Secured following sterling work

COUNCILLOR Ashton claimed in the Mercury last week that his Conservative Executive has 'secured over �30 million for the new promenade and sea defences'. Utter tosh, and he knows it.

COUNCILLOR Ashton claimed in the Mercury last week that his Conservative Executive has "secured over �30 million for the new promenade and sea defences". Utter tosh, and he knows it.

The cash was secured following sterling work by a small number of highly motivated North Somerset officers in liaison with engineers and scientists from DEFRA and the Environment Agency. My own role, as the responsible Executive member at that time, was to fight for a scheme that I realised would produce knee-jerk anger, unrealistic counter suggestions and short-term problems along the seafront but would in the longer term (1) protect several thousand seafront and town centre properties from inundation, (2) enhance Marine Lake, (3) create a much improved promenade, (4) integrate fully with the already approved works on Knightstone Island and (5) cost local council tax payers nothing.

It was essential to gain cross-party, business and residential support in order to encourage a favourable ministerial response for the project. It was also desirable to tie-in promenade visual enhancements with the core flood prevention work. The situation was made unusually difficult by the peculiarity of responsibility - Weston's sea defences being at that time in the care of the council and not the Environment Agency. We were asking the Government to pay for something in the middle of a spending review that was actually the council's responsibility.

The task was not easy, though when I led a small 'cap-in-hand' delegation to Parliament with the active help of John Penrose MP (Conservative) and Cllr Muriel Kraft (Labour), we found not only an attentive minister and advisers but also a willingness to 'come up with the goods'. Full credit to HMG - 100 per cent funding came forth, something which no other resort town in England has been able to secure.

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I cannot recall Cllr Ashton's particular stance during the various debates though upon securing his massive Tory majority in the council elections of May 2007 he said (and I quote accurately) "the scheme is pretty daft" and "unsuitable for a tourist area and will put holidaymakers off the town". He never did explain what alternatives he was considering nor what, thankfully, caused his change of mind.

Cllr Ashton may rightly claim responsibility for overseeing the project's completion and undoubtedly a North Somerset trumpet shall blow to this effect later in 2010 but he shouldn't attempt to take credit for either instigating the scheme or securing its finance, for to do so would be playing dice, not with interpretation but with truth.

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Former Executive Member for Strategic Planning

Gerard Road


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