LETTERS TO THE EDITOR FEBRUARY 2

Better

I NOTE in the Mercury dated January 26 that once again Helen Thornton, the Unison spokesperson, would like North Somerset Council to raise the council tax bill for the next year.

I have a better suggestion. Why doesn’t Unison campaign and ballot their members for an increase in their contributions to their gold plated pension which us taxpayers have no choice but to contribute to via our taxes?

That would mean a massive saving to us taxpayers.

While individuals up and down the country have had their pension pots converted from defined benefits (guaranteed) to defined contribution (not guaranteed) those same individuals and taxpaying pensioners like myself, still have to contribute to public sector guaranteed pensions via our taxes.


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In the public sector they are still allowing new employees the guaranteed gold plated pension. Why?

The unions have never and will never agree with the fact that with the abolition of advance corporation tax and of repayable dividend tax credits for pension funds in 1999 by Gordon Brown, would require public and private sector employers to contribute an extra �50billion to pension funds over the next 10 years. That was the main reason why most pension funds went from a surplus (which was his reason for doing it) to the state they are in now.

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That is why so many private pension providers have had no alternative but to change their schemes to defined contributions.

It’s about time the public sector followed suite and took the millstone from around all the taxpayers’ neck.

So Helen Thornton, leave my council tax bill alone, and when the following year’s bill is up for discussion, I will be expecting Unison to say that taxpayers have had enough and Unison members will from now on pay their fair share of the pension tax burden and increase their own contributions.

As Central Government and local authorities do not have their own money they only have taxpayers’ money.

Please don’t come up again with the old chestnut that you are only thinking of the “most vulnerable citizens”, if you are, then you would not oppose the changes to public sector pensions which still leave you better off in retirement than any of the taxpayers who pay for your pension but cannot afford one of their own.

PETER JONES

Main Road, Hewish

Reducing

HAVING long given up on the council actually having any control over the various contractors in Weston maybe it is up to us, the lowly dwellers of this town, to help.

I don’t mean unpaid shifts of volunteer work but reducing our waste as much as possible.

It has been suggested in some places, Bristol for instance, that the taxpayer could be rewarded for not using their black bins so much. What a great idea!

The council could perhaps transfer some of our council tax back onto our debit cards... they could call it ‘Chip and Bin’.

IAN BAKER

Locking Road, Weston

Another accident

YET another accident outside the new Tesco on the A370 in Congresbury.

Is it going to take someone being killed before the council come to their senses and do away with this bus lane altogether?

There are only two buses an hour that use this bus lane. Is it worth putting people’s lives at risk just to save two buses five minutes a trip?

The Old Bell Inn used to be a very busy pub years ago but there were no accidents with traffic using it. It’s only since this bus lane was put in this problem was created.

TED CLARK

Chestnut Close, Congresbury

Stressed

IF MR HEADINGTON is getting stressed spending an hour in traffic at St Georges and he is heading south, would it not make sense to access the motorway at Junction 22?

I am in no way associated with the rocket industry but this would seem to be a simple solution.

MIKE OXLONG

Walliscote Road, Weston

Overdue

YET AGAIN the Monday morning carnage at junction 21 forces a debate on how we manage the traffic whilst we wait for the long overdue corrective surgery to a road system designed by short-sighted morons and passed by similar.

Perhaps a simple solution might be to reinstate the twin entry lanes on the northbound motorway slip road as was quickly done at Clevedon when they realised a single lane caused lesser problems, funny that when ‘many’ councillors apparently come in from Clevedon and Portishead.

The additional confusion of the slip road at St Georges might be alleviated by actually forcing traffic to detour to join the queue at Morrisons’ Roundabout by simply closing the slip road till a dedicated northbound motorway filter can be added.

Whilst there they may as well add some temporary lights to help out northbound traffic leaving the motorway at junction 21 in the late afternoons before we have a serious incident caused by vehicles tailing back into the live lanes because they have an incredibly difficult task to join the traffic at the roundabout with little or no quarter given by other traffic bound for Weston holding priority.

PAUL BURNS

Sunnyside Road, Weston

Simple

I AGREE wholeheartedly with Mike Headington’s comments. As for ‘leave earlier’ I now leave at 6.30am, and the queue starts around that time.

Why has the route not been assessed?

A simple temporary solution would be to make Worle slip road into dual carriageway as ‘merge in turn’, make left lane clear M5 north only (I know it is marked on the road but amazing how many people do not see it) and then allow a ‘non stop’ lane onto the motorway slip road and make motorway slip road into two lanes, one for the continuation lane from the dual carriageway, the other for those coming from the other directions.

Last time I was slightly late leaving home at 8am, I did not get to Bristol until around 10am.

Time for action as at the moment that junction, with all the cutting in, is damn right dangerous.

