New concerns have been raised this week over the amount of time the Town Council is taking to deliver £440,000 of improvements in Burnham-On-Sea town centre.
A major project to enhance the appearance of Burnham’s High Street and Victoria Street aims to boost the number of shoppers in the town centre using cash from Tesco to offset the expansion of its Burnham store, and further funding from the Town Council and former South West Regional Development Agency.
The project was approved 18 months ago in January 2013 however none of the key improvements – which are listed below – have yet been delivered.
At a Town Council meeting on Monday, Council Clerk Denise Emery said that work to introduce new street lighting in the High Street and Victoria Street will “start this October or November.”
The new lighting columns and ‘energy-efficient glass lanterns’ will cost £103,770, which is slightly above the planned budget of £100,000. However, resurfacing of part of Burnham High Street with a new coloured paved area for an entertainment performance area will begin in “early 2015”.
The timescales for the improvements are a concern for several councillors. Cllr Neville Jones told Monday’s meeting: “The work should have started a year ago and it feels as though we are hanging on to the last moment to get it done.”
“All the work in the town centre must start in the second week of January 2015 and be delivered long before May when residents will be voting on what’s been delivered.”
.HOW THE £440,000 IS BEING SPENT: Lighting improvements in Burnham High Street and Victoria Street
Hanging basket posts
Additional cycle racks in High Street
Highways improvements: Coloured paviers between Adam Street and Cross Street £20k; Coloured road surface £20k & maintenance £20k; Finger post signs £10k, street furniture, including £1k for a central electricity point for events, plus £30k
Roller shutter project £5k and shop front grants £25k
New public notice boards (High Street & Victoria Street)
Town Centre Manager and Project Manager roles
Contingency to cover additional costs as figures are estimates
“We need a cast-iron guarantee from Somerset County Council that the work will be completed on time.”
But Cllr Tom Nicholls said that he is “not comfortable” that the May 2015 town council elections are being used as a deadline for the work to be completed. “We should not be demanding that the work goes ahead for our electoral convenience,” he said.
Mayor Martin Cox responded: “Election or no election, the public is already asking about when the improvements will be undertaken. We have a short window to undertake the work and should do all we can to get it completed as soon as possible.”
Cllr Michael Clarke, Chairman of the council’s Town Projects Committee which is overseeing the work, added that the improvements “need to be completed in good time for Spring to avoid any impact on trade in the town centre.”
Burnham Chamber of Trade has previously said that its members do not want the work to be underway in the town centre during the busy Christmas shopping or tourist season.
Cllr Bill Hancock cautioned that severe winter weather, as seen in 2010, could delay the work if it is scheduled in January and he asked whether it could come forward to September. But the Town Clerk said that Somerset County Council has advised this will not be possible given the schedule of other work.