THE manager of Burnham’s iconic pavilion says its future has been saved after Sedgemoor planners voted to allow a controversial £100k revamp.
Louise Parkin, who runs the pavilion on the town’s seafront, says she is “absolutely relieved” councillors voted to grant permission to install a £60,000 high-tech folding roof and other improvements of £40,000 to the icon.
It was uncertain the project would go ahead after Sedgemoor District Council planning officer Chris Gomm recommended the application be refused at a Development Committee meeting on Tuesday (March 18).
He said the extension could cause “significant harm to the conservation area at the pier by virtue of its scale, design and materials.”
But Cllr Gill Slocombe moved to grant permission to preserve “economic prosperity and tourism value”, with nine councillors voting in favour and two against.
Cllr Slocombe added: “It's very difficult to replicate an Edwardian building. We're lucky there is someone who wants to protect the pavilion and look after it. This is something that's badly needed.”
Speaking to the Weekly News just after the result was announced, Ms Parkin said: “We have secured the future today.
“The pavilion currently equates to around £40k in maintenance costs. We’ve also had to pay about £5k to fix damage caused to the roof during storms. We face constant increases in taxes and our amusement takings are down 75%, in line with other places across the country.
“If we do this extension, we can improve earnings and the sustainability of the pier. We have to adapt and compensate before the structure is compromised. Many piers are closing down, struggling to be repaired or failing to keep up maintenance.
“The old and modern can co-exist. The pavilion is a labour of love and it’s such a relief this has been passed.”
The project attracted mixed opinions. Five letters were written in favour, including one from the National Piers Society, and three against.
Cllr Neville Jones wrote: “As one who has spent almost a lifetime in tourism and tourism matters, I am convinced the application is not only appropriate for the site, but also a new attraction with a clean and simple design.”
But speaking at the meeting, Beverley Milner Simonds objected to the scheme. She said: “My objection isn't to the pavilion being expanded; it’s the proposed style, materials and domination over the existing silhouette.
“The pavilion stands out with the setting sun behind it; with its curves, heritage and as a commanding building.
“Burnham is a seaside town with lots going for it. Putting a proposed plastic box around the pavilion would take away from that.”
Cllr Mike Mansfield said he remembered the pier in the 1930s, adding: “That pavilion would have gone to ruin without the Parkin family. They've done a good job and this should be approved.”
Cllr Ken Smout said: “We rely heavily on tourism and the esplanade is our tourist spot. We've had 70mph winds there and I imagine the architect has taken that into account with this design.
“This is a huge financial investment and they wouldn't be doing this unless it had to be done.
“There's no point in having the best oldest pier that's closed.”