Sedgemoor and Mendip District Councils’ £19.3m bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund has been submitted this week, including major regeneration plans for Highbridge.
If successful, the bid will support a range of town centre regeneration, local transport, and cultural and heritage projects within the Wells parliamentary constituency. The bid is being supported by £2.4m in match funding from Sedgemoor and Mendip District Councils, bringing the total value of the potential investment in the area to £21.9m.
The Levelling Up Fund bid brings a variety of projects in Highbridge, Cheddar, Shepton Mallett and the wider districts which have been identified as having potential to deliver economic benefits and help revitalise the local economy, allowing residents to have more pride in the area and tackling local deprivation issues.
Highbridge regeneration projects:
- Public realm improvements to Highbridge Railway station to create an attractive gateway to the town.
- A new travel hub at the railway station to enable and encourage sustainable connectivity and enhanced tourist information.
- Transformational change to Market Steet and Bank Street to create flexible event space, new community and recreational facilities encouraging more town centre visits, and enhanced public realm leading to increased dwell time, greater footfall and increased commercial activity.
- New and extended community centre at Trowbridge Close within Morlands estate to enable pre-school activities, training in new skills, community participation.
- Active travel infrastructure linking Highbridge to Burnham-on-Sea encouraging increased active travel.
Responding to the news that Burnham and Highbridge MP James Heappey is not supporting the bid, a Sedgemoor spokeswoman says: “It is disappointing that James Heappey MP has not formally endorsed the levelling up fund bid that seeks to secure over £19m of investment into parts of the constituency in most need.”
“The bid was prepared following advice from Central Government who highlighted Mendip and Sedgemoor as priority 1 areas most in need of Levelling Up investment. The consultation showed the overwhelming support of local residents, who agree that this investment is needed.”
“The concerns around visitor access to Cheddar by car are fully understood and the related regeneration framework for the area includes longer term options and proposals to address these. Unfortunately, car based solutions would not meet the criteria set out in the levelling up prospectus but remain very much part of the longer term options for the area.”
“The Councils believe that a strong bid has been submitted that if successful will not only deliver transformational change, it will also be a catalyst for further public and private sector investment.”
In Highbridge, the funding has been earmarked to deliver regeneration in Market Steet and Bank Street, improvements at Highbridge Railway station, the creation of a new community centre at Trowbridge Close and improvements to the cycle route from Highbridge to Burnham-On-Sea.
In Shepton Mallet, the funding would help to deliver public realm and highway infrastructure improvements, a travel hub with enhanced cycle storage and better bus interchange and tourist information, new signage and pedestrian crossing improvements.
In Cheddar, the funding would help to enhance public spaces within Cheddar Gorge, as well as supporting a new travel hub to help encourage and enable sustainable tourism and an extension of the Strawberry Line cycle route.
Across parts of Sedgemoor and Mendip Districts, the funding has been earmarked to support new tourist signage, further improvements to the Strawberry Line cycle route, a new travel hub at Natural England’s Avalon Marshes Centre and a new online tourism resource.
A spokesperson for Sedgemoor District Council said: “We are proud to have brought together this joint bid which has the potential to deliver significant Levelling Up benefits in communities across Somerset. By supporting our local communities we can create new opportunities for people who live and work in Highbridge and Cheddar, and the wider district. I am grateful to everyone who has supported the bid, particularly local residents who engaged so positively with our consultations in Highbridge and Cheddar.”
In response to Sedgemoor District Council’s Levelling Up Fund consultations in Highbridge and Cheddar, 98% of those responding agreed that investment in those communities was needed. Among those who live and work in Highbridge, 84% agreed that the projects outlined should be included and in Cheddar there was also broad support for the projects outlined, with those prioritising safe pedestrian and cycle routes proving most popular.
A spokesperson for Mendip District Council said: “By working together, the projects proposed in our joint bid offer opportunity and will have considerable positive impact on our communities. One of the significant areas of this bid is the extension and further improvements to the Strawberry Line, a much used and loved cycle route. This will enhance the tourism offering and provide connectivity between communities across both districts. These projects will make a real difference in Mendip, Sedgemoor, and Somerset.”
The Levelling Up Fund is jointly managed by HM Treasury (HMT), the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to deliver investment in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK. The £4.8 billion fund is supporting town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets. The deadline for submission of bids for this round is 2 August 2022, and decisions on this funding round are expected in autumn 2022.
For more, see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/levelling-up-fund-round-2-prospectus