St. Michaels Trading Estate: A Matter of Convenience or A Vintage Scam

Introduction

Early this year a Planning Application was made to West Dorset District Council by the long-term owners of St. Michaels Trading Estate in Bridport. Along with many other sitting tenants on the Estate I was pretty non-plussed about it, after all, like all of the other tenants, I knew of the Landlords’ plans the day I agreed and accepted their offer of premises. I’ve always been pretty attached to this run-down place with, up until recently, its incredible mix of users. I had followed and been part of its history and, as Director of a charitable project with more paying business members than any other organisation in the town, had a good take on the wider views of the local community. So, like many others, I just got on with living, doing and being.

We all expected a few disgruntled moans about higher rents and the usual “whataboutme’s” but the glossy peddling of a misinformed opposition to the plans through the lazy pages of the local press really pushed the boundaries of both truth and integrity. Led by a tiny cabal of what appeared to be predominantly recent new-comers to the town and the usual self-trumpeters, their ‘campaign’ involved establishing a collection of blatant untruths as, in fact, Facts. As someone who knew all of the parties involved, and the importance of this to the wider, long-term well-being of the whole town, well… my goat was got and my cage well rattled.

This pamphlet is an edited and updated copy first written in February. I emailed it to few friends in the town and have since lost count of the number of people who have shook my hand or messaged thanks. People tell me they have been forwarded it by different people and the most surprising of folk seem to have already read it, so maybe this Interweb thing works after all!…. But I’ve been urged to publish this on paper from the outset so thanks to contributions from businesses and traders on St. Michaels Trading Estate. I’m not arrogant enough to presume that I know more than the experts on planning, but this is just my informed, experienced and researched understanding of the issues and history around the present Planning proposal, whose agreement, or not, will have major consequences for future generations of this town.

Contents

P. 3 – Mmmm – I Smell Nostalgia

P. 4 – Let Bridport Entertain You

P. 5 – Mmmm – I Smell Manure

P. 5 – Con 1: STOP THE DEMOLITION OF ST. MIKES!

P. 5 – Con 2: The Landlord is well out of order!

P. 5 – Con 3: We Can Run St. Mikes! 

P. 6 – Con 4: You Can’t Build Houses in the Middle of Town!

P. 7 – Con 5: The Art & Vintage Quarter is our Local Heritage!

P. 7 – Con 6: Hundreds Of Jobs Will Be Killed!

P. 8 – Con 7: Save The Environment – Stop The Development!

P. 8 – Con 8: We’re all In This Together!

P. 8 – A Parish Council Responsibility?

P. 9 – Q: WHO OWNS ST. MICHAELS TRADING ESTATE?

P. 9 – Q: WHO THINKS THEY OWN ST. MICHAELS TRADING ESTATE?

P.10 – Q: WHO WANTS TO OWN ST. MICHAELS TRADING ESTATE?

P.11 – Cheap Rents, Free Parking & Self-Interest Rates

P.12 – The Ministry of Silly Ideas

All Rights Reserved. Published by Leon Edwards April 2012. Printed by Creeds of Broadoak.

Funded by donations from Businesses and Individuals working on St. Michaels Trading Estate.

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Mmmm… I Smell Nostalgia

Maybe it is just me, but does anyone else occasionally miss the short-term indoor market in the old Co-op on South Street? You know – where the private retirement homes stand on the corner of Folly Mill Lane.. opposite Gundry Lane… that hill that takes you down to the centre of the universe on St. Michaels Farty Windage Quarter. Still can’t picture it councillor?? Because this was over 10 years ago – what some might call ‘positively vintage times’ – and as such its short history in the changing, and occasionally evolving, face of Bridport might offer some guidance to some of those opposing St. Michaels development. I believe it also serves us all a lesson about local economics, the fluidity of nice things, and how the core spirit of Bridport (nothing to do with some self-serving egos trying to enhance their standing with a bit of controlled packaging) is about flexibility and adaption and CHANGE.

