A FRESH masterplan for Burnham has been unveiled – branded a “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to rejuvenate the town and the fortunes of traders.
The Somerset West Businesses Against Crime group says its ideas for spending a £320,000 fund from Tesco are what businesses really want and are a better long-term option than proposals put forward by Burnham and Highbridge Town Council.
SWBAC, which represents around 40 businesses in Burnham, including retailers, pubs and clubs, and holiday parks, has passed on a series of ideas to Sedgemoor District Council, which is holding the money given by Tesco as mitigation for its Burnham store expansion.
The proposals include: £50,000 on community safety wardens; £15,000-a-year on improving shop fronts; a similar amount to help businesses market themselves better, including using social media; and a reward scheme to encourage people to shop locally.
The safety wardens would be uniformed ‘high street ambassadors’, charged with carrying out varied tasks including giving first aid, and reuniting parents with children who have wandered off on a busy summer day.
SWBAC also wants to introduce a Safer Socialising Award, a scheme run in other parts of the country, where businesses are inspected annually and given a score based on the steps they take to ensure customers’ safety.
Andy Sharman, SWBAC co-ordinator, said: “We showed our proposals to 20 businesses, ranging from pubs to charity shops and including members of SWBAC and non-members, and 100% preferred our suggestions.
“The town council has put forward some ideas, for example £100,000 on street lighting, which won’t support businesses.
“Tesco is not going to expand again so there won’t be any more money – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“If we don’t get it right, we will have this position two or three years down the line where we have these lovely streetlights but empty stores.”
Ken Smout, Mayor of Burnham and Highbridge, said the town council had sought the views of businesses.
He said: “We had members of Burnham Chamber of Trade on the committee which came up with our options.
“It’s one thing coming up with ideas, but you have to do a community impact assessment on them; I don’t know whether this group have done that.
“However, we are certainly not saying ‘no’ to them – there’s still time and even if the district council grants us what we have asked for, there’s capacity for funding for other projects.”