Published: November 28, 2012
£20,000 plan to transform Burnham's former job centre wins backing

Proposals to transform Burnham-On-Sea's former job centre into a thriving hub for small businesses have been given the backing of town councillors this week.

At a meeting of the council's Town Improvements Committee on Tuesday (November 27th), councillors supported plans to convert it into a new centre for small shops and start-up businesses.

The former job centre, which is at the junction of the High Street and Victoria Street, has been empty since 2008, and residents are keen to see it put back into community use.

The committee voted unanimously to earmark £20,000 of £320,000 of community cash from Tesco towards the scheme to help rejuvenate the town centre.

It comes after Burnham resident Tony Lynham, who sits on the Town Improvements Committee, held talks with the agents seeking to sell the building.

He said at Tuesday's meeting: "The rent for the building would be £56,600 a year and the rates are around £11,000. Since no new tenant for the property has been found, there's a real opportunity for us to fill this empty building with small businesses by meeting some of the overall costs."

Alex Turco, representing Burnham Chamber of Trade, said the group is delighted with the proposals. "The Chamber is very keen to see this go ahead - it would boost local business and encourage new enterprise in the town."

"The idea of space for 'pop up shops' was in Burnham's Mary Portas bid earlier this year and we stated then that this site would be ideal. It would not only make use of an empty property, but it would also increase footfall at that end of the High Street."

And Bev Milner Simonds from Burnham's Town Team added: "It's great that this vacant building could be used for something exciting - it has a horrible appearance at the moment. The proposal for a centre like this is already working well in Margate where 'pop-up' shops are thriving."

Committee Chairman Cllr Michael Clarke gave his backing to the scheme and the committee voted unanimously to give £20,000 towards the plan.

The proposals will go forward to the January meeting of the full Town Council where a decision will be made on whether this scheme - and others - will benefit from the Tesco community cash, which has been given to the town centre to offset the impact of its new extension. The ultimate decision, however, rests with Sedgemoor District Council, which controls the overall pot of funding.

The former Job Centre Plus centre closed down in March 2008 as part of a cost-cutting programme by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

There was later speculation that Tesco was interested in opening a food store there - a claim that it denied. Two years ago, fast food giant KFC also denied rumours that it was interested in taking over the building.


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