Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The Northgate site of the former Swimming pool
Bridgwater Forward have requested a Bridgwater Town meeting to discuss the sale of the Northgate site to Tesco Stores Ltd. because Sedgemoor District Council have refused to consult properly with local electors over this sale of publicly-owned land. This approach was tried recently In Yeovil as Ken Keable from Yeovil Trades Council reports.

The  Yeovil town meeting on the cuts in public services was held on 19th February. This was the first such meeting in 15 years.  Everyone who wanted to speak was able to do so.

It is important to record the fact that no Conservatives turned up to defend their party’s policies. This seems to me to show contempt for the people of Yeovil and for the democratic process. I also think that our MP Mr Laws, who had been invited, should at least have sent an apology for his non-attendance, but he did not. As he is a strong supporter of the policy of cutting public expenditure, and hopes to return to the cabinet at a high level, perhaps this meeting would have been embarrassing for him. His Lib-Dem colleagues on the Town Council took the position of condemning the cuts locally that their party is imposing nationally (claiming that different services should have been cut, though they didn’t say which).  

Taunton student Rob Thompson speaks against the Coalition cuts
Two Lib-Dem councillors proposed an amendment to delete condemnation of the Coalition government, so that it would only condemn the (Tory- controlled) County Council, but this was lost and not even all the Lib-Dem councillors present supported it. This shows that the Lib-Dems are divided and deeply unhappy about the developing situation and that the Coalition does not exist at local level. This should become even more evident in the local elections on 5th May.

As I said at the meeting, these cuts are not necessary at all. Britain is the fourth richest country in the world but the wealth is concentrated in very few hands. This concentration of vast wealth in fewer and fewer hands has grown ever more extreme under New Labour and is continuing. The solution is to make the super-rich and the big corporations pay more tax, not to cut services and benefits, which is deeply unjust and will only make the economic crisis worse by reducing demand for goods and services, thereby causing more company closures and more loss of jobs in the private sector.  It will also reduce the tax take.

A wealth tax of two per cent on the richest ten per cent of the population would raise £78 billion (still leaving them with 98 per cent of their wealth). A 20 per cent windfall tax on profits in the banking, energy, retail foods, arms and pharmaceutical industries would raise £16 billion. A “Robin Hood” tax on City financial transactions could raise £20 billion per year and a clampdown on tax dodgers and on British-ruled tax havens could raise £70 billion per year. That is not mentioning the £131 billion owed to the taxpayer by the bailed-out banks.

Protestors opposing the cutbacks
The cabinet in Whitehall contains 18 millionaires. The claim by Cameron, Osborne and Clegg – three millionaires -  that “we are all in this together” convinces fewer and fewer people, especially as the poorest and most vulnerable (who rely most on the services being cut) are being hardest hit although they did nothing to cause the crisis.

As I and other speakers from the Yeovil and District Trades Union Council said, the town meeting was not an end in itself but part of an ongoing campaign. The next part of this campaign is the national demonstration in London called by the TUC for Saturday 26th March. The trades unions are providing buses from Yeovil, Bridgwater  and all over the UK to this great event and details can be found on our website. Already half a million people are expected. It is another opportunity to make our voices heard.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


With only 3 months to go before important Town and District elections Bridgwater Forward is extremely concerned at yet another thundering silence from Sedgemoor District Council on an important area of Public interest. These elections will be the first chance for people to have their say on the decisions made by Tory controlled Sedgemoor over the past 4 years and ward boundaries have changed drastically.

Sedgemoor Labour Councillor Brian Smedley was on the sub committee that discussed possible changes and explains the process and outcome. 

The new Bridgwater Ward Boundaries

"When the Boundaries Commission chose Sedgemoor to be one of it's targets for change it was ostensibly to re-draw the electoral boundaries so that councillors represented equal numbers of constituents bearing in mind population changes. They were also looking at savings in terms of reducing numbers of councillors.

The sub committee set up by SDC spent most of its time arguing about specific streets- the West street, Bridgwater area being especially contentious, also the re-drawing of the Sydenham and Bower lines.. In particular the Tories constantly referred to 'my ward' as if specific areas were theirs by Feudal right of inheritance. At the end all 3 parties wrote their own submissions to the Boundaries Commission (who then made some half baked compromise and reduced the total number of councillors from 50 to 48). The Labour Group proposal in fact was that large towns such as Bridgwater should have 3 member wards, small towns should have 2 member wards and rural parishes should have single member.

