Letters to the Editor, December 8, 2011

Act now

WHATEVER the council’s motives, it’s now very clear they do not want a swimming pool on the Tropicana site.

We are now faced with the last opportunity to save our swimming pool and stop the demolition of the Tropicana.

People must act now and let the council know that it’s simply not right to go against the majority of North Somerset’s local taxpayers.

Weston and North Somerset need a facility like this both for local people and tourists to the area. Residents have time and time again told the council that they want the Tropicana developed. Local business people say that the tourist trade needs it. Why won’t the council listen?


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The people of Weston and North Somerset need to act now to preserve this site for future generations.

If we do nothing history will never forgive us. Those who feel that their voices have never been heard, it’s now time to tell the council, that this is not right, fair and it does not represent the views of the community.

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We cannot allow the Tropicana to be knocked down in our name, and spend �800,000 in doing so. Enough is enough.

I would urge everyone who feels as strongly to meet outside Weston’s town hall at noon on Tuesday prior to the council’s final vote, to let councillors know that to go against voters in this way, wasting such vast sums of public money over the last 10 years will not go unpunished at the next local elections; hopefully they will have a change of mind and see that the only way forward is to hand the site to Richard Nightingale, something which should have been done a long time ago. Say no to demolition, say yes to a new pool.

I myself was born and raised in Margate, a seaside town which is similar to Weston in many ways, but Margate people are lucky to have a forward-thinking council that has had the courage to back the new Turner Centre which has put life back into the old historical town. Thanet District Council embraces bold new investment and it has paid off, the once run down and shabby old town is now, I am told, a thriving hub of independent boutiques, cafes and artist studios breathing life back into a community. Weston can only look on and wish. We need everyone’s help. Please support the Tropicana on Tuesday at noon, also at the online petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/say-no-to-the-demolition-of-the-tropicana-stop-the-demolition-of-the-tropicana and on Facebook at, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-Tropicana/253999577991918?sk=wall&filter=1

The council must listen if we stand together.

HEIDI GRIFFIN

Coronation Road, Banwell

Represent

THE VOTE of the working party to demolish the Tropicana was carried five for and three against.

Four of those councillors voting for demolition are not from Weston, whereas the three who voted for retention are from Weston. I think that tells us something.

It cannot be right that councillors who do not represent wards in Weston can overrule those who do. That is hardly democratic.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

Temporarily dump

I THINK everybody who had an interest in getting a swimming pool back on Weston’s seafront all knew that all was lost when they found out North Somerset Council had given permission to the company employed by them to undertake the refurbishment of the promenade and the installation of the new seafront defences to be able to use the old Tropicana swimming pool and the land on the sand adjacent to the old pool to temporarily store their building materials.

This together with them using the same site to temporarily dump the building waste they were removing from the seafront.

All this without insuring that in this agreement and contract included the basic requirement that they had to leave the area or, put it back to its original state. When the Tropicana closed it still had a functioning swimming pool.

Even now the building facing the promenade appears to be capable of still being used. Is it not possible that as a temporary measure these usable parts be rented out? I am sure there are a number of people who would be interested.

Now is not the time to waste council funds in tearing it down. We have had our local successful businessmen say the site must be saved, that Weston is going through a new development stage.

We have Kerry Michael and a new successful Grand Pier, two new restaurants being built on the seafront, one by Giulio Ellis replacing the tourist office the other by The Cove owners on the promenade. We have a brand new 112-room Premier Inn seafront hotel as part of the redevelopment of Dolphin Square and now there are plans for an out of town scheme for the longest and largest indoor ski slope and the highest climbing wall in Europe, including other exciting additions, all of which will attract thousands of people to the area.

Already we have on the outskirts of Weston the popular Puxton Park together with two other children’s play centres, the Animal Farm Adventure Park and Court Farm. We even have the splash park run by the town council, another real success. The new Pier Square is now used by locals and visitors to enjoy a continental flavour with seating in the square. They are taking coffee and snacks, etc, by the fountain. Yes Weston has a lot going for it.

It’s a shame that the North Somerset councillors (but most of them not being local) have very little interest in getting Weston promoted but let’s face it Weston brings in 90 per cent of the revenue which is spent on the North Avon area by them. It is the visitors and tourists who come here which spend their money for the good of the county.

As Kerry Michael said: “Unfortunately, it seems that view isn’t supported by our councillors who appear able to find funding for new council offices in Clevedon and even the upgrading of their existing offices in the town hall but, sadly not a single penny of investment for the regeneration of tourism which is our major industry.”

