October 8, 2014
Concerns voiced over YMCA's plans for Highbridge Hotel site

Concerns have been raised this week that a proposed new YMCA centre at the site of the former Highbridge Hotel will "threaten" the future of other community facilities in the town.

The YMCA is seeking to build a new public access multi-use games area, cafe and community facilities in place of the fire-hit Highbridge Hotel site.

But Cllr Helen Groves told this week's Town Council meeting: "Concerns have been raised by many existing groups in the town that the YMCA is contacting them and asking whether they would consider moving their activities into the new building."

"This is potentially threatening the existence of existing community facilities, such as meeting halls in the town. It is very disappointing and want a reassurance that the YMCA is not looking to centralise activities into that building. I have had numerous groups contact me about this with their concerns."

Andrew Farrell from the YMCA said that while he wants the proposed facilities to be used by all in the community, he denied that the group is looking to replicate existing community venues and meeting facilities in Highbridge. "We have no plans to set-up in competition with other facilities," he said.

However, Cllr Chris Williams added: "I am a trustee of a group in Highbridge and have heard that groups have been approached and that discussions have been held with the YMCA. While it provides great opportunities for the town, there is certainly something in what Cllr Groves says and some facilities will feel threatened. We would welcome an open discussion."

Cllr Pat Burge, who is involved with several Highbridge groups and helps to run meeting facilities in the town, said: "I have not been approached by any groups with concerns - this is not a widespread issue."

And Cllr Ken Smout added: "I am slightly frustrated by this. We as a council have wanted modern new community facilities in Highbridge for some time to deliver benefits for the town. We have asked for a MUGA (multi-use games area) and other facilities and those are now on their way. I think we should congratulate the YMCA for coming here."

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