TOURISM in Burnham has received a boost as the town has become the first in the South West to be granted ‘Coach Friendly Status’.

The accreditation comes from the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) as a result of hard work by the team behind Project Coach, an initiative aimed at attracting more coaches into Burnham.

It has been co-ordinated by Les Barber, coach destination manager and Ian Jefferies, business and tourism manager.

Mr Jefferies said: “To achieve one of the biggest awards in the coaching industry that a town can receive is outstanding for a town of our size. Hopefully, this award will encourage even more coaches into Burnham.”

Mr Barber added: “This recognition is for everyone in the town and undoubtedly will help the local economy, especially after the bad start Somerset in general has suffered this year with the dreadful floods.

“Now is the perfect time to move on with putting the ‘buzz’ back in Burnham and continue the work with our neighbours in Weston promoting that we are the ‘Seaside of the M5’.

“We would like to thank the businesses, community groups and Local Authorities who have helped us to reach the standard and for their faith and funding of project coach.”

The project received funding by Burnham and Highbridge Town Council in July 2013.

Mayor of Burnham and Highbridge, Martin Cox, said: “We were very pleased to support this project in July 2013 and it has made amazing progress since then.

“Each extra coach averages 30 passengers who can then spend locally £5 –£10 each, even on a short stop visit.

“This means so much to our town and particularly to all the traders, bringing in much needed extra business, more prosperity and ultimately more jobs into our area.”

Mark Newman, chairman of Burnham Chamber of Trade, said traders are already benefiting through increased footfall and business.

He added: “At a time when the economic vibrancy of our town centre is so important, this is a very welcome boost.”

Project Coach has introduced welcome ‘meeters and greeters’, free meals and a newspaper for drivers, a drivers rest room, a clearly signed route into the town, free coach parking, drivers and passenger information packs and more.

John Burch, South West regional manager for CPT UK, said: “The community of Burnham have pulled out all the stops to achieve Coach Friendly Status.

“Whether the coach is making a brief comfort stop or paying the seaside town a longer visit, customers will find a really enthusiastic welcome awaiting them.”

Cllr Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council, added: “These awards do not just happen by accident and it shows the dedication of the team at Burnham who have gone out of their way to show that Burnham is a first-class destination for coaches.”