At the next council meeting on December 13 they should vote to hold off doing anything like tearing down our swimming pool. Let’s hold fire, let’s see what happens. We have waited this long why this sudden hurry to spend �800,000 which we can ill afford?

I am sure as soon as times improve Weston’s businessmen will find a way of getting something sorted out.

I have also never heard that the council has ever approached the National Lottery for funding (have they?). I know that at one time the Government was all in favour of saving local lidos and were offering funding. Weston’s motto, Ever Forward, can we get back to it?

LAURENCE F ORME

Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

Not most of it

I READ with alarm of our North Somerset Councillors who had invested �3million with the Icelandic Bank only to see that bank collapse in 2008.

A council spokesperson quoted in the Weston Mercury on October 24 2011 said that the council hoped to recover most of this money through the courts.

I, as a council taxpayer, hope that the council recovers all the �3million, plus interest, not most of it.

On the subject of hope Weston residents have hoped for the last 10 years that a sensible and practical solution would be arrived at and provide a swimming pool to replace the Tropicana, but guess what? Our hopes have been dashed again.

The working party that voted for the demolition of the Tropicana consisted of 10 councillors.

The vote was 5-3 in favour of demolition with two abstentions. Why? I ask why was Councillor Bryant on the working party if he has an interest in the matter, and Councillor Ap Rees said “I did not want to be seen as biased, I am just a neutral chairman”.

Am I wrong does not the chairman have a vote?

Shame on you councillors who voted for the demolition of a potentially huge asset for Weston.

The �3million invested unwisely in high interest foreign banks would have gone some way to cushion the hard-pressed North Somerset council taxpayers from the inept hopeless decisions made by this Tory-led administration.

RICHARD CROSBIE-HILL

Acacia Avenue, Weston

Not the case

I WRITE with regard to the decision to demolish the Tropicana.

How can the council say that no viable proposals have been put forward when everyone knows that is not the case?

I don’t think the people of Weston should be surprised that the council has decided to do this, after all it has been obvious for years that the council is not interested in the opinions of local people and has had no intention of allowing any proposal that would renovate the site.

It is also obvious that the council has been using the entire exercise to enable it to demolish the Tropicana site with no blame levelled it.

The people of Weston had their best chance of improving the town at the last local elections but missed the opportunity, so those that voted for this council only have themselves to blame for the current situation.

In my opinion this council wastes enough of taxpayers’ money without spending �800,000 on pulling the Tropicana down when it could have used it to assist one of the proposals to get it off the ground.

STEPHEN GRIFFIN

Monkton Avenue, Oldmixon

True colours

I AM sat here incandescent with rage over the Tropicana decision. But no, it’s not the decision (as bad as that is) but the gutless way two Weston and district councillors have sat on their hands and not voted.

The chairman has been making it quite clear in all his pronouncements over the year that the Trop has to go, so why not have the courage of his convictions and show his true colours? As for Councillor Peter Bryant, what political subterfuge allowed him to substitute on the committee when all along the Tories knew he would never vote as he has an interest. Why not substitute someone who could vote? And finally I see with regret that Councillor Tom Leimdorfer, who used to have my greatest respect, has joined the political north of North Somerset Councillor.

Such a shame.

JOHN WHITTLE

Milburn Road, Weston

Out-of-town

SO THE North Somerset Council (NSC) working party on the future of the Tropicana has finally decided to recommend that the building be demolished. Surprise, surprise! But what a sick joke the whole process has been.

Of the Weston councillors on this committee, three voted against demolition (two Lib Dems and one Labour) and two Conservatives voted for.

The decision was therefore swung by three out-of-town councillors, two Conservatives and one Green.

Councillor Bryant (Con), substituting for the absent Councillor Poole (Con) ‘abstained’ in the vote - but since he lives on the seafront, almost opposite the Tropicana, he had a personal interest to declare and should, arguably, not have been anywhere near this committee in the first place.

And Councillor Ap Rees also abstained stating that he “did not want to be seen in any way as biased”. A truly noble gesture.

I still have a child-like hope that someone will come to the rescue of what I still refer to as The Pool.

The Tropicana was a cheap and tacky joke from the start and it is no wonder that it failed to attract lasting support from the public.

The possibility of Derek Mead and like-minded entrepreneurs coming in at the eleventh hour holds out the faint possibility of a rescue plan and the majority of Westonians must hold their breath.

