Work begins in face of protests by campaigning hotel owners

WORK has begun on the final stage of a controversial outdoor entertainment space in Bridlington, in spite of a continuing row over the tree planting element of the scheme.

Hoteliers in Pembroke Terrace have campaigned against plans to plant trees in front of their properties for nearly two years. They are concerned the trees will block sea views.

Initially, 80 trees were to be planted, but the number was cut to 43 following complaints.

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A 550-name petition was then presented to East Riding Council in October last year, asking the authority to reconsider the plans, and new proposals featuring 33 trees were unveiled in January.

Some opponents of the project are still calling for the tree planting part of the project to be scrapped.

This week contractors started taking up gravel prior to laying Yorkstone paving and beginning the tree planting.

A complaint against the council made by hotelier David Renaut-Evans, who said the authority had failed to take the objections into account, has been considered by the Local Government Ombudsman.

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The ombudsman has drafted a provisional view of the case in which she says she does not believe there has been "significant injustice".

However, the ombudsman found that members of the council's Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been "wrongly advised" that a decision on the design of the gardens had been approved by the Cabinet.

In fact, the final decision on the design was made jointly by Alan Menzies, the council's director of planning and economic development, and John Lister, the head of Bridlington Renaissance, following a public consultation in January.

The report said: "The council has confirmed that the Cabinet did not view plans of the gardens or objections to those plans and merely approved the award of the contract to the recommended contractor."

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Mr Renaut-Evans, who runs Blantyre Guesthouse in Pembroke Terrace, criticised the council for pressing ahead with the scheme.

He said: "In this new 'Big Society' the population can elect councillors, but councillors don't have any say.

"The officers make decisions which no-one can have an input in, and that's what really rankles people round here."

He added: "There are properties which have 180-degree sea views and they are not going to get them from the ground floor because they will be looking at a tree."

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A consultation exercise ordered by the scrutiny committee in January found that only 35 per cent of the 190 people who attended the event at the Spa supported the tree planting.

The council concluded that "people who dislike a specific element have a propensity to attend all sessions".

The authority compared this with an earlier mystery shopper exercise it had undertaken, which found that only 12.5 per cent of the people interviewed were against the tree planting.

But Mr Renaut-Evans said the council had failed to follow its own procedures. He said: "The survey they carried out was supposed to go back to the scrutiny committee, but nearly a year after they still haven't see the findings."

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The mophead maples, which have a dense, closed crown, are being dug in as part of the final phase of the 6.7m Spa Environs redevelopment scheme, which is being jointly funded by East Riding Council, Yorkshire Forward, and central Government through the Sea Change programme.

Nigel Atkinson, project manager for Bridlington Renaissance, said: "Work has now commenced on the final phase of the project which will see completion of the Pembroke Gardens area of the scheme with the implementation of tree planting and Yorkstone paving, which will help to define the transformation of this area into a modern and attractive place to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors.

"We acknowledge that there has been some local opposition to the proposed trees and their perceived impact on sea views, but we hope that once they are in position there will be a realisation that the overall scheme and the gardens are enhanced by their presence and that sea views are maintained.

"The trees are greatly reduced in number from the early designs and are sited to permit views between, around, and over from within the gardens and the adjoining property on Pembroke Terrace."

Work is due to end next month.

Closing stages of 52m spending

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The Spa Environs scheme is the last work to be completed from almost 52m that has been invested in Bridlington since 2002.

The biggest single cost was the 20m redevelopment of Bridlington Spa, which has seen it become one of the premier entertainment and concert venues on the East Coast.

Additional redevelopment projects to come from other funding sources include an overhaul of schools, the town magistrates' court, police station and East Riding College.

A proposed action plan for the town centre, which could shape its development over the next 15 years, will be on show at the Spa from 2pm to 6pm on Monday, and from 2pm to 7pm on Tuesday.