Published: August 2, 2011
£200,000 Burnham-On-Sea pedestrianisation project is axed

Plans to pedestrianise part of Burnham-On-Sea's High Street were dramatically thrown out by town councillors on Monday evening (August 1st).

The controversial proposals to ban traffic during the daytime between Cross Street and Adam Street in order to encourage shoppers to visit the town were unanimously rejected amid concern that the scheme might actually turn shoppers away and hurt tarde.

During Monday's meeting, town councillors instead voted to proceed with a much smaller scheme of improvements to smarten up the High Street.

The £200,000 of funding which was previously earmarked for pedestrianisation looks set to be used instead for new paving stones, trees and new 'street furniture', such as benches.

.BURNHAM CHAMBER OF TRADE'S POSITION

Alex Turco, representating Burnham Chamber of Trade, told Monday's town council meeting: "The decision to proceed or not is difficult. The Town Centre has been starved of maintenance over the years in anticipation of an improvement scheme. There has been little evidence of overwhelming public demand and with just 24 positive responses to the last public consultation last November, apathy seems to reign. For Chamber members, whilst there have been a few supportive voices, most are against this scheme."

"Since I was Chairman of the Chamber the policy has been to consider pedestrianisation favourably only if it addresses concerns relating to parking, loading, signage for motorists and pedestrians, access for those with sight and mobility impairment and traffic flow. Does the scheme before us address these matters? No, it does not."

"Is this scheme right for Burnham-On-Sea? Retail is changing with Internet and out-of-town shopping, meaning that traditional Town Centres must become appealing destinations. Economic conditions are difficult. Will prospects improve if this scheme is adopted? The main concern is the disruption to the Town Centre that would be caused by the two month construction period. Can businesses afford to lose trade over that period and once shoppers have been put off by the disruption, will they return? These are big risks to business."

"With money tight, could the money available be better spent on improving what we have rather than a shadow of the grandiose improvement schemes put forward of yesteryear? In short, is this the right scheme at the right time? The Chamber is not convinced."

Cllr Neville Jones, Chairman of Burnham's Civic Pride group, which oversaw the pedestrianisation scheme, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "A great deal has changed since 2009 when the original pedestrianisation scheme was first put forward."

"No-one can now seriously consider cutting the High Street in half with the economy on a knife-edge and traders in Burnham finding business so difficult."

"It would not have been sensible to close part of the High Street at the moment between 6am and 10pm. I fear a lot of potential shoppers would have simply turned right away from the High Street to go onto the seafront and then drive off elsewhere."

"But Burnham town centre can still see benefits from Civic Pride because the money is still there and can be used to smarten up the High Street."

'Outrage'

But Burnham resident Tony Lynham (pictured below), who is in favour of pedestrianisation, told the meeting: "The town centre is in chaos at this time of year, with delivery lorries parking at all times of the day and double yellow lines being totally ignored by motorists."

"We should be encouraging more pedestrians into the High Street. It's an outrage that over £40,000 has been spent on this failed scheme due to the costs of applying for a traffic order to get the High Street closed off."

'Difficult decision'

Cllr Phil Harvey said at Monday's meeting: "It is very difficult when so many external factors are in play here. Personally, I could never understand what benefits Burnham would have gained by cutting off 60 yards of the High Street."

"Instead, we should now be looking carefully at whether there are better ways to spend the money. Market Street in Highbridge badly needs attention, for example."

But Cllr Jones was keen to stress at Monday's meeting that the £159,000 received by Sedgemoor District Council in compensation from the South West Regional Development Agency in 2009 has been "ring-fenced for use in Burnham."

Two new councillors were co-opted onto the Civic Pride group during Monday's meeting - Cllr Martin Cox and Cllr Bill Hancock - and a meeting will be held later in August to further discuss the next steps forward.

Burnham-On-Sea.com reported last November that the pedestrianisation plans had been given a cool reception by many High Street businesses, who fear the scheme will hurt their trade.

 


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