It continues to be unthinkable that a holiday resort such as Weston cannot offer a swimming pool on the seafront which, as I have written before, would be supported over a wide area - to the extent that entry would have to be limited and restricted to strict time limits.

This works very well at other covered pools such as the Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire with financial penalties imposed on people overstaying their allotted time.

The photograph in last week’s Mercury showing the pool area filled with rubble gives the lie to NSC’s so-called attempts to find someone to recreate to old pool but with a roof.

That rubble was dumped by Birse, the sea defence contractors, with, I am reliably informed, no clause in their contract for its removal.

However, a demolished Tropicana reduced to one very large plinth will need all that rubble as hardcore.

Don’t anyone be fooled by NSC’s claim to have improved Weston seafront area on our behalf. The sea defence work was commissioned by the Environment Agency and funded by Central Government.

The Grand Pier - the jewel in Weston’s crown - is solely down to the Michael family’s enterprise.

That leaves the so-called Pier Square - and what does that add to Weston’s attractions? “Let’s go to Weston and sit in Pier Square” doesn’t seem to hit the spot, does it?

Last May I stood as an Independent councillor for NSC with the aim of speaking up for Weston where I considered others were not doing so.

I missed out by around 100 votes and also lost my seat, after 11 years, on Weston Town Council at the same time.

Perhaps some of those Westonians who are as dismayed as I am at the prospect of the Tropicana’s demolition may now think that their votes might have been cast to better effect.

But one last thought. If the site is to be levelled to a plinth, perhaps a statue of Cllr Ap Rees might be a suitable adornment to be put on it.

Anyone liking to subscribe can send their contributions to me at the address below.

And perhaps the Mercury will print a ‘thermometer’ on its front page so that we can all watch as the fund grows week by week. Dreamer!

JOHN LEY-MORGAN

Elmsleigh Road, Weston

Not easy

SOME residents expressed surprise that I voted with Conservative members of the working group for the recommendation to demolish the Tropicana.

It was not an easy decision for any of us. It would be easy to blame the Conservatives. They shut it down in 2000 and they decided to spend vast sums on office re-organisation rather than on the Tropicana. But I don’t wish to play politics on this issue and we had to deal with the realities of the situation as we have it today.

Three commercial schemes failed to materialise because they were not financially viable. The alternative is a project financed by the council.

North Somerset residents voted to keep council tax to a minimum and a new Tropicana would put about two per cent on council tax.

This at a time when the current cuts in frontline services affect the youth service, services for carers and disabled people, community services, environmental services and so on.

For the past nine years I have been committed to searching for a solution for the Tropicana.

Like thousands of others, I recall my children enjoying this unique facility, but sentiment cannot be allowed to cloud judgement. The latest ‘soft market’ testing of possible schemes produced some interest, but nothing of real substance or viability.

I am a great supporter of co-operatives, community initiatives and charitable trusts. I am also well aware of the organisation, effort and funding required to support even a small enterprise by such means.

The Tropicana is a vast, dangerous and dilapidating site. Nobody could contemplate doing anything there without a seven figure sum of spare cash on which they expect to see no return.

Any pool in that location is high maintenance and would need significant year by year subsidy.

Potential money-making ventures like restaurants, hotel, bowling, cinema are all happening either at the proposed new Dolphin Square or elsewhere in the town centre. It is the town centre that needs support to retain and enhance its vitality.

If some people with deep pockets now came forward in reaction to the proposal to demolish, I would be delighted and I would hope the executive would listen.

Otherwise, I feel it is time to draw a ‘line in the sand’ and to concentrate on fighting for other important things.

If that meant voting with the Conservatives this time, so be it.

In the current context, I could not do otherwise.

COUNCILLOR TOM LEIMDORFER

North Somerset Council

Verlands, Congresbury

Sell-out concert

I APOLOGISE if I have missed the article but there doesn’t appear to be any mention in the November 1 Mercury of the sell-out concert given by the band of the Royal Marines (Plymouth), compered by Clinton Rogers, at the Playhouse on November 24.

It was given to further strengthen the town’s affiliation with 40 Commando Royal Marines, who served in Afghanistan last year and will deploy in 2012.

The music was brilliant, of course, and there were moving testimonies given by several marines of all ranks, the youngest just 18, which dispelled the myth of disaffected and troublesome youth.

I realise that your paper is short of space but our town council thinks this is important and so do I.

