Letters to the Editor, October 25, 2012

Tidal splashes

REGARDING the recent tidal splashes. Writing as someone who has a wife, a cat and a house in one of the lower parts of Weston I am wondering how to put this without sounding unreasonable.

Here goes. In Weston North Somerset Council has a vastly expensive sea wall, an overpriced executive, and a small army of mostly privatised workers.

I, on the other hand, have a �2 tide table and a working brain!

Arguments about trees and parking are one thing but putting people and property at risk is on a totally different scale.


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BRIAN AUSTIN

Alma Street, Weston

Most Read

Tide table

IN ONE line? Yes! Why were the flood gates open? Page 2 of the Mercury is the tide table in print. BBC Radio 4 FM92.4, Freeview 704, tells you at 12.48am and 5.20am Shipping Forecast. How hard is that North Somerset Council?

N C DUDLEY

Upper Kewstoke Road, Weston

Pathetic

REGARD recent flooding seafront: No severe weather warning, pathetic excuse, high tide forecast, brisk south westerly wind forecast.

Waves break over sea wall as usual, flood gates left open, heads should roll.

JOHN LING

Fernlea Road, Weston

Knew it

I KNEW it, I just knew it! As soon as we had a high tide and a ‘bit of a blow’ from the South West, the bloke whose job it is to close the �29million gates on the seafront would either lose the keys or have a puncture on his bike. I just knew it.

DAVID POPLE

Pudding Pie Close, Langford

Blaming

FIRST we have the council blaming the Environment Agency for causing the recent flooding now we have the council blaming the Environment Agency for not issuing a flood alert!

High tides are not random, tide tables are readily available and are even listed in their own publication North Somerset Life.

One would assume that anything over 12 metres would warrant caution with possible closure of a few manually operated gates? That said, someone did mention that they may have spotted Nigel Ashton and Elfan Ap Rees (cheered on by their loyal lap dog Ian Pitch of Winscombe) sat on the beach in their thrones informing the sea that it shall not pass? So, who can we blame for the state of the roads, refuse collections, etc? I have to congratulate the Mercury for including a photograph of a North Somerset Council representative giving a group of schoolchildren a lesson on extreme weather – priceless.

RICH COLEMAN

Manor Grange, Bleadon

Unpredictable

THE floodgates on the seafront were left open last week after indications from metrological sources that the predicted high tide would not cause flooding.

However, nature is unpredictable and at the least, the possible threat would have presented an ideal opportunity for the authority to conduct an exercise in closing the barriers before high tide in order to establish that all the procedures worked.

Since, according to your report, council workers were on hand but, Canute like, were unable to stem the tide, thus I guess they would have to be paid to stand and watch and their time would have been better employed testing the equipment and their actions to employ the equipment. Better this than a routine test when nothing adverse was predicted.

MARK PEARCE

Westfield Close, Uphill

Buck-passing

HOW ironic that you should publish two complementary, yet contradictory, articles in your October 18 issue – Why were the flood gates left open? (front page) and Lesson in protecting the town from floods (page 12) promoted by the council.

Bumbling and bungling seem to be ineradicable sicknesses of what is laughingly called public enterprise. The smooth, self-exonerating words used to palm off the council’s critics seemed to satisfy the various news reporters but did not amount to a satisfactory excuse let alone a commitment to urgent remedies being undertaken.

It just isn’t good enough for the council to blame others for not giving it warning. The damage can be enormous if there is no instant capability of operating the defences. We have fire alert press buttons in most public buildings and perhaps there should be similarly warning stations at intervals along the seafront of the emergency services, both police and fire/rescue, should be instructed and empowered to act immediately on any report form the public that sea defences are being breached. Those who are responsible for the wellbeing and safety of the community are handsomely paid to that end and buck-passing should form no part of their activities.

PHILIP BINDING

Sidcot, Winscombe

Enough savvy

I FIND it totally unbelievable that North Somerset Council (NSC) has spent �29m on the seafront defences and when one of the highest tides of the years is forecast, some idiotic jobsworth does not have enough savvy to have the floodgates closed, having been warmed about the exceptional high tide and resultant flooding.

Still it should not really surprise me as I am talking about the complacency of an incompetent council. The Tropicana, a major seafront facility, has been abandoned by NSC for over a decade.

The only reason Birnbeck is left is for access to the lifeboat. Thank goodness for the private enterprise which resurrected and improved the Grand Pier.

Would you believe there are still road signs directing people to the Tropicana and also RAF Locking, also closed for over a decade?

