Published: April 5, 2013
Mixed reactions to £11m scheme to redevelop Highbridge Hotel site

Dozens of Highbridge residents attended a public open day on Thursday (April 4th) where plans to regenerate the fire-ravaged Highbridge Hotel site went on display for the first time. spoke to some of those who attended to get their views on the scheme...

Local resident Matt Cole, right, who lives opposite the hotel site, said: "We have been waiting for this dump to be sorted for so many years so are delighted that the plans have now been put forward. It seems a good layout with decent houses and adequate parking. We'd like the development to go ahead as soon as possible to improve this prominent entrance to Highbridge."

Highbridge resident Michelle Thorogood said: "I feel there are already too many social housing facilities in the town and this development will simply add to them. The owner has had five years to get his act together and put in a place a modern scheme with a new hotel and accommodation. Instead, we've simply got a new housing estate. I think it's sad that when Highbridge is a dying town, so much more could have been done here to help transform it."

Local resident Jill Rigby, right, said: "I am disappointed that there appear to be no houses for the private market - only social housing. It's also a shame that more flats are planned - something that Highbridge does not need. The plans for the hotel itself look good, but we would like to see more facilities for use by the general public."

Another local resident, Mike Sanders, said: "It's actually a huge relief for many in Highbridge that these plans have finally been been put forward. I just hope the councillors now stand well back and don't jeopardise this chance to develop the site. We don't want the developer to be given an excuse to leave this eyesore in its current state for another five years."

Phil Shepherd, right, added: "Something has been needed to improve the former hotel site for many years. The plans seem to be shaping up well and promise the town some benefit. I hope that people continue to be involved in the proposals as they evolve. This event has provided a great opportunity for residents to come forward and have their say and I hope the consultation continues."

Highbridge Residents Association's Tina Gray added: "It's good to see some plans put forward and some movement here after so many years, but without substantial infrastructure improvements for the town I question whether Highbridge can support more development. We need extra doctors surgeries, schools, recreation facilities plus drainage and sewer systems to support the growing population. The offer of a community games room in the hotel is a laugh."

Burnham and Highbridge MP Tessa Munt also visited the consultation event and said: "I am very pleased to see some development going ahead here after so long. I have a few concerns about the limited amount of parking in the area and I'd also like the numbers and type of new houses in Highbridge to be more fully investigated. Several people have expressed to me that they would like to see the children's play area moved inside the development site itself rather than just outside. That said, I welcome the refurbishment of the hotel and hope that some changes can go ahead ."

Highbridge councillor John Woodman said: "I am pleased that some firm plans have been put forward after so long, but I would have liked to see a franchise food chain on the site, bringing new jobs to the town. I also question whether more social housing is really needed here or whether better properties could be built. It's good to see something happening with the hotel, but this would not be my first choice of a scheme."

And James Heappey, the Conservatives' prospective parliamentary candidate for Burnham and Highbridge, said: "It's good to see some sympathetic plans for the hotel itself that preserve its architecture. Local people seem to be mostly positive about the proposals. I am really encouraged by the response of the community - it's great to see people getting involved in the consultation and having their say."


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