Published:
February 2, 2016
Council slams 'diversionary tactics' as it rejects deal on Apex Park

Burnham and Highbridge Town Council has this week firmly rejected a proposal for it to take over the management of the town's Apex Park.

Last night's debate follows Sedgemoor District Council asking the Town Council to consider "taking over the financial and physical management of the park in its entirety as an asset".

The proposal comes at a time when controversial proposals by Sedgemoor to lease the park's BMX track to holiday firm Bourne Leisure in a 50-year deal to enable it to set up 16 new holiday homes on the site are still up in the air.

Cllr Phil Harvey told Monday's meeting: "What we have here is a diversionary tactic from Sedgemoor - it is, to quote a phrase from Lynton Crosby, a 'dead cat strategy' where they have thrown the cat on the table of the Town Council in order to get us to take on the management of the park and divert attention from whether they should or should not continue the contract discussions with Bourne Leisure."

"I think it would be totally inappropriate for us to take on the ownership of Apex. We have to consider the money and there is no way we could run Apex Park for in the region of £100,000-£150,000 a year and I am sure our rate payers would not want us to take this on. It is not value for money. I think we should also be very clear that we do not want the lease for the BMX park transferred to Bourne Leisure."

Cllr Janet Keen added: "It is entirely inappropriate that such a park as Apex should come under the control of a parish or town council. Apex is unique in that it is large and extremely complex and it has very important varieties of living environments within it."

"The upkeep and maintenance and administration of such a complex and large property is financially beyond even a large parish such as us," she said.

"Sedgemoor already has the administrative staff to manage Apex properly and I think their proposal to us was simply a diversion to try and get out of solving a complex problem, or question, posed by an outside commercial body. I have seen nothing that has persuaded me that it would be in any way a benefit to the town, the park or the users if it was passed to us."

But former Burnham and Highbridge Mayor Cllr Martin Cox took a different view, telling Monday's debate: "Apex Park is a jewel in the crown of Highbridge and I think we all recognise the benefits of it with the various sports and activities that go on there. But I am very much of the opinion that Bourne Leisure should be allowed to have this land providing they improve the facilities of the park."

Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton said the proposal to take on the park could not be considered given the lack of detail from Sedgemoor.

"We have had no real facts and figures to support a decision like this and do it professionally. I totally disagree with taking over the Apex and I certainly would not want to see any land disappear - in particular the BMX track. I think it would be a slippery slope to let that go and I'm sure that would leak them to ask for just a little more to go in the future," he said.

Cllr Paul Young added: "I am surprised that Sedgemoor have not given us any proper financial figures with this proposal. To say 'just take over the park' is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous."

Cllr John Parkes, right, said he has lodged a Freedom of Information request with Sedgemoor District Council to seek a verbatim report from its Executive Meeting on December where the park plans were initially discussed. He claims a further option about Apex Park's future was disregarded.

"Cllr Andrew Gilling proposed at the Executive meeting that the BMX area of the park - or even the whole park - be handed over to the Town Council. I am absolutely bemused that the option was never mentioned in the minutes or even in the letter to the Town Council even though it may have been an attractive option," said Cllr Parkes told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

Cllr Mike Facey added: "Personally, I can see advantages to us a Town Council if the park were managed in a better way. I would like to see some way we could work with the district to see if there is a viable business plan in relation to the BMX park. Everybody could financially make a gain by possibly disposing of that unit, but that is something that we could never discuss properly and Sedgemoor are not prepared to discuss at the moment."

Cllr Andy Brewer added: "We are very concerned about the future of Apex Park. It is maintained and managed to a high standard at the moment and that's what we wish to see continue. Given that, it would be very difficult for us to take on that responsibility and maintain those high standards."

Town Councillors voted in favour of writing back to Sedgemoor District Council, telling them they are not interested in taking over Apex Park with the proviso that the Town Council would like to consider the future of the park.

If the BMX plans eventually do go ahead, Burnham BMX Club would relocate from Apex Park to a bigger site near to the Oaktree Arena at Edithmead.

It's proposed the existing Apex Park ranger building would be refurbished and enlarged, pictured right, with a new café and upgraded public conveniences.

According to the results of Sedgemoor's consultation survey - which was carried out last summer - local people are in favour of the Apex plans. 91% of respondents apparently supported the re-location of the BMX track. A majority of respondents, almost three quarters (73%), supported the site being leased to a third party, and there was a fairly even split between those respondents who lived in Burnham/Highbridge (47%) who supported the site being leased and those who did not (53%).

Pictured: The 16 holiday homes that would be built by Bourne Leisure at Highbridge's Apex Park where the BMX track is currently located. The BMX club wants to build a new bigger track at a site near the Oaktree Arena.

 


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