Letters to the Editor, June 26, 2014

PUBLISHED: 11:38 27 June 2014

Archant

THANK you for letting the people of Weston know of the Winter Gardens management team decision to drop the social dance afternoons.

In fact the scenario is worse than the one you outlined in the Mercury on June 19 since it appears that all of the social dance events for what Mark Lammiman, managing director calls ‘an elderly audience’ are being dropped for ‘lack of profitability’ after August.

As a Westonian the Winter Gardens was special to me growing up in the town in the 1950s and 60s and there were many events for all age groups in those years which sat happily side by side.

The iconic ballroom opened in 1927 for the people of Weston and its visitors. It is one of our most beautiful landmarks, the best ballroom in the region and one of the best in the country.

I returned to the town in my retirement two years ago because I love the place and to be near my family. One of the highlights, and for many others in the town and region, has been the chance to participate in ballroom, Latin American and sequence social dance events which made up the great summer afternoon and monthly evening programme at the Winter Gardens until this summer.

As reported last week, the planned programme of afternoon dances has been cut, by two thirds between 2013 and 2014 and in addition Sid Gateley’s monthly evening dances finish in August.

Mark Helmore’ New Year’s Eve dance, which sold 300 tickets last year, has been cancelled for this year.

Mr Lammiman are you not aware of the demographics of our town, its history with this ballroom, the potential of that space and of the many people of all ages who enjoy dancing?

I offered to meet with Mr Lammiman and his team for some creative discussions on what might be done to attract more people to the social dance events, with other regular dancers who come from as far as Gloucester, Bath, Bristol and surrounding villages to enjoy the best ballroom in the region.

He declined and did not pursue the other suggestions I made to improve advertising and links, for example with more coach visits including a dance with afternoon tea and other outreach connections.

One example would be connecting with the wonderful work of AgeUK since the research shows that dance and music are the most beneficial activities to provide positive mental and physical benefits in the aging process.

Blackpool is proud of its Tower Ballroom and it is full of people dancing, listening to the music or enjoying afternoon tea everyday so why can’t Weston learn some lessons from other great ballrooms of the UK?

Why not try residential short break dance holidays with Sid Gately, Eden Nights, TLH or one of many organisers of such events?

These fill hotels and their ballrooms regularly throughout the year in many seaside towns, none match the elegance and quality of what Weston could offer.

Mr Lammiman, please reconsider your decision and at least allow a social dance evening once a month throughout the year, alongside your themed dinners, private functions, fairs and latest venture into Magaluf’s famous BCM Plant Dance Club nights for the younger generation.

It appears, that your reprogramming actions are actually excluding ‘the elderly’ here and not ‘providing entertainment aimed at all age groups’ as you claim.

Programming some time for social dancing has to be better than mothballing the beautiful ballroom on so many afternoons and evenings which is the last step before closure.

Do more marketing, rethink approaches to informing people of what is on offer and the benefits, be creative and do not exclude us.

We, your ‘elderly audience’, will continue to raise public awareness of this injustice. Many of us who enjoy social dancing may be in our third age but we contribute in many ways, for example through voluntary work, to the life of the town and care of its people. Mr Lammiman the elderly audience, want to dance too, everyone who attends social dancing is not old.

DR TANSIN BENN

Bleadon Hill, Bleadon

IT IS now nearly a year since The Tropicana (WsM) Ltd persuaded the Government Minister Eric Pickles to block the proposed demolition of the derelict Tropicana building and give the people of Weston a chance to rebuild a much-needed swimming pool on the seafront.

The legal effort to get this block cost Tropicana (WsM) Ltd tens of thousands – and local taxpayers a similar amount.

So, what has happened since? Precisely nothing. Tropicana (WsM) Ltd has made hardly any progress in raising the necessary moneys despite North Somerset offering to help with the finance.

Furthermore, since swimming pools hardly ever run at a profit there is doubt about whether any money will be forthcoming to maintain such a project. In the unlikely event of a new pool ever being built it may have to close again soon afterwards.

