Worst summer ever is wrecking seafront trade

PUBLISHED: 13:30 13 July 2012

Donkeys on Weston Beach in the rain under a big umbrella.

Donkeys on Weston Beach in the rain under a big umbrella.

Archant

THERE are no plans to reduce the cost of seafront concession tenders in Weston, North Somerset Council has revealed, despite the wettest summer on record which has seen takings down 80 per cent at some businesses.

In February, the Mercury revealed that licences to run donkey rides, food stalls and other attractions would be re-tendered, inviting current and prospective plot owners to re-bid for the right to run their businesses on the beach.

Traders have hit out at the hikes which could see some concessions cost as much as £10,000 - a significant jump on the current cost.

There are no plans to alter the price of seafront concessions’ tenders despite weeks of rain which have seen takings at one business more than halved.

Last month was the wettest June amateur Weston meteorologist Chris Cudlipp had recorded in three decades.

Lorraine Vincent has run Lorraine’s Tea Bar on the beach for 30 years, but is leaving at the end of the season because of the price increase in seafront concessions and this year’s poor seafront trade.

She said: “We just can’t afford to be here any longer, because of the price increases.

“We have had bad weather, but it is not just that. We have had the sea defence wall built and the pier burnt down, a lot of things have happened in the town.”

Resident Dave Williams, aged 47, of South Terrace, Weston, said: “It is unfair. I think something should be done to help seafront traders.

“I’m appalled to see that she’s leaving. Whenever she is away, people are asking about Lorraine, she is part of the history of Weston.”

Kevin Mager, aged 62, joint owner of RG Mager and Sons’ donkey pitch on the seafront, said: “We have had some bad summers, but this is the worst.

“Coaches are being cancelled all the time. Our family has been running donkeys on this beach since the 1880s, and my dad is 86 and he says this is the worst summer he has ever seen.”

He said their takings were also down about 80 per cent.

Gary Edgell, who has run the Wonkey Donkey gift shop in Royal Parade for 11 years, said: “The weather has affected me badly, I didn’t even open last Saturday. I’ll be lucky if I sell one bucket today.”

Mr Edgell also blamed the design of the new wall along the promenade for damaging his trade.

He said: “People used to see my business from across the road and come over, but now the wall is there they can’t. Maybe some think that they might come back later, but often they forget once they’ve walked past.”

A council spokesman said: “We do not increase the price of our concessions when we have extensive good weather so we certainly won’t be providing any discounts for bad weather.

“Although the council has responsibility for many things, we don’t control the weather.”

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