When the Co-op left it in the late 90’s it was discovered that the building was structurally unsound and so various developers looked at ways of knocking it down and making lots of luvverly money. For the next few years, awaiting its destiny, it filled a gap in use and while I can’t say my life is empty with it gone, it was a good place for the town for a year or two. What it did was provide enterprising and creative people with cheap rents in order to seed an idea, start a business or indulge passions and ambitions. Cheap rents with no security but the opportunity to give it a go and maybe turn the dream into something more viable.

I remember it as quirky and strangely arranged, offering both cheap retail therapy with a social experience. Some 20 or so stalls/market-ish units (including a lot of second-hand stuff), an army surplus, some Jewellery-makers, a new-born Joe’s Cafe, and a fledgling RKL Tools (amongst others) you could wander around nasally sampling every variety of joss stick, then buying your favourite as an excuse to be intrigued by Zoot Alors ‘paraphernalia’. For many parents of small children and other time-passers and bimblers it provided a sanctuary, an opportunity for some people-watching, some friendships to grow and even a marriage I know of originated there.

Though they are separated now.

Ok, so maybe nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but it can help put things in perspective.

Sad though it was, when the buying, selling, planning, and handshakes were all done and we were told we were going to need more private retirement homes (how DID they know?), I don’t remember anyone doing any more than register their disappointment in a letter to the Bridport Bugle. But DID the local economy collapse? Did people stop coming to town because there was no longer such a choice of aromatherapy oils? Of course not. Most businesses and units that HAD become viable moved out into the many empty high street shops available at the time (Bridport was still recovering from Safeway/Morrisons arrival). Some succeeded for a while but a handful are still going strong.

No – Bridport has always been pretty hospitable to business initiative – it was us social bimblers and the lost souls that hurt most and felt deprived by the developers.

But only during the day.

 

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Let Bridport Entertain You

Evenings have never been a problem in Bridport and there have always been new scenes and happenings that come and go. Club Underground, Moniques, Vibe Tribe, Bentley’s infamous Comedy nights upstairs in The Bull, Flying Saucer Club, ‘Bad Acid’ playing at The Cavity and the Nettle Competition, ‘Return of The Native’ magazine and ‘Return To the Native’ festivals to name some that have come and gone in the last 15 years. There were undoubtedly loads more in the period when I was off discovering the ways of the world, and before that when teenage years were more concerned with music, motorbikes and beach parties. Once, only Bridport Arts Centre brilliantly provided for all broader interests as well being the ‘Village Hall’ for community events, but we now also have a variety of venues including The Electric Palace which commendably caters for all strains of popular culture. You have always been able to see free live music on most nights of the week somewhere in town and, as always, there are presently half a dozen really good bands here (we lead the country in cider-fuelled ska-punk) and some great pubs for them to play in. We throw some good parties and events in Bridport. A lot of people look after the many needs of our community and, probably, every inhabitant who thinks they belong to some sort of group is able to feel they are not alone in Bridport. There are probably dozens of ‘scenes’ our collective neighbours are part of that we have no inkling about.

We’ve got sports leagues, youth groups, support groups and networks. There are christian communities and criminal communities, a gay scene, a Bridge scene, a knitting scene and a swinging scene, and they may even overlap into a surreal scene. We have diverse charitable organisations run by hundreds of pro-active volunteers. Every religious group seems to have its own place of worship and every type of drug user has a place to get their fix. And we’ve got high youth unemployment and a lot of low-paid, seasonal jobs, with one of the lowest average wages in the country. And a coastal-town drinking culture, a disproportionate level of alcohol and drug dependency and a consequentially high number of our population using our stretched mental health services. We have more supermarkets than a town which proclaims itself a ‘Historic Market Town’ should have the shame to allow, while our social housing is devoured by a huge waiting list because, sometimes, having another child is not just the only way of increasing your income but also of getting adequate housing.

