Town councillors have this week described a planned new sports hall on part of the former Highbridge Hotel site as a “Lego Land monstrosity.”
At a meeting last night (Monday April 16th), Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge town councillors expressed concern over the revised plans to build the ‘vibrantly coloured’ sports hall at the rear and side of the planned building.
Councillors recently approved plans to develop the old hotel site, which will include 23 flats plus a cafe, public meeting rooms, and a new sports hall.
However, while the owners YMCA Somerset Coast intend to rebuild the front of the building in the style of the original building prior to the huge Highbridge Hotel fire in 2008, the sports hall will be decorated with large colour blocks that several councillors likened to Lego.
Cllr Louise Parkin said: “If we allow a monstrosity like this to go ahead, we’d be opening the floodgates to others – it truly is hideous. It would be a horrible building for the centre of Highbridge.”
Cllr Nick Tolley said: “The proposed front of the building looks great but the sports hall just doesn’t fit in at all – it looks like something you’d find in Lego Land.”
Cllr Andy Brewer responded: “The front of the building will have a facade similar to the old hotel, but the adjoining sports hall would be colourful. Some might call it modern looking or vibrant.”
Cllr Peter Clayton said: “You have got to think about its use by young people who might like a modern look.”
Cllr Brewer said: “It is a significant change from the plain colours we’ve previously seen on the plans. While we support the previous scheme, we strongly object to the new colours which would be detrimental to the visual amenity of the area.”
Councillors also heard that Highbridge Chamber of Trade has also aired its concerns about the “unsympathetic” appearance of the modern new sports hall adjoining a listed building.
Town councillors voted to object against the revised plans, however the final decision lies with Sedgemoor District Council.
Highbridge district councillor Roger Keen told Burnham-On-Sea.com after Monday’s meeting: “I fully support the development of the site – we have waited years for something to get done here. I say clear up the site, then get on and do it.”
Local people can have their say on the plans until the consultation ends on April 27th by contacting Sedgemoor District Council’s planning department.
The YMCA told Burnham-On-Sea.com it wants the new building to be “an impressive gateway to Highbridge once again.”
Local historians say the hotel was founded in the late 18th century and it has been a landmark at the entry to the town for years, as pictured above.
When the Cattle Market closed in 2007 the Highbridge Hotel was secured to prevent trespass and authorised entry, however the building was subject to two acts of arson and was gutted by fire in 2008.
The structure of the building was destroyed to such an extent that substantial fire clearance works were required to make the buildings safe. Work to clear the building was agreed with Sedgemoor District Council.
As part of the fire clearance works and in agreement with the Conservation Officer and English Heritage, work was undertaken to support the main building facade to ensure its main feature was protected.
No internal features within the site remain and the only element of the building considered to be of merit by the YMCA and worth retaining are the remains of the fire damaged southern facade.
“With this in mind the scheme proposals have sought to rebuild the main southern facade as an integral part of a contemporary design that provides community and residential accommodation of a modern and appropriate quality to ensure the memory and heritage of the former Highbridge Hotel is remembered and still influences the character of the area well into the 21st century,” it says.