Glastonbury Plans to spend £24m

Two years ago Glastonbury and Bridgwater were successful in applying for the Government’s Town Deal initiative. This offers up to £24.5m in funding to regenerate the town. Now a new Glastonbury Town Investment Plan has been prepared. It features 12 projects which are proposed to change the future of Glastonbury.

It would be more accurate to describe the new plan as the Beckery Town Deal Initiative. As around £17m of the £24.5m proposed will be spent on the old industrial west side of the town. The focus will be on the Baily’s complex. Proposals include £6.3m to renovate the building and £1.8m to create an environment centre in it.

The scope of the projects cover a large range of interests. For instance a new visitor attraction at St Brigid’s Chapel, a community and well-being centre at St Dunstan’s House. The Leveller confesses to having wrestled a long time with the concept of a new pizza place at Glastonbury Abbey. Having found a new pair of eyes, it turns out to be renovation of the Piazza, a fine idea after all.

Two criticisms of the project stand out. Firstly a lot of the money is to build business space. Nothing wrong with that. But where will these businesses come from? And secondly, how will they grow?

There is a danger of pulling businesses out of the old town centre into the swanky new buildings. As so little of the money is to be spent on the town centre, this must be a concern. New business start ups are always welcome. But where will they come from? A Zero Carbon economy is a great idea, but will that mean turning away potential start ups that are not in the zero carbon field. Bridgwater already has a centre based around the nuclear industry. Yet hardly any of the tenants are in that space. Yeovil did the same with aerospace at their innovation centre. Their biggest tenants are a newspaper and a radio station.

And then we turn to businesses growing. As always seems to be the case in this part of the world, the plans do not take account of funding. Anyone who believes that banks are suitable for funding UK start ups, is dreaming. The plans here do not account for the need of attracting sources of funding to the town.

But overall? If all these plans are delivered, Glastonbury will certainly get a great buzz about it. The concern is that once buildings are built, they need upkeep and regular refurbishment. That depends on successful income generation. The plans are big on buildings, but a bit too vague on where the future tenants for these new hubs will come from.

Build it and they will come? It rarely works like that.

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