GOVERNMENT FUNDING: Highbridge regeneration plans
Up to £20M could be spent regenerating Highbridge town centre if a bid for central government funding is successful.
Sedgemoor District Council is currently awaiting the result of four bids to the government’s community recovery fund (CRF) – one of which concerns initial work around the revamping of Highbridge.
If this bid is successful, the council will be able to create a “wider strategy” for the town, identifying sites and projects which could build communities, encourage sustainable transport, drive economic growth and improve environmental resilience.
The council, working with Wells MP James Heappey and other partners, will then bid to the government’s levelling up fund to drive these projects forward.
The council made four bids to the government’s community renewal fund (CRF), including a bid for £386,000 towards the early work on the Highbridge regeneration scheme.
The three other bids concerned sustainable tourism on the Somerset Levels and Moors, the Bridgwater Carnival and the Northgate Docks – with the latter two already receiving some money from the £22.6M Bridgwater town deal.
If the CRF bid for Highbridge is successful, the council will have until March 2022 to spend the money, with the bulk of it going on “working up the details of a wider Highbridge regeneration strategy”.
This strategy will then shape a bid to the levelling up fund, with the council and its partners seeing to secure around £20M.
Nick Tait, the council’s service manager for policy, inward investment and growth, has teased details of some initial ideas for the regeneration of Highbridge:
- A masterplan encompassing improvements to the B3139 Market Street and Bank Street and the area around Highbridge and Burnham railway station, with an emphasis on leisure and recreation
- Improving public transport links across the town, as well as integrating the station into a better cycle route linking Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea
- Improving flood defences, focused around the River Brue and the former boatyard near Clyce Road
- Developing the former cattle market site on the A38 Huntspill Road
- Improving community facilities within the Morland estate
- Upgrading visitor facilities within Apex Park
The council has promised there will extensive public consultation with residents and community organisations as the details of the strategy slowly come together.
Mr Tait said: “The focus of the funding bid is to progress a regeneration strategy for the town that is very much driven by community consultation and ideas.
“Part of the work will then be to cost ideas, and all of this information will be used to support the levelling up fund bid that is expected to be submitted in the late spring or early summer of 2022.
“If the CRF bid is successful, work will need to start almost immediately and we have been ensuring that this will be possible.
“Hopefully the successful bids will be confirmed soon and if our bid is one of those, for the first time in many years, there will be a real prospect of significant investment into the town.
“This will also attract further private sector investment and transform the town, while also providing new and exciting opportunities for everyone who lives there.
“Regardless of this funding bid, however, we remains committed to progressing regeneration opportunities for Highbridge and will continue to seek out funding and investment opportunities.”
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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