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Protesters' call to save open space in Weymouth
CAMPAIGNERS are calling for green space in Weymouth to be saved as council chiefs press on with moves to sell off the town’s ‘jewel of the seafront’.
The process of selling off chalets and other leisure facilities around Greenhill Gardens looks set to be delayed after intervention from councillors is prompting the authority to consult with the community before it proceeds.
Despite this delay, campaigners believe the council has already made up its mind and will proceed to market the area regardless of local feeling.
It is feared a new owner will hike up chalet rents, making it unaffordable for local families, but there are also concerns about the wider implications a sale will have on the public gardens and surrounding area.
Chairman of the Chalet Users Community Group Sue Bray said the fight wasn’t about chalets but the future of Greenhill under ‘privatisation’ and the potential loss of open space.
She said the sale would effectively put most of Greenhill in private ownership and there are fears that a new owner, who would want to get their money back after investing in the site, could block access and put forward new development proposals.
“We’re talking about open space being lost forever,” she said.
Not all of Greenhill Gardens would be affected but campaigners believe development in the area is inevitable. Chairman of the Friends of Greenhill Gardens Barbara Dubben said: “Our concern is development. If the council can’t make the chalets pay then how do they expect someone to come in and pay a huge amount of money and recoup it all? They will have to look at development somewhere along the line.”
She said the council was laying down conditions as to what could be done in the gardens but it was worded as such that ‘everything was left wide open’.
The council agreed in November to begin the process of selling the Greenhill Gardens chalets, Esplanade chalets, Greenhill Play Gardens and chalets, as well as Pebbles cafe, tennis courts, putting green and public toilets.
That decision was later ‘called in’ by a councillor who claimed procedures hadn’t been followed when advertising the disposal.
It came before a scrutiny committee last month which decided there should be consultation before moving forward.
That is the course of action being recommended to the management committee on January 7.
Head of estates, Greg Northcote, advises a period of consultation before officers undertake marketing of the lease during the summer months with a view to it being sold by October 2014. The original sale date was April.
Mr Northcote says external legal advice confirmed the council’s approach on advertising the disposal was correct.
Mrs Bray said the decision to consult was ‘positive’ but the report gives the impression that the views of the public will be ignored. She is urging the committee to engage with stakeholders when consulting and consider any alternative proposals.
THE council says the sale of chalets and associated facilities at Greenhill will enhance the area and bring back into use closed up chalets due to obligations placed on the new owner to ensure improvements are made.
It is proposed to offer the properties for sale by formal tender on a single lease of up to 125 years.
The move to private ownership would save the council significant funds.
A report says the property is ‘underperforming’ and that ‘insufficient revenues’ mean maintenance issues cannot be tackled.
The chaletschalets produced a gross income of £85,192 in 2013/2014 but the council’s annual bill for various costs, including maintenance, is more than £90,000.
On top of this, future capital repairs mainly affecting the listed building of two-storey chaletschalets are estimated at £885,000.
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