Published: April 11, 2013
Town councillors vote in favour of £11m Highbridge Hotel overhaul

Town councillors last night (Wednesday) gave a cautious approval to multi-million pound plans to regenerate the fire-ravaged former Highbridge Hotel site.

Members of the Town Council's Planning Applications Committee were split on whether to approve the scheme, with four voting in favour and two against. first reported here last month 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 games area and cafe.

Town councillors gave mixed opinions on the scheme when they met on Wednesday evening (April 10th).

Cllr Martin Cox voted in favour of the scheme, saying: "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 providing new infrastructure for the town."

Cllr Pauline Pollard, who voted in favour of the scheme, said: "I have no strong feelings, but don't want the hotel to stay as it is, so I am in favour."

Cllr Helen Groves voted against the plans, saying: "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 Pat Burge voted in favour of the scheme and explained: "Whilst I am in favour of the project, I don't like the modern appearance of the hotel building which I feel is out of keeping with the old building. However, I have spoken to many residents who have told me they are pleased to see any progress here so I am voting in favour."

Cllr Alan Miller also voted in favour and said: "I have been involved in all the meetings regarding the hotel site and think it is a good thing for the town after many years of discussions."

But Cllr Bill Hancock disagreed, voting against the scheme, and 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 beind to avoid any possibility of the YMCA funding drying up and the hotel being left to decay for another 10 years."

The Town Council's decision will be considered by Sedgemoor District Council planners when they meet over the next few weeks to assess whether a final decision can be made.

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

How the new Highbridge housing development will look if it's approved


Residents give mixed opinions on the new Highbridge Hotel scheme

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