Proposals to develop Burnham-On-Sea’s former job centre into a new convenience store and eight flats have this week been supported by town councillors despite concerns over parking, a loading bay and the layout of the flats.
At a virtual meeting of the council’s Planning Applications Committee on Monday evening (August 24th), members supported the plans on the basis that it would bring a redundant building back into use, generate new employment, create new accommodation, and tidy up the street scene.
It is proposed that the building, located at the junction of Burnham’s High Street and Regent Street, will be turned into a new convenience store while upstairs, there would be four 1-bedroom flats plus four 2-bedroom flats.
The property has been vacant since the former job centre closed in March 2008. The building was set to be redeveloped into a community facility with £1million of funding from the Government’s Coastal Community Fund, but the grant bid was rejected in 2018.
Town councillors have therefore welcomed the new plans to develop the property.
During the meeting, Mike Bellamy, a highways consultant, spoke on behalf of the applicant, saying that the plans are for a car-free development. He explained that “there is on-street parking and a public car park nearby,” and that the “government guidance is to reduce parking demand on site.”
He added that “the loading bay is quite a key issue for our client… they would like a loading bay right outside the building. In Regent Street, it is located at the far western end – the proposed change to the traffic regulation order would be subject to a separate public consultation process.”
Mr Bellamy suggested that either the existing bay near the Royal Clarence Hotel is re-sited to the eastern end of Regent Street or the council could make the parking bay outside the building in Regent Street at the eastern end into a joint loading/parking bay where, during the day, it would be used as a loading bay from 8am-6pm and then at night it would act as a parking bay.
He added that the loading bay “is quite key for the current operator who is lined up to operate the convenience store – and the indication from them is that they would dearly like a loading bay right outside the premises.”
Cllr Peter Clayton added: “It’s really important that there should be a loading bay there – there always used to be in the past but that was on the High Street side. If it has to go in Regent Street that’s fine but it could go in the High Street.”
Mt Belamy said having the loading bay in the High Street “could be an option” that he would look further into.
Darren Addicott, for the applicant, added: “We are proposing to make use of a vacant building, returning it to retail, and as a part of a conversion we are proposing to add accommodation to make the site viable. It makes a sympathetic use of the building, making good use of the builing in a town centre location, bringing it back into use without any detrimental harm.”
Nearby resident Colin Arnold added: “My main concern is not that they are bringing an empty shop back into use – it’s the parking issue. It will not only add another 12 cars to the road but it will also take away three parking spaces. The job centre has been abandoned for 10 years – and it has deteriorated over that time. We are now looking at 12 new cars plus whatever the convenience store adds to that, and they will all be in Regent Street. It will be pretty much chaos in my opinion.”
Cllr Andy Brewer added that he has concerns about the layout and privacy for occupants of the proposed eight flats, however the developer said they would comply with sound and building regulations.
Cllr Peter Clayton said he supports the plans in principal, adding: “After 10 years being empty this is a welcome use. The building has become something of an eyesore – it is great to have it used again. I would support the planning application on the basis that would also provide employment and new accommodation, but I do recognise there are some concerns about the layout.”
Cllr Sue Harvey said she would be “much in favour of a traditional shop front in keeping with the conservation area” rather than a modern looking shopfront.
Cllr Nick Tolley agreed, adding: “I too support this application – I have seen the demise of this property over the years. A new convenience store will be needed. I have concerns over the storage of rubbish – we don’t want commercial bins blocking pavements – but I support the whole application. It’s a wonderful step forward for our town.”
Cllr Bill Hancock added: “I am in favour of it completely, particularly if it brings new employment. I think we must support the application and tidy up that end of the town – I just have concerns over the parking – but I think we have got to support it 100%.”
Cllr Sue Harvey noted “I understand that if you live within 200 metres of a public council car park you can get a special permit for £360 annually – residents will be able to get a ticket annually.”
Cllr Brewer questioned whether the proposals represent an “over-development, given the proposed eight flats instead of six,” but Cllr Sue Harvey said: “If it takes eight flats to make it viable, I wouldn’t want any changes. It’s important to get the site developed – it has been an eyesore for too many years, and this is a great opportunity.”
And Cllr Bill Hancock added: “If it has to be eight to make it viable, then I’m 100% for it.” Cllr Nick Tolley agreed, saying: “I’m sure Sedgemoor’s planning officers will look at the number stringently – I support the eight units.”
Cllr Brewer noted that the Town Council hopes the architectural features of the building – such as bay windows – would be retained to keep the building’s character. He added: “We are all looking forward to seeing the building coming back into use.”
Cllr Clayton proposed that the Town Council supports the application on the basis that it “would bring a redundant building back into use, provide new employment, create much needed new accommodation, tidy up the building aesthetically, and tidy up the street scene.”
Cllr Nick Tolley seconded the proposition, which was backed by councillors.
Sedgemoor District Council’s planning department is accepting comments from the public on the plans until September 1st. The application reference number is 11/20/00066.