A £4.6m project to transform the fire-ravaged Highbridge Hotel into a ‘modern new community gateway’ will be completed this September, it has been announced this week.
Martin Hodgson, Chief Executive of YMCA Somerset Coast, told town councillors at their monthly meeting in Burnham on Monday night (June 24th) that the long-awaited redevelopment is “progressing well.”
Mr Hodgson, pictured below, said the new ‘YMCA Highbridge Community Branch’ will be a “gateway project that will transform the town.”
The building will provide a new community cafe, a multi-use sports hall for sports, conferences and meetings, 23 new homes for young people, meeting rooms, and free super-fast wi-fi throughout.
Martin said he is “very proud” of the money spent on the project: “It shows the YMCA’s commitment to bringing something special back to Highbridge that we genuinely believe will be a real community asset.”
He also revealed how the £4.6m project has been funded – the YMCA has put in £2.91m, Homes England has provided £1.1m, Sedgemoor District Council has given £500,000, and the Hinkley Point C Housing Fund has injected £96,000.
During the meeting, pictured above, he explained that work to “kit out” the building will take place during August, and the “practical completion and handover” is scheduled for September 25th, with the formal opening to follow soon after.
Burnham and Highbridge’s Mayor, Cllr Andy Brewer, said: “This will be a great asset to Highbridge’s community and I want to congratulate the YMCA for what they are doing.”
Mr Hodgson added that the coloured walls planned for the rear of the building – which were previously criticised as being like a ‘Lego Land Monstrosity’ – have been “toned down” and these will be visible over the next 2-3 weeks.
He added: “I still hear the ‘h’ word a lot for ‘hotel’ when I’m in Highbridge, but I want this to be known as a community venue, where the local community comes together.”
Cllr Richard Gardiner-White asked how may staff would be employed there, to which Mr Hodgson around 12.
History of the Highbridge Hotel site
Local historians say the original hotel was likely founded in the late 18th century and it has been a landmark at the entry to the town for years.
When the Cattle Market closed in 2007 the Highbridge Hotel was secured to prevent trespass and unauthorised entry, however the building was subject to several acts of arson.
It was then gutted by the huge Highbridge Hotel fire in April 2008 that left it severely damaged.
The structure of the building was destroyed to such an extent that substantial fire clearance works were required to make the buildings safe. Work to clear the building was agreed with Sedgemoor District Council.
As part of the fire clearance works and in agreement with the Conservation Officer and English Heritage, work was undertaken to support the main building facade to ensure its main feature was protected.