Wednesday, 14 November 2007

County starts work on controversial railway site

WORK has started on a controversial industrial and business development next door to the West Somerset Railway Station, in Minehead.
The £6 million scheme by Somerset County Council will deliver modern workspaces for businesses and a 110-space car park.
When it was first mooted by then-Conservative controlled West Somerset Council in partnership with the county council, the scheme provoked huge protests by the Lib Dem-sponsored pressure group Direct to the effect that it would ruin the railway as a tourist attraction.
No such protests have been evident since the Lib Dem county council took over the scheme.
The project is being funded by the county council, South West of England Regional Development Agency, European Regional Development Fund, and the West Somerset Railway.
It aims to support the expansion of the West Somerset economy by providing jobs, encouraging investment, and boosting tourism.
County council portfolio holder for economic development, Councillor Alvin Horsfall, said: “We have been delighted with the level of public interest and participation in this project, and the council put a great deal of effort into ensuring that the design will provide what the local community wants.
“It is satisfying to reach this important milestone and I look forward to it opening in July next year.”
The South West RDA has invested in the project as part of its support for market and coastal towns, which often have vulnerable economies.
RDA development manager David Rees said: “It will help create a more vibrant economy for Minehead by providing new high quality workspace for small and medium companies, including start-ups.”
The railway is also planning to install a turntable while the work progresses, on which to manoeuvre its famous trains.
There will be a public viewing area for people to watch the steam trains turn, as well as a café and retail opportunities.
The scheme also includes the facility for different events to be held at the site, such as farmer’s markets and trade fairs.
Railway general manager Paul Conibeare said: “This is a turning point for Minehead and the West Somerset railway and will attract excursion trains from all over the UK.
“It is also a tribute to the dreams of the pioneers who, 30 years ago, brought back the turntable from north Wales.
“We are pleased to be working with our partners to turn their dreams into reality.”
  • Our photographs show {top} county council chairman Councillor Alan Gloak (front, centre) with officials at the start of work on the project, and {below} work underway on the site. Photos submitted.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, funny that the Lib Dem council haven't had any opposition since they took over from the Conservatives.
    The Market Towns Initiative does seem to be having a positive impact on some of the regions more vulnerable areas though.


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