BRIDGWATER and Minehead will receive millions of pounds from central government to create a new health and social care training centre.

The government announced on Thursday morning (January 19) the successful bids to the second round of its levelling up fund, with £2.1bn being allocated to regeneration projects up and down the country.

Only one of Somerset’s four bids was successful, with Sedgemoor District Council and its partners receiving £19.7m for its proposals surrounding the former Bridgwater Community Hospital and a vacant facility in Minehead.

The project will build on the £23.2m received for regeneration in the Bridgwater town deal and £10m from the first round of the levelling up fund – while other parts of Somerset will completely miss out on any funding.

The former community hospital, which lies on Salmon Parade in the town centre, has lain vacant since 2014 when the new community hospital and minor injuries unit opened on Bower Lane.

There have been previous efforts to bring the grade two listed building back into use, with the Wells-based Salmon Parade Developments applying in January 2022 to turn it in to a hotel, restaurant and gym.

Somerset County Gazette: Inside the former Bridgwater Community Hospital on Salmon Parade in Bridgwater.Inside the former Bridgwater Community Hospital on Salmon Parade in Bridgwater. (Image: Hill Reading Architects)

The successful funding bid will allow the building to be turned into a “training centre of excellence in health and social care”, with an unspecified building in Minehead serving as an “annexe” to this initiative.

The new centre will be used to “attract, retain, grow, and upskill” key workers in the health and social care sector, boosting staff numbers in Somerset and encouraging them to remain in the county after they finish training.

Technology companies will be encouraged to set up near the site to “drive innovation”, and the centre will provide more capacity for primary care services in and around the town, allowing more people to be supported in their own homes.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said: “What a great day for Bridgwater.

“Hot on the heels of eleven business cases of the Bridgwater town deal being approved by the government, we are over the moon to hear that an additional £20m is coming into the town.”

Part of the town deal includes improvements to Salmon Parade and the surrounding streets, enhancing the public realm and encouraging more walking and cycling as part of the delivery of the ‘Celebration Mile’, which links the town centre to the railway station.

Somerset County Gazette: “What a great day for Bridgwater.”“What a great day for Bridgwater.” (Image: UK Parliament)

Council leader Duncan McGinty said: “After the bad news over the last couple of days – the bus crash and the threat of flooding in the area – this is a fantastic shot in the arm for Sedgemoor and its partners.

“We are absolutely delighted that the bid was accepted and look forward to work starting on this fantastic project.

“We hope that work will start in the late-summer, subject to the necessary planning and listed building processes.”

The bid was put together by the council with numerous partners, including Bridgwater and Taunton College, the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Somerset County Cuncil and the Somerset Association of Care Providers.

The district council also submitted a joint bid with Mendip District Council to enhance Cheddar, Highbridge and Shepton Mallet – a bid which Wells MP James Heappey lambasted as “unimaginative”, and which fails to secure any funding.

Somerset County Gazette: Michael Gove, the minister for levelling up, housing and communities.Michael Gove, the minister for levelling up, housing and communities. (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Two other bids in Somerset also failed to make the cut – Somerset West and Taunton’s bid to regenerate the Tonedale Mill and Tone Works sites in Wellington, and a joint bid by Mendip District Council and South Somerset District Council which would have delivered co-working space in Wincanton and a possibly arts venue within the Saxonvale site in Frome town centre.

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove said: “We are firing the starting gun on more than 100 transformational projects in every corner of the UK that will revitalise communities that have historically been overlooked but are bursting with potential.

“This new funding will create jobs, drive economic growth, and help to restore local pride.

“We are delivering on the people’s priorities, levelling up across the UK to ensure that no matter where you are from, you can go as far as your talents will take you.”