Bristol House Inn Reopening

Back in August, Weston-super-Mare residents were up in arms because the Bristol House Inn had been closed and there were suggestions that it would be turned into a Tesco Express. A protest group was formed, a group was set up on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/bristol.houseinn) and there was a petition.

It seems that all this has worked, because Enterprise Inns has now announced that the pub will be reopening on Saturday 1st December at 5pm.

In a way this is a good thing. Far too many pubs have closed in the five years since the smoking ban, although part of that is the fact that they have priced themselves out of the market.

But it is now up to the locals to prove that there really is demand for a pub in the area. Over 100 people liked the campaign group on Facebook, and there were around 1,000 signatures on the petition, so if those people start using the pub on a regular basis, it should be impossible for it to fail.

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Flood Risk

Those of you in Weston-super-Mare may have noticed that it’s raining rather hard at the moment. You may also have noticed that quite a few roads are flooded and bus services to and from Bristol have been disrupted as a result.

However, North Somerset Council aren’t using their £30m flood defences tonight because the predicted tide is only 9.5m. The gates will stay open.

I’m fine – I live just off the sea front, but my kitchen’s stocked with food and I live on the second floor, so it’s not going to affect me. For anyone living slightly closer to sea level, let’s hope that North Somerset Council have got it right this time, and we don’t have another flooding disaster like we did a month ago.

Fingers crossed, eh?

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Parking Meters Have Arrived In Weston-super-Mare

Despite opposition from just everyone in Weston-super-Mare, from residents to local businesses, North Somerset Council has now inflicted parking meters on the town.

Councillor Elfan Ap Rees claims the scheme is a success. He says that 800 parking tickets were sold on the first day that the parking meters were operational. This shows that he really does not have a clue about what goes on in Weston-super-Mare. The streets are deserted. The shops are all reporting slower trade.

I spoke to someone who works in the Tesco Express on the Boulevard who said that they’d seen slower trade. Some people reading this might think that’s a good thing because there’s a perception that Tesco is evil. But the people that aren’t shopping in Tesco Express aren’t getting their shopping from local greengrocers and butchers instead. They’re going to the main Tesco because they know they can park there.

Liberal Democrat council member Mike Bell is doing the town proud by continuing to fight against the parking meters, and there is also a Facebook group which, at the time of writing, has 125 extremely vocal members.

Let’s hope that he can talk sense into the council before Weston-super-Mare becomes a ghost town.

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T4 On The Beach

A few weeks ago Channel 4 announced that it has decided to drop the T4 brand. As a result, it’s uncertain whether the annual T4 On The Beach event will take place next year.

I have been discussing this with a number of people recently. The general consensus is that it’s bad for Weston-super-Mare, but I can’t help wondering whether it’s actually as bad as some people are making out.

It’s true that the event brings around 50,000 people to the town, but those people are kept within a fenced-off enclosure on the beach – they aren’t spending money in the town. In fact, North Somerset Council had to pay several thousand pounds to the event organisers each year to persuade them to host the event in Weston-super-Mare, so it was costing us to have it here.

And it’s not like the bars and restaurants were full of people looking to extend their stay after the event. It was aimed at teenagers who are too young to drink anyway, and from what I’ve seen each year, they leave the town as soon as the event has finished. The chaos at the train station and queues on the M5 would seem to support that. It’s not like the Enduro which fills the tills of local businesses throughout the Enduro weekend.

It is claimed that T4 On The Beach is worth £5,000,000 to the town, although I can’t see that, even if you factor in an amount for the benefit to Weston-super-Mare’s brand from having the town portrayed in a positive light on national television.

But if the event is/was worth that much to the town, doesn’t that suggest that yet again, the Council has had all of its eggs in too few baskets? You’d have thought they’d have learnt the lesson that we need a number of different reasons for people to come to Weston-super-Mare from when the Grand Pier was out of action following the fire. And when there were doubts over whether the Enduro would continue a year or two back.

What Weston-super-Mare should be aiming for is a number of smaller events rather than one or two big events each year. That way, people will be attracted to the town throughout the season. And if one of those events disappears from the calendar as this event looks likely to do, the town will still have a backup plan.

