Published: September 6, 2010
Burnham-On-Sea pedestrianisation plan wins council backing

A £210,000 project to partially pedestrianise part of Burnham-On-Sea’s High Street received a major boost on Monday evening (September 6th) when district councillors gave a thumbs-up to funding the scheme.

If the plans are given a final 'green light' by Sedgemoor District Council’s Executive later this month, a new pedestrian-only zone will be introduced in the High Street between Adam Street and Cross Street between 10am-4pm each day by next Easter.

A new road surface will be introduced that will be level from shop-front to shop-front with high quality paving and furniture to allow music and community events to be held in the centre of Burnham.

Under the plans, Adam Street and Cross Street will both become one-way roads in alternative directions to divert traffic away from the proposed pedestrianised zone.

"It’s been a long journey to get here but introducing an attractive, traffic-free area for shoppers and visitors in Burnham has moved a step closer," a delighted Alex Turco, Chairman of Burnham’s Civic Pride group, told after Monday’s meeting of Sedgemoor’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee in The Princess.

During the meeting, councillors considered whether £158,861 of 'compensation' awarded to the district council earlier this year by the South West Regional Development Agency to reimburse it for its previous abortive work should be allocated to the new scheme. The Town Council has previously committed £45,000 to the project.

Following an hour-long discussion, in which councillors debated the merits of the scheme, they voted unanimously in favour of allocating the cash to Burnham – but a final decision rests with Sedgemoor’s Executive on September 22nd as to whether the project gets a final go-ahead.

If it does, construction work will begin in early 2011 and the whole project will be completed before next year’s Easter holiday season.

Rob Semple, Sedgemoor’s Scrutiny Officer, told the meeting how the working party which has been set up to take forward the proposals has already gained widespread support in the centre of Burnham.

"We have held meetings with traders, the Chamber of Trade, PCSOs, the Carnival Club, Farmers Market and Town Council. Parking is a concern for some, while others are concerned about access, and some want the street to be closed for a shorter time between 10am and 3pm, but traders on the whole are positive. They can see the benefits in attracting more visitors and shoppers into town."

Cllr Ken Dyer said he thinks Burnham needs the improvements quickly. "We don’t want this to drag on this time," he said. He also suggested a weight limit should be introduced for large lorries along the High Street to further help the overall shopping experience – a point that Sedgemoor District Council is to investigate further.

Cllr Bob Filmer welcomed the proposals and said he is "surprised at how much engagement there has been so far from traders." He cautioned that it is important that the consultation process continues to move forward with businesses’ feedback being continuously monitored. "We want everyone to be fully engaged in this."

It emerged during Monday's meeting that a second phase of work to pedestrianise another area of the High Street further north is also being considered, but not as part of next year’s project. It will be dependent on Civic Pride gaining £300,000 of extra community funding from Tesco's expansion scheme, as first featured by last month.

Cllr Joe Leach told the meeting that while pedestrianisation is a "step in the right direction", he is concerned that the second phase of the project might be "some time off, leaving Burnham with a half-finished project."

Mr Turco assured him that if Tesco’s funding is delivered next year, as expected, along with an extra £100,000 of separate funding from another unnamed source, then the Phase 2 project "will go ahead as quickly as possible."

One local resident, Brian Burt, expressed his concerns about parking, claiming that "Burnham has too few spaces as it is, and pedestrianisation will only make matters worse" but Mr Turco assured him that the project will actually see a re-design of on-street parking in the area, actually leading to an overall net increase in parking spaces.

Further consultation is to be held with interested parties this autumn to discuss the proposals in more detail. In October, there will be consultation on the traffic order changes and in November the design aspects of the project – such as street lighting, signs, benches and paving stones – will be discussed.

Mr Turco told after Monday's meeting: "The scrutiny meeting is the first step to delivering improvements to the town centre which will take into account all the consultation over the past decade."

"The public will have opportunities to give their views on all aspects of the proposals this autumn. The scheme put forward is what we can achieve with the funds available and we believe it will deliver a positive improvement to Burnham town centre, encouraging residents to shop locally, attracting more visitors, encouraging businesses to invest in the town, and promoting a sense of Civic Pride."

Pictured (top) Alex Turco with the proposals document in the High Street where the pedestrianisation is planned, beneath, the meeting underway and several of the local councillors from the working party outside Monday's meeting

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