A SOMERSET council plans to borrow more money to ensure its regeneration of Yeovil town centre can go ahead.

South Somerset District Council received just over £9.75M from the government for its Yeovil Refresh programme, delivering numerous improvements to the appearance and offer of the town centre following the coronavirus pandemic.

The council has already allocated funding towards the public realm improvements in and around Westminster Street, which was originally due to start on Monday (June 28).

But match funding is now needed to ensure the rest of the programme can proceed – with the council seeking to plug the gap through at least £2.8M of extra borrowing.

The Yeovil Refresh programme comprises a number of different initiatives designed to make the town centre more attractive and easier to access for residents and visitors alike.

These include improvements to the bandstand area and the surrounding streets, making it easier to stage cultural events and eventually bringing forward regeneration of the former cattle market site.

The council’s current net budget for Yeovil Refresh is £3,855,000 – which includes a recently-improved package of £1.2M to improve cycling and walking routes in the town centre (funded through external borrowing).

The government has provided £9,756,897 through its future high streets fund, of which £4,784,377 has been allocated to the approved public realm improvements.

The council needs to provide match funding to the future high streets fund grant in order to allow these projects to move forward quickly – with all projects having to be completed in full by March 2024.

To speed up this process, the council proposed to borrow a further £2,604,168 – bringing its net budget for the scheme to just shy of £6.5M.

Chard & Ilminster News: Artist\'S Impression Of Improvements To Upper Middle Street Under Yeovil Refresh. CREDIT: LHC Design. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

This includes a payment to Somerset County Council of up to £800,000 to “help improve town centre roads above standard maintenance.”

The council aims to find additional funding for Yeovil Refresh through business rate retention and income from its numerous commercial investments, budgeting £1M for the latter.

Yeovil Refresh project manager Ian Timms said: “This will enable us to enhance our delivery in Yeovil town centre.

“This funding allows us to draw £5.58M of government funds from the future high streets fund. Without this additional funding, we will forfeit some of the funding.”

The proposals will be discussed by the council’s district executive committee when it meets on Thursday (July 1) at 9:30am.

Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh claimed in May that the council did not have enough money to proceed with Yeovil Refresh as a result of funding a poll on the future of Somerset local government – a claim which the council has staunchly denied.

The planned improvements to Westminster Street were due to begin on Monday (June 28), but this has now been pushed back to allow Wessex Water to divert an existing sewer.

A spokesman said: “The start of this work will be briefly delayed as Wessex Water recently advised that a sewer diversion will be required to facilitate the work being undertaken.

“We are working with relevant authorities to secure a new start date as quickly as possible.

“It remains estimated that the work at Westminster Street will be completed this autumn and, by this time, it’s expected that work at The Triangle and Wine Street will have commenced.”