REDEVELOPMENT: Somerset County Council school transport facility
Somerset’s school transport vehicles will soon have a new home near Bridgwater recycling centre as part of proposals to turn their existing base into flats.
Somerset County Council operates a fleet of coaches and minibuses to transport pupils to and from school during term time, storing its vehicles in Bridgwater town centre when they are not in use.
The vehicles’ current base – Morgan House and the former libraries complex on Mount Street – is too small for the current needs of the council.
To address this, the council’s regulation committee has approved plans for a new depot near the Saltlands recycling centre off the A39 Western Way.
This will enable a housing developer to convert both the existing buildings into flats for those wanting to live within easy reach of local shops.
The council’s regulation committee met virtually to discuss the plans on Thursday morning (February 4).
The proposals entail creating a new depot on a former stone pulverising facility on Saltlands Avenue, between the town’s household recycling centre and the Wessex Water treatment facility near the River Parrett.
The former facility lies near the area where the county council is contemplating investing £3M in a new solar farm, according to recently-published budget proposals.
The site will be redeveloped to accommodate five coaches and 20 minibuses at any one time, along with 30 car parking places for drivers and other staff.
Chris Winn, team leader for grounds and landscape at Support Services for Education, said the school vehicles were “unlikely to conflict” with traffic to and from the recycling centre, since the latter facility opens after the morning school run.
He added: “We started looking at this site in 2019. All the concerns relating to drainage and flooding have been overcome through design tweaks.
“It is a very appropriate access road for this scale of development.”
Oliver Woodhams, the council’s head of property, said the current Mount Street base “isn’t fit for purpose” and that a speedy approval of this new site would speed up its redevelopment.
The council first announced its intention to sell the site in August 2020, arguing the buildings were “surplus to operational requirements”.
Mr Woodhams said: “The Mount Street site does have a buyer, who would like to complete as soon as possible.
“The buyer has submitted an application for 29 flats and seven dwellings, which would be a much better use of the town centre location.”
Plans for this redevelopment have been submitted to Sedgemoor District Council (the local planning authority) by Axeus Homes, which previously delivered new homes at Linden Court, Market Street, Pathfinder Terrace and Redgate Street in the town.
County councillor John Parham, who chairs the regulation committee, said he was not worried about extra traffic which the site could generate.
He said: “If you look at the volume of traffic movements, it’s 40 vehicles in and out twice a day in what is a relatively busy area. I don’t think it’s a material concern.”
The committee voted unanimously to approve the plans after around half an hour’s debate.
Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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