Petition to keep Somerset Legion House open

Italian Gardens, a cross planted by Weston's Royal British Legion for every veteran, from Weston and

Italian Gardens, a cross planted by Weston's Royal British Legion for every veteran, from Weston and surrounding villages, that gave their lives during the First World War. Lyn Lovell, Sue Packham and Rob Bywaters. - Credit: Archant

Weston Town Council is urging the Royal British Legion (RBL) to reconsider the closure of Somerset Legion House.

The RBL announced the possible closure of the break centre, in Beach Road, in November last year as part of a review to ensure it is meeting the needs of the armed forces community.

The news came as a shock to the town, and campaigners are pushing for it to remain open to enable it to continue supporting people in need.

The house, which cost £6.7million to build, has 47 rooms and caters for 75 people by providing two-week breaks for families and children connected to the armed forces at little or no cost.

Cllr Roz Willis presented a petition to Weston Town Council at a meeting on January 20, to call for the building to stay open.

She said: "Somerset House enables people to have much-needed family time after a difficult call of duty.

"We are concerned about the proposed closure. There were no discussions or consultations.

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"It's been run for respite when there are those who could give some sort of payment if it was run part respite and part hotel.

"I fear it's a fait accompli, but the council writing a letter will only help the cause."

Cllr Mark Canniford added: "Sadly, RBL dealt with it very badly and have already shut it.

"We would support this staying open for hotel use. It could be a very profitable option.

"My greatest concern is this is very damaging to the organisation which gets a great deal of support."

The RBL is exploring how it can best meet the needs of the armed forces community which are 'increasingly complex', with a huge increase in people needing basic support with housing, finances, mental health and mobility.

The RBL's director general, Charles Byrne, said: "We are seeing desperate people at their lowest ebb, people that can't afford to pay their rent or feed their families, and we must prioritise our funds based on the most urgent calls for help.

"We do not make these proposals lightly and we are well aware of the impact the proposals could have on our staff who have made hugely valuable contributions to the charity's work."

A decision is expected to be announced early this year.

Weston Town Council agreed to write to RBL to ask it to consider other options to keep the building open.