Branch
IWA West Country Branch
Published

21 January 2021

A 21-year lease of Bridgwater Docks from Somerset County Council (SCC) to Canal & River Trust (CRT) came to an end in July last year. The Branch has been lobbying both parties to the lease about the future of Bridgwater Docks. The Barge Lock and the Bascule Bridge need restoring to working order. CRT have temporarily extended the lease, but this is likely to come to an end soon.

History of bridgwater docks

The future of Bridgwater Docks is important to Bridgwater’s history and heritage. They were awarded Grade II listing in 1973, following the closure of the Docks to shipping a few years earlier. The Docks once provided valuable connections from the River Parrett to the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal through both the Ship Lock and the Barge Lock.

The Barge lock has been unnavigable since 2002/3. Stop planks were inserted following a spring tide that overtopped the Barge Lock gates and allowed saline water to enter the Docks and the canal.

CRT informed a user group meeting in December 2019, that it would not be renewing or extending its lease of the Docks beyond the termination date. Boat owners whose mooring agreements ran beyond the termination date would receive a credit or a refund for the unexpired period. CRT also reported that they would be undertaking dilapidation works at the Docks, as required under the terms of the lease.

CRT Lease Extension for the docks

CRT had also written to boat owners in May 2020, stating that their mooring agreements would be terminated before the termination date of the lease. CRT told boat owners to consider removing their boats. We have pointed out to CRT (and to SCC) that the Bridgwater & Taunton canal is an isolated waterway, the secure moorings on the canal are fully occupied. CRT had responded that it would continue to extend the mooring agreements for 3 months at a time, but this is likely to come to an end soon. CRT said that it would not make any contribution to the costs of removing the 30 or so boats from the Docks.

The West Country Branch continues to lobby the local authorities and others within Somerset about the future of the Docks. We are working in particular with Somerset County Council and Bridgwater Town Council. Discussions need to take place on the dilapidation obligations that CRT has under the terms of the lease.

Bascule Bridge

The Bascule Bridge which straddles the Docks has not been fully raised since 2002/3. The Bascule Bridge connects the two sides of Bridgwater Docks.

The restoration of the Bascule Bridge is fundamental to the future of Bridgwater Docks. The Bascule Bridge will need restoration or replacement very soon.

We have written a booklet about the Bascule Bridge. If you would like a copy, please email: ray.alexander@waterways.org.uk