Letters to the Ediotr, Marh 1, 2012

Defend

AS A local and having a passing interest in the fate of the Tropicana I have been utterly appalled at the ludicrous and incompetent attitude of North Somerset Council which, in my opinion, reached a peak of lunacy this week with the appearance on local TV of a councillor miserably attempting to defend its decision to demolish it.

I therefore feel compelled to write to briefly sum up the current situation as I see it. On the one side, we have the local council who for decades have procrastinated and wasted time and our money during long periods of total inactivity (apart from adding to the decay by using it as dumping ground), interspersed occasionally by cosying up to developers offering grand designs which to any level-headed bystander were clearly never going to get off the ground and so disappear like the tide.

On the other side we have a local businessman, Derek Mead, with all the necessary financial and professional resources together with the support of many prominent locals, offering to grasp hold of this project and undertake a radical refurbishment. If only these far sighted guys were dealing with Sedgemoor or indeed any other authority (with the possible exception of North Korea) we would now be enjoying the vision of a refurbished Tropicana rising from the ashes of council stupidity.

So come on councillors, ‘man-up’, admit defeat and let’s see an outbreak of common sense.


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RICHARD TWORT

Norton Lane, Kewstoke

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Leading

I WAS shocked to see what the council had allowed to happen with our old swimming pool when it appeared on a recent Inside Out BBC West and I think North Somerset Council should be ashamed of itself.

It was obvious to me that the council never had any intention of letting anyone at all do anything in respect to Weston ever having a swimming pool back on the seafront.

Just letting anyone dump all that rubble there into the swimming pool area which prior to that had been left as at least something which could have been salvaged and restored.

I remember reading some time ago about a structural engineer who had gained entry to assess the pool and when it first was closed it was not beyond repair. The council may well be right in thinking that Derek Mead was not in the position to give us a pool but I also think that Councillor Tony Lake’s attitude was arrogant, as maybe the same with the rest of the council. Cllr Lake and the Tropicana committee should have at least been prepared to have a meeting.

Derek Mead is a leading businessman in the town and just dismissing him out of hand and then Cllr Lake explaining on camera that the council wanted hard facts instead of a meeting seeing if something could be worked out.

From what I have read Derek was prepared to cover the costs of getting all this underway and that he would turn the new Tropicana into a charitable trust which would enable it to apply for Lottery funding to help with the costs but also that he would underwrite the project himself if that didn’t work out. As our MP John Penrose has established with Derek Mead he is not asking to use our Beach Lawns for parking but wishes to use the part of the Beach Lawns that Birse was using. MP John Penrose saw that the proposals consisted of some shops, etc, and pool with a roof.

We are also now informed that the Secretary of State has to give his permission for the Tropicana to be demolished.

All because our own elected council members have not listened and never listened to what the people of Weston and the people who voted for them have asked for. Maybe this could be the time when they have to listen, I hope so.

LAURENCE F ORME

Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

Solution

LIKE many Westonians, I also have happy memories of summer days in the ‘80s with my young family at the Tropicana.

And I have followed the recent controversy with a growing sense of frustration and annoyance.

If all the political and personal point-scoring is ignored, it seems to me that there is a simple solution to move the present situation forward.

Derek Mead says he has a viable rescue plan for the Tropicana. North Somerset Council says that it is prepared to consider his plan when it has some serious documents to examine, rather than fancy artist’s impressions.

John Penrose, our MP and Tourism Minister supports Mr Mead’s intentions but also urges him to put forward proper plans as a matter of urgency.

If, as Mr Mead says, his scheme is financially and technically viable, then he should offer it as soon as possible for due consideration.

But all the current talk of Judicial Review and a submission to the Secretary of State just looks like another convenient excuse for further waffle and delay.

Come on Mr Mead, if you have a good plan then submit it rather than just talk about it – put your money where your mouth is. It’s time for you to prove to Weston that you are as good as your word and as serious a contender as you maintain.

