The long-awaited official opening of the YMCA’s new £4.6 million replacement for the Highbridge Hotel was held today (Friday) in front of scores of dignataries and residents.

A plaque was formally unveiled by YMCA Dulverton’s CEO Martin Hodgson and Chairman of Sedgemoor District Council Cllr Peter Clayton to mark the opening of the new YMCA Highbridge building.

The original hotel building was gutted in a fire in April 2008 that left it severely damaged, prompting a lengthy re-build project that was hit by several delays.

The impressive new YMCA Highbridge building now provides a community cafe, a large multi-use sports hall for group sports, plus modern meeting areas, and 23 new homes with supported accommodation for young people.

YMCA Dulverton CEO Martin Hodgson said it is “the start of a fantastic journey for the building in its new format and new role in the heart of the community here in Highbridge.” He thanked the funding partners and all those involved with the project, adding: “We got here in the end and it’s great to see the building already being used by a wide cross section of the community.”

Alison Griffin, Chief Executive of Sedgemoor District Council, admitted: “There have been times over the years when we wondered if this project would come to fruition. This is a wonderful project, but it’s not been easy to say the least. As a result of a huge amount of hard work and commitment, not to mention bloody minded determination, we have finally made it. What a wonderful result!”

And Cllr Peter Clayton, Chairman of Sedgemoor District Council, added: “I have to thank everyone involved in this magnificent building. I have had an opportunity to look round and there are some wonderful rooms upstairs and the sports hall is absolutely amazing. This is going to be a real community hub for Highbridge. It will be a catalyst that will help Highbridge to start moving on.”

Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge MP James Heappey told at the opening: “It’s fantastic to see this building open. People have been debating furiously what should be here, what it should look like, and some have been really nervous that this really important part of Highbridge might lose part of its heritage and appeal, but not a bit of it – this is a fantastic renovation. It’s an amazing new faciility for the community.”

Funded by YMCA Dulverton Group, Sedgemoor District Council, Homes England and EDF’s Hinkley Point C Community Fund; the development has been a collaborative effort and will be a community asset for Highbridge.

The building will now host a range of fitness classes, youth services and community events as well as offering rentable meeting and conference rooms.

Previously known as the Highbridge Hotel, the building had been left in a state of disrepair after the fire in 2008, but the renovation has now been completed by John Perkins Construction.

Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge’s Mayor Cllr Andy Brewer added: “It is great to see the building work coming to completion and the new facilities coming into use. The building has been fitted out to a very high standard and I’m sure it will soon become a great asset to the community. This new facility is a real credit to the YMCA and all those involved in the redevelopment of the site.”

“The Planning Committee of the Town Council was very much involved in the planning process for the rebuilding work and it is pleasing to see how the frontage of the building has replicated the former hotel, creating a good impression when coming into Highbridge. I’m confident that this new facility will give a boost to Highbridge.”

The YMCA Highbridge team have already begun providing a variety of sessions as part of a timetable of weekly events, which includes a stay and play for parents with babies, as well as sports sessions for children aged 8-15. The programme of events will expand over the coming weeks, including the introduction of a fitness timetable from 3rd February.

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