But Bridports house prices keep going up and about once a week someone I’ve never met before tells me, Newton-like, how GREAT Bridport is.

And I can’t disagree. And I really don’t want to dent their child-with-a-new-toy joy.

So I don’t tell them about the old Co-Op Indoor Market.  

I suppose where I’ve wandered off to is that, yeah Bridport IS great, but only because it is flexible and adaptable; embraces almost everything and tends to both go with the flow and still be diverse and interesting. Things and People come and go and tribes spread out and share this lovely bit of rock with other socio-cultural-economically different people and we are all catered for.

Hopefully….

Until, of course, one tribe/scene/club/group or whatever starts putting up flags, drawing imaginary boundaries in the dirt, and making comparisons with other towns by claiming we are ‘the new St. Ives’ or ‘the Camden of the West’ (we’re ‘the Bridport of Dorset’, surely?). Or starts over-imagining their importance in a place that a lot of staggeringly different folk call home and who collectively care for, share and steward.

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St. Michaels Trading Estate & The Vintage Scam

Which brings me to the real reason for sticking my head above the parapet: St. Michaels Trading Estate and the Great Con-Venience that is behind those organising opposition to the current application.

Firstly, for those that don’t know me I had better qualify my viewpoint. I am a Director and founder of environmental charity Bridport TLC which has happily rented property at the heart of St. Michaels Trading Estate for 8 years. We operate solely on Membership fees from over 200 business and community organisations and donations for materials from our Scrapstore. We cost the council tax payer nothing but save them £20,000+ per annum in less Landfill Tax while cutting waste disposal costs to small local businesses, saving them tens of thousands. Run entirely by volunteers from all walks of life and social ability we have no vested business interest in St. Michaels other than being able to operate there within our budget and for which, so far, we are lucky to have an accommodating, affordable landlord to thank. We opposed the last Application and our Trustees have taken a neutral position on this application. These are my opinions and observations and not necessarily those of all members of Bridport TLC.

Mmmm…. I Smell Manure

Con 1: STOP THE DEMOLITION OF ST. MIKES!

If this melodramatic poster headline moved anyone to object to the application then you’ve been had. The implication is that the whole place is going to be bull-dozed, tarmac-ed and covered in Wimpy homes when the reality is that an assortment of tatty tin shacks, some asbestos-roofed, leaky, drafty sheds and a crumbling, dangerous Stover building really need to come down – no matter how cheap the rent. With income from house building the landlords propose to provide purpose-built units for most of the long-term tenants as well as additional enterprise units. Interestingly, the small, unrepresentative cabal that are currently playing that they own the estate (should they con you all out of £12million+ AND persuade the owners to sell it) have a draft proposal that would also knock down a fair few of these same buildings but, not surprisingly, the Top Gear building (sorry, but it’ll always be Top Gear to me), leave the Trick Factory in a condemned building and build, yes ‘build’, an entire college! This same plan includes shifting long-term tenants around like jigsaw pieces, ‘moving’ service industries off site (to where??) and ‘disappearing’ others completely! Needless to say none of the non-artisans on the estate were consulted or asked about how they felt about this. (See Back Page).

Con 2: The Landlord is well out of order! What, for owning a large chunk of land and wanting to realise some of their well-known long-time ambitions? Haywards could have sold the entire place many times but didn’t, instead they continued to provide any of us idiots with a place to play with a new idea. I challenge any current tenant to deny that they have ever been treated anything but fairly by them. What appears to me to be out of order is when a bunch of people, ignorant to both the landlord and the development history, knee-jerk a selfish response to news that the ‘Vintage Market’ is stopping. Sure it was an enjoyable bimble for some once a month, and you can drift back to the days before you had kids before gasping at the price tag, but put yourself in the landlords shoes. They agreed to it happening on their land rent-free, not knowing that the organisers were charging a £20 fee on 30 plus marked-out pitches (£600? to cover blackboard paint and chalks?). Not surprisingly, when the organisers also hosted a petition against the Landlords at these markets, the latter withdrew their good-will. Well… no-one likes being called a mug, even if it’s because you were just being nice. 

