BRIDGWATER NEWS: Bridgwater Library and Blake Gardens revamp hits Hinkley snag

BRIDGWATER NEWS: Bridgwater Library revamp hits Hinkley snag

SOMERSET County Council has been refused nearly half a million pounds towards ambitious plans to revamp Bridgwater’s Library and Blake Gardens.

The Bridgwater Nucleus project aims to create a community hub and cafe by redesigning the library and improving the gardens.

The council had applied for just under £481,000 to the Hinkley Point Community Impact Mitigation (CIM) fund.

It was set up by contractor EDF Energy for projects in communities adversely affected by the construction of the new power station.

Both the CIM board and West Somerset Council - whose district includes Hinkley Point - have refused to fund the project, stating that it does not meet the criteria of how this pot of money can be used.

The Bridgwater Nucleus project intends to redesign Bridgwater library to provide a community hub for families, including a cafe, meeting space and an “innovation space” for businesses and young people.

The existing lighting and cycleways in Blake Gardens will be improved, and part of the gardens will be redesigned to include a new area for toddlers.

Lisa Redston – West Somerset Council’s lead officer for community, housing impact, place and energy – said the project would help to help to integrate new families moving to the area and working on or at the power station.

She said in her written report: “There is a greater need for community facilities due to additional pressure on services, caused by an increase in the local population.

“Some workers will be socially isolated as they will not be local. The local community will experience conflict and unease as they come into contact with non-local workers and their families.”

The county council estimates the refurbishment of the library will cost £407,000 out of the total project cost of just under £1.05M.

The authority has already put up £50,000 in match funding, alongside £40,000 from Bridgwater Town Council and £9,800 from Sedgemoor District Council, and applied for £480,700 from the CIM fund.

But West Somerset Council voted unanimously against granting the project money from the CIM fund at a full council meeting in Williton on Wednesday evening (November 21).

The CM funding board argued that it was not clear what additional services the project would provide which were not currently being offered at the library.

They added: “It is unlikely that elements of the project, in particular the aesthetic aspects of the Blake Gardens improvements, are directly related to mitigating impacts of the Hinkley Point C development.”

Cllr Martin Dewdney, portfolio holder for resources and central support, said: “This project has been referred to the Somerset Community Foundation. More information has needed about it.”

If the county council is able to obtain the full funding, the project is expected to be completed by October 2019.

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