Letters to the Editor, January 8, 2015

PUBLISHED: 10:20 09 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:20 09 January 2015

Archant

THE debate about the future of the Winter Gardens continues. The situation is extremely concerning.

In print we have a statement that the Winter Gardens is valued at many million pounds and yet the freehold is to be sold for just £1. Many educational establishments, national and international, would show an interest to purchase for a market value sum so why has just one establishment been selected? Which councillors sit on Weston College’s governing body?

North Somerset is cash strapped, much of the problem with the settlement being because of its own indolence in pursuing the matter with Central Government vigorously. A good few million would help to house the homeless and support local charities that are picking up the fallout of decisions made at central and local level. Would you sell an unwanted but otherwise serviceable shed for £1? I think not.

The mention of the term ‘community use’ is supposed to mollify the electorate. An electorate that is being undersold by those that should represent us. This is my money, this is your money. Why is the electorate not taking to the streets?

We have not been told what exactly the disposal of the Winter Gardens means. How many metres of the curtilage will be involved? There is perhaps some clue in a quote from Cllr Ashton in the Mercury a few weeks ago when he described plenty of room to expand should the initiative be successful. Could it be to swallow the Italian Gardens and the whole of the High Street?

Decisions made by a cabal of the ruling party without consultation with other party members and other parties or independents smacks of some kind of vested interest either political or, I am sorry to suggest, personal in some way. Are the councillors making these decisions also members of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)? Are they governors of Weston College? Why are the councillors and the LEP not calling a public meeting to tell us the truth about the benefits of stealing public money from the electorate by underselling a major asset, explain themselves and to answer questions? One has to be very suspicious of the silence.

So why is this multi million pound building being sold for £1?

There will be very little sympathy for the situation the college finds itself in. The future of higher education is not in bricks and mortar empire building. The nation needs a degree level resource intensive programme in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Where is the progression route from the 14 to 19 centre to degree level learning? Weston cannot provide that.

We do not need a university college but a supported study centre so that students can learn from every university in the world and have a tailormade programme. It is possible and affordable to achieve a degree using a college or university to offer study guidance, validate student’s work and to award degrees. It opens degree level education and research to independent scholars. So why is North Somerset encouraging such a pedestrian degree offer rather than the brave new world of international connectedness?

Why isn’t it using our money from the sale of the freehold for the common good? Why is it to take from the electorate twice? Once from the giveaway sale and then £15million from the LEP.

In the meantime the sale of this multi million pound building for £1 should be considered maladministration until proved otherwise. It should be reported to the appropriate Government and regulatory bodies in advance of January 17 decision. Anyone told Eric Pickles yet?

Come the May elections vote for those who care for North Somerset without reference to party politics. But before then come out in your thousands and demand that the Winter Gardens be sold at a commercial price and the money ploughed back into the infrastructure and people of North Somerset.

If North Somerset does not demonstrate open decision making, prove its probity in all matters personal, public and financial, become less parochial and think long term it will have to be subsumed into Greater Bristol to ensure that its affairs are better run.

Anyone feel like using social media to tell every country in the world that this magnificent building is for sale for £1? No auctions, sealed bids only before January 15 2015. To be opened in the presence of good people from the judiciary the following day.

MAGGY CROOK

Ashdene Road, Milton

A MONTH or so ago North Somerset Council agreed to hand over the Winter Gardens; the village hall of Weston, to Weston College.

The plan was also to build high quality student and residential accommodation, add an extra floor above the main hall and a four storey extension facing the Town Square.

This is a 24/7 £15million transformation of the 87-year-old Winter Gardens used for balls, dances, weddings, charity events, exhibitions, antique and craft markets and entertainment. All this hinges on a £14.9million grant from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership.

This project seems to be a deal between two tax reliant bodies, relying on a third and appears to flaunt any democratic process.

The Winter Gardens site is one of the most valuable in Weston and the actual design blends in beautifully with the seafront promenade. The height was restricted due to a ‘covenant’ and any buildings behind higher will be a detrimental change to the Weston skyline.

You are aware that your council has a terrible record of doing deals with developers: there has been three or four given the task to develop the Tropicana pool on the seafront without any success. (Local businessmen have come up with possible plans, but your council has given them the cold shoulder on non-viable grounds, much to the public anger.) The Dolphin Square £45million project by McLaren has been halted with only the Premier hotel built. No bowling alley, no cinema, no high class shops, etc, all promised, but now looking very doubtful. Now expect McLaren will come back with plans to build seafront luxury flats on the site.

