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posted 13 Dec 2011, 11:13 by Westover Labour
A long overdue meeting for residents and traders from the West Quay disaster zone and the officers at Sedgemoor District Council responsible for the subsequent operations was marked by anger, frustration and accusations of poor performance from people now in their sixth week of uncertainty.

Allison Griffin, the Sedgemoor Corporate Director with the responsibility for the West Quay Emergency, explained to people present that the wall had not collapsed as expected and that they had now received legal advice saying they couldn't prevent residents from returning and businesses from re-opening with a 'Prohibition order' but as their own advice was that it was still not safe to return they would be issuing 'Hazard Awareness notices' by which people could return at their own risk.

Residents expressed anger at lack of communication from Sedgemoor and some complained of a lack of civility from some Council officers in their dealings with evacuees. There were also complaints about unkept promises, the failure to treat the plight of the evacuees as an Emergency priority for re-housing and the question of compensation was also raised.

Building Control Manager Andy McKay explained that he couldn't advise that it was safe to return as ,although there had been no recent movement in the wall and the buildings in fact hadn't moved at all, the concern was what was under the road and what could happen should extreme weather or further wall collapse disturb the fragile situation there - however he agreed that the temporary concrete covering was adequately doing it's job at the moment. He warned that the next high tide was forecast for Boxing day.

Although full of praise for the YMCA, some residents said it wasn't an appropriate long term solution and believed that Sedgemoor should be taking a more proactive role in finding them adequate re-housing. David Baxter ,from Sedgemoor Housing, said their were 4,200 on the Sedgemoor Housing waiting list and there were rules and proceedures they had to go through so that it was fair for all. Residents believed that their case was unprecedented , not of their choosing and should be treated as an Emergency.

Residents asked if they were any nearer finding out who was responsible and one produced a letter from Wessex Water (owned by the Malaysia based Multinational IKK) in which they 'denied all responsibility for the incident' . Corporate Director Bob Brown said this was the kind of thing he would advise if he were their lawyer but   confirmed that there would be a meeting of the Chief Executives of all the Local Authorities and Agencies - now scheduled for 22nd December , when this responsibility be apportioned if it couldn't be attributed.

10 Point Plan

Ward Councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce, who were present at the meeting, summed up the 10 key outcomes.

1. Hazard Awareness Notices would be sent out immediatly thereby regularising the position and making it clear that Residents could return at their own risk and Businesses could re-open at their own risk-but againstthe advice of the Council.

2. Sedgemoor would re-open the roadway along West Quay adequate to allow traders to resume trading and residents to re-access their premises

3. Sedgemoor would remove hoardings or reduce them to an acceptable level in order that the street would once again be seen to be an actively trading area. Alison Griffin would seek additional signage in conjunction with Bridgwater Retail Initiative and the neighbouring streets and pavements would be cleaned up.

4. Corporate Directors agreed to step up pressure on the Chief Executives to bring forward a speedy acceptance of responsibility at the meeting of the 22nd Dec in order that insurance claims had a clear focus.

5. Allison Griffin agreed to take immediate security actions to board up premises which had been promised to be boarded up and to open up access to others which had been locked to the detriment of the occupiers. This to include the clearance of parking spaces currently innaccessible.

6. Sedgemoor Housing Section was tasked with re-looking at some form of Emergency re-housing classification for West Quay evacuees which would give them priority emergency status regarding re-housing.

7. Allison Griffin accepted that the incidences of lack of civility levelled at some Council officers dealing with the Evacuees was unacceptable and would investigate any allegations of improper behaviour.

8. Allison Griffin agreed to arrange and fund any required removals operation relevent to the evacuees situation depending on their
established need.

9. Allison Griffin accepted that contact with the residents and traders had been substandard and would take immediate measures to ensure communication was improved.

10. Allison further undertook to look into the case of the orphaned kittens of West Quay who were currently being housed at a local vets on the advice of the local MP that 'funding would be forthcoming'.