Burnham and Highbridge Town Council has this week defended its plans to move its council chambers into Burnham-On-Sea’s former adult learning centre in the town centre.
Resident Bev Milner Simonds, who is Burnham’s former Town Centre Manager and the current organiser of the town’s food festivals, tackled councillors on a number of issues during a public council consultation session.
She criticised the council for considering proposals to move from its current location in Jaycroft Road to the aging former adult learning centre in Princess Street.
She said: “Moving to a building built in 1910 isn’t a forward step when your current building is a 1930s build! The old school building is in a very poor state of repair and it would take a great deal to bring it up to standard.”
Council Clerk Sam Winter responded to Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The council has identified that its existing building is not ideal in terms of location or configuration. It is considering other options and one of those options is relocation to the former school building in Princess Street, which, like many of the vacant building in the towns’ centres, is old and full of history.”
“The building is not listed and, therefore, if the building itself is not brought back into use, the site has no protection from development. No decision has yet been taken but it is acknowledged that the building is already sited alongside other public functions, it also offers an opportunity to share the premises and create a public open space to the front. Ultimately, however, the future of the former school is in the hands of its owners, Somerset County Council.”
The clerk added: “There will be a cost associated with any building into which the Council might relocate, and whilst the Council welcomes the views of residents, any decision will be one that explores financial and practical feasibility based on professional, costed advice from those in the surveying & construction industry.”
While the proposals are still at an early stage, if they do go ahead it would mean that the Town Council would be located in the town centre, next to Burnham Library and The Princess. Other public services, such as Burnham-On-Sea Police and the Registrar, could be encouraged to move into the former Adult Learning Centre along with them.
Separately, Bev also challenged the council on why its meetings are only ever held in Burnham, given that it also represents Highbridge. The Town Clerk responded: “The reason almost all of our formal Council meetings are held in Burnham-On-Sea is because that’s where the town council chambers are located. The location is geographically central to the parish. The Council appreciates that the parish covers two distinct towns and it therefore aims to vary the location of the Annual Towns Meeting, which is not a meeting of the Council but a meeting hosted by the Council for the residents of the parish. Next year’s Annual Towns Meeting will be held at a venue in Highbridge.”
Bev also urged the council to open up the existing Civic Awards Ceremony for all ages, rather than organise a separate awards ceremony for young people. But the Town Clerk responded: “The existing civic awards process forms part of the Mayor’s Civic Service, and whilst nominations are open to the whole community, it has been decided that the Youth Awards should be an entire event specifically dedicated to recognising the good works of young people. Plans for an awards ceremony are being decided by representatives of the council, schools and students.”