Plans for Bridgwater flats approved despite councillors saying it will look like a ‘prison’

Written by on January 13, 2021

A NEW block of flats will be built in Bridgwater – despite councillors saying it will look like “a prison”.

Sedgemoor District Council put forward plans to demolish Penlea House on Rhode Lane and replace it with a four-storey block of 33 one- and two-bedroom flats.

Numerous members of the council’s development committee tried to stop the plans, arguing the block would be out of character and lead to a loss of privacy for existing residents.

But the committee ultimately voted to approve the plans on Tuesday morning (January 12) after more than 90 minutes of debate.

The council previously secured permission in December 2018 to build 36 flats on the site, split into three blocks of two storeys each.

Garrie Wynn, who has lived on the nearby Penlea Avenue all his life, said the new block (managed by Homes in Sedgemoor) would have a negative impact on the well-being of existing homeowners.

He said: “My main concern with the tower block is its sheer size, which will tower over existing properties.

“Rhode Lane is a busy, family-orientated community. It is already a busy road and this will add more traffic.

“Re-purposing Penlea House as something for families would be more environmentally friendly. It may not be listed but it’s part of our town’s history.”

Councillor Leigh Redman (whose Bridgwater Hamp ward includes the site) said residents would be happy with the previously-approved proposals despite the larger number of flats.

He said: “The now-empty building is an eyesore, the area needs regeneration and the community needs more accommodation.

“Most of the people that I speak for are happy with the already agreed proposal. They are content with the three blocks that would provide the accommodation required and not dramatically impact people’s lives the way this monstrosity would.

“I urge you to go and look at the site. Pictures do not do this huge development justice.”

More than 50 letters of objection against the plans were logged on the council’s planning portal, along with a petition against the development with more than 100 signatures.

Councillor Li Gibson added: “I think it looks a bit like a prison. Why did it move from the two-storey design to this massive development?

“I think it’s disgusting to have one window for an entire flat.”

Despite these objections, numerous councillors spoke in support of the plans, either praising the design or acknowledging the need for more social housing.

Councillor Alistair Hendry said: “There’s a huge need around the town for social housing – we all know that.

“This project is really good as it stands – we have a similar thing in Burnham-on-Sea on Victoria Street. These flats look like they’re going to be high quality.”

Councillor Stuart Kingham added: “It’s good to see us providing modern living for our tenants.

“I think people get concerned when they see tall buildings, but I think it’s in keeping with modern living and design – it has all the green credentials.

The committee ultimately voted to approve the plans by ten votes to five.

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