A PUBLIC inquiry has begun today into an application to have Brewery Field in Bridgwater declared a Town Green, protecting it from development.

The ‘non-statutory public inquiry’, led by London-based barrister Paul Wilmshurst QC, is taking place at Bridgwater Pantomime Hall.

Mr Wilmshurst said: “I will hear evidence for and against granting the Brewery Field Town Green status before making a recommendation to Somerset County Council, which will make the final decision.”

The applicants, Trevor Monaghan and Patricia Walsh of Admiral’s Court, chose not to attend the inquiry because they didn’t feel it was appropriate to put this application ahead of others which had been waiting for many years.

Tesco, which has been granted permission to build its supermarket on Northgate, wants to develop 11% of the Brewery Field – but the Town Green status would prevent this.

Among those speaking in favour of the Town Green application was Jeff Harding, who told the inquiry: “I have maps dating back to the 1830s which show there has never been a building on the Brewery Field.

“Every park in Bridgwater seems to be getting built on.”

Another resident, Bob Cudlipp, told Mr Wilmshurst there are two signs on the Brewery Field saying Sedgemoor District Council manages the land and asked him to visit Victoria Park and Cranleigh Gardens to see there are no such signs in those parks.

He added: "According to research by the NHS, roughly £2.1billion could be saved in healthcare costs if every household had access to quality green space. However, a study by parks charity ‘GreenSpace’ indicated a 30% to 40% cut in green space spending in some areas.”

Sue Bartlett questioned what has changed to merit the loss of green space, adding: “Why is SCC going to be taking away areas they have previously allocated for green space? We’ll have nothing.”

Alec Western said: “I have often used the Brewery Field and regard it as a focal area within Bridgwater. Some people say it is an eyesore but I feel those comments are unwarranted.”

Pat Morley, town councillor for Fairfax Ward, said: “The Brewery Field has been the site of many historical moments in the town. I have attended many events in that area, such as the British Waterways festival, picnics and cricket matches.

“The Brewery Field site is a ‘green lung’ in the middle of the town and we need to preserve it.”

John Goddard said: “I've seen families enjoying that area and it's the only field in the centre of town suitable for large games.”

But speaking against the proposal, John Cockle said: “That field is not a proper playing field. I use it to walk my dog.

“We’re only going to lose 11% of the field, which isn’t currently used as there are no sports facilities there. If Tesco can put even half the facilities that Victoria Park has on the Brewery Field then it will be an improvement.”

David Preece, an ex-district and town councillor, spoke in favour of Tesco developing part of the Brewery Field.

He said: “Tesco will add play areas, soft mounds, benches and improve recreational space for all.

“Cricket has not been played there for 20 years and it’s become an anti-social field.”

Keep checking this site for updates, and for background to this story, click here.

Mercury reporter Kirsty James attended the inquiry and is tweeting updates - follow her @mercurykjames, and use the hashtag #tescoinquiry.