Published: October 20, 2011
Covenant sale concerns raised at Highbridge Hotel public meeting

The owner of the Highbridge Hotel was among 50 people who attended a public meeting to discuss the future re-development of the controversial site on Wednesday (19th October).

Residents were able to ask owner Derek Mead and representatives from Sedgemoor District Council and the Town Council about the future options for the controversial building, which has been derelict since a massive fire in 2008.

Wednesday's meeting was particularly timely as it came just 48 hours after this week's hotel blaze.

A set of development plans originally drawn up in 2008 were on display at the meeting and showed a new supermarket, shopping arcade, housing development and a community centre with a 250 seat auditorium are being considered. Mr Mead said the plans had not been taken forward due to the current financial downturn.

Part of the meeting was overshadowed by the news that a covenant which was put in place to prevent development of the hotel site is to be sold by Sedgemoor District Council.

Town councillor Helen Groves expressed her concern about the sale. She told "The covenant applies to the rear section of the site and states that the land may only be used for the purpose of operating a livestock market, or for agricultural purposes or for auctioneers, estate agents and valuers. SDC have agreed a fee of £150,000 to lift that covenant, but the revenue generated will not automatically benefit Highbridge."

She added: "This concerns me greatly since the public did not know it existed and if the assets of the town are to be sold then Highbridge should benefit."This covenant was put in place many years ago because the importance of this location within the town was recognised."

Many residents are keen not to see the site replaced with more flats and there are differing opinions on whether the hotel itself should be removed altogether, with some wanting sections of the historical property to be retained.

Derek Mead told "I think it's been a useful, positive meeting. I've an open mind about what we can achieve at the site. I think there is definitely scope for a community facility for use by youth groups."

Cllr Joe Leach said: "I think we have moved forward more in the last six months than in the previous two years. I'm really hopeful that a potentially good use can be found for the site."

And Doug Bamsey, Corporate Director of Regeneration at Sedgemoor District Council, added: "There is a real energy and a desire here to make things better . I am keen to see this momentum continue for the benefit of Highbridge."

Pictured: Top, Meeting chairman Phil New with Derek Mead and Doug Bamsey holding a set of plans for the site

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