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BRIDGWATER TIDAL BARRIER: Fundraising plan from new development

BRIDGWATER TIDAL BARRIER: Fundraising plan from new development

Image: LDRS

Around £1 in every £5 raised from a levy on new development in Sedgemoor will go towards funding the Bridgwater tidal barrier, the district council has confirmed.

Sedgemoor District Council is working with the Environment Agency (EA) to deliver the new £99M barrier across the River Parrett, which it is claimed will provide better flood protection to 11,300 homes and 1,500 businesses.

The barrier is included in the town fund proposals for Bridgwater, with construction aiming to be completed by 2024 pending a decision by environment secretary George Eustace MP.

The council has now confirmed that the barrier will be allocated a sizeable portion of contributions from the community infrastructure levy (CIL) from any new developments in and around Bridgwater in the years ahead.

CIL was introduced in Sedgemoor in 2015, and allows the council to pool contributions from different developments to deliver major infrastructure improvements such as new roads or flood prevention schemes.

Unlike Section 106 agreements, which often relate only to specific sites, CIL can be levied on a wider range of developments and doesn’t have to be spent in the same place as the new homes which generate it.

Up to 25 per cent of any given CIL payment goes directly to the parish or town council in which the development lies (allowing them to carry out small-scale local projects), while the remainder goes to the district council.

A presentation on the council’s current CIL position came before a virtual meeting of its corporate scrutiny committee on Monday afternoon (March 22).

Nick Tait, the council’s service manager for planning policy, stated that £3.73M had been raised through CIL up to March 2020 (the most recent figures available).

He said: “Long-term funding of the Parrett barrier is critical if Bridgwater is to fulfil its role as the focus of growth within the district.

“A memorandum of understanding has been agreed between the EA and the council confirming that strategic flood defences remain an infrastructure priority.

“In order to secure necessary match funding, 20 per cent of CIL contributions will be ring-fenced for strategic flood defences and reviewed on a regular basis with the EA against agreed milestones.”

Other projects being prioritised for CIL across the district include:

  • Flood prevention in Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge
  • New walking and cycling infrastructure
  • Improvements to public transport
  • Enhancing Burnham-on-Sea town centre and the Celebration Mile in Bridgwater (the latter is included in the towns fund proposals)
  • Delivering new schools and school improvements
  • Sports and recreation facilities (including new play areas)

Councillor Bob Filmer, who chairs the council’s development committee, questioned whether the council’s priorities for CIL would always match up with the needs of rural areas such as his Knoll ward.

He said: “Highways or education authorities don’t necessarily agree with the views of the local parish.”

Mr Tait replied: “It’s about getting a balance right to ensure sums can be delegated so some small awards can be made to local parishes.”

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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