Revamped Tropicana opening delay a ‘total disaster’

The Trop before being refurbished

The Trop before being refurbished - Credit: Archant

THE council ‘failed’ in its ambition to open the Tropicana in time for the bank holiday today (Monday), with councillors unable to say what has caused the delays and others suggesting the plan is ‘falling apart rapidly’.

The Trop after being refurbished

The Trop after being refurbished - Credit: Archant

North Somerset Council set aside £748,000 to bring the front of the dilapidated building back into use as a café and bar – but despite renovation work being carried out since January its opening date is still ‘shrouded in secrecy’.

In March, then-executive councillor Tony Lake told Weston Civic Society he hoped the Tropicana would be finished by the end of April.He also said the building, which stood vacant since 2000, would need to generate enough money through the café and events to remain open.

But the council now says it is looking at an opening date of early June – two months after its initial plan – despite the contractors handing over keys to the authority at the beginning of this month.

Deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees said: “As we suspected when we originally said we would have to close it, there has been a lot of work needed to bring it back to life.

“We obviously want to make sure we have got it right before we open it and we will open it when we are good and ready.”

But Cllr Mike Bell says the authority is missing out on money-making opportunities because of the delays, and said: “It is disappointing as we are coming into the peak season and the bank holiday this weekend, so that’s another bank holiday which we are going to miss out on.

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“I’m not really sure what the reason is for the delay, if anything they scaled back their ambitions. They haven’t acted on the inside of the building and have moved away from the idea of having both wings open at the same time.

“It is difficult to understand what the problem is – it leads you to speculate they haven’t been very competent in driving it forward.”

The makeover will include an office for the council’s seafront events team, two new public toilets, a new tourist information point and an outdoor events space in the filled-in pool area.

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The council has said once the front of the building is open, it will focus its attention on bringing the rear of the building into use for events or rides – though firm plans are yet to be made.

The authority has however applied for a licence to stage plays, show films and host indoor sporting events, live music, recorded music and dance performances.

Cllr Mike Bell said: “Presumably it means the Tropicana will only be open for a relatively short time over the summer.

“My understanding was that they didn’t intend to open it all year round, and on the inside they wanted someone to operate an attraction. But presumably that plan is falling apart rapidly because who will come in for only a short time? It’s just not viable.

“The whole thing has been shrouded in secrecy really. The council will operate the café as no-one else will take it on as it is too risky, so presumably they are not even thinking they will break even.

“It’s really frustrating, the least people deserve is some honest answers.”

Cllr Ap Rees said: “Obviously as a council we look to make sure that things are run professionally and make money, but we are only in the early stages of this project and at the moment we have just concentrated on refurbishing the front of the building and opening up the front as a restaurant.

“Once we have got that done and open obviously the council will be looking at what it can do best with the rest of the site to make it into a profitable business and leisure facility.”

Cllr David Pasley, named Tony Lake’s replacement on the council executive, told councillors on Tuesday he will look into progress and report back.

But Cllr Bell replied: “It is a total disaster and so disappointing that so early in your administration you have already failed to honour election promises.”

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