September 16, 2015
Long-awaited revamp of Highbridge Hotel 'will finish by March 2017'

Work is set to finally begin on the long-awaited revamp of the Highbridge Hotel within two months, with the project set to be completed by March 2017, the boss of Somerset YMCA has told town councillors this week.

The overhaul of the eyesore has seen an eight month delay this year, but work is set to begin by the end of November to transform the property into a modern premises with 22 affordable flats for young people plus community sports facilities.

YMCA Somerset Chief Executive Martin Hodgson, pictured, told town councillors at their meeting this week: "The delays have been really unfortunate - we were hoping by now to be further progressed but for several reasons have not been able to."

"The YMCA has been working really hard to make sure the project gets off on the right foot. This is a legacy project for Burnham and Highbridge and we wanted to ensure the project is able to complete in the best way possible."

He went on to explain that the building had previously been "deemed unsafe for people to access".

"The main issue we had was if we took the scaffolding down was the building going to fall that was left there, and which way would it fall - onto the road, back onto the Bovis and Knightstone site, on itself, or whether it would fall at all?"

"So the work we had initially done was to identify whether it was structurally sound as a building. Unfortunately, what came back was a completely inconclusive report in which no structural surveyor was able to say to us that is was safe to take the scaffolding down."

He said that the YMCA has held extensive discussions with key stakeholders, including Sedgemoor District Council and English Heritage, to progress the project while preserving key elements of the Grade-2 listed property.

"We are now in a position over the next two months to access the site and, with agreement from Sedgemoor District Council and English Heritage, to hand pick the facade of the building down using manual labour to bring it down to ground level in order to essentially refurbish that front element."

"The works that we are going to be doing have created delay, but in the long term we are going to get a building with a facade that is so impressive as a gateway for the town using the originally-used materials."

"That process we are anticipating to start in two months time but we will also take the time. There are budgetary implications which the YMCA and Sedgemoor and other parties are talking about at the moment. They are not showstoppers, they are not going to stop what is going on, because we have come this far and we genuinely believe in the work we've done in Highbridge. And the conversations we've had are that people are very proud of that location."

He added that the revamped building will become a "great asset to Highbridge", adding that the delay of eight months so far as part of "a legacy project over about 25 years almost becomes inconsequential to the whole thing."

He told councillors that the project will finish by March 2017.

The property has been derelict for more than seven years since a huge blaze destroyed the Highbridge Hotel in April 2008 followed by several other smaller blazes.

Video of this week's Town Council discussion about the hotel:


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