ED BUTCHER

Parklands Avenue, Worle

Barriers

THE Trop (WSM) Ltd continues to hit barriers in discussion with North Somerset Council in the retention of the Tropicana.

Since December 2011, the group has formally asked five times for a meeting with the executive members. We wish to work in partnership with both North Somerset Council and the town council on this project. We were among a selection of candidates who made an application under the recent ‘soft marketing exercise’ undertaken by North Somerset Council in 2011, to refurbish and re-open the site. We have never had the opportunity to fully present and discuss our business proposals during or after the ‘soft marketing exercise’ and this is why we are asking to meet with the executive members. We have, however, had positive responses from the town council who have invited us to deliver our proposals in person to them.

Under Planning Policy Statement 5 there is a responsibility for the site owner to investigate all viable alternative options to demolition of loss of significant use. North Somerset Council executive members have failed to carry out this exercise or to engage in meaningful negotiation with our group. We are a group of proven businessmen and women in North Somerset who intend to save the Tropicana from demolition and to refurbish this iconic site and return it back to a swimming facility for local residents and tourists.

Our company, The Trop (WSM) Ltd, will be the charitable trust that delivers this project back to the people and visitors to Weston, monies donated from any source will be managed by the charitable trust. There will be a management board set up to assist and guide the charity trustees. The management board will consist of proven businessmen and women who will act as mentors to the trustees.

I personally develop and manage multi-million pound businesses, however our group The Trop (WSM) Ltd was told that its application was ‘not viable’. Other group members include established businessmen and women from the area. We also have the benefit of support and backing from businesses and local community groups, along with councillors and local residents.

As one would expect we are keeping a close eye on the site at present. However it appears that North Somerset Council has commenced works of demolition whilst their application for Conservation Area Consent to demolish the building is still pending in the planning department.

We understand that works to strip out electricity cables and services were commenced last week and asbestos contractors were on site. As a heritage asset the building requires consent for any operations and these premature works are unlawful. We have now recorded this as a formal complaint and have requested a full response.

We have been advised by councillors, who are in support of the project that this planning application will be heard on February 16 in the Town Hall and that members of the public are encouraged to attend this meeting in support of allowing this group to present our proposals to the executive members.

The group are currently in the ‘campaign phase’ of their development proposals and encourage supporters to contact us via our website www.tropicanawestonsupermare.co.uk.

On this website you can add your vote of support and send demolition objection letters to the council and you will be directed towards more campaign information.

D R MEAD

On behalf of The Trop (WSM) Ltd,

Puxton Park, Puxton

Constant

THE constant requests of the people of Weston for a simple swimming pool on the seafront now appear to have finally been steam-rollered by North Somerset Council (NSC) and attention is now on the �50million Locking extreme sports complex due for development at the old RAF Locking site along with 1,500 new homes.

This may bring 1,000 new jobs to the area and it is estimated that in the first year it will attract 500,000 visitors but as the complex is outside Weston it is hardly likely to boost Weston`s trade as visitors to the complex, because of its position, will bypass the town. It should however be a great money-spinner for Leisuredome UK.

Has the council given any thought to the increased traffic demand for 500,000 visitors along already overcrowded roads from the motorway along Somerset Avenue, around the airport and especially through Banwell (the nearest access road to the complex from the A38)?

I am also at a loss to understand why NSC has now granted approval for an extension to the Avon Ski Centre - an already established ski slope and facilities at Churchill. Surely it would have been better to have developed this site first rather than to spend �50million on another ski slope (and the tallest climbing wall in the world) only five miles away? How much benefit is this Leisuredome extreme winter sports facility going to give the people of Weston who must presumably now learn to ski instead of swim? I hope the council is proud of what it has given us.

MICHAEL BASS

Cedern Avenue, Elborough Village

Failing

I FEEL I must add another comment to all the previous ones regarding the Tropicana.

The councillors who voted for it to be demolished are definitely failing the people who voted them in, don’t they realise what fond memories all Westonians have of the site, both as the Tropicana and the pool as it was before? I certainly have as I grew up here.

If Mr Michael and Mr Mead have stated they will re-open it in two years my gut instinct (and I haven’t even met them) tells me that is exactly what they will do. All councillors should be giving them a pat on the back and the go-ahead should be given to them at once. After the huge success of the Grand Pier let’s now see another success of the re-opening of the Tropicana. I don’t think the gentlemen concerned will let petty issues get in the way.

JOAN DUNNE

Southmead Road, Weston

Retained

I LIKE most people in Weston wish to see the Tropicana retained as a tourist attraction.

I have received a letter from the Department of the Secretary of State saying that as the Tropicana is in a Conservation Area, the council must make an application to the Secretary of State to demolish it.

