Published: May 14, 2013
New era for fire-hit Highbridge Hotel as £11m overhaul is approved

Multi-million pound plans to regenerate the fire-ravaged former Highbridge Hotel have been approved by district councillors on Tuesday.

Members of Sedgemoor District Council's Development Control Committee unanimously granted approval to the £11million scheme during a meeting in Bridgwater. first reported here in March that hotel owner Derek Mead wants to build 59 residential dwellings on the old cattle market site to include 23 three-bedroom homes, 31 two-bedroom homes and 5 two-bedroom flats.

The fire-damaged hotel building itself would be redeveloped into 2 studio flats, 5 4-bed flats plus new accommodation for the YMCA with a public access multi-use games area and cafe.

The YMCA said it is "thrilled" at the decision which will herald an "exciting new era" for the site.

Mr Mead added that the decision was "very pleasing" and he hopes the development can now move forward quickly.

The Highbridge Hotel has been derelict since a huge blaze occurred in April 2008 and several other smaller blazes and negotiations about its future have been ongoing ever since.

Councillors agreed with Sedgemoor Case Officer Shawn Fleet, who recommended that the scheme be approved despite 15 formal objections from local residents and eight statements in support of the scheme.

Burnham and Highbridge Mayor Cllr Martin Cox said: "People have been saying for many years that this is an eyesore that badly needs tidying up. It's not every day that a multi-million pound plan comes forward for Highbridge. To stand in the way of this happening would be crazy. I am in favour, providing there is a substantial 106 agreement in place providing new infrastructure for the town."

Distict councillor Helen Groves had opposed the scheme at a recent town council meeting: "The current proposals will fix the cosmetic problems but fail to address the future needs of the town. The scheme may not address local housing needs as the evidence base is drawn from Sedgemoor-wide information and, further, it may not be possible to implement the restrictions of housing allocation suggested. As such there may be a greater demand upon infrastructure required to support this development than suggested within the proposal. The evidence base for the YMCA hostel does not appear to be based upon a local demand and I would like to see evidence of a housing needs study for the area. Some residents are telling me that any new development here is good, but others are taking a pragmatic view, keeping an eye on the future and saying we should not approve this scheme at this time."

Cllr Bill Hancock also opposed the scheme, saying: "The site has far more potential than just more houses and flats. We need a scheme that will help the centre of Highbridge. I am also concerned that the hotel itself should be re-developed before the new houses behind to avoid any possibility of the YMCA funding drying up and the hotel being left to decay for another 10 years."

Pictured: How the new housing development will look


Residents give mixed opinions on the new Highbridge Hotel scheme

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