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Tropicana Update

Derek Mead’s Trop (WSM) Ltd has now submitted its proposal for the redevelopment of Weston-super-Mare‘s Tropicana. The proposal states that a range of new leisure facilities, including a number of swimming pools, will be built on the existing Tropicana site.

Importantly, the proposal states that if the development does not happen within three years, Trop (WSM) Ltd will demolish the existing building at its own cost.

This makes the proposal a no-brainer. If the Tropicana gets redeveloped, the town gets a leisure facility which will create jobs and draw tourists to the town. If Trop (WSM) Ltd fails to redevelop the site, it will have to demolish the site itself, saving the council the £700,000 it would have to pay to demolish the site.

And yet remarkably, a number of councillors on North Somerset Council’s South Area Planning Committee are still undecided, with some still keen to see the site demolished.

The proposal will be discussed at the next South Area Planning Committee meeting at 6pm on 22nd November. Let’s hope that the right decision is taken.

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Do They Think We Are Idiots?

North Somerset Council’s latest idea in its quest to destroy the Tropicana is to ask how local residents would like to see it demolished.

The problem with this, of course, is that I’ve yet to find a single resident that does actually want to see it knocked down. Everyone I’ve talked to has said that they want to see it rebuilt.

The council will be writing to local residents asking them how they’d like to see it knocked down. Some residents will worry about noise, and others will worry about dust, so it is inevitable that the council will get some responses saying, for instance, that they want it demolished by hand because they don’t want to risk their own property being demolished if the demolition is done by a controlled explosion.

The problem with this is that at the end of the consultation, the council will be able to say that 100% of people who responded were in favour of the demolition with the majority favouring demolition by whatever method got the most votes. If they finally knock it down, provided they use the method chosen in the consultation, they’ll be able to say they were acting in accordance with the wishes of the local residents.

Why is it that the council didn’t think that we should be consulted about whether the Tropicana should be knocked down, but thought that we should  be consulted about how it should be knocked down?

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Tropicana – News Release

NEWS RELEASE: Campaigners discover council to decide the demolition of the Tropicana tonight without notice

by Save Our Tropicana Weston on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 16:37

Councillors at North Somerset Council have been given just 24hrs notice that an application to demolish the Tropicana is to be decided at tonight’s South Area Planning committee. Campaigners, The Trop (WSM) only found out last night, after it was too late to register to speak against the application, that Councillors will vote on whether to allow the demolition to go ahead.

Only some Committee members were sent a report yesterday afternoon that the ‘urgent’ item is now listed for a decision to allow the Tropicana to be demolished without prior approval being required from them. A decision that is ‘most questionable’ says Derek Mead, spokesperson for The Trop (WsM). “You have to ask how they could spring this on the committee so quickly when they still have not registered our application to save the building after 9 days.”

Following the consent to demolish given by the Secretary of State in August the campaign successfully halted any demolition until an appeal into the Secretary of State’s decision can be heard by the Courts. However, North Somerset Council submitted an application on the 8th of October for prior notification, hoping to avoid the need for the usual prior approval necessary for a scheme of this size and importance.

North Somerset Council Planners say that enough information has already been supplied so a full application is not required.

Planning Consultant for the campaign group, Amanda Sutherland, said “The evidence submitted with the application is contradictory and should be examined fully by Councillors rather than simply accepted. At present, the Conservation Area Consent is held in abeyance pending a High Court judgement so this application is premature and further wastes public money when nothing can be done until the decision of the Court is made.”

The report submitted for tonight’s decision states that the South Area Committee has previously approved demolition twice, but this is misleading and wrong as the committee were advised they had no power to do so by the legal officer at the meetings, the only decision to demolish being made by the Executive on the 13 December.

This approach excludes the Weston Community; the public are allowed to comment if prior approval is required but if the committee allow the matter to be determined tonight it would not only be contrary to usual practice but would exclude the public from comment. Even some Councillors who sit on the committee were not informed of the paper or cannot attend with this short notice.

The Trop (WsM) Ltd submitted an outline application proposal to reconstruct the pool and provide a quality Olympic size swimming pool along with leisure and entertainment facilities on 9th October allowing the Council, statutory consultees and the public to see they have a viable alternative to knocking the building down. As yet the council have yet to register the application or even acknowledge receipt, despite it being just one day after the council’s own application was submitted and that is now in front of the committee.

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