A major new £1.6million project that aims to “breathe new life” into Burnham-On-Sea seafront and other parts of the town centre with a number of changes has taken a major step forward this week.

At a special meeting last night (Monday, June 18th) of Burnham and Highbridge Town Council, councillors unanimously approved the Business Plan for the ‘Burnham Evolution Project’, which aims to make the town more attractive for visitors and residents.

They also agreed that it should form the basis to apply for £1,663,000 of funding from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund, the Hinkley Community Impact Mitigation Fund and other funding bodies.

. First look at the proposed ‘Burnham Evolution’ Projects:

Projects in the Town Centre are:

Creating a new ‘Community and Small Business Hub’ in the former Job Centre

Princess Theatre community enhancements

Project Co-ordinator (Implementing Burnham Evolution)

Destination Marketing

Feasibility and Design

Retailer Business Support

On The Esplanade, the ‘Public Realm Improvement’ projects are:

Creating a new Play Area on the South Esplanade

A new Trim Trail on the South Esplanade

Replace existing signposts

Seafront Sea Walk (1 mile S-N, mid-point and N-S start point signs)

Quarter mile distance markers

Refurbish or replace benches

Refurbish or replace bins

Replace lighting on lamp posts with column lighting on existing lamp posts and install decorative lighting in the long-term

Floor games

Seawall wildfowl art

Demolish and replace 3 x shelters in similar style and aspect (raised) to those along The Esplanade

Hinkley Point C Information Panel

The scope of the changes was also revealed for the first time as councillors considered each one of the projects in turn. Sedgemoor District Council and the Town Council have teamed up with other groups, including Burnham Chamber of Trade, to work on the projects.

Monday’s meeting began with councillors considering the feedback from 200 local residents who took part in a consultation survey this Spring.

In response to a question about whether there is enough in Burnham to attract visitors, 69% said no, while 30% said yes.

90% of responents said they think Burnham could make more of its seaside location and seafront, while 50% are absolutely in favour of refurbishing seafront shelters, 49% absolutely want new benches and bins, and 38% absolutely want improved lighting.

Regarding the use of the large tarmac area on the South Esplanade, 28% want raised flower beds, 36% want a play area, and 32% want a water feature, while 4% say it should remain the same as now.

Pavement games are absolutely wanted by 25% of residents, while artwork on the land-side of the sea wall is absolutely wanted by 25%. A trim trail of exercise equipment is absolutely wanted by 28% of residents.

Another question in the survey asked whether The Princess Theatre should be refurbished: 63% say yes and 37% responded no. The survey also has found 95% of respondents feel there should be more help for local small businesses.

75% of residents support the purchase of a vacant building in the town centre (such as the former job centre, pictured here) to meet Burnham Evolution’s aims, while 25% do not.

Cllr Peter Clayton, who chaired Monday’s meeting, stressed that the specific details of the projects had not yet been agreed. “Nothing is set in stone, the Business Plan is in place purely to help our funding bids,” he said, adding that the details of the projects will be finalised when funding is secured.

Cllr Louise Parkin stressed the need for maintenance, insurance and ownership to be fully examined. Cllr Clayton responded that the changes would handled as a “joint venture” between the Town Council and district council.

Cllr Parkin added about the seafront changes: “If there’s nothing wrong with the seafront shelters as they are, why change them?” But Cllr Clayton responded: “They will need maintenance work and improvements in the future.”

Cllr Michael Clarke was concerned that “the seafront may not be the right place for a play area – families need amenities close by such as refreshments and so another location might be better.” It was confirmed that the exact details have yet to be determined.

Cllr Parkin also aired concern that the proposed seafront trim trail could attract “noisy skateboarders”. But Cllr Clayton assured her that the equipment “will be designed not to attract skateboarders.”

Cllr Kate Lawson welcomed the plans for a seafront play area, but said: “What about the beach – bringing back donkeys, trampolines, volleyball nets and the like?” Cllr Clayton said these concessions are being worked on separately by Sedgemoor District Council.

Cllr Janet Keen said: “I congratulate the authors of this plan, who have put in a quite extraordinary amount of work to get it this far” and she continued that she accepts the plan and added: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Burnham businessman Alex Turco, who is part of the group that has compiled the plan, told the meeting: “Getting to this point has been quite an arduous process – we started back in March 2017 and now, 15 months on, we’re in a position to approve the plan. But getting to this point has been the ‘easy’ bit – there’s still a lot of work to go into the detail of the project.”

The Town Council employed a consultant to prepare the Business Plan which, having been approved this week, is being used to seek the funding.