Our vision for Bridgwater is a town RE-ENERGISED, drawing maximum socio-economic benefit from existing and future investment in clean energy and inclusive growth; in particular from the proximity of catalytic projects such as Hinkley Point C and the 600-acre Gravity Smart Campus.
Bridgwater Re-energised will be a town recognised as a place of education, enterprise and innovation. A town that is socially conscious and culturally rich; maximising its unique tapestry of cultural events, spearheaded by its award-winning illuminated Carnival.
Through the Bridgwater Town Deal, we have established a shared vision for the town over the next 30 years, providing an integrated and strategic response to the opportunities and challenges presented by Bridgwater
Bridgwater is a growth town in the heart of Somerset and is strategically located on the M5 corridor between Bristol and Exeter.
A proud industrial town, Bridgwater is steeped in history as a centre of manufacturing excellence and innovation. The area has continued to evolve by taking advantage of its position within nationally significant transport corridors, embracing the canals, mainline rail and strategic motorway network.
Today it continues to move forward and is now at the forefront of clean and inclusive growth opportunities, emerging as a hub of innovative high value, technology-based businesses supported by world-class logistics infrastructure.
The growth potential of the area is underpinned by a number of key characteristics:
Bridgwater’s strategic location on the M5 is key to its inward investment offer, providing access to major employment markets of Bristol and Exeter and offering a strong transport network for logistics and distribution sector within the Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP area. Beyond this, the area is connected to wider strategic economic partnerships, including the Great South West and the Western Gateway.
Bridgwater is an industrial town with longstanding strengths in the manufacturing sector. Whilst this has begun to change over recent years with increasing transition to the logistics and distribution sector, the industrial heritage is a tangible feature of the town and important to Bridgwater’s identity and distinctiveness.
Bridgwater is in close proximity to Hinkley Point C (HPC), the first nuclear power station to be built in the UK in over 20 years. The project is a key driver of the clean growth and energy sector in the district, creating 25,000 employment opportunities and up to 1,000 apprenticeships through construction and operation. HPC is supported by a range of other specialist assets, including the National College for Nuclear and Energy Skills Centre.
Bridgwater is home to the Bridgwater Carnival, the largest illuminated carnival in Europe. This generates its own inspirational energy for community cohesion and is a shining light among a host of creative, cultural experiences.
Bridgwater and the surrounding areas have a wealth of diverse natural capital, embracing waterways, wetlands and countryside including nearby Quantock Hills, the first area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) to be designated in England in 1956. This offers a clean and sustainable environment for residents and visitors, providing walking and cycling opportunities and promotion of active lifestyles.
The Bridgwater Town Deal aims to utilise and capitalise on the growth potential of Bridgwater to maximise the social and economic benefits for local residents and businesses.
Following extensive data analysis and community engagement, four key challenges were identified for the Bridgwater Town Investment Plan to address. The vision and project proposals were developed in direct response to these challenges, to ensure the Town Investment Plan meets and responds to the needs and requirements of the town.
The Town Investment Plan intends to meet its objectives by putting local people at the forefront and enabling them to make the most of their potential, skills and opportunities. Despite recent growth, not all Bridgwater residents are benefiting, with higher rates of unemployment, lower incomes and people more likely to be living in areas of deprivation. A need for intervention to tackle unemployment and deprivation challenges was identified, as was encouraging skilled residents to stay in the town and maximise their potential locally.
Another focus of the plan is to re-energise the town centre by encouraging new enterprise, cultural and business activity and more diversity. Elements of poor-quality environment, separation of primary and secondary shopping areas and localised traffic congestion are among the factors letting it down currently. The aim is to address these public realm challenges to help increase visitor numbers and the time they spend in the town centre, whilst also diversifying the town centre offer and improving our arts, heritage and cultural assets.
There is an ambition to make more of Bridgwater as a key centre for the area’s wider population by improving the connectivity between employment sites, housing and the town centre. There are shortcomings in local and regional public transport provision and poor integration between different transport modes, leading to a dominance of car travel and congestion. This is driven by a large proportion of short distance car trips into the town centre during peak times. The Town Investment Plan highlights the ambition to deliver sustainable travel to improve accessibility as well as improved digital connectivity.
Among the restrictions to the town’s growth currently is its dependence on the strategic road network due to its rural setting and the limitations of its rail network. There is a need to upgrade its road and rail networks whilst seeking to find more sustainable solutions. The town’s flood risk also poses a significant obstacle which, when removed, would release new areas of land for residential and commercial use.
TOWN INVESTMENT PLAN
The Bridgwater Town Investment Plan was submitted on 29 January 2021. Following the submission to government, the Bridgwater TIP Summary [20.68MB] was produced which sets out challenges and opportunities for the town; the strategic aims and objectives; projects proposed to government; the planned outputs, outcomes and impacts; and finally the approach to delivering the plan. The Town Investment Plan successfully secured £23.2million of government funding for Bridgwater – the Bridgwater Town Deal – unlocking over £160million of public and private investment into the town that will stimulate billions more in local economic and community benefits.