Con 3: We Can Run St. Mikes! Really? The only credited author, and funder, of the white elephant of this alternative proposal is also the owner of Top Gear building. Well not the building, but director of the Holdings

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Company that started renting it from Haywards just eight months ago, on an agreed short-term/cheap-rent basis but who sub-lets the space to over 30 traders. He’s the chap who has been emailing Chris Evans and other ‘celebs’ with tenuous links to Bridport, to help ‘STOP THE DEMOLITION OF ST. MIKES!’ If he was honest he would say “Hey, Chris. You know you roughly passed by here once, well I’ve got a nice little earner amongst these wurzels which is under threat so please interfere in this so I can continue to rent out this environmentally hazardous shed for a bit longer because, even though I vote and pay my Council Tax in Bedfordshire, I’m Director of ‘Enterprise St. Michaels’ and I Know What’s Best For Bridport”.

He’s not alone in carving up St. Michaels with Monopoly money, and the other members are pretty obvious: a few insecure artists (well, they must be if they need to be surrounded by other artists in order to paint Colmers Hill) and a couple of councillors who’ll appear at the opening of a chocolate waggon wheel, or jump on a wheeled waggon, if it gives them a chance to remind us how important their views are in the local press. Actually the insecure artists do that as well, so you probably have a good idea who is involved and maybe if you ask the right questions about motivation and self-interests you might understand why there is a simmering frustration, from those of more than two years tenancy, towards this cabals plans to hold up the application with their own instant, unfeasible and un-solicited solution. Particularly when compared to the owners proposal, which is the result of years of applications, consultations and compromise. Neighbours of mine can’t wait to have purpose built, warm, dry premises, after 25 and 30 years on the estate respectively and though many of us objected to the last application it really only lost on major logistical flaws regarding the District Councils’ bus station element. May I stress that ‘shares’ in this unachievable ambition are being sold on the pretence that every tenant supports it (most don’t) and the fact that the landlord has publicly stated that it is NOT for sale!

We can ALL see (well… if you actually LOOK at the current plans) that this new application not only incorporates a new Trick Factory, keeps all of the Artists and Crafts folk in the Edwards building and keeps the new venture Red Brick Cafe, but it also provides new units for individual traders currently sub-letting from the indoor market, only if they are viable of course. Sadly, it doesn’t include provision for my workplace, but then that’s hardly surprising considering it bends over backwards to meet the desired Camden-isation of those intent on re-naming the estate. Otherwise, for those topping up their pension by clearing out attics or indulging in a passion for antiques, there is always our excellent twice-weekly market. It seems to me that most people who actually ‘work’ on the Estate share that understanding. As well as the opinion that this is probably the last chance for any broadly beneficial development. There is also the fear that, if it fails, then the owner (completely frustrated, understandably baffled and even more out of pocket) will finally sell what is prime real estate to the highest bidder.

And that won’t be The Town Council.

Con 4: You Can’t Build Houses in the Middle of Town!

You’re ‘avin’ a larf – arn’tcha? What have those silly planners been doing all this time? Go to our excellent Town Museum and you’ll see how and why the place has grown around mixing work and living. All our long narrow gardens are nothing to do with spear-throwing practice or lazy dog walking, but rather so you could do your rope-making at home which, contrary to popular belief, formed the basis for Bridports up and down economy through the ages, and NOT whether enough stupid rich people from the home counties brought a painting or two.

And the argument that you can’t mix housing with shops/studios/workshops is ridiculous when you look around the town: Lilliputs, back of Carpetworld, all around St. Michaels Lane, St. Andrews, Dreadnought and North

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Mills Industrial Estates… So fess up folks. Admit that this is a shallow argument and what you are really more worried about is potential loss of free parking.