The main changes for Bridgwater have in fact worked against the Tories reducing their 'safe' seats from 3 to 2 in the Durleigh area. In fact the former 'Quantock' ward which stretched from the Durleigh parish boundary through the Holford, Alfoxton, Co-op developments and from Quantock road and Durleigh road to North street has now been truncated at the Fairfield and Northfield. This has now been renamed WYNDHAM ward (largely because this was the 'house' name of this area during the Grammar school days being taken from the Royalist Governor of the Castle during the Civil war). This will return 2 District and 2 Town councillors.

The main change on the West side of the town is the creation of a WESTOVER ward. This ward includes the Town centre in it;s entirety plus the adjoining parts of West street, Camden,Blacklands and Anson surrounding the Northgate 'Tescos' site, plus Lyndale and the docks and then part of the old Hamp ward stretching from town centre to the start of Rhode lane. This will return 2 District Councillors and 3 town councillors.

The former VICTORIA ward has been moved slightly to the north so that it starts at Kendale road/Chilton street and then includes the new developments on the NDR. Again this will return 2 Town and 2 District councillors.

The HAMP ward has been reduced to the area of the old estate starting from the end of Rhode lane and being bounded by the Towns southern edge. Hamp will have 2 Town and 2 District councillors.

Across the river the EASTOVER ward remains totally untouched, bounded as it was and is by the river and the railway line. Again 2 Town and 2 District councillors.

The main East Bridgwater change is the re-drawing of the line in Sydenham. Whereas previously 'old' Sydenham had returned 3 members and stretched from railway line to a 2nd north-south line defining  the newer developments of Bower Manor and Silversprings, a new line has been drawn east-west across the junction of Fairfax road with Parkway thus creating a 3 member ward 'FAIRFAX' to the North of this -including the Sydenham rd/Bath road area plus Bower Manor and 'DUNWEAR' to the south of this including the Longstone end of Sydenham plus the Bridge estate, which will return 2 town and district members.

Politically this means that while currently the Party balance is 10 Labour (Hamp,Victoria,Eastover, Sydenham) 6 Tory (Quantock,Bower) the new wards , at a time of Tory unpopularity present a real opportunity for Labour to sweep the board.

Lib Dems have been rejected by Bridgwater voters for more than 10 years with not a single member surviving since the wipe out of 1999.

The remainder of Sedgemoor will be the battleground for the forthcoming election as since 1974 Bridgwater was subsumed into the District at the expense of its former powers as a Borough and is now submerged into this largely Tory district. Whereas in Bridgwater the balance is Labour 10 Conservative 6, the balance around the rest of Sedgemoor is Conservative 31 LibDem 3. This gives an overwhelming Tory majority on Sedgemoor of 37  Conservative against 10 Labour (the Bridgwater members) and 3 Lib Dem (entirely from the Burnham area).

Tory representation on Sedgemoor at 37 councillors is their highest ever and this means the 'Executive' is 100% Tory.

To gain sole control of SDC one party needs to achieve 25 seats. If no party achieves this then the Council goes to NOC (No Overall Control) The last time this happened was in 1995 when Labour took 13 seats (largely Bridgwater) and LibDems took 12 (largely rural). The Tories only regained control 3 years later when the so called 'independents' put on blue rosettes .

Voters will have 2 ballot papers on May 5th. One to choose their District Councillors and one to choose their Town Councillors. "

If anyone wants to know which ward they are in they can contact Brian Smedley on

Bridgwater Forward decided at its meeting this week NOT to stand candidates at the Elections but promised to organise a series of hustings meetings around the Town to 'hold candidates to account' and to 'endorse them or otherwise'. 

Pete Smith said " current councillors are off-putting, and the experience of working with them soul-destroying".

