Broken promises on new sea wall?
BUSINESS owners have been left fuming after the first stage of a controversial sea defence scheme was approved
BUSINESS owners have been left fuming after the first stage of a controversial sea defence scheme was approved.North Somerset Council has given the green light to the initial phase of the project, but traders on the seafront say they were not consulted, as had been promised, and they remain convinced that a huge 'Berlin Wall-style' barrier will follow.The authority has ordered work to start on improving Marine Lake and councillors are stressing that they have only approved the first phase of the multi-million pound project. They say they did consult business owners and have also underlined their pledge to ask traders and residents how the rest of the scheme along the seafront should look.Business owners have told the Mercury that if the original proposals do eventually go ahead their livelihoods will be ruined.The current flood defence scheme involves a 1-1.5m wall being constructed along the roadside edge of the promenade, between Knightstone Island and the Grand Pier.One of the Conservative-led council's first actions when it took power after the elections last month was to promise to review the scheme because of the strong criticism it has received from some businesspeople. Sophia Michael, owner of the Seaward Hotel, says she fears promises are being broken: "The powers-that-be have also ignored the Royal Haskoning report the council commissioned to advise it on the best sea defence scheme for Weston."The report concluded the best and most economically viable scheme would be a marina. What was the point of commissioning and paying for that report, with our taxes, if it is simply going to ignore it?"Who carried out the review that was promised by the leader of the council? What did it consider? How did it reach the conclusion it did?"Councillors are also set to approve spending £250,000 on concrete for the Marine Lake part of the scheme and £90,000 on more investigation work.Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset's executive member for strategic planning, highways and economic development, said: "I am pleased to confirm this approval to start phase one of the sea defence project, which marks an important beginning to the upgrading of protection to 4,500 homes and businesses in Weston as well as an upgrading of the promenade facilities and its visual appearance."Cllr Ap Rees said members of a working party had spoken to traders about the start of the Marine Lake work, which will include rebuilding the causeway, reworking the sluices to restore the drainage system and clearing mud deposits from the lake's bed. It will start in the autumn and is due to finish early in 2008.He confirmed the working party will continue to review further phases of the scheme and will also be working with residents, businesses and the town council to improve the design and layout of the sections between Knightstone and the Grand Pier.