THE old Weymouth andPortland Council, worked hard for the last few years to try to revitalise the town centre.

Some people thought the schemes we brought weren’t perfect but sites had lain idle, all over town, for many years when they should have been brought back into use.

One of the less controversial ones, although it did have its critics, was the redevelopment of the old 1970s council building on North Quay. Weymouth and Portland brought forward a scheme to knock down this building which is at the end of its useful life, not environmentally friendly, unattractive with asbestos problems and build a new scheme.

The new use improved the waterfront view, included some retail space and, perhaps most important for the town, built 111 dwellings, including some affordable housing. The site is difficult, the wall at the back needs engineering work to improve further the good work to stabilise the large wall done about six years ago. To make the scheme financially viable a grant of over £2m was obtained from Homes England, a government body who amongst other things, help build homes on difficult sites.

The new Dorset Council took up the plans. One of the conditions before Homes England will give us the money, is that we knock down the old building so they know the homes can be built. With that in mind Dorset Council proposed to the planning committee that the building be demolished. As well as being essential to get Homes England’s money, knocking it down has other advantages.

The building costs Dorset Council about £10,000 a month to maintain. When demolished the plan was to set up temporary parking until building could start so the site would change from costing the council money to making the council money. The savings could then be spent on children in care or people with dementia or any one of the many other services that always could use more money.

The planning committee rejected the proposal, most significantly every Lib Dem and Green on the committee voted against the plan. The argument was that it is of environmental benefit to reuse existing buildings. It is, of course, possible to build homes in the current building. They would be badly configured because you are trying to fit homes into office space, there would’t be many of them, the new plan gets as many homes as possible into the site and they would be expensive. Converting a building containing asbestos is a health and cost nightmare. The more likely use for the building, if retained, is a hotel. My own view is that we need homes for the people of Weymouth not just another hotel. And finally I would be very surprised if, over the life of the new buildings, a new energy efficient scheme was not better environmentally than trying to upgrade an old badly designed eyesore of a building.

If stopping this site in its tracks wasn’t bad enough there are more implications to this decision. We recently turned down a grant for £600k for a drug rehabilitation centre in Weymouth because we couldn’t agree a location.

We almost rejected the grant from central government for the lights on the Esplanade, we have now effectively turned down a grant from Homes England.

Time after time central government spends money and effort working with us to plan how to make Weymouth a better place. When it comes down to us to do our part we say ‘no thank you’ and give the money back. There are plenty of other towns who would bite the government’s hand off for the grants we are offered and reject.

Why would the Government bother to spend their effort working with us? And we need to spend £20m or more on the harbour walls over the next 10-20 years, money we don’t have, so must largely come from central government.

If we make investing in Weymouth difficult for government we do so at our peril.

Dorset Council will now look at what can be done from here. Your political representatives need to be clear what you want for your town, a better future or stuck in an unchanging past.

Let them know.

CLLR LOUIE O’LEARY Brisbane Road, Littlemoor, Weymouth