June 6, 2016
Petition urges council to fund new £10,000 coach project in Burnham

A petition signed by 50 businesses has been handed to town councillors this week calling for the relaunch of a £10,000 project to bring coaches back into the town.

Speaking at a council meeting on Monday evening (June 6th), resident Gaynor Brown urged councillors to consider giving £10,000 to re-start 'Project Coach', a successful scheme that launched three years ago to encourage coach companies into Burnham.

She says the project has "stalled" since funding for the project ran out earlier this year, despite Burnham winning the coveted title of 'Coach Friendly Destination of the Year' in the 2016 National Coach Tourism Awards.

Gaynor, right, told councillors at Monday's meeting: "We sometimes welcomed 10, sometimes 15, coaches every day and each of these brought 50-70 visitors spending money in our local businesses - a total of 700 people a day."

"Now, despite winning the most prestigious award in the coach industry, our coach traffic has drastically reduced and Project Coach is being stalled into oblivion."

She added: "Following the loss of 50 per cent of the town's footfall from the closure of Morrisons, we should be pulling out all the stops to encourage every bit of footfall we can capture."

"We know Ian Jefferies and Les Barber, who ran the project, vastly increased our tourism traffic - they proved it - so why are barriers being put in the way of a simple agreement now to allow them to get on with the job."

"We have been recruiting the 'meeters and greeters', the insurance is in place to start tomorrow, and we are just waiting for the go-ahead."

"This can't wait until the end of July or August. If you don't make a decision now, the season will be over and the opportunity to cash in on the award will have been lost forever."

"Not only have Ian and Les never been thanked by this council, but we don't have a sign up saying 'welcome to the most coach-friendly town in the country'."

She added that she has been sought support for "an immediate start-up of Project Coach" and said that "every single shop in the High Street has signed up, wanting this re-started immediately."

"As a council, you gave a £7,000 grant for a one-off drama event which 30 people watched at most."

"Project Coach needs £10,000 which will attract 700 people a day - it would be quantifiable and guanateed, not guesstimates - and we have two proven individuals who can oversee it. Burnham needs Project Coach and it needs it now."

Town Clerk Denise Emery responded: "Project Coach was not in fact the Town Council's project, it was run by BIARS specifically. When they won the coach award, this Town Council did send an email offering them congratulations. We have had nothing in writing asking for anything to go on the agenda. We have nothing to say what they want the money for or how it would be used, so it cannot be put on our agenda."

Mayor Michael Clarke added: "I would like to formally congratulate Ian and Les in obtaining the town coach friendly status - I think it was a great achievement after all the hard work they put into it. I look forward to working with them again and am sure they will be back before this council in the not too distant future. Hopefully, between us as a town council and their enthusiasm, we can grow what they have already started."

But Project Coach's Ian Jefferies told after Monday's meeting: "I did it for three years without proper wages, but I can't afford to do it on those terms any longer. The council needs to pay up for a new scheme or it just won't happen."

"The Town Centre Manager is apparently promoting coaches in coach magazines in the meantime, although that's nowhere near the scale that we were doing it. If the council approaches me I would be interested if I was properly paid."

He added: "It is sad to see such a massive drop in coaches in Burnham after all the work we put in to bringing them here."


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