Keynsham town centre commitment welcomed – but concerns raised over funding

Conservative councillors have welcomed a commitment by Bath and North East Somerset Council to start work on the redevelopment of Keynsham town centre next year, but have raised concerns over how the scheme is to be funded.

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet is set to agree how the project is to be funded at a meeting on Wednesday the 7th December. A report produced by council Officers sets out various funding options for the scheme. The report states that the council’s preferred funding option is to use the final £13 million which the council is set to receive from the sale of the Southgate site in Bath alongside internal Council borrowing.

Conservative councillors, who initiated the project two years ago, have campaigned to save the Keynsham regeneration project from being scrapped since Labour councillors backed the Liberal Democrats to take over the running of the council after May’s local elections.

Local Conservatives have welcomed the news as a victory for local residents. However, they have raised concerns that if the Cabinet agrees its stated preferred option of funding it could mean sacrificing investment in other projects such as the Bath public realm improvement strategy or other local infrastructure.

Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Resources, Cllr Charles Gerrish (Cons, Keynsham North), said:

“The fact that the council is set to go ahead with this project next year is great news and will be welcomed by residents of Keynsham and beyond. This is a real victory for our town. Conservatives have always argued that the regeneration of Keynsham town centre will provide a shot in the arm for the town’s economy and can help save the council money in the years to come by cutting its office costs.

“We need to look at the council’s funding plans for the project in more detail, but it is a concern that the Liberal Democrats now appear to favour using the final £13 million from the sale of Southgate to fund the project. This is money which the council had always anticipated receiving on completion of the new Southgate shopping centre, and so had been expected to be used towards funding improvements to Bath city centre or other infrastructure projects throughout the area.

“The Lib Dems’ plan to use these funds rather than the original proposal to use self- funded borrowing only means that they will need to borrow to deliver on other essential projects such as the Public Realm Strategy, or simply cut these projects instead.”