HomeNewsHistoric Highbridge radio station should be remembered with memorial, calls resident

Historic Highbridge radio station should be remembered with memorial, calls resident

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A new call has been made for the historic work of Highbridge’s old radio communication station to be formally recognised with a dedicated memorial using £15,000 of funding pledged by a local housing developer.

Alan Huddart, a former employee at the station, pictured, this week spoke out at a Burnham and Highbhridge Town Council meeting, calling for the old BT radio station site – which played a key role in military communications during World War II, the Falklands War and the Gulf War – to be remembered.

The old station in Highbridge, which was known as Portishead Radio, shut down in 2000 and was bulldozed in 2007 to make way for the Mulholland Park housing development.

Councillors heard this week that the developer of Mulholland Park had agreed at the time to provide £15,000 of so-called ‘S106 agreement’ funding towards a permanent memorial for the former radio station.

However, no memorial has ever been bought or installed – and former staff are keen to see its crucial work recognised.

Alan Huddart told town councillors this week: “Portishead Radio, known locally as Burnham Radio, was actually based in Highbridge. It was a worldwide ship to shore radio station. It was one of the largest local employers and had a staff of 300.”

“We used morse code mostly but also had radio telephone and radio telex. We had a worldwide service, mostly to ships but an aircraft service was started also.”

“We ran a humanitarian service to aid agencies wherever they were operating in the world by offering radio circuits where other forms of communication were difficult if not impossible.”

“The station was involved with WW2 and other conflicts like the Falklands, Bosnia and Suez. We also had RN operators working at the station and during the Falklands War the RN took over part of the station.”

“We had a long list of visitors to the station, the most important of which was a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.” (pictured below)

“We were doing exceptionally well for many years and at peak times we could handle 2,500 messages a day.”

“We knew that satellite communications were being developed quite quickly and, due to this, the station eventually closed in 2000.”

“BT sold everything to developers who built a housing estate on the site and part of that deal was that a memorial would be placed on a small piece of land arranged by them and they also deposited with Sedgemoor District Council the sum of £15,000 toward the cost.”

“Now, we ask Burnham and Highbridge Town Council to restart negotiations by overcoming a ‘dispute’ between Somerset Council and the developers.”

“We require the developers to hand back to the council that piece of and release the £15,000 pounds. My colleague has made several attempts, all without success, the last one getting no reply.”

“In 2017, my colleague Larry Bennett gave a longer and in depth talk to the Town Council where it was agreed that a memorial would be acceptable but sadly nothing has been forthcoming since.”

“This money is still there under the S106 agreement and we can say that we could raise more funds ourselves toward the cost.”

“How good it would be for all ex radio station staff, the councillors, and perhaps other dignitaries to be present at the unveiling of a large rock or stone on which would be a plaque telling the world what the station did? This would be a memorial to the biggest, best, busiest and most popular ship to shore radio station in the world?”

Cllr Ganesh Gudka told this week’s meeting that the Town Council would look into the matter further to fully understand the position of the parties involved, while Mayor Lesley Millard added that the Town Council “would try and resolve the situation.”

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