I understand from your paper January 26 that the council has already started work inside the building with a view to demolishing by spring. If it is the case that they need permission from the Secretary of State, or even themselves, should they not wait until permission has been given?

Can I through your newspaper ask everyone who objects to the demolition to contact the council by letter or email and raise their objections. The application number is 12/P/0045/CA and also to write to the Secretary of State to raise their objections as well.

S STEEL

Hatfield Road, Weston

Dusty road

I HAVE recently returned from abroad and am disappointed that a consortium of local businessmen is trying, yet again, to resurrect the corpse of the long dead Tropicana.

Do we all have to go down that dusty road yet again? It is broadly predictable what will happen if such a consortium is given the go-ahead.

First, there will be about a year in which the legalities are slowly given shape. Then, in the following year there will be several impressive computerised sketches of what the new building will look like and the cafes, restaurants, sports facilities, etc, that will supposedly help finance a small pool.

A survey, paid for by the consortium, will show that the condition of the derelict structure is worse than had been thought. Meanwhile, the consortium will be bogged down in discussions with North Somerset planners about parking and other issues.

Finally, in the third year one member of the consortium will realise the inevitable – that even if the Tropicana is built, it cannot make any money. The consortium will then pull out, leaving local taxpayers out of pocket. Thousands of man-hours of North Somerset Council’s time will have been wasted and the council will be blamed just as an election is pending.

Of course, the Tropicana will still stand derelict. Am I too pessimistic? Don’t bet on it.

ANDREW WEAVER

Old Mill Way, Weston

Debate

WITH recent views in your readers’ column regarding members of North Somerset council voting on the Tropicana issues who are not Weston members, and the dissatisfaction which appears over many years, has not brought about a conclusion that has satisfied the residents of our area.

Perhaps the following, although radical, may, in the future, bring an end to the type of debacle of seafront facilities for Weston.

Sedgemoor District Council serves Burnham, Brean and Berrow, all in common with Weston as seaside town and villages.

A joined-up debate for the future of tourism facilities with the possible influx of thousands of employees for the construction of Hinkley new power station (Hinkley ‘C’) and the interest for recreation and leisure from the plant to our coastal towns will be enormous.

Believing that Weston Town Council could address this challenge of forward thinking, the financial rewards for our town would enable developments to ensure a quality of life for all in our town.

CLLR MIKE LYALL

Earlham Ward

Weston Town Council, Weston

Exactly

I READ with interest your article entitled, ‘The Trop could be opened in two years and covered in five’.

This is exactly what the people of Weston have been asking for and finally a group has come forward headed by Weston’s most eminent business personalities Derek Mead and Kerry Michael with such a proposal. The only stipulations being, that the group known a The Trop (WSM) Ltd be granted an area of land for car parking, which makes sense and approval of a planning application for a development at Locking Parklands. Nothing too onerous there. But hey ho in steps Tory council executive member Tony Lake saying that this is too much, both in terms of additional land and the granting of the requested planning permission. He states that North Somerset council will not be held to ransom on this matter.

ADAM NASH

Newlands Road, Weston

Forget

CRIKEY – my recent letter about the Tropicana seems to have caused quite a flutter in the Mercury dovecote.

But the responses confirm, yet again, that your correspondents seem to think the facts have no part in this issue, despite all being in the public domain.

In ‘Complicated’, the anonymous writer is clearly still unable to concede that all the previous plans for the Tropicana site failed for economic reasons and not because of North Somerset Council (NSC). And they conveniently forget that all three of the previous, failed proposals also involved demolition of the pool.

If that was not enough, they also arrogantly suggest that, because I’m not a Weston resident, I have no say in the matter. Is the Tropicana a private facility then? Won’t my council tax be paying for it too? But since the brave soul doesn’t have the courage to identify themselves in their rambling offering, everything they say can be dismissed as irrelevant.

The inconvenience of evidence is also illustrated by the hordes of local people who are claimed to support the reinstatement of the Tropicana. In ‘Support’, Denise Jacobs refers to 25,000 signatures on an old, ad-hoc petition which had no means of verification or checking. She maintains that ‘the support is still out there’ but where’s the proof?

And yet Roy Ben in ‘Remember’ assures us that ‘80 per cent of the folks that live in Weston would like the Trop to be put back to how it was and bring it into use.’

How Mr Ben knows that is impossible to fathom, but with the population of Weston at more than 72,000 they both can’t be right – simply plucking telephone-number figures out of the air proves nothing.

Perhaps they think that the latest, 11th hour rescue plan from Trop (WSM) Ltd is the answer? But the company has still not submitted a viable business plan to NSC, although they have already suggested publicly that their plans depend on the council handing over an area of land for parking – a proposal that has met with strong public disapproval in the past.

Furthermore, the Mead Group is also asking them to approve a separate application as part of the Tropicana plan. But it would be illegal for NSC to take a planning matter for one site into account when considering another unrelated development.

