Thoughts on Weston seafront

The devastating effects of the fire on the pier have highlighted the need for family attractions in Weston.

The devastating effects of the fire on the pier have highlighted the need for family attractions in Weston. However, it is not only families that enjoyed the pier, and already, many elderly day-trippers have cancelled their summer coach trips-possibly because the idea of walking on the pier, or along the seafront, to be confronted by the mangled metal skeleton of the once majestic pavilion, is too upsetting.

The pavilion needs, of course, to be rebuilt but in the short term, the ugly wreckage needs to be removed as soon possible; this would visually improve the appearance of the pier and the seafront, until such time as a new pavilion is built. The task of removing the mangled ruins is, in itself, problematic, which makes one think that the re-building of the pavilion may take longer than Weston would like.

The catastrophe of the destruction of the pavilion & the subsequent reduction in entertainment facilities has made me re-visit the Tropicana saga. Unlike many of the more vocal opponents of the Henry Boot scheme, having considered the development from a number of angles, I believe that the proposed scheme would be good for Weston for the following reasons (not in any particular order):-

* Job creation. Weston needs its economically active residents to be in employment, preferably without the need to commute. The Lifestation will create several hundred jobs, offering local employment to suit a wide range of skills including management, administration, security, service, catering, cleaning and maintenance. This is especially pertinent in these difficult economic times.(Compare this with the considerably reduced number of jobs necessary for running the re-opened swimming pool)

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* Council tax. This would rocket if it were not for the income from tourism that keeps many of the businesses around the sea front - as well as in the town centre- alive. Fewer businesses=less business council tax=more residential council tax! The variety of shops and business premises would make a valuable contribution towards keeping council tax from escalating to an unbearable level!

* Tourism. This is an extremely important source of revenue to Weston, and to North Somerset, and to "Re-establish the role of Weston-super-Mare as a tourist destination by capitalising on the natural asset of the beach, and through the provision of high quality accommodation, indoor attractions and activities....." has been identified by North Somerset council as on of their Strategic Objectives for the Weston Area Action Plan. To be competitive as a tourist attraction, Weston needs a wide range of family amenities and 'just a swimming pool' will not adequately take care of these needs. In addition to the state-of the-art fun pool area, the range of facilities within the Henry Boot development include indoor bowling - remember that the present bowling alley will have to move as their current location is earmarked for re-development - , cinemas, coffee shops and restaurants will provide a good range of amenities, not only for families, but for in-between-agers, not forgetting the many elderly residents and tourists who would use these facilities, which, being under cover, will be available all year, as well as being conveniently located. In addition, the prime position hotel accommodation at a relatively affordable price, should increase the number of tourists staying in Weston, which will benefit many local businesses. With the unpredictable weather, I believe that a planned 'day at the seaside' need not become a miserable experience if young and old, resident or tourist, has an alternative, especially if the weather becomes Inclement.

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* Costs for maintenance of the building. These will be borne by private enterprise; therefore, Weston residents will again benefit in not being 'fleeced' when future renovation is indicated or when costly mishaps occur.

Some readers have commented that the North Somerset Council should run the re-furbished Tropicana pool. With all due respects, do they have the correct business acumen or the financial resources? If so, why did the Tropicana close down in the first place? And if the Council is the body seen fit to run the Tropicana, what guarantees do we have that this will only affect our council Tax to a 'minimal' extent? The Tropicana sits in an exposed position as is subject to the ravages of the elements. What guarantees to we have that there will be sufficient funds to pay for future renovations? And will there be sufficient funds to pay for other expensive mishaps, for example, the malfunction of the retractable roof or the replacement of faulty water pumps?

If ,on the other hand, the Tropicana is run by a charity, what guarantees will we have that the proposed charity, will not go insolvent? Many people are not aware of the legalities of charities. The regulator for Charities in England and Wales states that 'Charitable companies are "legal persons", can incur liabilities, and can become "insolvent" '( If there are insufficient funds available to keep the charity buoyant, and costly repairs become necessary, insolvency could well be a possibility. (Paraphrasing Robbie Burns)If even 'the best laid plans of mice and men do often go awry', oughtn't we to feel somewhat concerned that the plans of the supporters of 'Save ourTropicana' may not have looked at the bigger picture?

I have also noticed some readers' comments about the profit that will be made by Henry Boot and the businesses that would occupy the Lifestation. Is this a bad thing? Surely we would want these businesses to flourish to provide employment for Westonians, and to provide services and enjoyment to the users. Surely the people who take these risks should be entitled to earn the rewards.

I am not oblivious to the drawbacks of the proposed development, including the size and the style of the building, but considering that the seafront properties already span three centuries of building styles including Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and twentieth century 'modern', should Weston not consider celebrating the twenty first century with a prominent new building?

Let us compare the proposed Henry Boot building to another, in terms of size, prominence and 'being out of keeping with the style of the area'; one has only to consider the London Eye, a colossal Ferris Wheel which occupies a prime position on the South bank of the Thames, and dwarfs the many beautiful and splendid buildings around it. Yet it is not disparaged because it provides thousands of visitors with huge enjoyment, therefore being 'fit for purpose', and most Londoners feel a pride and affection for it. Maybe Westonians might, in time, have similar feelings towards a building that gives great enjoyment, not forgetting employment, to so many.

Attitudes are one of the hardest things to change and ultimately whether or not the Lifestation scheme is approved, will probably depend on the attitudes of the councillors who hold the vote, and what their personal views are about what would be in the best interests of Weston-super-Mare's future.

Yours faithfully


Clarence Road South


BS23 4BN

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