The Tropicana saga has more suspense than a Hitchcock movie. As the Trop’s survival hangs by a thread, Westonians are holding their breath. And the – rather unlikely – heroic duo who are riding to its rescue are local developer Derek Mead and Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles. But there’s no automatic guarantee of a Hollywood happy ending, of course. This is the real world, so there are some pretty serious hurdles which will have to be overcome before the Trop can be saved from demolition.
The first, and probably easiest to deal with, is whether Westonians will support Derek Mead’s plans. Thousands of people have already signed petitions about it, and now Derek tells me he’s planning an exhibition in the next few days to show everybody the drawings and details of his plans. Whether you’re in favour or against the proposals, I’d encourage everybody to have a look: we all need to be as well-informed about this decision as possible.
But that’s not the biggest issue: oh no. The toughest problem is whether Derek can turn his draft plans into a watertight business case in time to persuade Eric Pickles to reconsider the demolition order. And that’s a pretty tall order because no Government Minister – even a Cabinet Minister like Eric – can decide that kind of thing on a whim. They need a solid and compelling alternative for this kind of decision, otherwise there’d be all kinds of chaos. And given that the last three or four schemes for the Trop have all fallen through, you can see why they need to be careful.
So Derek has to provide solid evidence of a realistic scheme that’s backed by cold, hard cash. Not just a few architects’ drawings, but a great deal more as well. And the clock is ticking, because Eric has to take a decision within 28 days from when the file lands on his desk otherwise the Council’s decision is automatically approved. And the file arrived last week.
So the pressure’s on but, fortunately, Derek understands what he’s got to do. He and I have spoken about it quite a bit, as you’d expect, and he’s off to a good start with a presentation to the Town Council last week too. But unless he can get those fully-developed plans ready in time, I won’t have a strong enough case to convince Eric and his team when I see them before the 28 days are up.
Come on Derek. Weston awaits its hero!