February 1, 2018
New Highbridge Hotel plans supported despite residents concerns

Long-awaited work to redevelop the Highbridge Hotel site took a major step forward last night (Wednesday) when town councillors gave their approval to the latest plans.

Councillors approved revised plans for the high-profile site, which will see a modern development of 23 flats plus a cafe, public meeting rooms, and a new sports hall being built.

YMCA Somerset Coast, the owner of the site since 2014, has demolished the former hotel and will rebuild the façade in the style of the original building prior to the huge Highbridge Hotel fire in 2008.

Councillors welcomed the new plans, that will see a proposed open-air 'multi-use games area' being replaced with an enclosed sports hall instead, as shown in the plans below.

Two families in Scott Road and Tyler Way have expressed their concern about the plans, saying the plans are out of keeping with the surrounding area and that the new building will block their view.

But Cllr Andy Brewer told the meeting: "Residents are entitled to have a reasonable outlook, but not a view. There's no legal right to a view."

Mike Murphy, Chairman of Highbridge Chamber of Trade, spoke during Wednesday's meeting about his concern regarding a lack of parking spaces and the "unsympathetic" appearance of the modern new sports hall.

And Cllr Parkes said the new sports hall would "stick out like a sore thumb", but Cllr Peter Clayton said it should not be visible to passing traffic at the rear, as pictured below.

Cllr Nick Tolley said he welcomes the revised plans for a sports hall instead of an open-air multi-use games area. "I support it being a totally enclosed and secure sports facility - the other option would have been open to anyone and possible anti-social behaviour."

Councillors unanimously supported the application. They also supported a second, separate application from the YMCA for listed building consent.

Cllr Andy Brewer said the Town Council welcomes the YMCA's "efforts to replicate original features" in the new development.

He welcomed "long-awaited" progress on the project, adding: "It's encouraging to see these plans coming forward. Hopefully we will now see it built."

Cllr John Parkes added: "We should applaud any new facility which encourages community use and promotes the positive health and wellbeing of residents."

The YMCA told it wants the new building to be "an impressive gateway to Highbridge once again."

Local historians say the hotel was likely founded in the late 18th century and it has been a landmark at the entry to the town for years, as pictured above.

When the Cattle Market closed in 2007 the Highbridge Hotel was secured to prevent tresspass and authorised entry, however the building was subject to two acts of arson and was gutted by fire in 2008.

The structure of the building was destroyed to such an extent that substantial fire clearance works were required to make the buildings safe. Work to clear the building was agreed with Sedgemoor District Council.

As part of the fire clearance works and in agreement with the Conservation Officer and English Heritage, work was undertaken to support the main building facade to ensure its main feature was protected.

No internal features within the site remain and the only element of the building considered to be of merit by the YMCA and worth retaining are the remains of the fire damaged southern facade.

"With this in mind the scheme proposals have sought to rebuild the main southern facade as an integral part of a contemporary design that provides community and residential accommodation of a modern and appropriate quality to ensure the memory and heritage of the former Highbridge Hotel is remembered and still influences the character of the area well into the 21st century," it says.

Sedgemoor District Council will have the final say on the scheme and its consultation runs until February 16th with local people welcome to provide their feedback.


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