A SOMERSET MP and parliamentary candidate recently met with park owners in and around Brean to discuss several issues, including the use of a holiday park as accommodation for Hinkley Point workers.

James Heappey (MP for the Wells constituency which covers Burnham-on-Sea), and Ashley Fox, the Conservative candidate for Bridgwater, played a joint role in hosting the meeting.  

They spoke about the importance of the tourism industry, the challenges it faces and how important local authority support is.

Mr Heappey has publicly opposed the use of the Pontins site in Brean to house Hinkley Point workers for the past year.

He explained that he had pressed for relevant members of Sedgemoor District Council to visit the village and meet local business owners, but had been dissatisfied with their efforts.

"This has been ongoing for far too long now with limited engagement from the council," he said.

"Park owners have invited members of the executive to several meetings and the Council has not been forthcoming.

“None of them have attended – that’s not good enough for Brean for those businesses who bring millions of pounds into our visitor economy each month and who employ hundreds of local people.

"They deserve better than the executive members of our council hiding from meeting them and refusing to be clear on their policy position."

Ashley Fox added "I was pleased to be briefed on the situation. The Council's behaviour in ignoring the needs of local businesses is disgraceful.

"I will continue to work with James Heappey for better communication and resolution of the problems that Brean faces."

Somerset Council has since responded to the criticism from the local politicians, and explained the aim of their partnership with EDF Energy and Pontin's was to support Brean businesses with national level publicity campaigns, as well as increasing visitors to the area, and tourism.

It also stated that Discover Brean requested the council to form a Brean Tourism Group, consisting of monthly meetings - although Discover Brean have not attended a meeting since September.

The council maintain that regular meetings and visits to Brean have been carried out regarding the issue.

The full statement issued by Somerset Council - which replaced Sedgemoor District Council in April - says: "Sedgemoor District Council had been working with EDF since August 2022 via Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership (HTAP), re the lease of Pontin’s Holiday camp.

"This work has been continued by Somerset Council which came into being in April 2023. 

"A £225,000 mitigation package, via a section 106 agreement was agreed.

"The aim was to support Brean businesses with national level publicity campaigns to extend the shoulder seasons, and link to new and wider audiences, for example walkers, nature lovers, mature tourists, as well as a local publicity campaign to focus on beach and family holidays, short breaks, day visits, value seekers, competitions and trails.  

"These measures included:

  • National PR contract to deliver national campaigns -£100,000
  • Local PR contract to deliver local campaigns - £30,000
  • Business support grants for local tourism businesses - £75,000
  • One-off grant to Discover Brean to support their marketing - £20,000
  • Business survey (August 2023) - to collect good quality data including evidence of impact on trading to monitor and review the effect of the mitigation and impacts.

"In May, at the request of Discover Brean we were asked to establish a group (Brean Tourism Group) that consists of Discover Brean, Somerset Council and EDF to discuss matters, marketing, feedback. 

"This group meets monthly. 

"In September, Discover Brean said they would no longer attend the meetings.

"Council officers (from Economic Development, Neighbourhood Safety, Licencing) have had regular meetings and have personally visited Brean. 

"Somerset Council is sharing information regularly and makes contact with the local businesses to ensure they know that they can contact the Council with any concerns.  

"We continue to alert Discover Brean to any external funding and other opportunities.

"In June 2023, at a tourism group meeting, there was a request for a meeting to be called with senior Directors and Executive Members. 

"Three Somerset Council Executive Members (Council Leader Bill Revans, Councillor Ros Wyke and Councillor Tessa Munt) along with senior Council officers met with representatives of the Brean business community on 26th July, 2023 at our Bridgwater House offices, with a follow-up meeting planned.

"EDF held a Community Engagement session on 11th October (a joint event with Somerset Council Business Workshop) for the local Parish Councils, together with Somerset Community Foundation. 

"This allowed Somerset Council to listen again to the views of business owners to help us plan the next steps for the 2024 season.

"Somerset Council officers and members will carry on working with the local business community."