Back of the fag packet idea

THE Mercury is accused of back of the fag packet maths, but I have to suggest that this whole Clevedon office debacle is a back of the fag packet IDEA!

THE Mercury is accused of back of the fag packet maths, but I have to suggest that this whole Clevedon office debacle is a back of the fag packet IDEA!

I am guessing Councillor Ashton passed the place on his way home north, had an idea and knowing his subordinate councillors would wave it through, put it forward with next to no detailed information. (Because there isn't any.)

There are so many flaws in the plan it is possibly wrong to call it a plan.

But let's go back a step. If, and it is an unconfirmed if, there is a benefit to bringing offices together, then surely one general location rather than two 'hubs' should be the target? (Or is the Town Hall going to Clevedon later as well?)


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So what an amazing opportunity to kick-start the development and economy in Weston �13million quids worth (Weston is the centre with a population larger than Nailsea, Clevedon and Portishead all put together). Just the opportunity any forward thinking council would grab you think? But no, this is North Somerset Council (NSC), they have probably not even thought of it that way! Surely if there is a possibility to borrow millions to provide office space, then you should have a look at your own plan for the district. The preferred options plan for Weston's central area identifies significant areas for new office space. On Tesco's car park (prestige building), Locking Road car park (already owned by NSC), Agm Holdings land at the rear of the station, and Weston Rugby Club, etc. If a forward thinking local authority were to build on any one of these it would breed confidence in other developers and really give Weston the kick start it needs, whilst giving an opportunity (if it is genuinely needed) to create a centre of administration with all offices within 500 yards of each other.

As well as being a potential major opportunity missed by a lack of creative thinking, the whole Clevedon plan is riddled with half truths and missing facts;

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DOLPHIN SQUARE. Half truth- cannot go there as project has stalled!

Fact - Only reason this stalled because NSC have still not, more than one year on, even placed the press advert for procurement required by EU laws.

Half-truth - Removing the council will allow that project to move on

Fact - The agreed occupation of offices was the reason it stood a chance of going ahead. Without that it becomes speculative building of space and no developer is currently doing that. It has now been set back years.

TRANSPORT. Half truth - Better for parishioners and staff access.

Fact - Sustainable transport links to Clevedon are nonexistent. No train station for miles verses Weston with a station next door to the offices. Opportunity for incentives to staff to use the train, another missed chance to reduce the carbon footprint of the council. For 56,000 parishioners it will at least be closer (Nailsea, Clevedon and Portishead population) but for 75,000 it will be harder to get there (Weston population (2001 census). More fag packet maths?

REASONING. Half truth - 'No brainer' on cost grounds.

Fact - No costs have been finalised, there is no idea of which departments will move or where relevant staff live. Full costs of lease surrenders cannot be known.

And what of the other reasoning that just does not add up, and other comments that show such naivety from some pretty senior councillors.

It has been said it will be better for staff, but unless only those departments with no Weston residents are moved then there is no gain. Surely they are not so naive that they will survey existing staff on where they live before deciding which departments move? With their staff churn this would rapidly become skewed, wrong and so costly.

On Dolphin Square mention is made of property works that would be required soon. If they are vacating then almost certainly both that work and much more will still need to be done under the 'dilapidations' terms within their lease prior to leaving. The naivety of that statement really concerns me when considering the 'do they know what they are doing 'though process of some observers. This all brings further concerns that with so many satellite office leases to be sold/transferred/surrendered, there will be a major dilapidations bill to be paid by the ratepayer. This not insignificant figure cannot be known yet nor realistically estimated, so again how can it be argued this is a 'no brainer' on cost grounds. Fact is the true costs are not known.

Obviously as a Weston resident for 28 years I am biased but I lived in Clevedon before moving here, and they do need to be assisted in filling this office with workers. This needs creative thinking and maybe council incentives to create new jobs not transferred jobs. Yes NSC has a duty to help but not to do it itself.

So in summary can we please use these thoughts to kick start the development of Weston and not to remove a significant current benefit to its economy?

And finally a plea to all the Conservative councillors, please listen to your parishioners and the facts. Think about whether you thought the council needed new offices six months ago, because if you didn't think they did then why do they now? Just because Nigel says so?

STEVE BERRY

Independent Owner Berry's Central Londis

The Centre, Weston

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