There are massive changes from the last application but to pay for giving the whole place a good spank up the landlords need the finance gained from building houses. No one really likes this thought but many of those making the most ‘no-houses-here’ noise are relative new-comers to the place who fail to appreciate that for every one of them moving into the area there leaves one-less home for people born or raised here. The old town plans always wanted the area to be of mixed and integrated use and the number of dwellings has been reduced from 147 to 105 which is a huge cut and, to me at least, demonstrates genuine compromise, with 35 being built in partnership with a Dorset housing association as social housing for local families. I’m not sure about anyone else, but what MORE can people genuinely expect the owner to concede? Include a Public Swimming Pool? Or a Yoghurt-Weaving Centre??

No one really likes change either but everything changes – thank goodness! And if/when development eventually happens there will be opportunities and jobs for local tradesmen and young people (this towns’ sons in particular) for 3-5 years (which should also suit the Red Brick Cafe – unless Builders appetites have been falsely stereotyped). After that it will become whatever Bridport decides it becomes.

Incidentally, how many of those opposing local housing objected to all, if any, of the numerous new-builds that have sprung up (also in the middle of town) recently, and doesn’t common-sense and genuine environmental interest preferably put new buildings on existing ‘brown’ sites – or should we be building them on the greenfield flood plains of Vearse Farm??

Con 5: The Art & Vintage Quarter is our Local Heritage!

Don’t talk shite. Top Gear moved out at the beginning of 2010. In April/May 2010 some second hand market stalls moved in and later that year the Trading Estate suddenly found itself re-named! It’s now March 2012. A tiny minority of one person started declaring the new name whenever they could and a few second hand traders thought it might help business, so they joined in too. Also, the tiny minority of one had some friends who thought it might also help their ambitions, and some of them were councillors and they get loads of opportunities to say things in the papers so they kept using the name and, suddenly, the re-enforcement was done and most of the tenants didn’t have a clue, let alone a say in it. We await the signs at each entrance: ‘You Are Now Entering The Artisan Zone – No Chavs or Locals’. But really folks, it’s only been 18 months of some over-priced second-hand stalls and a dozen illegal markets (apparently the Town Charter forbids them within 6 miles of town) and it is disingenuous to claim it has some cultural heritage value that prevents knocking down some environmentally unsound, dangerous sheds and replacing them with social housing. Just like the old South Street indoor market: it’s a nice place for a stroll and a lookie-lookie but please…. don’t try and make out that it forms the back-bone of our local economy! Just for a laugh – substitute ‘Artists and Vintage’ with ‘Waste and Reclamation’. Are you still moved to sign that letter you were given? And just because you call yourself a community leader doesn’t mean you are leading anyone.

Con 6: Hundreds Of Jobs Will Be Killed!  Really? Please, please, please can we see a list of people, other than those collecting money by sub-letting, that will lose a ‘Job’?

If the application is passed then a variety of self-employed people and sole-traders might be inconvenienced for a short while, sometime in the next five years. Most will be unaffected. A few may lose the cheap premises they took on the understanding that it would only be temporary, but if your trade is your art then surely you can do that anywhere? If you neither pay an employee nor earn your own full living costs from your trading then the

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same thing. If you are viable enterprise then a glut of empty high street shops and industrial premises on other trading estates are available at the moment. The current long-term industries and services for whom the development can’t come soon enough are the only tenants paying more than just the owners wages, to local families, and with purpose built premises, they may well increase their workforce.

This Development will CREATE Jobs. For our kids. In a recession. Or is cheap rent one of our ‘rights’ ?

If those opponents to the development who claim that their motivation is based on the best interests of the local economy were genuine then why aren’t they focusing on getting the Planning Applicants to give assurances about using local contractors, suppliers, apprentices and labour??

Con 7: Save The Environment – Stop The Development!

