'Stop our town dying' - residents plead

PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 October 2011

Highbridge Hotel after the fire in 2008

Highbridge Hotel after the fire in 2008

Archant

RESIDENTS and councillors are demanding a supermarket, instead of another community hall, on the Highbridge Hotel and Market site to stop their town from 'dying a very slow death.'

More than 50 people gathered at a public workshop last week to discuss the outcome of Market Street and the listed building owned by Derek Mead, which has been left a burnt-out shell since a fire in 2008.

Residents argued the market site should not be used to house more flats, but possibly a supermarket to draw people back into the town.

Councillor Helen Groves said: “The reality is our high street is dying a very slow death. The impact of Asda has drawn everything away from Market Street and to balance that a retail development would get traffic back into town.”

Tina Gray, aged 46, of Popular Estate, is a member of the residents’ association and said: “The shops really need a face-lift. Residents are going to be begging for help shortly. It’s just about getting out there and getting it done.”

Dough Bamsey, corporate director of regeneration at Sedgemoor District Council, agreed a strong backing from the community is essential.

He said: “A lot of sites are stuck in the recession but I think we can find a way out if a number of people are willing to volunteer their time to work with us and with Derek.”

Cllr Groves has also hit out against Sedgemoor for suggesting it help fund the development of a community hall on the Highbridge Hotel site.

Cllr Groves said: “The problem I have is we already have three community halls in Highbridge and there is no need for another.

“They are taking money that is intended for the town to restore the building to a community hall which has no proven use or benefit to the town.”

Councillor Joe Leach hopes residents and ward councillors will stage a regeneration meeting to make firm decisions for the site.

He said: “Views from the residents are extremely important because it may be the developer’s development, but it’s their town. If residents do not give their opinion the developer will have to go on their own ideas.”

Ken Smout, Burnham and Highbridge deputy mayor, said: “It’s our community that encourages entrepreneurs to come into the town and that is the start to solving our problems, not expecting Mr Mead to solve them.”

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