AMANDA HERMAN

Shiplate Road, Bleadon

Delightful

I HAD the pleasure to attend on December 3, at Worle Community School, the production of Dick Whittington by the RE:Act Theatre School.

The standard of acting was superb. It was a delightful performance by a group of schoolchildren who put their heart and soul into the production.

Congratulations to Tal and Ailsa Barrett who put on this production, not forgetting all those in the production team. Well done.

JANET BRERETON

Thrush Close, Worle

Candle of Hope

THIS Christmas World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is offering your readers the chance to remember loved ones lost to cancer with a Candle of Hope pin badge.

The gold brooch symbolically lights the way to a future free from cancer as money raised from its sale funds essential scientific and education cancer prevention programmes.

This Christmas appeal comes at a time when people’s thoughts often turn to departed friends and relatives.

The candle emblem provides a reminder of a loved one as well as hope for the future by helping us raise awareness of cancer prevention.

Scientists estimate that by making changes to the food we eat, increasing our amount of physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented.

To support our Candle of Hope appeal and receive your badge, please make a donation at www.wcrf-uk.org/candle or call our team on Freephone 0800 970 1461.

TERESA NIGHTINGALE

General Manager, World Cancer Research Fund, Bedford Square, London

Thank you

I WOULD like to say a big thank you to the people who came to my rescue, when I had a fall outside the Nut Tree when walking the dogs on Saturday morning especially to the medic who took me into the Nut Tree to dress my cuts.

Also many thanks to the staff for letting us use their facilities.

Very grateful to you all.

B DAVIES

New Bristol Road, Worle

Poppy Appeal

I WISH to thank the people of Weston for their generosity during this year’s Poppy Appeal.

We have reached a total of �22,000 with money still to come in. This is about the same as last year’s amount!

I would also like to thank all who helped with the collecting, the street collectors, people who distributed and collected back in the 300 plus boxes to the shops around the town and last, but not least, the admin group who prepared the boxes, cleaned them up, helped to count the money and many other tasks.

As your parade marshal I would like to show my appreciation to all who turned up to parade or spectate on both November 11 and 13.

It was the best turnout in my memory. I am sure the town is as proud of you as I am.

JOHN KERR

Official Poppy organiser and parade marshal

The Royal British Legion

Scooped

FURTHER to your report last week concerning Tudor Lodge, I just wanted to add a little to your coverage.

The general practice of the year awards held by the Campden Publications magazine attracted thousands of applications throughout the country and was narrowed down to 40 finalists.

Tudor Lodge took first place as Practice of the Year, Val Denton first place as Practice Manager of the Year and was given a bursary of �2,500 to use for education and training in the practice. So Tudor Lodge scooped all three awards.

As chairman of The Patient Participation Group at Tudor Lodge Surgery for the past four years (which coincides with the time that Val Denton has been our practice manager), I have been able to watch her over these past few years turn the practice into the efficient organisation it is today, and I am proud to be associated with such a lovely team.

The fact that Tudor Lodge has received the Practice of the Year award reflects on the great team of doctors they have, who all work so terribly hard to keep their patients happy, and to sweep the board with the awards given is a tremendous achievement.

DOUGLAS MITCHELL

Church Road, Worle

Changi

THE RAF Changi Association was formed in 1996 and we have 1,250 members throughout the UK and the world.

All members served at Changi post war from 1946 until 1971 when the RAF withdrew from Singapore.

We are always searching for old pals. RAF Changi base was a huge airfield and camp and thousands passed through as part of their RAF service both National Service and regulars, male and female.

Many were on family postings and some children were born there. It was one of the most sought after overseas postings.

We are a group of happy people remembering our days in Singapore. We have a newsletter, meet and greet local reunions, buddy lists, archives, welfare advice and more. Our website is www.rafchangi.co.uk

If you would like more information and an enquiry pack, please contact Malcolm Flack, 14 Highfield Close, Amersham, Bucks, HP6 6HG (01494 728562).

B W LLOYD

Publicity and press officer

RAF Changi Association

Redwood, Burnham, Bucks

Overcrowded

THE recent large sum of money set aside to improve public transport seems like a good idea but us poor Weston folk seem to miss out on certain things.

Firstly to travel from Weston to Bristol requires a bus or train, both operated by First. Surely this is against all kinds of anti-monopoly regulations?

Secondly, although the First rail franchise has been held for several years we have never had any brand new trains, just cascaded ones from other places, despite us paying the same large fares as everywhere else in the country.

