Council under attack over theatre

First published in News by

THE familiar sound of boos and hisses filled Weymouth Pavilion theatre... but it was councillors not pantomime actors on the stage for this performance.

A near-capacity crowd cheered and applauded people among them who spoke out against the planned redevelopment of Weymouth's Pavilion site.

But jeers and heckles greeted councillors and others at the meeting who spoke in favour of it.

Mayor Coun Howard Legg opened the meeting by officially extending the council's statutory half-hour public participation section to allow more time for attendees to air their views.

Jo Barrow, who has been running Weymouth's Borderline Scuffers dance group with her husband Paul for the last ten years and uses the Ocean Room regularly, asked why councillors were ignoring thousands of objections from residents.

She said: "Around 1,000 people took part in the march against these plans when they were announced, and 3,000 people have sent in letters speaking out against the downgrading in size of the Ocean Room.

"Some 1,500 letters objecting to the scheme were collected in just three days in the town centre. Another 250 people were unable to attend the scheduled meeting at the Guildhall and 300 people I think attended a meeting here last Thursday."

Sue Siddell, of Milton Terrace, said: "What space is there left now for people to dance in?

"Please tell us where in Weymouth people can go to hold their charity balls and events which draw in large use and are central to all?"

Robert Veale, of Belle Vue Road, was applauded when he said: "I am just wondering why I am standing here, actually.

"I have been listening to my radio for most of the day and some people still seem to think that there is a silent majority out there that are in favour of this scheme."

He added: "Could I just say to the councillors at this time that the silent majority is here now, objecting to it, and they have had to object to it because nobody has been listening to them.

"That is the problem."

Marion Pullen, of Whitecross Drive, said: "I have heard that there may be serious concerns over the financial position of Howard Holdings."

She went on to ask if the council would be liable for any financial risks if the development were to fall through.

Graham Dale, of Enkworth Road, Preston, described the Pavillion area as the jewel in the town's crown and asked councillors to reconsider plans to redevelop the site.

Heather McLaughlin described the proposed development as a carbuncle'.

She said: "You councillors are elected to act on our behalf and you are not listening to us."

She said people were not against the proposed development in theory but that many people have problems with the details of the plan. She added: "If you wish to build flats so Howard Holdings gets a very nice prime site where they can build on, then there is a lovely space occupied by the council offices just next to the harbour."

She also suggested the car park at Melcombe Regis might make an equally good site for a new housing development.

She added: "This would be a far more suitable location for residential accommodation."

Gordon Standish, who spoke in favour of the plans, was jeered as he talked about the expertise of the people who planned and developed the scheme in its current form.

Coun Legg asked the audience to let him be heard after one member of the audience told him to sit down.

Mr Standish described himself as being part of a silent majority' who are in favour of the scheme.

Derek Julian turned his back to the councillors on the stage before he addressed the crowd. He told the crowd he had lived in Weymouth throughout the Blitz and said: "I am not sure who has done more damage to this town - the council or the Nazis."

Iain Campbell asked where everybody who came to the new development site would be expected to park.

He said: "I have heard that there are only going to be 400 car parking spaces.

"I am a little concerned at this, because there are going to be 345 flats."

Resident Peter Hawkins asked how secure the development's future would be if Howard Holdings decided to pull out at any stage.

He asked: "Will there be any delays if Howard Holdings pulls out?

"They might say bye bye' and where are we going to be then?"

He added: "I really do think we should be looking forward to the Olympics.

"If there were no Olympics on its way would we be able to take longer over the decision?"

Charmaine Andrews asked: "Has the council gone crazy?

"It's ridiculous.

"You're not thinking about future generations, you're only thinking about Howard Holdings' pockets."

She added that any new employment the development brings will probably only be related to the hotel.

Roy Mounting asked how the development would benefit the town's tourism economy.

He said: "I feel that the area should, in a sustainable and recreational way, be developed with the young families in mind because they are the people who can bring the much-needed revenue into the town."

He added that a four-star, six-storey hotel with a room cost of £80 per night would not attract younger and less wealthy visitors.

Another resident, Frank Peach, said: "I think that we have all been bemused by the apparently futile attempts of our council to try to keep hold of the purse strings and the reins of this scheme."

He went on to ask councillors at what stage they had retreated from the Local Plan by adding accommodation to the proposed development.

He also said it had seemed like the council had bent over backwards to accommodate Howard Holdings.

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