Those who unknowingly follow the signs to the Tropicana find a disused and dilapidated former seafront swimming pool. In fact after the closure of the pool on Knightstone Island, which we as a family regularly used, it was for a while the only swimming facility. You can forget the shallow muddy water which appears as high tide for a short while twice a day. Ironically the Tropicana was used as a dumping ground for building materials for the refurbishment of the seafront promenade, and then abandoned once again.

On a different tack I am horrified to see that a five storey white concrete block is now on the seafront almost opposite the Grand Pier and near to the Grand Atlantic Hotel. They must be over the moon.

Equally on the dual carriageway between the Morrisons supermarket roundabout and junction 21 there is a monstrous metal framework of a new building, a short distance and in full sight of local housing.

The local residents must wonder just how much this devalues their property. It should never have been allowed.

RICHARD BIRTILL

Bleadon Hill, Weston

Twinned

I NOTICE on page 12 of last week’s edition, a group of schoolchildren were shown how the new sea defences on the prom would protect us from flooding.

Is there any chance they could be given the job full time? As it is clear from your front page article, they could do a much better job than the current incumbents.

I wonder if anyone else has heard a rumour that Weston is about to be twinned with Warsaw? �29million sea defences/roof on Polish national football stadium!

PETER BARTLETT

Ashcombe Gardens, Weston

Failed

I CANNOT believe that North Somerset Council failed to close the gates in the sea defences, resulting in a number of properties being flooded.

Steve Coghlan of the Thatched Cottage and other seafront businesses are entitled to be angry, when so much money has been spent on the much vaunted defences. The council claim that warnings were not strong enough, but surely when there are high tides coupled with wind and rain somebody in the Town Hall should have enough intelligence to order the closure of the gates, if only as a precaution. Who on earth is in charge of the defences - Michael Fish?

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Question

THE recent issues with the sea defences should make whoever is responsible question the selection of a Dutchdam at Knightstone.

Elsewhere along the seafront there are gates that can be quickly closed, however the dam is stored in a trench beneath the road surface.

Unpacking it for use involves a magnetic tool, which did not work last week according to one of the contractors, and then assembling all the parts in the right order. As it is stored under the road surface it also needs a pressure wash and takes about two hours to put in place. Whereas gates would take one person a few minutes.

PETER BARRINGTON CENG

Hutton Hill, Hutton

No flood alerts

MUCH has been written and said about the flooding on Weston’s seafront and the issue of closing the sea defence gates, and I would like to outline some of the facts.

We received no flood alerts or warnings that this situation was likely to occur – if we had we would have acted.

The sea gates in the secondary wall are just one element of the defences. The storm drains and ducts worked extremely well and less than an hour after the height of the flooding the road and promenade were clear.

The flooding certainly wasn’t as significant or widespread as reported, especially when compared with district-wide surface flooding a few weeks ago, when so many more people were affected. Across the entire seafront only one business behind the sea defences, that we are aware of, was affected. And that was open for business that day.

A number of businesses on the beach, with many years experience of working on the seafront and used to the vagaries of the tide and weather, were caught unawares (they too had no warning). The photo spread in last week’s issue showed many businesses affected, but these would not have been afforded any protection from the sea wall.

The next day, when we did get a weather warning, we closed the gates to protect businesses and residents. Interestingly we had a request from one business to open the gates – as it was affecting trade. I guess you can’t win.

We have learnt lessons and will monitor the situation at a more local level and not rely wholly on external reports and forecasts

CLLR FELICITY BAKER

Executive member for tourism and leisure, North Somerset Council, Town Hall, Weston

Police station

I WOULD like to clarify some points made in your article ‘Police Station to shut in three years – fears’ which was published in last week’s Mercury based upon information that I gave you.

I was obviously not clear about where the source of my information came from but can assure you that the person is not within the Weston police station. However I am totally confident that my contact is submitting a genuine story.

I am very concerned that officers within Weston police station may be under extreme pressure from their senior officers who will undoubtedly seek to find the informant.

I, of course, would be the first one to apologise to the police and public if I and my source were proved wrong but until senior police officers come forward with a statement to the effect that they do not intend to close the station - rather than saying: “We are reviewing our police estate but there are currently no plans to close Weston” - which is a statement that can cover a multitude of opportunities. Until I am totally convinced that I am wrong I will continue my fight for the people, tourists and businesses of Weston.