Just imagine the public furore if the council submitted to such a ransom demand. So it seems that Trop (WSM) Ltd hopes to strong-arm NSC into yet another unviable proposal, with no business plan and a list of unrealistic demands, with the council as a convenient scapegoat if it all goes wrong.

And in the meantime, the Tropicana remains a sorry reminder of an outdated past on the landscape of our town.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

Horror

AS I read in horror and utter disbelief abut the Tropicana, that the final nail is positioned, she is finally condemned to die after the eleventh hour reprieve presented by local businessmen passes with no stay of execution.

The guilty verdict has been passed behind closed doors of our council’s kangaroo court. While she remained on death row for nearly 12 years, many born and bred here and far away stepped forward with reams of evidence to support the innocent beauty, fun and good times she gave endlessly to thousands through her lifetime. However, all these declarations did, and still do, was to fall on deaf ears. Another iconic landmark will turn to dust into the sands of time.

Whilst the Tropicana is being razed to the ground, another eatery the shape and size of a sports stadium takes pride of place near Pier Square and opposite yet another hotel. Our tourist empty town does not need any more beds as it is fast asleep already.

There are many more prisoners waiting the same fate in North Somerset, who are in need of our support and help to release them before rotting the same way as the Tropicana.

One that I would like to bring into the spotlight would be Ashcombe Park, one that probably brings back the most childhood memories for me.

It is still giving endless pleasure to hundreds of locals on sunny days. But, what happened to the magical pitch and putt, the mini golf, the lush green tennis courts, along with the little green hut where we hired the rackets, bats and sticks to bring it all to life? Already the grass area in front of the old tennis courts (The Waterworks) have been turned into homes quietly. How long before the concrete spreads through the rest of the park and is gone forever again.

So let’s not let the Tropicana die in vain, and in her name save the same fate happening to the last of Weston’s beautiful jewels in a rusting crown. Please name these gems and talk about their once apparent glory and shame this council into creating as opposed to destroying. Please join me in giving a voice to these silent inmates and reclaim our town.

MIKE HEADINGTON

St Austell Road, Weston

Surprised

I WAS surprised to read the article in last week’s Weston Mercury reporting the comments of Conservative council leader Nigel Ashton about the Tropicana.

Cllr Ashton is quoted as saying about Tropicana demolition costs: “I don’t know where the �800,000 figure came from. For that money, I’ll go and knock it down myself.”

An amusing line, but of course it is totally made up. We know where the demolition cost figure of �700,000 plus comes from.

It is from every single council report produced by his council in the last few months. The executive of six Tory councillors that voted to demolish the Tropicana in December – chaired by Cllr Ashton as leader – received reports in September and December that stated “the demolition cost is estimated to be �700,000”.

Yet Cllr Ashton claims he doesn’t know where the figure comes from. He is either telling porkies or he doesn’t read the reports presented at meetings he chairs and speak to his officers about their advice ahead of decisions upon which he happily casts his vote. Which is worse I wonder?

Of course, it is clear that in the face of the public opposition to the planned demolition of the Trop, the council leadership is responding by making things up as they go along. We have Cllr Lake, the executive member for property (demolition thereof, presumably), claiming the current building is not fit for redevelopment and must be demolished. They are just making this stuff up. Only a few months ago Cllr Ap Rees was all for having rock concerts and events on a refurbished Tropicana plinth and renting out the frontage. No suggestion the Trop was beyond repair then.

We have the council claiming that the Mead-led consortium has “no money, no credible track record”. This is plainly untrue, insulting and borderline libellous. We have the council saying they are open to ideas. But they are just making things up as they go along.

They have pressed ahead with planning permission for demolition – and incidentally, the planning application was prepared and ready before they had even taken the decision in December. Fait accompli anyone? They’ve refused meetings with those interested in coming up with alternative plans – despite claiming they are keen to listen - and they have attacked successful local business people as having no plans or proposals. All the while, and just a short distance away from the Tropicana, the �10million redevelopment of the town hall continues with Cllrs Ashton and Lake looking very pleased with themselves at a recent ‘topping-out’ ceremony. Plenty of money for their own offices then. All in all, a sorry saga of inconsistency, error and panic that you couldn’t make up if you tried.

CLLR MIKE BELL

George Street, Weston

Care

PLEASE print my letter as a thank you to the groundsmen at Weston Crematorium at Worle.

My daughter and her father are both at rest there. It is kept so beautifully, there is now a pond plus a small fountain there, and it appears to me that a lot of care goes into it. I recently had to go to my brother’s funeral in Southampton, where there was a notice to say no flowers, I thought this was very sad.

Once again thank you to the groundsmen and for the care that is given to the crematorium.

ANN WALTERS

Turnbury Close, Worle

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