Published: November 30, 2010
Meet the new group taking over Burnham-On-Sea tourist centre

Over a dozen volunteers have this week come forward to offer their help in running Burnham-On-Sea's tourist information centre from next spring.

A public meeting was held in the town on Monday evening (November 29th) when the newly-created BIARS (Burnham Information And Rescue Support group) formed its volunteer management team and unveiled how it will operate the closure-threatened TIC from April 2011.

The future of the seafront centre was plunged into doubt a year ago when the cash-strapped district council announced it could no longer afford to run it, but we reported earlier this month that BIARS had signed a letter of agreement with Sedgemoor to save it.

The group's Cllr Neville Jones and Tom Ashton explained to an audience of 20 people at Monday's meeting in the Town Council Chambers in Jaycroft Road how BIARS aims to turn the centre's fortunes around and make it profitable.

"The centre's running costs will be in the region of £40,000 - £45,000 per year, which we are confident of meeting through commission from accommodation bookings, advertising, tickets to tourist attractions, travel serices, and the sale of books, guides, postcards, calendars and local produce," explained Mr Ashton.

It was also confirmed that BARB and the Coastguard Association will both have key roles in providing beach safety advice and information to visitors at the centre - in addition to offering their own charity merchandise.

"Having the two charities involved at no cost to them provide us with volunteers, allows beach safety advice to be handed out, and also helps these essential charities raise their own funds," explained Mr Ashton.

Cllr Jones cautioned that to form BIARS, £5,000 of funding is needed. "We do need the support of local people to get the charity up and running. Funding is being sought from various tourism groups and businesses who benefit from holidaymakers in our area."

Cllr Jones was chosen as the first Chairman of BIARS, while Mr Ashton became its treasurer.

The BIARS mangement committee will comprise Bob Nicholson, Mark Newman, Ian Jefferies, Paul Barnett and Hilary Dolman.

And a six-strong finance team will consist of Mr Ashton, Cllr Jones, Cllr Ken Smout, Louise Parkin, Graham Plant and Les Barber. Separate groups were also set up to handle publicity, education/training and constitutional matters.

After the meeting, Cllr Jones told "It's been a good evening - I'm very satisfied with the position we're in given that it's a year after Sedgemoor said it could no longer afford to keep the centre running. I am full of optimism - this is a goer!"

Cllr Ken Smout praised Cllr Jones and Mr Ashton for their work, adding: "They've both worked very hard to get us into this position - their commitment has been superb. We have a good group to help take this forward."

The Town Council came to the rescue of the TIC in February when it provided a £50,000 lifeline to keep it open until 31 March 2011, alongside £28,000 from the district council, however a long-term solution was required to keep it open beyond spring 2011.


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