October 13, 2015
Claims of £612,000 funding 'scandal' in Highbridge denied by council

Sedgemoor District Council has denied that money given by developers to promote Highbridge town centre has been 'whisked away for other projects', despite claims from a group of local councillors.

When Asda opened its Highbridge store, the developer had to pay just under £612,000 to "promote the viability and vitality of Highbridge and to fulfil regeneration priorities".

Town councillor John Parkes, pictured below, told a council meeting on Monday evening (October 12th) that Highbridge is being "treated as the poor relation in comparison to Burnham and has missed out on many real benefits to its town centre," adding that it is a "scandal" how the money has been spent. We first reported on the claims here.

But Sedgemoor District Council's Corporate Relations Manager Claire Faun responded on Monday: "The developer was obliged to pay £611,930.15 in Section 106 obligations relating to the ASDA development in Highbridge. In respect of the Isleport Ponds Contributions specifically, these funds became due within two years of the development starting on site and were paid in 2012."

"There is no 'missing money'. The monies identified in the S106 are as follows: £30,000 to Somerset County Council Highways Contribution towards the maintenance of the new traffic signals at the toucan crossings on the A38 and B3139; £182,062 to Somerset County Council - Education Contribution; and £399,868.15 to Sedgemoor District Council for Isleport Pond Open Space Contribution towards the costs of improving and enhancing Sedgemoor District Council’s public open space at Isleport Ponds."

"The contributions are for public open space and pedestrians links rather than any regeneration of the town centre, as cited in the Development Committee report online using planning ref 11/04/00190 and looking under Committee Documents."

She added: "Clearly, the spending of such a large amount of money is not being considered lightly and the Council will need to take the time to make sure it is spent to the maximum effect for the enhancement of public open space for the residents of Highbridge. The Section 106 Agreement requires that the Isleport Ponds Contributions are spent no later than 2022."

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