Proposals to create a new £300,000 heritage centre in Burnham-On-Sea have been discussed by town councillors this week.

At a virtual meeting of the Council’s Town Improvements committee on Monday night (January 11th), members considered proposals by Burnham-On-Sea Heritage Group to purchase a town centre property to create the planned heritage centre.

The new facilities would showcase the area’s rich history with displays of photographs and old exhibits, alongside an education centre, as first featured here last March.

Councillors Mike Facey and Peter Clayton told the meeting they had recently met with Mrs Ann Popham from the heritage group – prior to the lockdown starting – to hear about the proposals for the former Diamond Garage site in the town centre.

Cllr Clayton told the meeting: “We discussed how funding for the facilities could be achieved as she has had no luck in finding funding or the charity or CIC (Community Interest Company) status so far.”

He added that the heritage group would like the Town Council to consider purchasing the building. Cllr Clayton added: “The only way we could do that would be through a Public Works Loan. Given that it would be for hundreds of thousands of pounds, it may be difficult for the council to support that, but that’s obviously a council decision.”

Cllr Janet Keen said she supports the idea of creating a new centre, explaining: “If there’s to be a heritage centre it would need to be for the whole parish – including Highbridge, which has lots of history. This could become an extra reason to visit Burnham, helping to make it a destination. It’s a very interesting, sound idea but I do think that to make it work there needs to be more deep thought. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. It’s very, very worthwhile and the parish does deserve something like this.”

Cllr Mike Murphy added: “I would like to give hearty congratulations to Mrs Popham who is an ‘engine room’ of activity for ideas about her beloved Burnham and Highbridge.”

”Most of our heritage up until now has been pictorial heritage. We have had railway buffers, and other pieces from the railway, but there is a dearth of actual heritage items – we haven’t got a lot of physical items that are so remarkable to be put into a heritage centre. I am not discouraging people, but I do think an audit is needed of what heritage would be there to attract people. If you are spending £300,000 plus other costs, I would suggest an audit would help us see if we have something to attract the footfall.”

Cllr Clayton added that “at no point has the council made an agreement to build a heritage centre – these are just ideas from Mrs Popham and we were responding to that.”

Cllr Andy Hodge added: “There is a wealth of knowledge, history and heritage locally” and he wished the heritage group well with the plans.

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