NICHOLAS FERGUSON

Devonshire Road, Weston

Rubble

I’M PRESUMING the council is so keen on demolishing the Tropicana simply to extend the car parking on the beach!

Is that why the rubble filling the old pool was left behind by the builders? Although that doesn’t explain the supposed high cost of demolition.

DAGMAR NOBLE

New Church Road, Uphill

Overlooked

IT SEEMS to be overlooked by North Somerset Council (NSC) that Weston is a seaside resort not a shopping mecca.

People do not come here to traipse around shops.

They bring their kids for a holiday or a day out.

If they want shopping they could stay in Birmingham or Bristol.

The town of Blackpool must count itself fortunate that it is not run by the calibre of people of NSC… if it were, Blackpool would be a ghost town by now!

The Tropicana debacle is a disgrace to the town of Weston.

These councillors should be ashamed of themselves. If they don’t want to run the pool, they should hand it over to competent people who do.

The kids need a pool – this is a seaside with a problem; the tide goes away for most of the day, so they can’t have a paddle. Solution? A lido!

If we can’t afford a lido, things have come to a sorry pass.

They’ve got one in South London, how do they afford it? Save the Trop!

ALAN BROCKHAM

Ospery Gardens, Worle

Bomb site

WHAT the Germans failed to do in World War Two, we have achieved, in creating an area giving the appearance of a bomb site close to Weston’s seafront.

The Melrose car park has as long as I can remember been an ugly tarmaced area devoid of interest but I concede functional and a money printer for North Somerset Council (NSC).

Originally gardens for The Crescent and in its time it would have been an attractive part of Weston.

The Tropicana which is very much in the news was also an attractive development in its day with its unmistakable art deco features and popularity as a swimming pool.

It is now derelict and has very little left of its original conception, the iconic diving board and water fountain gone and the changing rooms and frontage altered over the years by various ‘improvements’. Myself and, I think, most people would readily agree if we could have that again, it would be fine, but we can’t and nostalgia is the only link with that site.

Enter The Melrose. A central location close to the seafront and town, with easy access for construction and soft land for excavation. A large site which could easily encompass a swimming pool and adjacent parking.

Highly visible for visitors to Weston, who would normally seek out the promenade and if unfamiliar with the town would have no trouble finding a place to swim. On and close to public transport routes.

The construction of an attractive building would complete the appearance and ambiance of what is a really first class seafront. The Crescent being on a higher elevation would remain visible from the promenade and also retain its views to the sea.

The Melrose car park, a gap in a line of buildings does nothing in the way of visual connectivity, even a supermarket car park is laid out with more consideration, pedestrian islands, trees for summer shade and marked areas for people to cross. I pass this site many times in the week, there are few cars and it’s under utilised even in summer.

Weston could have a swimming pool of innovative design, say an octagon in glass and stainless steel with a dome or pyramid to provide a diving stage.

An all-weather venue which in summer could be partially opened by side panels or roof.

NSC, of course, would not fund such a development, but they hold the most valuable asset, the land, and they could still retain some of it to provide parking and maintain the revenue stream.

Weston’s pool was the envy of all councils in its heyday and was used by myself and my contemporaries in the 50s and 60s. When the renaming and cheap alterations were made it lost that class.

A new name for a new pool, Melrose springs to mind, though not perfect, a vast improvement on that ghastly ‘concoction’ Tropicana.

M K WILMOT

Roman Road, Bleadon

Bubble

COUNCILLOR Clive Darke’s recent comments at a community services committee meeting: “If they can’t afford the water park then maybe they should not use it” pertaining to families who cannot afford the water park entry fee – serve only to confirm that he is living up to his name and is ‘living in the dark’!

I find it abhorrent that someone in his position should dare to make such a statement. Surely he has stepped out of the bubble of his Worle Central ward to visit other wards in Weston? Surely he has?

Why then has he so little understanding and awareness of the demographics of communities within his own town that he does not realise that those families who struggle to find the entry fee are precisely those for whom the park has most benefits.

