following an angry letter from the Chairs of Bridgwater Forward Dave Chapple and Sally Jones in which they attack Sedgemoor District Council for 'Official vandalism".

In an angry letter to the Mercury, Dave and Sally write "When this letter is printed, Bridgwater’s last brickyard drying sheds will have been demolished: destroyed, that is, by official council vandalism masquerading as ‘planning permission.’ We refer to the distinctive long, low wooden-slatted sheds at the Pathfinder Terrace end of Colley Lane. These drying sheds, dating probably from the late 19th century, belonged to the firm of H J and C Major Ltd. The Colley Lane brick and tile makers, members of Ernie Bevin and Jimmie Boltz’ TGWU/Transport and General Workers Union, played their part in the town’s distinctive and often turbulent working-class history. On behalf of our campaign group Bridgwater Forward, we have to register our disgust and anger that such a vital link to our industrial past has been destroyed."

Dave Chapple added "Who is responsible? Have the decency to own up! Hang your heads in shame! Did those who voted to grant planning permission for demolition of the drying sheds for housing know anything of their history?Do any of these planning officials or councillors live in Bridgwater?"

Bridgwater Forward says that some nine months ago the Bridgwater Civic Society brought this matter to the council’s attention and that nothing was done.  They also say that there is also a possibility that some of Bridgwater’s oldest houses-(3-7 North St) may also be under threat.

Dave Chapple adds "If we were talking about a fine old country mansion in the Polden Hills, would there be this same distinct indifference? Vandals, if caught, may get punished, but how can Bridgwater people prevent such “official vandalism” by those who have a duty of care to preserve our town?"

Cllr Taylor calling for 'Local List'
Cllr Julian Taylor & Cllr Dave Loveridge (Labour Eastover) have been campaigning to try to save the Drying Sheds and are now calling for a 'Local List' in support of the Civic Society.

Cllr Taylor says " We have been trying to get this building listed for the last year The council have refused to introduce a local list.    Similarly with North Street.  The Local List was started when James White was conservation Officer in 2007, when he left the list was ‘lost’ .  The drying sheds are one of two remaining, the other is in the Drove . It's clear  the result is that we are losing our heritage for short term gain. The next to go could be  the Crypton building. "

Glen Burrows of Bridgwater Forward on the demolition site
Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) , visiting the demolition site with members of Bridgwater Forward , supported Cllr Taylor's call for a Local List    "We should now  press to have this list so that the built environment heritage in Bridgwater is not lost to rapacious developers.  Because we do not havea local list we have lost these brick drying shedsand  next to go could be the  Art Deco Crypton Building  on Bristol Road,  and the 1930's cinema on Penel Orlieu   as well as the North street cottages. Why has there been no Conservation Area Appraisal in Bridgwater since the areas were first designated in the 1970s? Because it has not been seen to be a priority so maybe it is now time to make it one. I would urge groups such as the Town Council to get together with the Civic Society and Bridgwater Forward to make this campaign a reality"

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.