Published: May 12, 2012
Burnham's community-run tourist centre celebrates successful first year

Burnham-On-Sea's tourist information centre made a small overall profit and dealt with 76,000 visitors in its first year under the management of a new community group of volunteers, it was confirmed this week.

BIARS (Burnham Information and Rescue Support) held its first annual general meeting in Burnham's Princess Theatre on Tuesday when members looked back at a successful first year.

Neville Jones, Chairman of BIARS, told the meeting: "It has been a remarkable year since BIARS took over from Sedgemoor District Council in April 2011. In that time, the centre has been turned around from being on the brink of closure to a thriving success."

"Our team of very dedicated volunteers has made the centre profitable again and dealt with a huge 76,000 visitors in the first 12 months - a great accomplishment!"

Tom Ashton, BIARS treasurer, said the organisation had turned around the centre's finances, making a profit and covered our high ongoing expenses."

He added that the centre had raised £930 for the Coastguard Association and £1,200 for BARB during the year, which are the two charities that are partners in the organisation.

"What has been achieved here is remarkable and beyond what anyone expected," he said, although he cautioned: "While we are in a positive position now thanks to all the work of our fundraisers and local supporters, our finances could be hit in the future without the continued support of Sedgemoor District Council, particularly around reduced rates relief."

Ian Jefferies, BIARS operations manager, praised the team of 30 active volunteers who operate the centre on a day-to-day basis. "We have a wonderful team spirit and are so lucky to have such a dedicated team of volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible," he said.

Ken Smout, secretary, gave an update on plans to turn BIARS into a community interest company (CIC) and explained that work is underway to put together the formal application.

Mark Newman explained some of the work that had taken place to develop awareness of the BIARS 'brand' in the Burnham area around publicity of the group.

Somerset Tourism Assoiciation's Bob Nicholson thanked BIARS for the work it has done, adding: "On behalf of Somerset's tourism businesses, we thank BIARS for doing such a fantastic job. The tourism trade has had a difficult year in a tough economic climate and having facilities like this in place is more important than ever."

In the election for committee members, Neville Jones was re-elected Chairman, Dennis Davey as Vice Chairman, Stephanie Lewis as Treasurer, Ken Smout as Secretary, Ian Jefferies as the Operations Manager and Coastguard representative, Mark Newman as the publicity and BARB representative, and Tom Ashton as the tourism representative.

BIARS' volunteers hand out tourist and community information and also provide sea safety advice and merchandise from BARB and the Coastguard Association. New volunteers are always welcome and can join up via the link below.

Pictured: Top, volunteers at the BIARS AGM in Burnham this week


Official BIARS web page


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