Work to improve the appearance of Chard’s High Street could begin by the end of the year.

South Somerset District Council is constructing a new pool and leisure centre on the former ACI complex on Silver Street, as part of its Chard regeneration scheme.

The scheme will include delivering further housing and making improvements to the “public realm”, with some funding from central government being made available.

The council has now confirmed it also hopes to begin improving High Street by the end of the year – with the new pool still on course to be completed in the summer of 2021.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced last year that Chard would be eligible for a share of £95m to improve the western end of the A30 Fore Street.

The council applied for around £1m for multiple public realm projects after the street was designated as one of 69 ‘high street historic action zones’ (HAZ).

Cllr Jason Baker, portfolio holder for the regeneration scheme, said: “The funding would help us regenerate some public realm areas and renovate valued historic buildings in Chard town centre, which will create an appealing look to attract people to come and live, work, shop, learn and visit in the town.”

An update on the western gateway came before the council’s area west committee when it met virtually last week (May 20).

Tim Cook, the council’s localities manager, said in his written report: “These improvements will form part of the Chard regeneration scheme programme of public realm improvements.

“The funding agreement for the High Street HAZ was due to be signed in the spring.

“We are hoping to have a fully developed scheme during 2020 with delivery at the end of the year.

“The Covid-19 situation has created some delay to the project, due to surveys being unable to proceed.”

While this element of the regeneration scheme is being worked up, construction on the swimming pool and leisure centre is continuing with social distancing measures in effect.

A council spokesman said: “The government has been clear that the construction industry should continue to work but must do so within the safety guidelines issued.”