Finally, I want to stress that I am in no way personally attacking the senior police officers for the major changes they are making to our policing. I fully understand the difficulties they must be having trying to cope with a massive 20 per cent reduction in their budgets imposed on them by the Coalition Government which will result in the loss of 16,000 police officers/staff nationwide. No doubt publicity such as mine is being repeated across the country by like-minded individuals who fear what the results of such cuts will have upon their areas and the people that live within them.

COUNCILLOR TONY PROBERT

Labour Party representative, Wyvern Ward

Weston Town Council

South Lawn, Locking

Play park

I REFER to the article regarding the play park in Walford Avenue. The information in your article is somewhat incorrect.

There has not been an 11-year wait for this facility. Play equipment was installed there by the consortium responsible for building the houses in north St Georges as part of the planning agreement, even though it is outside of St Georges parish.

The cost was �40,000 but due to continual vandalism it was necessary to replace it. The cost was another �40,000 and further vandalism resulted in it being removed once more.

Initially the group refused to replace it again unless it was actually within St Georges but, as every bit of land in that area has been built on, that was impossible. Several months ago I attended a meeting together with the chair of the community centre, a representative from the builders and a senior planning officer.

It was agreed that instead of wasting another �40,000, the money would be better spent towards the completion of the community centre which would provide space that could be dedicated to the young people living here.

The parish council agreed to hold the money and work towards raising the rest of the funding to complete the project.

I have since attended meetings held between the developers and North Somerset Council (NSC) officers and was dismayed to learn that it had been decided to ignore this agreement and pass the money to NSC to be wasted on replacing equipment which will no doubt be vandalised once again. This was not the fault of the planning officer who met with us initially.

Unfortunately the views of the parish council are not considered nor the unfairness of spending our S106 money outside of our parish. St Georges has hardly benefited at all from the S106 agreements. The only money that has come from this intensive building programme has been �15,000 towards a multi-use games area in the south of the parish. We cannot even get the roads that were severely damaged by heavy building vehicles, resurfaced. I suggest that if Cllr Pepperall and Peter Rooke want this equipment replaced they ask Weston Town Council to do it at their expense as the land is in its parish.

If this �40,000 is spent yet again on replacing the play equipment, the same amount should given to St Georges as previously promised.

As for the �190,000, these are community contributions from the developers for improvements in St Georges, not Worle.

JANYS WARREN

Willow Gardens, St Georges

Opportunity

IN RESPONSE to Mr Pitch’s letter of October 18 I am delighted to find that the correspondence regarding the demolition of the Tropicana is making him ‘chuckle’ so much.

We know Mr Pitch doesn’t live in Weston, but surely he must have friends or relatives in the town whose children haven’t had the opportunity to learn to swim due to the closure of the pools in Weston?

North Somerset Council (NSC) is spending nearly �1million to demolish the Tropicana – I hope Mr Pitch understands that he is ‘chipping in’ already as the money for this is coming out of his own council tax too.

Perhaps he has ‘inside knowledge’ that the newly liberated beach area will just be used as an overflow car park, thus generating future income of NSC?

Why bother developing and promoting a park and ride scheme when the additional flat beach area is such a convenient car park?

All this delay and expense could have been resolved if NSC had taken up the offer by Richard Nightingale to redevelop the Tropicana site. He had great support from the residents of Weston and would have provided hundreds of desperately needed new jobs and the swimming pool.

He even proposed to have a bond so that if anything did go wrong with the plans the money would be there to demolish the Tropicana at no cost to the taxpayers of North Somerset.

Councillor Tony Lake admitted to me on BBC Radio Bristol on September 22 that Weston town needs a pool and that no-one from NSC had even considered applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund to redevelop the Tropicana site. Margate managed to get total funding of �9million for its heritage development. Within 30 seconds of searching on the internet, we found all the details and opportunities available for Heritage Lottery Funding and duly received all the application forms, criteria and examples of previous applications within 24 hours.

I hope this letter has kept Mr Pitch chuckling at the expense of the residents of Weston. I am sure he will be putting pen to paper after reading this letter or maybe he would be willing to see us for a face-to-face meeting about the Tropicana/Weston pool?

We could have met at the Clarence Park Caf�, but we no longer go there now that our extremely well-behaved collie is forced to be on a lead at all times in the park – another example of NSC spoiling the enjoyment of the 99 per cent of decent, responsible dog owners for the one per cent that are never punished for their misdemeanours. I wonder if the newly employed dog-lead checkers will be challenging the rogue owners who do not pick up the dog mess in the street too?

RITA GRANNER AND SAM LEADBETTER

Langport Road, Weston

Serious

NICE to know Ian Pitch finds the Tropicana issue worth a chuckle, some people find it serious.

