The regeneration of Weymouth’s seafront (News Analysis, DW 18 June) has been dealt a vicious blow by the South West Regional Development Agency reneging on funding agreed in principle to the tune of £6.6m – but all is not lost if the private sector is allowed to come to the rescue.
Local traders working under the informal umbrella of The Weymouth Beach Group are trying to put forward their own scheme worth about £2m. If Weymouth Council can help to drive the scheme forward, then that level of investment can serve as match funding to lever further grant funding. And, most importantly,
Weymouth can deliver a home-grown and privately funded scheme that the town can claim ownership of.
The Weymouth Beach Group runs cafés, tea huts, merry-go-rounds, donkey rides, floats and boats, sand sculptures and one of the few remaining authentic Punch and Judy shows. They are gutsy traders, many of whom have been in business on Weymouth beach for more than 40 years. Year after year they take the risks, pay their rents, provide employment and add to the local colour.
At this critical time when Weymouth has been dealt an almost mortal blow and its confidence is at a very low ebb, they have come forward with a truly great scheme.The Weymouth Beach Group scheme would build three new restaurants at strategic points along the promenade, plus other facilities still at the design stage.
Quick, inspirational action may not be the strong suit of the public sector, but hopefully Weymouth Council can give the group the positive signals they are seeking and allow them to develop this very worthwhile scheme. Their success will help to rejuvenate the seafront and leverage further funding from grants, and it won’t cost the taxpayer a penny. That’s a change.
Roger Allen, Weymouth Borough councillor, chairman of Weymouth Harbour Board and managing director, Zeta, Poole, Dorset BH15 1NX