The Trop (WsM) Ltd organisation has bamboozled the people of this town and Mr Pickles with his anti-local government agenda has been only too willing to co-operate with this.

They may never get enough money to rebuild but a derelict Tropicana is visible proof of what some people see as council incompetence and neglect. We may be stuck with a derelict structure for a long time yet.

JULIAN PARRY

Spokesman, UKIP Weston Branch

Old Mill Way, Weston Village

BORN and bred in Weston and not one to moan in our local paper but I feel

that something is wrong here when being forced to pay to park on the

seafront.

As a taxpaying resident I regularly enjoy Weston seafront for fresh air and exercise.

Last Friday evening I had to pay to park as all the free parking places were full, not having the nerve to park on yellow lines, unlike others, where it appears no action is taken.

All for just wanting to get some fresh air and exercise which I hasten to add now seems to have become such an effort.

No wonder the seafront is deserted in the evening when you are forced to pay for the privilege of our seafront.

Government advice tells us that this is what everyone should be doing but it does not tell you that your local council will charge you for it.

Oh and by the way I have yet to see a parking attendant in the evening up to 10pm.

Probably due to the lack of income from the pay and display machines between 6 and 10pm.

Whilst purchasing my ticket, a visitor to the resort behind me said: “Is it free after 6pm?”

I replied that Weston seafront has curfews until 10pm.

He said, “I am from Wales. Having just spent X number of pounds in car parking

visiting a relative in hospital and I am not prepared to spend any more on parking. I only wanted to have some sea air and food before my drive home.”

Goodbye to more income to the resort. But hey ho we can afford it after our successful income from the air days?

Do the council not think there could be more people enjoying Weston during the evening to run the length of the prom or have a gentle stroll and put some custom in the local bars and seaside restaurants without the penalty of parking charges after 6pm?

We need to encourage people to come not discourage them, pretty obvious really but then again it’s probably going to fall on deaf ears. Or will the council sit up and listen and do something about this?

Whatever other ideas it has next will probably see me being expected to contribute to emptying dog waste bins and I am not even a dog owner. Wake up Weston.

JOHN KIRK

St Marks Road, Weston

CHATTING to a gentleman from Enmore (Bridgwater) about local issues I was surprised how upset he was about evening seafront parking charges.

He visited Weston early evening with his grandchildren with the intent of stopping for a walk and an ice-cream, could find no on-street free parking only charged parking to 10pm. Purely on principle he left the town and spent his few pounds elsewhere.

Now I hear that the area around the Marine Lake is to have parking meters, just where will it stop?

I hear local runners park up and meet in bars in the area all year round, is this to 6pm or 10pm, what will happen now?

Last year I enjoyed a trip to Clevedon, a walk and a sandwich and ice-cream, free parking on the seafront, what’s the difference? Is Weston to be treated purely as a cash cow till the goodwill runs out?

A trip to Exmouth during the day incurred a similar charge to Weston, but charges finish at 6pm.

Weston seafront business requires every pound of income when the weather is good, get the charges removed from 6pm, get local families into the seafront bars and restaurants, you are driving them away from the area that should be developing and swelling council coffers as the word spreads of how welcoming it is (or should be).

PAUL BURNS

Sunnyside Road, Weston

I HAVE just driven through Manor Road in Uphill village and lo and behold I came across a very bad accident between two cars outside the hospital.

Are we surprised at this considering the parking is atrocious since it has been altered, and not for the better?

I think something has to be done about this and very soon, before someone is killed.

JO MARNEY

Uphill Road South, Weston

LAST week, for the first time for about a year I had to go into the centre of Weston. I was not looking forward to it but what a change from when I was there last time.

No traffic, plenty of parking places (all on meters of course) so well done to the Weston councillors, you have cleared all the cars out of Weston but at what cost? I have never seen so many empty shops and where are all the public toilets? There must be a lot of elderly people like me who need to use a toilet a lot, what are you supposed to do in Weston?