Finally, First has frequently failed to provide extra carriages on overcrowded trains to Weston which are almost at crush capacity on a daily basis.

I have experienced this on several occasions to the point that I simply don’t bother going to Bristol by public transport anymore.

I would suggest, rather than enabling wi-fi on buses which is possibly the worst idea since someone said: “Hey let’s redo the Tropicana” about a decade ago, we spend it on getting a decent, frequent, quality service and tell a certain company where to alight, minding the gap of course.

IAN BAKER

Locking Road, Weston

I JUST felt I had to write to say how appalled I am to hear that the decision has been reached to demolish the Tropicana.

Just what does it take before the powers-that-be actually open their eyes and see what they are doing to our beautiful town? A seaside resort without a pool is a joke. Anyone who visits Weston, whether it be for a few days or a day trip, would like the opportunity to visit a pool, along with the families and people who live in Weston.

I just hope that the three gentlemen namely Derek Mead, Kerry Michael and Giulio Ellis, can persuade the council to listen and maybe, just maybe, see sense and proceed with a new venture for Weston, a revival of the Tropicana to commemorate the year of the Olympics 2012.

As an aside there are times when the councils deserve a pat on the back, ie recent railings along the seafront (albeit after a tussle), also the water park which families really enjoy.

CHRISTINE JOHNSON

Bridgwater Road, Lympsham

HAVING endured the managerial ineptitude of the council for more than a decade, it was a breath of fresh air to read that messrs Michael, Mead and Ellis, who have proven business acumen, were prepared to become involved in the Tropicana debacle.

This council has never indicated that tourism is the life blood of any seaside resort, and the lack of a swimming pool, especially when the sea is not always available, is a major impediment to our town.

The �800K required to demolish the site is money the council will be obliged to find. It would be a considerable incentive if the �800K was available for initial development rather than destruction, and it is premature to consider the latter course of actions, which would remove the possibility of a pool forever.

The economic climate has resulted in an increase in UK holidays, a situation likely to increase for years to come. Other towns have re-opened their lidos and have provided swimming facilities which have been denied to Weston for more than 10 years.

I believe that any demolition plan should be put on hold. Birse must remove all its debris from the site, which I presume will be at its expense.

The ‘businessmen’ should be given the opportunity to view the Tropicana as an asset rather than a liability, a major shift of emphasis from that held by our council.

I was also pleased to see that our MP John Penrose who has a national responsibility for tourism, was not comfortable with the rapid destruction of the site - a view now doubtless reinforced by the involvement of professional businessmen.

I do wonder if the council quietly views the area of beach left after demolition as a brownfield site, and therefore available legally for a lucrative high rise block of flats. Nothing would surprise me!

K A KIDGER

Highbury Road, Weston

I READ with astonishment the views expressed by Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, regarding the road system on South Ward grinding to a halt again, if we get a similar snow and ice problem as in the previous two years.

I found Cllr Ap Rees’ comments dismissive, ill-considered and rude. When hinting that residents should clear their own neighbourhoods he fails to consider the fact that the vast majority of people who are working leave before it gets light and return after dark.

The estates have a high percentage of old, vulnerable people.

Does he expect them to carry out the work? As we know older people are more prone to injury caused by slips and falls.

How would the hospital cope with the possible increase in patients attending with broken hips or legs when the elderly try to do their bit?

Also with the roads closed how would they get there?

These people rely on the buses for shopping, doctor’s appointments, topping up their meters, etc - all essential tasks in cold weather.

Cllr Ap Rees needs to understand if you are unsteady and need to use sticks to walk “shops less than a mile away” might as well be 100 miles when the roads and pavements are covered in snow and ice.

Even people with mobility scooters are trapped because they are unsafe on snow and ice. I witnessed an accident last year where a scooter slid off the pavement tipping the occupant into the road.

It was his last comment that prompted me to write in where he said “people can’t expect the council to sort their lives out for them”.

Cllr Ap Rees we do not expect the council to do this, we expect the council to supply the services we have paid for through our taxes.

When a service is supplied you are entitled to expect that the service be supplied with reasonable care and skill and provided at the cost agreed beforehand. The above points are taken from the Citizen Advice Bureau website’s consumer section.

If we were dealing with a private company they could be reported to trading standards and possibly prosecuted if they do not supply the service we have paid for.

TONY FRENCH

Bournville Road, Weston

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