Campaigners vow to fight on after Tesco wins 24-hour store approval in Bridgwater
Supermarket giant Tesco has won permission for a controversial 24-hour store, but campaigners say the fight goes on to block the scheme by having the proposed site declared a town green.
More than 50 members of the public packed into the council chamber at Sedgemoor District Council’s headquarters for the two-and-a-half hour debate yesterday. They saw the development committee grant approval for the store at Bridgwater, subject to legal agreement, by eight votes to three.
The bid to build on the central Northgate site and part of nearby Brewery Field has polarised opinion. Some welcome the promise of more jobs while others say another supermarket will kill off independent shops and damage the setting of historic buildings.
Some are fiercely opposed to any part of the adjoining Brewery Field public open space being developed.
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The supermarket chain says it needs 11 per cent of the land, where until five years ago football teams played, and which is still popular for walks. Sport England and the Football Association opposed the scheme on the grounds that a vital facility would be lost.
Under the plans, Tesco will create a children’s playground on the remainder of the field. The entire scheme includes a 600-space car park and an office unit.
Conservative-controlled Sedgemoor council, which owns Brewery Field, and owns the Northgate site in conjunction with Somerset County Council, is happy to sell the field because it says Tesco will enhance the link to the docks. But the Canal and River Trust says it is disappointed by the plan Tesco has drawn up.
The district and county councils have also come under fire for paying £20,000 towards Tesco’s planning application fees to get it before planners without delay.
Tesco had argued that the total fee had been miscalculated and a lengthy legal argument could have delayed a decision. Sedgemoor council believes that in tough economic times the scheme will bring regeneration but there is still resentment from some that the town’s aging Splash swimming pool, which occupied part of the site, was closed in 2009.
The council argued that it could no longer afford to maintain the pool until a planned replacement was built, and the only way it could afford the new pool was to sell the Northgate site and build the pool alongside the new school then due to be built by the county council at Chilton Trinity. Both pool and school are now open.
But some were close to tears after yesterday’s result. Sally Jones said: “This will kill independent shops. I am ashamed to have been a consultee for the Local Development Framework”.
Labour councillors Brian Smedley, Julian Taylor and Cathy Pearce spoke passionately against, but for some, like Luke Harris, it was good news: “It’s bringing jobs, it’s got to be good,” he said.
Labour group leader Mick Lerry also spoke against the scheme and Bridgwater Town Council voiced its opposition. But when it came to the vote Bridgwater Labour councillor Alec Glassford joined seven Tories in backing the scheme, to gasps of shock.
Only Labour councillors Dave Loveridge and Ken Richards voted against, alongside Highbridge Independent Mike Mansfield.