If Weston College needs to expand, then there are other areas crying out for development. The old gasworks site near the railway station and the under-used recreation grounds would be ideal. New development is far more enterprising than merely messing around with the existing. Ideas to have a student hostel on the seafront to help business is stretching the imagination a bit. In my student day’s ma and pa still paid for everything.

Let’s hope your council reconsider the whole aspect of this project with Weston College and comes up with one that helps retain Weston’s character.

C J PEVERELLE

Edinburgh Place, Weston

HOW correct Brian Austin is in his letter of the Christmas day edition of the Mercury where he says ‘a wise man takes a second look’ when the council speaks, which in this instance was about a vanity project without proper foresight.

In the same edition we have a letter from Cllr Tony Lake as a perfect example of making grandiose statements which have dubious substance, this time the Winter Gardens. He states he is heartened by the level of interest in the free gift to Weston College of the Winter Gardens and looks forward to the democratic process, although without public consultation prior to a full council vote on the matter and without full details of any safe guards of public access - funny democratic process.

His grandiose statements fall apart under critical analysis, although such analysis he would call ‘negative’. The scheme was first presented as regeneration of the High Street as we will swamp the High Street with students with their spending power. The planet I come from has students with very little disposable income, this must be different to the planet he lives on. This is his vision of good footfall, I suggest it is economic illiteracy. There could be an argument that the opposite effect will happen to the High Street as he suggests. It makes not one bit of difference to Weston as a resort how Weston College fares, are we going to advertise to holidaymakers what a wonderful college we have?

At the moment, in a time of limited funding, it is not the time to just off-load a major seafront property which should be there for the resort’s proper beneficial use and development in the future in better times. More foresight is required or is this how it’s always going to be with this Conservative administration. Remember the Winter Gardens? If Cllr Lake had had his original way it would now be sand.

No doubt the Conservative councillors at the forthcoming meeting will follow like sheep or can they think for themselves? In the meantime Cllr Lake should stop sounding like a mouthpiece for Weston College.

RON FIELDHOUSE

Boundary Close, Weston

A REPLY to Ian Pitch: You won’t get solutions to problems outlined in Mr Bridges’ letter because ‘status quo’ will not allow them.

It is the same with any problems that belong to North Somerset Council.

I should know. I tried to get creditworthy solutions from them (amongst others) for a long time - and failed. ‘Status quo’ will have them translate what I said - or what you said, until the facts of the case as I see them, or you see them, look unquestionable. Then what?

MR C J D HART

School Lane, Rowberrow

I REFER to Paul Jones’ letter as regards his objection to charging 20 pence for using the town council public toilets.

However I disagree, good stewardship of public money and common sense would indicate that those who use a service should make at least a small contribution to the cost of providing it.

When Victorian public toilets were first introduced they charged one penny, the equivalent of our 20 pence today, hence the term ‘spend a penny’. It was thought to be appropriate then and I cannot see what has changed.

By charging for use and other efficiencies the town council can now maintain and run six toilet blocks in Weston and Uphill for almost the same cost that previously North Somerset had to pay for just one (Grove Park). A huge saving whilst at the same time providing better disabled facilities and now fitted to reflect current needs.

Mr Jones considers the toilets are a ‘necessity’ and I thoroughly agree with him. That was the reason the town council has spent so much energy and effort to save and modernise them for the town.

CLLR ROGER BAILEY

Southville Road, Weston

LESLEY Asman writes that we should all send e-greetings instead of Christmas cards and I find this very sad.

Some of the joy in the run up to Christmas, and in fact birthdays, is to receive cards through the letter box and then displaying them as part of the Christmas decorations. Try putting e-mails on the mantelpiece or sideboard – not quite the same, is it?

Many are keen to take away our traditions, none more so than at Christmas and although we live in a digital world we should not sacrifice many of the little things that are so important in our lives.

Lesley says the ‘digital divide’ is a national disgrace, well I do not feel I am missing out by not worshiping at the feet of the great god – internet.

If folk want to spend all their time looking at screens and tapping away at keyboards that is up to them but I find there are much more important things in life and traditions that are close to my heart.

My brain is my computer and has been all my life so please do not treat all of us oldies as though we are gaga.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

MAY I through your newspaper, express my gratitude to all the individuals and businesses that supported our annual Comfort at Christmas Shelter for homeless and disadvantaged people.

Each year it seems to get bigger and each year Westonians step up to the mark and support us with donations of cash, food, clothing, bedding and toiletries.

Most thanks though, go to the individuals who give up their precious time over such a family-orientated event such as Christmas to volunteer to make Christmas a very enjoyable time for those who do not have very much.

