Wells MP refuses to endorse bid
Sedgemoor and Mendip District Councils have got together to put in a Levelling Up bid to Government. The two councils are asking for £19.3m. The bid is being supported by £2.4m in match funding from Sedgemoor and Mendip District Councils. Which would bring the total value of the investment to £21.9m.
The bid is to support regeneration in Highbridge, Cheddar, Shepton Mallett. The money would be spent on a range of town centre regeneration projects. This would work alongside improvements to local transport, cultural and heritage projects.
In Highbridge, the funding has been earmarked to deliver regeneration in Market Steet and Bank Street, improvements at Highbridge Railway station, the creation of a new community centre at Trowbridge Close and improvements to the cycle route from Highbridge to Burnham-on-Sea.
In Shepton Mallet, the funding would help to deliver public realm and highway infrastructure improvements, a travel hub with enhanced cycle storage and better bus interchange and tourist information, new signage and pedestrian crossing improvements.
In Cheddar, the funding would help to enhance public spaces within Cheddar Gorge, as well as supporting a new travel hub to help encourage and enable sustainable tourism and an extension of the Strawberry Line cycle route.
All of the money would be spent within the Wells parliamentary constituency. Today the councils say that local MP, James Heappey has refused to formally endorse the bid. Mr Heappey responded saying “Regeneration in Shepton and Highbridge and a step change in the tourism offer at Cheddar were the right focus for the bid and we were all in agreement on that from the outset. But as the months have gone by, I’ve been raising with the councils my growing concerns that plans for Highbridge and Shepton would not catalyse growth in the local economy or create more skilled jobs. Whilst improving the appearance of the two town centres is hugely important and long overdue, when compared to other towns elsewhere in the country our pitch to the Levelling Up Fund was less substantial and clearly unlikely win favour.”
Mr Heappey has also said that he raised his concerns with the Levelling Up Minister, Neil O’Brien MP, to seek his advice on the likelihood of the bid succeeding. Mr O’Brien was clear this was unlikely to find favour compared to the more imaginative bids from other towns. Mr Heappey subsequently shared this advice with the councils but, to his dismay, there were no meaningful changes to the bid offered by the councils.
His most scathing criticism was reserved for the aspects of the bid that would benefit Cheddar. He said “Increasing tourism in the village is a huge opportunity – Cheddar should be a stepping off point for adventure in the Mendips as well as being a beautiful place to visit in its own right. But the idea that all new visitors to the village will arrive from Bristol, Bath, Weston or Burnham by bus or bike is clearly ridiculous. Local residents are already deeply concerned by the way visitors park on residential streets across the village and the erosion being caused by parking on the verges in the Gorge is damaging our star attraction. This bid should have prioritised a parking solution and improvements to the road layout that would have opened the door for huge growth in visitors without causing mayhem on Cheddar’s roads. The Strawberry Line will be a brilliant addition to the economy, but the vast majority of visitors will drive to Cheddar. That’s a reality we can’t wish away, and I’m surprised the councils haven’t prioritised it. I cannot back a bid which will cause misery for so many of my constituents. Nor can I back something that we’ve already been told by the Minister is unlikely to succeed.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Sedgemoor District Council commented: “We are proud to have brought together this joint bid which has the potential to deliver significant Levelling Up benefits in communities across Somerset. By supporting our local communities we can create new opportunities for people who live and work in Highbridge and Cheddar, and the wider district. I am grateful to everyone who has supported the bid, particularly local residents who engaged so positively with our consultations in Highbridge and Cheddar.”
Is it true Cheddar see the future towards Midsomerset and not Bridgwater.
As part of the Unitary ,at the time Mendip District Council and Sedgemoor district council
Is abolished in just eight months time
Maybe the Cheddar Valley will become a LCN
Hugely disappointing for a community that it’s shared bid isn’t supported by its local MP because he personally has different opinions and a sadly Neanderthal approach to public transport. Truculence thy name is Heappey.
Shame that the local politicians didn’t learn from the direct feedback the Minister obtained from the person making the decision – that smacks either of gross stupidity or party political pig headedness. For the sake of the residents, if you are told that the bid isn’t likely to be successful and what you need to do then make the changes and get on with it.
Wasting other peoples money is so easy.