November 25, 2005
Burnham-On-Sea regeneration plans move forward at latest meetings
Plans to regenerate Burnham-On-Sea edged a step further forward this week after two high-profile meetings were held in the town between councillors, regeneration bosses and local businesses.
EKOS, the consultants looking into the economic benefits of regeneration in Burnham, presented their findings on retail and tourism at a meeting in the Princess Hall, pictured right.
And a second meeting was held in the Community Centre when the town’s Regeneration Company discussed plans for a new Civic Quarter, as recently unveiled here.
Alex May from EKOS delivered a set of preliminary findings about the state of trade and tourism in Burnham in front of a dozen people. These covered issues such as parking, the state of the High Street, the reasons why some businesses have been failing in the town, gaps in the retail market and statistics on who visits the area.
But Mr May received a cool reception after admitting he had not yet visited the town’s high street.
Mike Murphy, chairman of Burnham’s Regeneration Company, said: “You need to give your findings validity by getting your people to visit the town. You can’t just give us figures and data without actually speaking to retailers.”
And the committee was also unhappy about the currency of some of the figures presented by EKOS, which in several cases were not up-to-date, it was claimed.
John Edwards, chairman of the Chamber of Trade, said: “I’m concerned that you’re giving us a presentation that’s fraught with holes.”
But Sarah Welsh of EKOS said: “These findings are just early proposals, not a final report. This is all part of a lengthy process – we are getting input on the state of tourism and retail, will be talking to people on the ground next, and will then take our findings and project plans to yourselves, the council and specialists.”
Among some of the regeneration ideas raised at the event were covering the High Street with a galleria-style walk-way, reducing business rates to encourage more shops to come to Burnham, creating a Victorian Centre, building a mini ‘Eden Project’ to bring more tourists into the town, and developing a huge, eye-catching water fountain on Stert Island as a visitor attraction! EKOS will present its findings in early to mid 2006.
A second, seperate, meeting was held to discuss the outline plans for a new Civic Quarter in Burnham, as pictured right.
The proposals were generally given the thumbs-up by the 22 people present, although there was discussion about the need for ample car parking spaces; who would manage the site; the security of paths in the development; the flow of cars through the town after the development has been completed; the need for more budget accommodation in the town; the possibility of linking nearby buildings to the library.
Bob Pym, Property Review Manager at Somerset County Council, told the meeting: “We fully support the development, which is no different in many ways to the other proposed sites around the county.”
The outline application is scheduled to go before district councillors in mid-December.