Published: June 7, 2012
£250k funding bid is submitted for Highbridge art regeneration project

A bid for £250,000 of European funding to transform part of Highbridge town centre into an 'arts and crafts quarter' has this week been formally submitted.

Town councillor Phil Harvey has worked with Sedgemoor District Council to submit the outline bid for funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

News of the bid was announced at a meeting of Burnham and Highbridge Town Council on Wednesday night.

As first reported by earlier this year, the proposals for Highbridge would see a dozen boarded-up shops along Market Street being transformed into workshops, studios and retail outlets to be used by artists and crafts people.

A group of Highbridge councillors, led by Phil Harvey, has put forward the plans. He told "Our bid is for £250,000 - the minimum amount - and it was submitted by Sedgemoor District Council on our behalf by this week's deadline. It will require match-funding from private/ public sources in money or in kind and we should hear later this summer whether we have been successful."

It was revealed on Wednesday that the South-West's European Regional Development Fund has a £20m underspend, helping the chances of Highbridge gaining funding.

Cllr Harvey explained how the money would be used if the bid is successful: "Market Street has a significant number of empty shops and business premises and, realistically, it is never going to be able to re-establish itself as a shopping street with a traditional mix of shops such as a greengrocer, butcher or grocer able to compete with the two supermarkets in the town."

"Highbridge's best option is to establish itself as a 'destination', somewhere that people go to because it offers something different. It needs a unique selling point that has proved to be successful in other towns faced with similar problems."

"I am proposing that Market Street should therefore seek to become a community of artists and craftsmen and women in which the premises are both workshops, studios and retail outlets. The rationale for this is that the vacant premises will not be able to attract high rental values, even with upgrading, but such premises may be attractive to those in the artistic and craft community seeking work and retail space."

"Also, establishing a number of such outlets provides synergy and establishes Market Street as a 'destination' where a number of different but complementary arts and crafts can be viewed and purchased."

Cllr Harvey told Wednesday's meeting that he has spoken with Creative Somerset, an umbrella organisation for artists in the county, which has given its backing to the scheme.

Cllr Neville Jones also welcomed news of the bid. "I congratulate Cllr Harvey on this initiative so far and hope the bid for funding is successful."

Mayor Ken Smout added his support to the scheme, saying that he hopes traders in Highbridge will rally behind the project.

Pictured: Cllr Phil Harvey and Joe Leach with a copy of the proposals


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