Saturday, 12 January 2008

It has to be Tesco - Vulcan Road and Aquasplash set to be sold

THE fate of the Vulcan Road car park site in Minehead looks set to be decided by West Somerset Council’s urgent need to resolve its dire financial crisis.
And The Post can reveal that the council appears ready to sell not just its Vulcan Road land but also its adjoining Aquasplash site, in a single giant deal worth up to £11 million.
The buyer is said to be Britain’s largest supermarket firm, Tesco.
Despite a supposedly ongoing public consultation by the council on the future of the land, the Independent-led council looks to have reached a deal behind closed doors.
The move would be a massive slap in the face to the public who voted out the last Conservative administration after a prolonged campaign by pressure group Direct against the council doing such a deal with Tesco’s main rival ASDA.
The ruling Independent group of councillors finally abandoned the previous scheme last November and ordered a new round of consultation with the public before making up their minds on what to do.
But five weeks after the consultation was carried out, councillors have not been given any results.
Council Media and PR officer Stacey Beaumont could not give any timescale for producing a report on the consultation findings.
She said it would happen ‘in due course’.
However, she denied that any decision ‘has been taken or will be taken’ before councillors considered the report.
The move would help to explain why the council’s cabinet has been so reluctant to try to repair and re-open the Aquasplash leisure pool, and why staff in Tesco’s Minehead store have been told the firm is buying it.
While councillors are thought to have started the recent consultation from a position of genuinely wanting to find out what the public had to say, their wishes look to have been overtaken by events.
The Post understands that council leader Councillor Keith Ross is under increasing pressure to bridge a £1 million funding gap after budget overspending by his administration in the past nine months.
In a bid to keep a lid on the escalating crisis, some councillors are even said to have been barred from receiving financial figures.
Nobody was available from Tesco’s press office to comment as The Post went to press.

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