Plans to introduce 15 new trees along Burnham-On-Sea’s Esplanade to add more colour to the seafront have been abandoned this week and the organising group says it is shutting down after issuing a sternly-worded statement.
Gaynor Brown from community group BOS Events received support for the scheme from town councillors last month after securing funding from Somerset Community Foundation and the Hinkley Point C Community Fund.
The 15 flowering Mimosa trees would have been installed along the South Esplanade near the Bay View cafe using a £5,000 grant, as we reported here.
However, Gaynor has issued a full statement this week explaining why the trees won’t be installed after all — and why BOS Events is folding.
She says: “BOS Events has had a 12-year history of organising events in Burnham, including ten beach kite festivals, and have throughout that time built a progressive and enabling relationship with the officers at Sedgemoor District Council, now Somerset Council.”
“These many events helped to increase the footfall in the town and have gained the Council many thousands of pounds in parking fees.”
“So when we took on a very simple project to place 15 beautiful flowering Mimosa trees on the front, we were very surprised by the sudden last minute about-face in Somerset’s attitude.”
“All the information needed had been completed more than six months ago, including detailed planting plans which were exactly what their own officer’s directed.”
“The Town Council approved the scheme at their last meeting and the funding was committed. We were ready to go with insurance as agreed.”
She adds: “Somerset Council has this month launched a survey called ‘Places for People’. This is apparently aimed at involving the communities in making changes to their public spaces. You would think this was exactly the sort of project that was supposed to engender!”
Obviously not, with the trees about to be delivered and planned to be located to coincide with the Eco Festival and Coastal Walks Weekend at the end of September, we are suddenly faced with obstruction which means the cancellation of the project. So the survey would appear to be yet another waste of public money, wonderful words, but really just hot air with no real intention behind it.”
“We had hoped that the Mimosa trees, which flower profusely from September to March, would not only give Burnham an out of season attraction and brighten up the front, but might start a conversation with the community, the Town Council and County about revamping the sea wall into something that resembled the seaside promenade that was there prior to the works done in 1987.”
“For over forty years we have been left with nothing but miles of dark, dreary, empty tarmac topped by three ‘brutalist’ style concrete shelters, none of which makes an interesting front to attract the tourist trade our town depends on for its survival. Whoever thought this was suitable as a seaside attraction needed their heads examined.”
“Somerset’s policy seems to be to give the holiday camps ‘carte blanche’ to expand again and again, to get bigger, and provide every franchise and fairground attraction going to keep their visitors on site.”
“We are left with all the traffic congestion and pollution but none of the tourist spend we depend on. Burnham has been neglected and starved of funding and resourcing for decades and Somerset have no intention of replacing the Prom themselves or by the looks of it allowing the community to do so themselves. If such a simple project is beyond the County’s enabling we are obviously to be left ignored and neglected.”
“The Community has over the years put in a tremendous effort to replace the lack of an attraction with a programme of events throughout the year.”
“Since the pandemic organising an event has become a nightmare. The insurance costs have almost trebled partly because the Council now demand £10 million in public liability cover.”
“The paperwork has escalated to 17 pages of repetitive forms that make little sense and ten weeks notice is now required. All of this shows how little they understand our town’s needs and how little they care. We’ve lost so many events and this will ensure we lose even more.”
“Our Town Council approved the idea and so did Somerset Community Foundation who have funded so many things for us. There is plenty of funding out there – but not for Burnham’s Promenade it seems.”
“So BOS Events would like to thank Karen Barnes and Tim Mander for all the help and support of the past twelve years. We will now join the long list of event groups which have been lost to the Town.”
“We’d like to thank the community for all the hours of voluntary time given to make ten years of Kite Festivals and many other events possible and the Great British Public for attending in their thousands.”
She adds that a new location is being sought for the 15 trees and that the funding may have to be returned if none can be found.
Burnham-On-Sea.com invited Somerset Council to provide a comment and a spokeswoman said on Friday (September 15th): “We will always look to support projects which could enhance a local area and benefit community tourism.”
”However, we also have to carry out due diligence to make sure any project is sustainable, suitable, safe, and will enhance the natural area and wildlife.”
”We have not refused consent for this project but there are some outstanding matters to be resolved. We are happy to continue discussions with the organisers should they wish to reconsider their decision to cancel the application.”