In his letter of October 4 he derides people protesting outside the Tropicana (much more comfortable sitting in an armchair laughing).

He says the Tropicana is a lost cause but then proceeds to say we do need a seafront pool and suggests people get their thinking caps on. Well Ian let’s have your positive thinking for a change and your ideas. With regard financing, the Nightingale proposal was fully-funded and with some flexibility from the council on parking was a real option.

So finance is a possibility with goodwill from all parties for the good of Weston and North Somerset. Spending ��million demolishing the Tropicana of course would be great if we want the seafront quiet for rest/nursing homes, or would it be better used for regeneration?

So Ian, come off the fence and realise if the Tropicana is demolished there will never be a seafront swimming facility in this seaside resort and remember, ‘there are none so blind as those that cannot see’.

RON FIELDHOUSE

Boundary Close, Weston

It was wrong

I AM unsure why Ian Pitch feels it necessary to attack everyone with opposing views to his own regarding the Tropicana, by suggesting there was a co-ordinated campaign against him.

Nothing could be further from the truth and it was wrong to suggest that.

My letter ‘No Footprint’ October 11, Mercury was my own view as a businessman and resident of Weston. I think I have just as much right to my opinion as anyone.

That having been said, I do not understand why there seems to be a sudden need to demolish the Tropicana building. It has stood since the mid 1930s, through wind and storm. No-one seems to be saying it is a danger to life in its present condition.

The council was ordered by the Environment Agency (EA) to remove the mixed contaminated builders’ waste that had been allowed to be dumped inside the pool itself.

This area forms only a small part of a vast area. If the cost to remove the rubble was �75,000, it was said this money would come from the pot put aside for the demolition of the site. (Taxpayers money?)

So if that pot has now been depleted. Where does Mr Pitch think the money will come from to demolish the whole building? If the cost to remove a bit of rubble is �75,000 then how much will the cost be to remove the whole building - �2million? I would suggest that quite a bit of money has already been spent in man hours and legal expenses by the council to defend their right to demolish.

All I am suggesting is that all avenues be considered before making a final decision. The Tropicana was once a big draw to local tourists and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

JOHN CHRISTOPHER

Milton Lodge Hotel, Milton Road, Weston

Very interesting

ONE particular planning application in your paper last week made very interesting reading.

I quote: Tropicana, Marine Parade: request for formal screening opinion as to whether an environmental impact assessment is required prior to the development of this site (Sutherland Property & Legal Services Ltd).

The question has been raised on several occasions as to why the council is in such a hurry to demolish the Tropicana (at great expense) and is hell-bent on achieving this, which now, more than ever, smacks of them having a hidden agenda. I’m sure we are all about to find out – and it certainly won’t be to return the site to the beach.

An environmental impact assessment determines the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the environmental, social and economic aspects. The purpose of this is to ensure that decision-makers consider the ensuing environmental impacts when deciding whether to proceed with a project.

Sutherland Property & Legal Services, which is based in Nailsea assist in achieving planning permission or resolving planning matters and have an extensive knowledge of planning law. It deals with pre-planning appraisals, planning and development appraisals, conservation area and listed building applications and variations/removal of conditions. It also deals with appeals and enforcement action.

It looks as though certain North Somerset councillors mean business as they have employed this property and legal services firm to make sure they succeed with their plans. They (the councillors) have absolutely no regard for the wishes of the residents of North Somerset, Weston in particular, who they never listen to, and constantly ignore.

I think we can assume that whatever new building/s being planned to replace the Tropicana will be nothing to do with leisure facilities, which is all the majority of Weston residents have been requesting for the last decade.

Demolishing the pool is bad enough, but building ‘goodness knows what’ in its place really adds insult to injury. So, another blot on the landscape will be rearing its ugly head, with the seafront being totally the wrong location for whatever has been planned.

However, I could be totally wrong and Sutherland Property could just be applying for permission to demolish the Tropicana and is making sure the procedure will not have any adverse effect on the environment. There again the application does say development of the site, not demolition. Whichever of the two scenarios ensues will mean a very sad demise for Weston and also our diminishing tourist trade. Take your pick. Place your bets.

JULIE POWER

Exeter Road, Weston

Anticipation

BRAVO to Ron Ellis for his amusing anticipation of my Tropicana letter last week - he is clearly Weston’s answer to Nostradamus.

But if I’ve become so predictable on the subject, so too has the chorus of disapproval that always greets my simple question: where’s the money coming from to rebuild the crumbling pool?