They may be larger families who live in a flat or house with no garden, or in a ward where the local council has yet to replace the play park facilities. For them the water park is a safe open space; a place of scope; adventure; fresh air and most importantly fun.

I would ask if Cllr Darke has ever been to the water park and seen the immense pleasure and enjoyment that all children derive from its fabulous facilities. Is he churlish enough to suggest that due to family or parental circumstances any child should be denied this?

He would do well to refer to Conservative party policy on families, children and young people: We are committed to encouraging shared parenting and firmly believe that children should have meaningful relationships with both parents after separation. I am aware of several local fathers who use the water park for family time with their family to promote their ‘meaningful relationship’.

Many of us are happy to pay the few pounds it costs to allow our children to enjoy the water park. But neither I nor my friends would see children who are not so fortunate being penalised by Conservative bigotry.

MRS P LUKE

Parklands Avenue, Worle

Care varies

FURTHER to ‘Evidence’ letter on February 23 in the Mercury. Whilst I agree the quality of care varies enormously from one establishment to another within the North Somerset area, it is unfair to argue that the amount you pay for care always makes a difference to the quality of care.

I manage a care service in the Weston and North Somerset area, and despite having one of the lowest care rates (�15 per hour for homecare or �400-�500 residential care) in the area for support, all the older people we support are treated equally. Our aim is to provide respectful and dedicated care.

Our staff members are all very experienced and well-trained and have a wish to provide the best possible support for all.

I believe our care services are second to none.

Anyone wishing to gain further information on expectations they should be able to expect from care services, or inspection reports for individual care services can contact the Care Quality Commission, the regulatory body for care services.

ANNE MORLEY

Manager, Pine Lodge Care, Hazeldene Road, Weston

Parish council

I HAVE felt very proud on the occasions that I have been elected as Conservative councillor to Weston Town Council, but let’s all remember that it’s just a parish council.

It’s there to help Weston and its residents. Why is it the Liberal Democrats and Labour parties have got to bring party politics into the equation, and ‘nit pick’ at everything the Conservatives do. Labour and Liberal Democrats talk big but achieve very little or nothing.

As a Conservative I do care about Weston and will continue to try and improve it to the best of my ability.

CLIVE DARKE

Town Councillor for Worle Central

Forest Drive, Weston

Understood

THERE have been a number of articles and letters in recent issues regarding the comments made by Councillor Clive Darke when a fee for the water park was discussed at the town council.

It was clearly right the issue was discussed and clearly right all views heard. Most reasonable people realise it’s not always possible to have something for free and therefore would have understood the sentiments behind what was said.

It seems unfair to me that councillors on the other side of the fence continue to try to score cheap political points about this.

PETER WHITMARSH

Pendlesham Gardens, Weston

Complicated

I NEED to clarify your report in last week’s Mercury headed ‘No major rise in council tax bills’.

This unintentionally gave a misleading impression that Weston residents will pay more for local council services in the financial year 2012-13 than in 2011-12. In fact the total sum charged on Weston residents as council tax for these local services within the civil parish of Weston will not change at all. I accept this is a complicated subject so I will try to clarify.

The table correctly showed Weston’s ‘precept’ (share of the council tax) as increasing from �43 to �50 for an average property. The report alongside correctly said this is because Weston Town Council is taking on responsibility for ‘special expenses’. However the report went on to say that this means “the cost for certain services… provided in the parish area will be met by parish residents, not those in the wider North Somerset area”. This could be read as saying that costs formerly charged across North Somerset as a whole will in future be paid only by Weston.

In fact the whole point is that the ‘special expenses’ concerned for play areas, recreation grounds and CCTV in Weston are already charged by North Somerset Council exclusively to the residents of the parish of Weston.

Weston Town Council is merely agreeing to itself charge the same sum as this year’s special expenses but as part of its own share of the council tax. So in 2012-13 the town will pay the same total sum as this year’s special expenses and town precept added together. It is just all town precept now. Although the actual amount paid is not changing this will simplify a confusing anomaly that has existed for many years and enable Weston Town Council to either commission these services from North Somerset or run some of the services themselves.

