As we rumble into an intense phase of Labour’s most ambitious County Council campaign in a generation, the Somerset Labour web monkey caught up with the Party’s man in Bridgwater South, Leigh Redman, to discuss his priorities for the election battle ahead.Here it’s a genuine two horse race as the Lib Dem candidate has already been disqualified and UKIP and the Greens deciding not to stand, Leigh is in a straight fight against the Conservatives.
Q: Leigh, you’ve been very involved in the now-confirmed EDF development at Hinkley Point. How do you think it is going to impact your ward?
A: Well, firstly, I’m pleased Hinkley C has been confirmed. It means we can now get on with preparing for it. Now that permission has been given, we will soon be hit by increased traffic along the agreed freight routes, I use the word freight because these heavy goods vehicles (HGV) will be fully loaded and mean more than 500 movements each day. If elected, I will closely monitor the situation, and I want to ensure that any steps taken to mitigate negative effects go far enough. The initial changes that have been proposed for Broadway junction are minimal, just minor alterations to the traffic lights. As a councillor, I would call on the County Highways department to continually monitor the impact, and, if problems develop, take immediate action to ensure smooth flowing traffic.
Q: Bridgwater South encompasses a lot of the town centre. How do you feel about the Tesco coming to Northgate?
A: The Tesco development has obviously been a huge issue. Even though it’s now been approved, we shouldn’t stop fighting to be heard on the issue. The wellbeing of nearby residents seems to be low on everyone’s list of priorities, of both Sedgemoor and Tesco itself. If elected, I will strive to make sure residents are protected from the disruption caused by the store’s construction, and when it’s open and running.
Q: Your prospective ward also contains West Quay, just starting to pull itself back from the major set-back brought by the wall collapse. How do you see the Quay’s future?
A: I’m happy to support anything that will enhance this area of our town – like the recent residents’ petition that has called for the area to be made pedestrian friendly. With the work on the wall moving forward (weather permitting), it’s an opportunity to refocus attention on such a historic and beautiful area that can’t be missed.
Q: A large part of Bridgwater South is taken up by the Hamp Estate. I know you’re very active on Hamp – tell us a bit about what’s been happening on the estate.
A: Yeah, I go to Hamp Community Association (HCA) meetings – at the moment, they are really working hard to make improvements to Mansfield Park, including upgrading the changing rooms, play areas, and much more. The HCA is hoping to have a lot of the work done by August 10th, when they’re putting on a fun day for local kids. The young people in our communities get forgotten about too often – this is a great effort to enhance the area for both young and old residents.
I also understand the Sunnyside has new management – this is a great initiative serving great food, helping work with mental health issues and offer different kinds of support for the community. Mind in Sedgemoor is working to promote good mental health, with a focus on pre-empting mental health problems through better social inclusion. I know all are welcome to pop in for a coffee or a bite to eat, and your support is always welcome.
Q: I also hear there’s been great work at done at Browns Pond…
A: Yeah, this area is looking fantastic following the hard work of people living locally. They’ve made it disability-friendly, working to involve local residents and regenerate the ponds. They’ve been able to develop a forward plan so the area is fit for purpose, safe to visit and ready for a bumper fishing year. Well done to all involved.
I know there is also a proposal for a community-led street redesign project, that would engage with the issues residents care about. It would be a collaboration with Sustrans, a charity that helps people choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys and create better spaces to move through and live in. It’s just another great project helping local people that I want to support if elected.
Q: Are you aware of the attempts to get County to implement a resident’s parking scheme in certain parts of the ward?
A: I’ve heard a lot about it, and I’m aware the general feeling is in favour of such an initiative. Still, I think it’s important that all views are sought to ensure a balanced approach. This is an area I’m keen to learn more about so, if elected, I can effectively speak for those affected.
Q: Leigh, one last question – why vote Labour on May the 2nd?
A: In Bridgwater, we’ve all seen how Somerset Tories push things through without listening to the views of local residents – the Splash standing out as a particularly recent example. And nationally, these cuts to frontline services are disastrous. Just take the proposed cuts to front line fire services as an example, something obviously close to my heart given my past as a retained fire-fighter. The cuts are genuinely putting lives in danger. The Tories and the Lib Dems are irresponsibly damaging some of our most vital services, and, in Somerset, Labour is the only viable alternative.