Chris Hooper said "local councillors don’t listen and most are past their sell-by date. They need to do a job for the town. "

Glen Burrows said "Any councillor who voted for the closure of the Splash and the sale of Northgate to Tesco is not fit to represent the people of Sedgemoor and should not get anyone's vote"

Kathy Pearce (Sedgemoor Labour leader) says "These boundary changes give a far greater emphasis to the town centre.  Therefore anyone who has been unhappy with the Sedgemoor Tories' decision to close the Splash and to sell Northgate to Tesco, now have a real opportunity to say "enough is enough".  Labour has consistently opposed these policies, offering viable alternatives which would truly regenerate the town centre, which time after time have been ignored.  For the future prosperity and vibrancy of the town, it is vital that we encourage people to come into the town centre by enhancing the leisure aspect of Northgate and the Brewery Field, along with retail investment, which is sympathetic to the town centre."

Joe Leach (Sedgemoor Lib Dem leader) says ""The new boundaries are curiously arranged, however the Liberal Democrats are taking the fight to the Conservatives, particularly in the North of the district, where various boundary changes will see close fights between us".

Bob Cudlipp (Independent) said "We need to encourage people to vote and we need more independents!" 

Sedgemoor District Council is led by councillors who lack vision and judgement and are slowly destroying the town

The decision by Sedgemoor District Councillors to sell the town’s Northgate site to Tesco for development as a giant superstore, is an example of how far out of touch councillors are with the needs and aspirations of local people, says local campaign group Bridgwater Forward.
Said Chair Sally Jones: “This is a yet another public space which will be gone forever, and yet another town-centre taken over or ruined by Tesco.
Sedgemoor Council has failed to carry out real public consultation over the sale of Northgate to Tesco – even thoughthis is required by The Council’s Constitution. Said Sally Jones: “ This is because  they know they would not get the answer they want.   The Bridgwater Challenge consultation showed clearlythat Bridgwater people want the Northgate site retained as a leisure facility. It also showed that Bridgwater people don’t want any more supermarkets. Why, therefore, is Sedgemoor Council doing exactly the opposite?”
Bridgwater Forward says Sedgemoor District Council is led by councillors who lack vision and judgement and are slowly destroying the town – most of them don’t live, work or shop in Bridgwater. 
It is well known that Sedgemoor Splash encouraged more people to come to Bridgwater than any of its existing supermarkets ever have. So let’s put a new swimming pool back on the Northgate site, along with other leisure facilities, to integrate and develop our community.
Let’s see the Town Council unite with Sedgemoor District Council to improve, restore and retain existing outletsand develop civic and leisure amenities to make us proud of our town again.
Let’s tell Tesco loud and clear: we don’t want you here.
Contact details: 01278 450562/ 07722087675

Coalition 'failing to protect countryside' from takeover by Tesco

Rural communities are being “bullied and bludgeoned” into accepting new supermarket developments that force local shops to close, campaigners have warned.
Chains such as Tesco wear down opposition by repeatedly submitting proposals until they gain planning permission to build a new store, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
The group accused the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats of failing to honour promises to give rural communities a right to appeal against such developments in contentious cases.
The warning comes as MPs debate the new Localism Bill for the first time in the House of Commons today (Mon).
Under measures contained in the Bill, communities will have more influence over local planning decisions, with “neighbourhood forums” given the power to decide where shops, homes and offices should be built.
But the CPRE said the reforms did not go far enough and called for a new “community right of appeal” to be introduced to allow local groups to challenge unwanted developments.
Neil Sinden, director of policy at the CPRE, said: “There are some welcome proposals in the Bill on neighbourhood plans, but overall it falls short of fulfilling ambitious and exciting pre-election commitments by both Coalition partners to introduce a community right of appeal.
“This omission means that powerful supermarkets and other developers will be able to continue to bully and bludgeon local communities until they get the planning permissions they want.”
Many villages and small towns are losing family butchers, high street greengrocers and other local firms as customers switch to new out-of-town supermarkets that offer cheaper goods, the group said.
The CPRE accused developers of using “pressure tactics” against councils where local opposition to a new store was strong, with almost 500 new supermarket developments approved in England in the last two years.
Planning applications by Tesco in Sheringham, Norfolk, attracted local opposition and were rejected twice by councillors and once at an appeal following a public inquiry.
The retail giant finally won in October 2010 when a further application was granted planning permission by North Norfolk District Council, by a margin of one vote.
The CPRE argued that a community right of appeal could be a useful “check and balance” against councillors “losing their resolve” in such cases.
A spokesman for Tesco said: "The Tesco scheme in sheringham was supported in a vote by the local community before receiving approval from the local authority