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Langport visitor centre site may lose tourist role

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: January 04, 2013

The former Langport and River Parrett visitor centre, at the western entrance to the town centre, may not reopen as a tourist draw

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A disused visitor centre in Langport may not reopen as a tourist magnet.

The disused Langport and River Parrett Visitor Centre is set to be taken over by a business, councillors have been told.

South Somerset district councillor Roy Mills said: “It’s a disappointment that it is being looked at primarily as a commercial opportunity.

“We constantly try to promote tourism in Langport and I think this is a setback.”

The South Somerset District Council-owned building is currently empty after the owner of the former managing tenant, Bow Bridge Cycles, retired in November.

Following a local consultation and review into the future of the building, Charlotte Jones, Area North development manager for the district council, said there had been many expressions of interest for using the building.

She told councillors at a recent meeting: “This is an important issue for the Langport area.

“No decisions have yet been made. But I’m pleased to say there are a range and variety of possible uses.

“Some are linked to local culture and the area, and there are others that are less of that nature but would be a good business use for the building.

“From a local perspective we need a place that will add the most value to Langport.”

Mrs Jones said other places in Langport now provide information that the centre previously offered. These include The Angel pub and the Great Bow Yard.

Mrs Jones said the former visitor centre needed to be able to generate income as the council faced up to budget cuts.

She also said that figures show the majority of visitors came to the centre specifically for Bow Bridge Cycles – which offered bicycle hire and repairs at the centre – rather than tourist information.

District councillor Sylvia Seal said: “It was well known and accepted that it was the business that people came to visit there.

“It would be lovely if we can find something that adds to Langport. You need businesses for people to think it’s thriving.”

District councillors Sue Steele and Derek Yeomans both said a commercial use for the building would be a better option than selling the building or allowing it to fall into disrepair.

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Jones said: “We have particularly encouraged applications from businesses or community groups which would add to other local visitor facilities or attractions for the town and local area.

“However, there are other ways to help develop local tourism, and different types of businesses will still be of economic benefit to the town.

“We will take all this into account, together with seeking to cover the costs of owning the building through rental income.”

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