Also the businesses - from Puxton Park (turkeys), Fig Tree Dementia Care (all the other meat for breakfast and lunch), Peter Castell (TV and DVD), and a huge thank you to Sparkol in Kenn, near Clevedon, who donated such a huge amount of new clothing, bedding, toiletries and sweets - not to mention a whole host of sleeping bags.

To you all my heartfelt thanks and hope you continue to support us once again next year - our 25th anniversary.

JON CODD

Chairman

Bisdee Road, Hutton

THESE photos were found in the drawer of a second hand Welsh dresser bought in Weston.

We think the photos are of members of the same family as there seem to be some likenesses. Obviously we would like to see the photos reunited with whoever mislaid them.

The woman in uniform is called Vi and dedicated her photo (probably wartime) to her parents.

The coloured picture looks to contain the same young girl, and one of the bridesmaids is possibly her as a child?

JO HAY

Goddard Drive, Weston

WELL surprise, surprise, Ian Pitch is at it again now criticising our group North Somerset First Independents.

Well, he should try and understand that we are what we say we are ‘independent’ not ‘party puppets’.

We are free to speak on behalf of our communities and free to action and fight for what we believe in and to represent the residents of the ward to which we intend to be elected.

Mr Pitch, could, as he promotes himself as the font of knowledge on so many subjects, come forward and meet with our group and share any constructive input for the sake of the residents of North Somerset instead of merely criticising those independents who aim to make a difference for their local communities.

North Somerset First Independents’ ethos is not to look forward in fear but to look around us in awareness, so Mr Pitch, we would be delighted to meet with you, face to face, and discuss in person any issues or queries you may have relating to our group as to date we have not had the pleasure of talking to you, or, of you talking to us on any matter whatsoever.

MARTINA MAKETIS

Prospective independent candidate, North Somerset First Independents

Manor Gardens, Locking

WITH regard to the front page of the Mercury dated December 18, headed ‘Broken promises’ referring to Birnbeck Pier, Leisuredome, Tropicana, Winter sports complex and Dolphin Square.

Having been a resident of Weston for the past 50 years, I could think of countless other schemes that have failed to come to fruition and have been totally forgotten, with many jobs which could have been created, within North Somerset, that have failed to materialise.

It appears to me that the only success during 2014 was that The Trop Trust did prevent the executive members of North Somerset Council from demolishing the iconic building ‘The Tropicana’ and furthermore The Trop Trust succeeded in galvanising the thinking of the executive, after three years of fighting with them, to re-open the site on a ‘short term basis’.

That huge commitment from this group has created hope for the seafront and local businesses and genuine hope for tourism in this area for future years.

However, there are yet more ‘broken promises’ hidden at the bottom of the pile.

Let us not forget that despite Cllr Lake’s words that the executive would be working with The Trop Trust, this has not yet happened, mere words, no action.

I understand that the trustees of The Trop Trust are chasing the council regularly to obtain a real commitment but to date nothing positive has been forged.

The trustees and their supporters, along with the enabling team members, still need all the support this area can give them to make this happen.

Local people helped this group identify through consultation and an awareness campaign the area needs regeneration, the group defined, with local input, how this should look and what measures should be used to drive its delivery. Now we need to ensure that this local authority commits to a strategic and supportive role not confine it to yet another item on the ‘broken promises’ pile.

KEN PERRETT

Prospective independent candidate, North Somerset First Independents

Sandringham Hotel, Victoria Square, Weston

I WAS really pleased to read the article in last week’s Mercury January 1 on page 23 concerning the proposal by Gladman Developments Limited.

Thank you for raising the issue as few people in the village have seen a copy of Gladman’s information. It can be accessed at its website: www.your-views.co.uk/knightcott-banwell or by writing to Your Views Knightcott Road, Banwell, Gladman House, Alexandra Way, Congleton, Cheshire, CW12 1LB.

There are plans for 155 houses on what they call open space and grassland. My understanding is that it is outside the Village Fence and has always been classified as agricultural land. Previous planning applications further west have been turned down as inappropriate.

In its document ‘Potential Consultation’ – Potential Residential Development, land south of Knightcott Road to High Street, it says that North Somerset Council (NSC) has identified Banwell as a village that benefits from a range of key services and facilities with good accessibility to Weston. It is therefore considered to be a sustainable location to accommodate a proportion of the council’s future housing growth.

This I find incredibly short sighted as traffic is a significant issue eastwards through the village and westwards to Weston and wonder if NSC has actually said this is a ‘sustainable location’? Also ‘key services and facilities’ are in short supply – schools and GP services. Access to shops is also difficult.

I would urge Banwell residents to look at the GDL website and see if you agree with what is being proposed. If not, please object.

JUDY WYMAN

Knightcott Road, Knightcott

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