Oh yeah! Protect the rare breeds of rat that have evolved on a diet of Bakelite, Beeswax and bullshit in the last two years. Greenwash… throwing the word ‘Environment’ & ‘Conservation’ into the pot is pushing it a tad. The long-term environmental benefit of defending a few dangerous buildings leaning on slabs of differing types of tarmac, asphalt and concrete, and covered in asbestos and rusty iron, against modern purpose-built workplaces and homes, is WHAT exactly?? As for what needs conserving, apart from the Stover building, all the other buildings of historical relevance are being kept and renovated. Is it the pot-holes or the rusty corrugated sheds that need conserving for ever?

The site has a pre-requisite from the Environment Agency of flood defences (costing approx £1.5m in 2008) before ANYTHING can be done structurally.

Con 8: We’re all In This Together!

This is the lie that really rattled my cage. Self-interest groups and NIMBY protests often give the impression that their viewpoint is held by more than just a couple sitting at a keyboard, but this opposition continues to give the impression that ALL the tenants are united in outraged opposition. A particularly cynical lie, it is made in the knowledge that most tenants either support the proposals or are ambivalent which is why so many have not been invited, consulted or even told about meetings held in their name, and yet we find ourselves listed as members of ‘Friends of St. Mikes’ to give outsiders the suggestion that our collective force should be supported. Democracy or differing opinions of equal value are not welcome if it means answering awkward questions honestly.

A Parish Council Responsibility?

While the silent majority of our population are getting on with the many facets of recession, surely our town’s Parish Council will provide rational, objective, reasoning that puts the interests of Bridport first in a future further ahead than the next elections? Aren’t they using their in-depth knowledge of the town, the estate and its planning history to follow through with the wishes of their forebears and recognise that this is the best deal that Bridport is realistically going to get? And working with the applicants to ensure local contracting, employment and logistics are agreed? Of course not. They are pandering to their popularist instincts and going along with the con.

I’m prepared to believe that they were also duped if our Mayor can admit it. After all, he can’t be blamed really, as although he’s been a councillor for four years, he’s only lived here for five. What with the heavy chains of office, putting up council tax to pay for replacing public loos with another gallery, and having to offer his thoughts (or message) to the Bridport News on every event that happens here (from domestic disputes to

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thanking his public for not rioting when a mentally ill man gets arrested!) he is starting to put Boris and Ken to shame. Of course, where he goes his protégé goes too and their rapid self-insertion into every single aspect of Bridport life must be exhausting. But it is working, and I suppose they do unite us all, in a way, as every Wednesday evening, families across town sit down together to play Bridports unique version of ‘Where’s Wally’ in the local press. This pastime has lost its edge recently as the Bridport News appears to have given up entirely on looking for the news – relying instead on filling it out with quotes from minutes of every sub-committee working group sent via their direct line with the Town Council. For a paper that used to proudly declare ‘Serving The Town’ and ‘Your Town, Your Paper’ on its masthead, the Wip-Wop is also becoming pretty selective about what it doesn’t include. On this development issue it devoted several columns to the opinions of their pet councillor yet ‘cut’ the salient points from the landlords’ statement which highlighted their openness and provisions for tenants. If you want to be objective I suggest you find the same week issue of ‘View from Bridport’ which DID give a more fairish representation of two viewpoints. And the local internet media seems to censor any attempt at proper debate while posting every gibberish press release they are sent before checking the facts. 

Q: WHO OWNS ST. MICHAELS TRADING ESTATE?

A: Mr. Norman Hayward, since 1968.