Mr Ellis complimented recent correspondence from John Christopher and K Perrett as ‘convincing and stylish… which has put the argument for the Tropicana.’

But however persuasive and elegant their prose, all those gentlemen can suggest, even after all this time is to hand the project over to Derek Mead’s cash-strapped Trop (WSM). If that was the final outcome, it could be years before sufficient funds were found for renewal, with an ever-deteriorating eyesore remaining a blot on the promenade in the meantime.

Furthermore, the continuing uncertainty of reviving the Tropicana would deter any other potential private developer from building a new pool elsewhere in the town.

Trop (WSM) says it wants ‘to provide Weston and North Somerset with a quality swimming complex’ but my question remains: where’s the money coming from?

Perhaps Mr Ellis could summon up his evident supernatural powers to predict an answer? So sir, dust off the crystal ball, focus the intuition and hopefully put us all out of our misery.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe Predicted

WELL what a surprise, just as predicted by Ron Ellis in last week’s Mercury, Ian Pitch has popped up once again in last week’s opinion of the Mercury. His cage was certainly rattled.

Apart from Mr Orme, I do not know any of the other three writers of letters in last week’s Mercury and there was certainly no co-ordinated attack on Mr Pitch as he seems to suggest. All writers were expressing their democratic right to free speech and their support for leisure facility that we would all be proud of.

Mr Pitch keeps on asking where the money is coming from to redevelop the Tropicana. Well the answer is quite simple; I don’t think that any of us know at this stage. What I do think the majority of residents are saying is let the Trop group attempt to bring this project together, if they fail then we lose absolutely nothing. North Somerset’s executive members failed in their attempts over many years so give the Trop group a chance. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Is that too much to ask? If this attempt fails it will never ever happen. This is the last chance saloon.

Last week Mr Pitch brought the owners of the Grand Pier in to the equation. I do know Kerry and Michelle and most of the Michael family and have admiration for what they have done but this is not about them it is about the future of Weston as a holiday resort and the Tropicana can only compliment the Grand Pier.

Mr Pitch should turn his attention to North Somerset’s executive members and ask them where did they find �30million for new offices and the refurbishment of the Town Hall and then buy more offices next to the Town Hall, and then earmark a major input of capital for Clevedon Pier. You seem to support and uphold that type of expenditure and not something that would benefit the people of Weston for years to come. Forty million pounds is half the amount of money we are expected to save future years.

In times of austerity North Somerset should do an audit of all its assets and report back to us the ratepayers, and then consider selling off assets to assist in balancing the books before imposing any further burden upon us all.

Can I suggest that Ian Pitch runs for council and then joins our executive members on the spending spree that North Somerset seems to have been on in recent times?

In my last letter I did question our pathetic sea defences and lo and behold properties were flooded on the seafront within days of my comment. Watch this space. It will happen again regardless of the gates being open or closed.

K PERRETT

Sandringham Hotel, Victoria Square, Weston

? This correspondence is now closed.

Present

I WONDER if the person that stole my LED garden plant pot from my garden on Thursday will get very much enjoyment from it, knowing that it belongs to someone else! Me.

It was a birthday present from my family, given with love. How could you? What sort of person are you?

B MORRISEY

Woodhurst Road, Weston

AFTER seeing the new developments to Weston Town Hall I have to say I am disgusted that taxpayers’ money has been spent in this way.

For those of you who have not been inside, the entire building has been gutted and rebuilt, staff are walking around with brand new iPads, there are brand new computers on every desk, automated this and that, new carpets, chairs, etc, - it is plush.

With the wealth of issues faced in the local community I am amazed that the council has the audacity to spend that amount of cash on nice new offices for civil servants whilst the rest of us are struggling to maintain just the basic life necessities.

I am a single mother and I work full time in a minimum wage job - I take it as a personal insult that my son who is in the middle of his GCSEs works from a half broken laptop whilst I have been funding this refurb. I would like my council tax back.

The rates are way too high and I do not see any improvements in my local area. I wouldn’t mind so much if my money was being spent on roads, healthcare, fire service, schools ... but this is an outrage. They should have spent that cash on the Tropicana which everybody has been begging them to fix for years now. I didn’t think the old offices were even that bad, they didn’t even need a refit. Everything in my house is secondhand - why should I be paying more than �100 a month so it can have brand spanking new?

I am absolutely livid and do not want to pay council tax anymore but of course if I don’t it will set Rossendales on me faster than a speeding bullet. I feel the council is not listening or caring about the general public at all. What can be done?

E MARSHALL

West Street, Banwell

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