No further action on Sandsfoot access but Greenhill Gardens still up for discussion (From Dorset Echo)
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No further action on Sandsfoot access but Greenhill Gardens still up for discussion
NO FURTHER action will be taken to restore access to Sandsfoot Beach, councillors have decided.
A special meeting was called tonight after a petition calling for access to be restored and another petition to protect Weymouth's Greenhill Gardens gained enough signatures to trigger a debate.
Cllr Ian Bruce stirred the audience when he described the Sandsfoot petition, which was submitted by Green Party member Clare Sutton, as a 'Green Party stunt'.
The footpath to the beach, also known as Castle Cove, was closed off last year following a landslip. The footbridge was also removed following safety concerns.
Ms Sutton believes proper access should be arranged so families can visit and enjoy the area again.
A report presented to councillors said an alternative route to the beach had been looked at but deemed unviable.
Speaking to councillors Ms Sutton asked the council to seek clarification from the County Council regarding the stability of the path.
Ms Sutton also produced a figure of £7000 to £8000 for the cost of an alternative set of steps.
She said: "Given the popularity of the beach I believe this would be representing excellent value for money and if necessary a fund could be established so people could contribute."
But Cllr John Birtwhistle proposed Weymouth and Portland Borough Council look no further in to the matter after saying: "The coast is unstable. I choose to believe the consultant engineers that we brought in to look at it.
"I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and say, 'Please land stop moving' but I can't do it.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Sutton said: “I am incredibly disappointed. Given the huge public support for this, I honestly thought they would get all the interested parties together to see if we can, together, find a cost-effective solution.
“I made a number of what I think were very reasonable suggestions but councillors did not respond directly to any of them.
“It would cost them virtually nothing to look again at the stability of the top half of the path, the plan put to the Council for a much cheaper new bridge, and possible use of the existing slipway.
“Not a single one of our local councillors in Weymouth East or Weymouth West was even willing to say, let’s look into these suggestions.
“More than anything, I completely fail to understand how they could show such disdain for the 1850 people who signed the petition. They had all clearly decided what they were going to do before I spoke and all, bar one, put party politics above the public interest.
“I’m not sure what to do next, but in the meantime, please write to your councillor.”
Meanwhile, councillors have referred the issue of keeping Greenhill Gardens in public stewardship to Management Committee.
The Greenhill petition was launched by resident Geraldine Owen.
The council is looking to sell the lease for the chalets and associated facilities to save money and has recently completed a public consultation on the move.
The site has received interest from two community groups whilst inquiries have also been made from private investors.
Geraldine Owen said the gardens were a valuable community resource which could be lost forever if the council isn't careful.
She added: "If the public stewardship goes ahead to restore the chalets there are people here with very clever ideas of generating money. The facilities there will be remain as they are."
Cllr Peter Chapman said the burden needed to be removed from the public.
He said: "The £800,000 to £900,000 to repair the chalets is a big ask."
But he made clear the council had no hidden agenda.
He added: "There is no intention among the 36 councillors or any of the officers for this space to be anything different than what it already is."
Cllr Ian Bruce echoed Cllr Chapman's comments, maintaining the gardens were safe. He added: "Please assume that we are completely open-minded about this and we will get through the consultation period."
The outcome of the public consultation will be made available in a report to the Management Committee on July 1, and will be discussed alongside Ms Owen's petition.
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