Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge Town Council has unveiled a £6,000 upgrade of the council’s chambers this week.
The old horseshoe-shaped arrangement of seating and tables – which was often criticized because the audience could not see councillors or fully hear them – has been replaced with a new set-up where all councillors face the audience.
New microphones and speakers have also been installed in the chambers at a cost of £2,700 to improve sound quality.
And a £2,700 high-tech ceiling-mounted projector screen has been installed at one end of the chambers. It lowers down into the room when required, providing improved visibility.
Cllr Martin Cox, Chairman of the council’s Staffing and Resources Committee, said: “We were frequently told by the public attending our meetings that it was difficult to hear what is being said during debates so the changes are a great improvement.”
Town Clerk Tatiana Cant added: “Everyone feels a part of the meeting now – it’s not just a huddle of councillors.”
Cllr Michael Clarke added that while he welcomes the new arranagement, he wouldn’t want the council to make a “great mistake” by removing a big wooden table at the back of the chambers. “Replacing it with a plastic fold-out village hall style table would be such a sad loss,” he said. Cllr Mike Facey responded that no decision has been taken to replace it, and he quipped that “all options are still on the table.”
Members voted in September to proceed with the “long overdue” project to modernise the council chambers in Burnham’s Jaycroft Road.
How it used to look – the old ‘horseshoe’ arranagement of the council chambers has gone as councillors had their backs to members of the public