SEDGEMOOR NEWS: Major boost for Burnham-on-Sea theatre and seafront

SEDGEMOOR NEWS: Major boost for Burnham-on-Sea theatre and seafront

PLANS for a revamp of Burnham-on-Sea seafront and theatre have been given a £350,000 boost – thanks to money designed to offset the impact of the construction of Hinkley Point C.

The Burnham Evolution project, brought forward by the town council, will see the Princess Theatre and Arts Centre refurbished and improvements made to both the Esplanade and South Esplanade.

The project, costing more than £1.6M, will be completed in 2022 and is designed to make the town more attractive to residents and tourists.

A total of £350,000 will be provided through the Hinkley Point Community impact mitigation (CIM) fund, set up by EDF to fund projects in communities adversely affected by the construction of the power station.

West Somerset Council – in whose district Hinkley Point resides – approved the grant at a full council meeting in Williton on Wednesday evening (November 21).

Cllr Martin Dewdney, portfolio holder for resources and central support, described it as “a huge project” for the two towns.

He added: “The theatre looks a little sad on the outside, but when you get inside it’s a whole other story.”

The 200-seat theatre will have a complete refurbishment while benches, bins, lights and signs on the Esplanade and South Esplanade will be upgraded. New shelters will be built on the South Esplanade.

A tourist trail and floor games will be installed, as well as new links to the Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park, a children’s play area and an art trail along the sea wall.

In addition, a programme will be set up to support town centre businesses who have been adversely impacted.

The town council will also purchase a building to create a “wet weather facility and workspace.”

The CIM fund is targeted at communities impacted by all aspects of the Hinkley Point construction (including transport), not just the towns and villages nearest to the site.

Lisa Redston, the council’s lead officer for community, housing impact, place and energy, said in her written report that Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea had both suffered at the hands of congestion caused by construction traffic.

She said: “As part of the construction of Hinkley Point C, there are around 750 lorry movements per day along the main transport route; the majority of these use Junction 23 of the M5.

“The major road improvement schemes in Bridgwater also create congestion affecting routes into Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea. These impact travel times and create a negative impression for visitors and difficulties for residents and businesses.

“An increase in workers migrating to the area will put pressure on holiday accommodation, with the potential to affect tourist visitor numbers and reduce revenue from tourism.”

The project, once fully funded, will begin in January 2019 and is expected to be completed by March 2022.

It was reported locally on November 13 that a separate £1M bid to the Coastal Communities Fund - part of the Big Lottery Fund - had been unsuccessful, but that the town council had “several other irons in the fire.”

Ms Redston added: “A small amount of match funding has been secured to date, and several applications are in progress to secure significant amounts of match funding for the project.

“If successful, the project will draw circa £1.3M into the area.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the funding for the project.

PHOTO - TOP: The Princess theatre in Burnham-on-Sea.