Dorset born Norman is a local-boy-done-good who built a successful business in Salvage and Reclamation in the 60’s (way ahead of our time – it’s nothing new folks) and through a series of lucky incidents brought it with the initial intention of knocking it down, reclaiming the scrap, and building almost 200 houses. Persuaded by his old-fashioned socialist father, he decided instead that the place would be better used as a place for innovation and enterprise to flourish, so it became one of the first Trading Estates in the country. He always planned to tart it up and successive Town Councils endorsed the idea of mixed use business and residential. Rather than sneer at his business interests in local sport (he is a Director at Yeovil Town FC and has funded Youth Sports Leagues in East Dorset – where he now lives – for many years) maybe facebook ‘campaigners’ would be better informed if they knew that we only have our Police Station in town because he practically gave away the prime real estate where it now sits. Scattered all over the town, the country and the world there are tradesmen, businesses and companies that owe their success to Norman and his brother Clive (who deals with the day-to-day aspects of running the estate). Household names like Clipper Tea and Top Gear were born on this estate and two of this country’s flag-ship community projects (Local Food Links and Bridport TLC) may never have existed without such “capitalist”, “selfish” and “development-happy” (internet ‘critique’ from objectors) Landlords. Ask any of the towns long-standing businesses, elder-townsfolk, or long-standing councillors i.e. more than 5 years, about this issue and most will view the brothers with respect and appreciation for what they have contributed to Bridport.

If this were a genuine campaign against some global blood-sucking multi-national then I’d be building tree-houses in the Ash outside our Scrapstore.

But it’s not.

Q: WHO THINKS THEY OWN ST. MICHAELS TRADING ESTATE?

A: Mr Richard Payne-Withers, a businessman (TPC Holdings) who pays his council tax in the home counties.

Mr. Payne-Withers is the most recent tenant on St. Michaels, taking over the old Top Gear building in the summer of 2011 and renaming it ‘The Alleyways’. Despite having never voted here he is also a Director/Chief ‘mis-guider’ of ‘Enterprise St. Michaels Ltd’ and a keen supporter of Fox Hunting.

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He proudly declares he has 35 Units which, so I am reliably informed, he charges between £50-80 per week. You can do your own maths homework and then factor in the £40,000 pa rent and rates costs that Top Gear used to pay (significantly reduced in the hour-long meeting that he held with Haywards who explained it was only on the understanding that they planned to re-develop it) to get an inkling of why he is leading the opposition to development.

He certainly thinks his interests are more important than everyone else, having already produced a plan for the estate in cahoots with his new friends in the self-importance quarter. This plan shifts long-standing businesses around like jigsaw pieces; kicks out those who disagree with him; gives free parking to all 4x4s, and surrounds the place with razor wire and vintage ‘checkpoint charlie-style’ entrances. Okay, the last two I made up, but they might be a logical outcome.

I’ve drawn my own conclusions about Mr. Payne-Withers (which best stay in my head where they are safe from threats of libel), but I’ll let him explain his motivation in his own words with this post on ‘Save Bridports’ Art & Vintage Quarter’ facebook page following the local BBC news programme which painted a slightly more balanced picture of the development:

“Hayward said in his interview that we new [sic] about the proposed planning application – CORRECT – but he makes out as if he has planning – INCORRECT. The business I bought will have it’s second anniversary in April, not under a year as Hayward states. He was more than happy to rent out an old empty building, one of the biggest on the estate and yes if planning is approved, I know I’ll have to move but… it hasn’t yet. My business has gone from strength to strength. I moved on to the site knowing this has been going on for years and he’s been more than happy to take my rent on two properties. I sincerely appreciate the help they have given myself and other traders over the years but at the end of the day we pay them. Sorry but saying he’s doing us a favour makes me cringe.”

My mate Olli thinks this is comparable to having someone stay in your empty house. Imagine you’ve been left a run-down home by a relative. It will take time to raise the funds to repair and decorate it so you allow someone to live in it cheaply until you have the dosh. It would be more than a kick in the teeth if, when the time came, the temporary tenant makes out that he’s been doing YOU a favour, and uses the house to organise meetings with the neighbours to plan ways of stopping you.

But you can draw your own conclusions…

WHO WANTS TO OWN ST. MICHAELS TRADING ESTATE?

