Highbridge regeneration project

The Government is scheduled to announce this month whether Highbridge has been successful in its bid for millions of pounds of ‘levelling up funding’ for the regeneration of the town.

Mendip District Council and Sedgemoor District Council jointly submitted a £19.3m bid to the government’s levelling up fund last summer for regeneration projects in Cheddar, Highbridge and Shepton Mallet.

The bid – which attracted criticism from local MP James Heappey – is currently being assessed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), with a decision on whether to grant the funding being expected by the end of January, according to Sedgemoor District Council.

Highbridge regeneration project

It comes after Sedgemoor’s full council last month approved detailed proposals of exactly how Highbridge would benefit if the bid was successful following public consultation last year (pictured below).

Highbridge contains a number of highly deprived areas, as measured by the government’s index of multiple deprivation – with some parts being within the bottom 20 per cent of England.

A district council spokesman adds: “The area suffers from low land values that impact viability and create significant barriers for private investment. The current public realm is unattractive and lacks passive surveillance in places, encouraging anti-social behaviour, resulting in negative perceptions and environments that compound the sense of deprivation.”

The five regeneration projects for Highbridge

The £19.3m bid covers projects across Cheddar, Highbridge and Shepton Mallet – but it is not yet known how much money would be allocated to each town if the bid is approved.

However, Sedgemoor District Council has published details of the five projects which it says would drive the regeneration of Highbridge – of which four would directly use money from the levelling up fund, with the fifth seeking funding from elsewhere.

The five projects are as follows:

  1. Revamping the area around Bank Street and the B3139 Market Street
  2. Improvements to Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea railway station
  3. Enhanced cycle links to and from Apex Park
  4. Creating a better community hall at Trowbridge Close
  5. Improving flood defences on the River Brue

Bank Street and Market Street to be revamped

Bank Street and Market Street are identified within the council’s Local Plan as a key priority, with investment being needed to “support local businesses, and encourage residents and visitors to spend more time in the centre of Highbridge”.

Under the council’s proposals, the existing Highbridge Community Hall will be upgraded, allowing a wide range of community groups to use the ground floor.

The green spaces around the hall and the Bank Street car park will be enhanced, with the Millennium Green being reconfigured.

Improvements will also be made to the St John’s Ambulance building, the Bank Street public toilets and the nearby play areas, with a new multi-use games area (MUGA) being created to the north of the car park.

Both streets will be redesigned to “create safer and healthier pedestrian-focussed streets”, with new commercial spaces being provided on Bank Street and flexible event spaces being created for the community.

Area around railway station to be improved

Highbridge and Burnham railway station is on the Bristol to Exeter mainline, and handles just under 200,000 passengers per year, according to the Office for Rail and Road.

However, the station has “not always represented the most attractive and usable gateway” to the town, which deterred potential investors.

To address this, a new travel hub will be created at the station, allowing passengers to access different types of transport for onward journeys, such as being able to hire bicycles.

highbridge railway station

The public realm will be enhanced, with the station forecourt being redesigned to make it easier for buses to access the site and better car parking for passengers.

The existing pedestrian and cycle paths being upgraded, linking up to a planned new footbridge to the Brue Farm development on the other side of the river.

Cycle routes to be improved

The council wishes to make Highbridge easier to walk and cycle around, reducing the need for both residents and visitors to use cars or other motorised transport.

To this end, the council proposes to focus its efforts on Tyler Way, which runs from the Market Street roundabout to Apex Park.

The existing footways on Tyler Way will be widened to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists, with a priority junction into Apex Park being provided and a new pedestrian crossing being installed on the A38.

The roundabout will be designed to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, with the speed limit on Tyler Way also being reduced.

Apex Park, Highbridge

How Trowbridge Close will be enhanced

Residents of the Morland estate currently have access to two community facilities – a community hall on Pearce Drive and an “under-used” community on Trowbridge Close.

This project would see the latter site extended to support a wide range of community groups, with the Pearce Drive facilities being relocated.

The enhanced building would be complemented by a new community garden, an improved car park with 22 spaces for residents and hall patrons, and a mini games court, which would support basketball and five-a-side football teams.

New flood defence proposals:

Highbridge is at high risk of flooding from the River Brue, existing tides and rising sea levels, all of which threaten the long-term stability of the town.

One of the most at-risk areas is the former boat yard site, which was redeveloped into the Highbridge Wharf estate comprising 95 homes after plans were approved in January 2015.

To mitigate this, the council intends to construct new flood defences between the existing properties and the Brue estuary, with a three-metre wide pedestrian and cycle link running along the top.

Clyce Road would become a “quiet on-road cycle route”, with improved pedestrian and cycle links between the A38 Huntspill Road and Apex Park to compliment the Tyler Way improvements.

Timeline for the projects:

If the levelling up bid is successful – and the resulting business cases are approved – each of the projects are expected to be delivered by the end of the 2024/25 financial year. Since Sedgemoor District Council will officially cease to exist on April 1st, the projects are set to be overseen by the new unitary Somerset Council.

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