Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Council give red card to stadium plans
WEYMOUTH FC was soundly beaten when plans for a new stadium home at Lodmoor were given a red card by the council’s planning committee.
They and Wessex Delivery had argued that the new stadium would “sit comfortably” in its surroundings, but some councillors felt there was no need for a new one when a perfectly good stadium already exists at Southill.
And residents living near Lodmoor were singularly unimpressed with the prospect of having a large new football ground suddenly mushroom close to their homes.
There was also derisive laughter when Wessex suggested stadium lighting would be no more intrusive than existing street lighting.
There was certainly a wealth of conflicting views on the future stadium including those of the club itself which felt Lodmoor was the way to put Weymouth FC on a sound footing… despite opposing a stadium at Lodmoor last year!
When I arrived in Weymouth several decades ago the Terras played their football in the heart of the town centre at a battered stadium near the bottom of Boot Hill.
That land is now the site of the Asda supermarket which moved in and levelled the place for its new store as Weymouth FC moved out into a rose-tinted sunset and headed off to a new life at the Wessex Stadium off Radipole Lane.
Even the most ardent of Weymouth FC supporters will be forced to agree that since then the club has had the odd internal dispute or three which brings us to present times and the current proposal to relocate the stadium again, this time to land near Lodmoor tip.
I don’t carry a torch for the club but I talk to people who do and they make one very telling point: a Weymouth FC in the heart of the town centre knew its market and knew its fan base.
So moving to the Wessex, now known as the Bob Lucas Stadium, gave the club a new stadium but forced every fan in the densely populated centre of town to make a pilgrimage some distance out to Southill to watch matches.
That hit potential crowd gates, something supporters said would be even worse if the club moved to Lodmoor and played its football at a ground surrounded by Lodmoor Country Park, Lodmoor tip and Lodmoor Nature Reserve.
They point out there would be no big nearby fan base which could walk a few yards to matches nor would it be like the Bob Lucas Stadium with the Southill community on its doorstep and Westham within three-quarters of a mile to draw fans from.
Instead any new Lodmoor stadium would have relied on fans driving there since only Melcombe Regis is relatively nearby while parts of Radipole are more than a mile away and parts of Preston are more than two miles away.
A Weymouth FC at Lodmoor would have faced the same fan travel issue that it does at the Wessex or perhaps even worse.
Finally there are the views of the cynics that the whole scenario – which included proposals to build 170 homes on the Bob Lucas Stadium site - was just a classic example of people lining their pockets.
Nearly 100 people packed the planning meeting, opposition to the stadium was fierce and councillors ended up unanimously voting against it.
But this is Weymouth FC and I doubt very much whether we have heard the last of the “new stadium” saga.
WEYMOUTH Carnival went off gloriously, everyone had a great day and the Red Arrows spectacular high-in-the-sky display was perhaps the best they have ever done.
The town’s biggest day of the year brings tens of thousands of people in from a huge area, but things did not go smoothly for every visitor.
One non-local radio station, keen to air the atmosphere and key figures of the day, found itself left with egg on its face.
They lost no time getting down to work and swiftly set up an interview with the Weymouth carnival queen.
Fortunately radio cannot show embarrassment so station blushes were spared when it emerged they had just interviewed not the carnival queen… but a woman down for the event from Wolverhampton!
Condor sets sail from town
CONDOR has set sail from Weymouth, perhaps never to return.
The puppetmaster of the high seas has tried to pull Weymouth’s strings for years. But its relationship with the town reached an all-time low when the council carried out £4.4million worth of harbour wall repairs only for Condor to say Number 3 berth wasn’t good enough for its shiny “new” Austal 102 vessel.
For once Weymouth found some steel in its spine and said it wasn’t prepared to pay the £10million cost of adapting Berth 1 to meet Condor’s requirements.
Condor said it wasn’t going to pay and the Mexican stand-off was abruptly ended when Condor announced Austal would operate from Poole from Spring 2015 when it would also pull the plug on its Vitesse vessel’s Channel Islands service from Weymouth.
Condor recognised this would be “disappointing news” for the town but encouragingly said its “medium term” arrangement with Poole would give Weymouth time to establish its long term plans for the port. How gracious of them!
Perhaps now the town can concentrate on what it wants to do with the whole of that peninsula including whether it wants to talk to a totally different ferry operator.
As for Condor? Well, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the increased fuel cost bill for the longer Poole-Channel Islands run drops with a thud on their boardroom table.