GLASTONBURY residents can now find it much easier to access some of their local sports facilities thanks to ongoing regeneration efforts.

Glastonbury was one of 101 towns across the UK – and one of only two in Somerset – which has received funding from the government’s towns fund, with £23.6m being provided for projects designed to enhance the town centre and improve the town’s fortunes.

One of the 11 projects taken forward, dubbed the Roberts Richards initiative (named after the late chairman of the town deal board), seeks to promote sustainability across the town with new multi-user paths, green infrastructure and training courses provided in partnership with the Open University and Strode College.

The first section of new path has recently opened, making it easier for residents living on Benedict Street and further north to access public open space and the various facilities at Tor Sports and Leisure Centre, which will also be upgraded under a separate project.

Glastonbury town deal programme manager Jane Sharp and Somerset Council deputy leader Liz Leyshon granted the Local Democracy Reporting Service a tour of the paths on Saturday morning (January 20), shortly after they had opened to residents and visitors.

The newest section of path runs along the western edge of Wirrall Park, near the existing homes on Boundary Way, before opening out into a circular walk around the northern green space and providing an exit onto Benedict Street, near the Sea Cadets hut.

The path is designed to provide safer, more even access for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users seeking to reach the leisure centre or facilities in the southern edge of the town, such as the Morrisons supermarket off the A361 Street Road.

Somerset County Gazette: Artist's Impression Of The New Glastonbury Community Sports And Leisure Hub On The A361 Street Road In GlastonburyArtist's Impression Of The New Glastonbury Community Sports And Leisure Hub On The A361 Street Road In Glastonbury (Image: Morgan Sindall & Expedite Design)

Ms Sharp said: “We’re also looking at doing some paths out around the Beckery area, to make sure the various project join together and people can move around without relying so heavily on cars – the idea is to be active.

“There will be a path from the new entrance to St. Brigid’s Chapel and Field, across to Porchestall Drove and come out close to the food and regenerative farming project up there.

“When we were doing the consultation about the regeneration of the sports and leisure hub, it was one of the thing that people told us they wanted.

“They said they liked to come here, and I think covid made it even more special – but they didn’t have a path to push prams or wheelchairs on. Now whenever I come here there are lots of people using the path.”

The three arms of the Robert Richards initiative are expected to cost £2.4m within the town deal budget – though the paths are only a small fraction of this.

The funding for the town deal is ring-fenced specifically to these regeneration efforts in Glastonbury – meaning it cannot be spent anywhere else in the county, and cannot be used to fund the council’s day-to-day spending on front-line services, such as road repairs or adult social care.

The paths have been delivered at a relatively low cost thanks to the involvement of Greenways and Cycle Routes, a community interest company which specialises in the creation of active travel routes in rural areas.

Greenways and Cycle Routes has been instrumental in delivering new sections of the Strawberry Line in Shepton Mallet and Wells, with a further section near Dulcote expected to be open to the public by the end of February.

Ms Leyshon – who represents the neighbouring Street division – said the health and well-being of residents was vital to ensuring Glastonbury’s economy would be resilient in the years to come.

She said: “If you want economic regeneration, you need to look after your workforce.

“We have already linked the town up to a significant extent. People in the Mill Stream estate [near Wirrall Park] are now able to access the town centre on foot, or on a bike, or in a mobility scooter without having to go on an A-road.

“You need to look at local demand for joining places up. People will start using the paths without actually realising that they are being directed onto a safer route.

“John Grimshaw [engineer with Greenways and Cycle Routes] has pioneered paths that I didn’t think were possible. All these paths have not damaged any tree roots and there’s no Tarmac here.

“If you’ve walked around Glastonbury, it’s pretty hilly – so it’s really important to have some level access for people who are less mobile.”

Ms Sharp added: “Covid hasn’t completely gone away; a lot of people are still living slightly different lives to the way they did before.

“What we’re doing here with the paths and the refurbishment of the leisure centre’s clubhouse is to take a holistic approach. This is for everyone – health and well-being is extremely important.”

Wirrall Park is protected in perpetuity as a field in trust, meaning it cannot be sold off for residential or commercial development – and therefore, the paths can remain in place for as long as people wish.

Sustainability is at the heart of the Glastonbury town deal, with less invasive, traditional construction methods being employed to bring historic buildings back into use as well as delivering new infrastructure for residents.

Ms Sharp said: “This is what people told us they wanted. We’re not in the business of coming and destroying things that people love and cherish – it’s about getting the details right, what’s appropriate for Glastonbury.

“There is a bit of a rivalry with Bridgwater as to who finishes their projects first, but it’s all in good humour.”

Bridgwater received £23.2m for its town deal, whose projects include the Bridgwater tidal barrier, upgrades to the Dunball roundabout, the regeneration of the historic Northgate Docks and delivering key sections of the ‘celebration mile’ between the docks and the town’s railway station.

Ms Leyshon said: “It’s very exciting to bring people to see this, the first part of the town deal that’s actually completed – it wasn’t just us talking about it.

“Nothing makes me and Jane happier than to see people enjoying the paths.”

Over the next 12 months, numerous projects within the town deal will start to ramp up – with the funding needing to be spent in its entirety by March 2026.

Somerset Council will shortly awarded the contract for the refurbishment of the Tor Sports and Leisure Centre, for which planning permission was granted by Mendip District Council in December 2022.

Both this scheme and the new piazza being created near Glastonbury Abbey, off Magdalene Street, are expected to be completed by the autumn.

Work will also begin later this year on the health and well-being hub at St. Dunstan’s House on Magdalene Street (approved in October 2023) and the regeneration of the Baily’s Buildings on Beckery Old Road (approved in December 2023).

Work is already taking place on the Red Brick Building, with its roof being stabilised ahead of the final stage of its regeneration being undertaken.

For more information on all the Glastonbury town deal projects, visit