Thursday, 2 February 2012

Some things are worth fighting for

I am using the blog today as a little bit of propaganda. It's not something I'd usually do, but it's my blog, so I guess I can do what I want.

There is a plan to redevelop an old industrial estate in My Kind of Town into a massive housing development. It's sparked a lot of controversy, not least because of the jobs that will be lost to make way for shiny new homes. It will also mean a newly-emerged artistic and vintage quarter will be wiped out quicker than you can say restoration, restoration, restoration.

This is the gist of the objection I've just submitted. It's an emotional response but I make no apologies for that. My US and Canadian readers might not be interested but, on the other hand, they are people with good hearts so they just might. So here goes:

I've known Bridport for thirty years and St Michael's trading estate has always been a thriving place for creative enterprise. The look of it hasn’t changed much in that time either.

Back then there were auction rooms, car repairers, award winning drag racing cars made as a hobby by Number One Son's father and a salon set up by my hairdresser. It was shabby but it was useful. And some lovely, lovely buildings that are part of the town's industrial heritage.

And still the estate is shabby. But it’s chic. It has a thriving art quarter. The area attracts a huge deal of interest and visitors. It’s become a sort of fingerless glove attached to one of Bridport’s hands.

Developing the so-called ‘south west quadrant’ has been talked about for years and the plans have been a long time coming. And now they’re here.

Bridport is quirky, arty, bohemian and the art quarter fits, alongside small businesses that have been on the estate for years.

YouTube: Bridport Video

What doesn’t fit is a massive housing development, the tidying up and gentrification of Bridport which will lead to an influx of people who will gaze at the Looking Back page of the local newspaper in years to come and say ‘oh, so that’s what it used to be like’.

As a former editor of that paper, I have seen how Bridport has changed over the years. Not necessarily all for the better, but what is evident now is there is a new vibrancy, a new creative energy, that has emerged in recent years. You can see it in the independent shops, you can see it in the arts centre, the Electric Palace and the newly-revamped town hall. It’s the Spirit of Bridport shining through and so typified by the St Michael’s artistic quarter. It’s Bridport’s Monmartre!

Detail from the Spirit of Bridport: Bridport Town Council

Fra Newbery was one of the town’s best known artists who painted the beautiful Spirit of Bridport. He strove ‘to make art more readily available to a wider public, attempting to relate it to their daily lives and to celebrate the traditions of the specific localities in which the works were sited’. (And, ironically, on the day I write this, the Fra Newbery website is just about to be taken down for a lack of funding).

Heritage is worth saving. It really is.

But is it a planning consideration? As well as loss of employment, impact on local amenity and infrastructure, traffic and access, inappropriate development, I think the planners should look at the effect this new housing estate will have on Bridport as a whole. You can’t just look it as bricks and mortar. It goes wider, deeper than the aesthetics of the new properties.

And, as bricks and mortar go, do we really need all these new houses? There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in Bridport. This is what we should be focusing on, in areas where it can work around the town. We need more shared ownership homes for young people to get a foot on the ladder, more homes for social rent. And not just tagged on to the grotty end of a swanky development.

As councillors elected by us, the people, to make decisions on our behalf, they should do the right thing. It’s not just a bunch of arty farty people who live on trustafarian handouts from rich relatives and the sale of the occasional painting. All sorts of people in the town and beyond are very unhappy about this application which will strip Bridport of much of her spirit.

Please help us to save what we have left. Especially when it’s doing so well.

If you want to have your say before tomorrow's deadline, click here to make your comment. If you want to know more, take a look at the campaign group's Facebook page.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x


  1. Well said. I travel from Teignmouth to enjoy Bridport and St Michael's is a fantastic place - the true heart of Bridport. It would be a tragedy to destroy this wonderful facility for all. I've left my comments with the council. This really is worth fighting for.

  2. Over here there is always a tendency to bulldoze and improve - to scoff at those who say 'wait - think about it'. We seem to value' new and big' and especially 'clean'. 'What little we have that has been saved is turned into a museum. Keep at it Maddie - it's worth the fight.

  3. Sorry, deleted this comment by mistake.
    It's from Barbara Anne:
    The old song went, "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot ..."

    This shortsightedness and stupidity isn't new and it's probably still fed by greed on the part of someone.

    What so many people don't realize in a new development, there will have to be costs to the city to provide schools, roads, water, sewers, and all of those city services may well cost more than the taxes the new folks would pay. Plus, the city would lose taxes from anyone disgusted or newly unemployed who had to move away.

    Shades of Beatrix Potter who bought up many farms in the Lake District to preserve them as working farms and to protect the land from developers!

    Fight on, indeed! I'm in one of the colonies, so have no official say from this side of the pond. May the voice of the people be heard! Save Bridport!


  4. And another comment I also deleted by mistake. Sorry, the brain is not in gear this morning.
    This one's from Umbroody:
    Short video on the matter, feel free to use it to spread the word: - can't believe they tried to sneak this under the radar!

  5. I learnt about the proposed planning application today and have just sent my comments to WDDC! It is a totally mad and very inconsiderate(that's putting it mildy!) towards a great town that has such a vibe and character about it - I simply love St Michael's estate - the vibe, the fantastic selection of vintage clothes and second hand restored furniture - you almost feel like you are stepping back in time!

    PLEASE KEEP US UPDATED WHEN YOU CAN, be much appreciated! btw, thanks for posting this!

  6. They have a facebook page called Save Bridports Art and Vintage Quarter, which you might be interested in.

    There is a meeting to be held on Thursday 15th March at 7pm in Bridport Town Hall about the redevelopment and plans to fight it, do come along if you can and show your support.


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