I saw an article in the Mercury recently about the road train starting soon. I would suggest to the operator that it renames it the ghost train because if any more shops close Weston will become a ghost town.

Well done again councillors.

TED CLARK

Chestnut Close, Congresbury

IT IS good that the Mercury keeps us informed about progress with the Tropicana. I have been talking to a number of visitors to Weston in the last week, asking them their thoughts on Weston.

In general the answers were favourable apart from comments on the Tropicana. Every single person I spoke to said they could not believe that the council had left it to rot. Some mentioned the council investment in Portishead pool.

The vast majority of local people would like to see the Tropicana developed and once more become a seafront attraction.

I think the odd person who is negative about the efforts being made by the Trop team is mistaken. Weston needs the Tropicana for a number of reasons not least because it will contribute financially to North Somerset Council (NSC) and hence the taxpayer.

It would generate more footfall helping local business (currently a number of shops and restaurants are closing), it would contribute to car parking revenue of which Weston is virtually the only contributor to NSC and another attraction would help fill our local B&Bs and hotels.

It seems to me a ‘no brainer’ for the council to support the Trop team and invest when they get such a large proportion of council income from Weston.

PAULINE PLATTEN

St Davids Close, Weston

A BIG thank you to all at Hutton Moor Leisure Centre, who enabled the first ACTIVE LIFE AWP NHS localities tennis tournament to take place on June 11.

The weather was perfect and all clients and staff had a wonderful day. We are pleased to say that North Somerset had a resounding victory, and came away with the trophy.

Without your generosity this would not have been possible.

ROSE STONE AND PAUL TEBAY

On behalf of North Somerset Active Life Team

Longfox Unit, Weston General Hospital

IN THE 30 years I have lived in Weston I have never had such a great time on the seafront as last weekend.

Beach Lawns were crammed with events, there was a fantastic air display, including the

Red Arrows and to top it all 40 Commando regiment were given the freedom of the town in an impressive ceremony.

Of course the weather played its part and the council is to be congratulated on such a superb event. A nice touch was the free seating available on the promenade to watch

the air display.

It was a pity that there was a mix up with the morning parade. Crowds lined the parade route believing the freedom ceremony would follow but everything was reversed so many missed the ceremony on Pier Square. However on the plus side somebody from the council must have prophesied that England would go out of the World Cup early and were able to lift our spirits with such a brilliant weekend.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

WHAT a weekend! With the brilliant weather this must rate as the most successful air show ever.

Alright, there was an unfortunate incident involving a parachutist overshooting the landing zone and injuring an OAP due to a sudden wind shear but that is the nature of these events, and, it is a very rare occurrence but I bet that will be the headlines not the fantastic air displays culminating in the appearance of the mighty Vulcan.

All the whingers out there banging on about Weston not having anything for visitors and the residents... for goodness sake what more do you want? Next weekend Weston will be catering for the younger element with Jessie J and many others coming to the seafront.

I would make one observation and that is I was on the seafront both days and I noticed the distinct lack of crowds, unlike last year, on the Grand Pier... have Kerry and Co shot themselves in the foot over admission charging? I would love to know what the takings were compared to last year.

ALAN KING

Beaumont Close, Weston

HOW saddened I felt after reading about the treatment of the poor German shepherd left to die.

Did the person not realise there are rescue centres that take unwanted pets?

I hope the RSPCA will take action and hand out the strongest penalty. It won’t help the poor dog but may put others off.

M WILLIAMS

Stafford Road, Weston

THE problem with mail with Avon in the address is simply solved by senders following the Royal Mail guidelines.

These state: “When sending mail to UK addresses you need to use a full and accurate address complete with the postcode. You do not need to include a county name, as long as the post town and postcode are used. Avoid using commas or full stops and do not centre or stagger your lines.”

PETER BARRINGTON

Hutton Hill, Hutton

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