Tropicana works: Genuine development, or 'pre-election stunt'?
PUBLISHED: 09:00 31 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:47 31 January 2015
A CAFÉ and bar is due to open at the Tropicana site by the summer, but some councillors have suggested the renovation works are merely a 'pre-election stunt'.
North Somerset Council says it is investing £400,000 to restore part of the seafront building, but plans for the outdoor area are yet to be finalised and opposition parties say there is ‘no commitment’ to bringing back the pool.
The Mercury has asked repeated questions about what other activities have been organised for the venue, but the council insists those decisions are yet to be made.
Leader of the council Nigel Ashton said: “The scale of the works needed to bring the building back into use should not be under-estimated. That is why we previously considered demolition.
“But we are committed to carrying out work to a high standard, and this means that all of the available budget will be used at the front of the building.
“We would rather do that well than spend the entire budget throughout the building which would not deliver a quality space in any one area.”
But the plans have attracted some cynicism from the opposition parties, who have suggested the scheme could be linked to the upcoming election.
North Somerset’s Liberal Democrat leader Mike Bell said: “I strongly support the steps the council is taking to get the Trop open for the summer. Anything is better than nothing, and after 15 years of failure it is about time something positive was done with the site.
“However, the council’s Damascene conversion from being hell-bent on demolition to supporting other uses is fairly obviously a desperate pre-election stunt to buy-off Weston voters.
“Local people will welcome progress but they won’t fall for Nigel Ashton’s spin.
“And let’s not forget the Trop Trust-shaped elephant in the room. When will we see the council really work positively to get our seafront pool back?”
At this stage, the works are limited to renovating the seafront-facing section, such as fixing the roof and updating the plumbing.
Once the building is gutted, work will start on a new café and bar, two new public seafront toilets and a refurbished foyer area.
Contractors have also been asked to make-over the outside of the first floor to create an attractive finish to the facade.
North Somerset’s Labour leader Richard Tucker said: “While of course we all welcome this belated effort at improving the seafront facade of the building and installing a café to at least bring it back to some sort of partial use, the fact remains there is still no commitment to bring the Tropicana back into service as a pool, which is what most Westonians and visitors want to see.
“If you were to be cynical though, this does look like an attempt at window-dressing to be seen to be doing something just before the election.”
During the refurbishment works, the council says it will look at ways to use the former pool area, and is hopeful this space will also be available for as-yet-unknown activities this year.