In other words, without these three services costing the town any more it will in future have local democratic control through its own town councillors rather than councillors from other areas having the power to set the tax.

I hope that clears up any confusion there may have been.

MALCOLM L NICHOLSON

Town Clerk, Weston Town Council, Grove House, Weston

Surgeries

I WISH to follow up Mrs Porter’s letter highlighting the soon-to-be removal of all full-time doctors’ surgeries from the town centre.

As one of the elderly I do not want to be ‘mopped up’ by a small surgery. I am one of the hundreds who will now have to travel a mile away up Locking Road.

We need a full-time proper surgery in town. The new surgery is fine for those outside the surgeries’ original catchment area who have cars.

It is worrying for those without cars, the sick, those with prams and the elderly who will all be left behind, at the moment it appears, to fend for themselves.

BRIAN SHELDRAKE

Palmer Row, Weston

MY HEART sank when I read of the plans to redesign the south High Street and mess around with Winterstoke Road, because it will be designed by people who gave us the Pier Square bus route controversy and who shut off several bus routes this week leaving people waiting for buses that were not coming.

Is there a good reason to move the bus stops in High Street south that are so conveniently next to the First Bus office?

Is it a good idea to redesign that section before you know what the rebuilt Dolphin Square looks like (nothing like the plans usually) or what goes into T J Hughes?

Lastly is it wise to fiddle around with the extremely busy Winterstoke Road/Marshfields circle when previous experience suggests that those concerned couldn’t design a rice pudding?

BRIAN AUSTIN

Alma Street, Weston

WE REMAIN appalled at the way The Trop (WSM) Ltd is being treated by North Somerset Council’s (NSC) executive members regarding our proposals to refurbish the Tropicana.

We are on our 10th request to meet up with the members and despite public confirmation that they want to consider any viable options for this site, once again we are being told that we cannot present our business proposals to them.

We have asked them to withdraw their application to the Secretary of State for demolition and have been ignored. We have asked them to place things on hold and work in partnership with us to deliver this project and we have consistently been denied this opportunity.

It has been suggested that we talk to ‘other officers’ within the council, however we have already met with these ‘other officers’ and they have confirmed to us that they do not have the qualifications or decision-making powers required to review and accept our proposals.

We now understand that the council does not have any qualified accountants employed who can review and consider our proposals and therefore we have offered a full presentation to the council and have offered the services of our qualified and professional team of accountants and architects, however still the door remains firmly closed against us.

Weston Town Council however has confirmed that we can present all of our information to them on March 6. Well done them!

Well, we remain firmly committed to the refurbishment and delivery of this beachside facility. It is much needed and currently 6,500 people agree with us and have either sent in letters of objection to the demolition, or signed our petition asking for the council to work with us. This facility will create new jobs in the area and attract more tourism to Weston, so why the ‘closed door policy’ from the executive members? It can’t be down to our business proposals because they have not listened to any of them yet!

We have six councillors working very hard with us to try and get this project delivered. So councillors we have kept each and every one of you informed of our plans, we have updated you all regularly with any actions/changes and correspondence, so start talking to us, get informed, hear and understand our proposals and be part of this opportunity for change - just give us a call.

In the meantime we have been forced to make decisions on how we manage this ‘closed door approach’. We have decided that, regrettably, we now must serve a Judicial Review on NSC and this is in hand.

This will cost us and you the ratepayer money.

We do believe that you, the residents of Weston and the surrounding areas, should be encouraged to come and see for yourself the plans that the executive members are refusing to look at.

This is your chance to be the judge and interview our professional teams who will be there to explain everything in detail. The plans will be on display for everyone to see at the Winter Gardens on March 14 between 6-10pm.

There will be two presentation sessions from 6-7.45pm and 8-9.45pm. So come along. We value your input. Please make the time to inspect the great but simple concept - a pool, with a roof, with open sides.

DEREK MEAD

The Trop (WSM) Ltd, Ebdon Court Farm, Wick St Lawrence, Weston

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