Come On…!! I bet you already know this. The bed-fellows that think they could do a better job are not so strange when you look at the connections between them. The Town Council, Transition Town, BLAST, BLAP, (BLING, BLUB, BLURT, BLIP etc), a couple of businessmen, artists and others, coalescing around the ‘Nickit Off Bridport’ group, obviously, seeing as they already claim credit for everything else that happens in this place. Linked by a triumvirate of Lib Dem councillors who I won’t name as my family know from experience that they play dirty when challenged, needless to say their ‘control’ appears to me to be neither Liberal nor very Democratic.

WHAT DO I WANT?

A level playing field. Fair Play and the opportunity for the collective consensus of the town to make an important decision without the distortions, distractions and motivations of a few self-interested individuals.

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Cheap Rents, Free Parking & Self-Interest Rates

Despite increasingly blatant lies (T-shirts proclaiming “98% Support Vintage Tat”) and desperate claims (“If everyone gives us a tenner we can raise enough money to buy something from a landlord who has publicly stated that it is NOT for sale”) [Sainsburys had a £10million offer rejected less than a decade ago] the ‘Living In Nostalgia’ brigade continue unabated. Of the hundreds of folk I’ve spoken to, most see it for what it is: a selfish whinge about losing free parking, the expectation of cheap rents and the loss of a ‘gang’ hangout.

But there is a far more insidious aspect to this, and it relates to the recent announcement of plans to build 800 houses on Vearse Farm. When, earlier this year, local authorities held a consultation meeting about potential sites to accommodate the 1,500 new homes deemed necessary over the next 12 years, it was attended by 7 ‘businesses’ from St. Michaels. Six are opponents of the landlords’ plans and they included ALL FOUR Directors of ‘Enterprise St. Michaels’. One of the Directors, Cllr Kayes, now claims on her blog that “the town no longer needs housing on the site as there is space for over 800 homes on Vearse Farm less than half a mile away from the site”. Interestingly, when the Bridport News ran the story, they omitted her regular ‘World of Ros’ contribution. I’m sure you’ll draw your own conclusions (see back page) but does anyone else smell something fishy and I am the only one thinking that this is a big sacrifice to make for a few personal ambitions?

“Dear Sheep Response Unit –

If – following your rational reasoned and considered intervention (or the copy & paste from facebook that a trustafarian sent you) – this application doesn’t get passed, what do you REALLY think will happen? And if, in five years time, it’s either 200 houses, a shopping complex or a car park, will you all stand up in Bucky Doo Square with your pants on your head and declare your apologies for your part in the big con? Or will you be too busy just enjoying this year’s bubble?  BAAA!”

* * * * *

“Shit sometimes happens because people don’t Speak Up” (to paraphrase Edmund Burke)

“I like art as much as any man, but not for breakfast, dinner and tea” (to illiterate Billy Bragg)

Okay. I’m done. Thanks for reading this. Obviously this is just my take on the whole thing and as such has no more importance than anyone else’s. But I hope it may provide a more balanced view of the motivations and interests of everyone concerned with St. Michaels Trading Estate. Please Share this. Ask Questions. Talk about it – it’s important for the future of Bridport. If you then find yourself motivated to side with opposing or supporting the current Planning Application then let West Dorset District Council know quoting references 1/D/11/002012 & 1/D/11/002013.

And Councillors… next time you are considering a name for a new road or building that truly recognises an important part of our towns success, maybe you could ditch suggestions for ‘Kayes Corner’ or ‘Rickard Row’ and instead acknowledge the contribution that Norman and Clive Hayward have made to this place for the last 44 years.

‘THANKS’ to the websites, Bridport shops and people helping to share this; ‘NEVER AGAIN’ to all those who encouraged me to provide an alternative viewpoint; and ‘BIG RESPECT’ to Bob Dron, Ollie Pascoe & Pete Wilkinson for being Sketchy mates.

Leon Edwards