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Have They No Scruples?

Site of the Former Scruples, Lytham EsplanadeLytham is stirring again, and when that happens it usually results in change. The natives are getting restless about Fylde's - as yet unpublished - plans to allow commercial interests to site (or build) something called a Juice Bar just off Lytham Green, on an area that once housed a building known as 'Scruples'

So how did this restlessness come about?

Well, a while ago, Fylde councillors dissuaded the good folk of Lytham from having a Parish or Town Council of their own, but they gave them a sort of 'forum' where Fylde's Councillors, headed by Lytham's Councillor Ray Norsworthy, set the agenda and lead the discussion on topics they think might be of interest to Lytham residents. Attendance at these meetings is by invitation, and although an advance agenda is circulated, the Juice Bar item wasn't on it. It came up on the night under the ubiquitous "any other business." heading

Thus it was that a few weeks ago, the Forum was told what a wonderful thing a Juice Bar would be for Lytham, and, predictably, having heard the hard sell, the Forum agreed that it would. 

Whether it was a clear to those present that the Council's enthusiasm for the scheme had more to do with generating lease or rental income than meeting the needs of visitors or residents, is uncertain - but, having 'consulted' those invited to the meeting, Councillors felt emboldened to press forward with the plan.

They should have known better.

One of those who might have been at the meeting, and had something to say about it, was the Civic Society - but with conflicting appointments preventing attendance, and the fact that it wasn't on the agenda, they were not even able to send a written representation to the Forum.

counterbalance understands that when the Civic Society found out about this item, their Chairman Marion Coupe wrote to the Council to remind them that before the turn of the century, the Civic Society had paid 14,000 to the Council of the day to have the derelict 'Scruples' building demolished (when the Council couldn't afford to do it themselves). She also said that, as part of the agreement, the Council had given an assurance there would be no further commercial development of Lytham's Esplanade.

Mrs. Coupe is a formidable lady and well able to make her point. But she is not usually heavy handed. True to form on this occasion, she was her usual polite self. She simply explained the assurance the Council had previously given and asked that the plan be withdrawn.

We understand that Politburo member Dim Tim Ashton threw his dummy out of the pram at this, privately demanding to know who was running the Town, the Politburo or Mrs. Coupe (counterbalance doesn't have much trouble working out who it would prefer to have in charge).

Given that it was a plan for a 'Juice Bar' we think she might reasonably have suggested the Council were taking the pith out of the Civic Society, but she's far too much a lady to suggest that sort of thing.

counterbalance also has some concerns of its own about the development though. 

Given the similarities in modus operandi between Commissar Putin in Moscow, and Commissar Coombes here, a Juice Bar in Lytham (just like a Sushi Bar in London), could easily be used to dispense that nasty Polonium 210 to civic dissidents like counterbalance, and - as you might guess - we're not so keen on that idea at all. 

The land is actually on the beach, and was first developed as mussel washing tanks where local fishermen clean up their catch back in the 1930s. 

In the more recent past, previous Councils allowed several developments on the site. These comprised several restaurants (including one called 'The Anchorage', and another rather inappropriately named 'Zanzibar'), a roller-skating rink and the 'Scruples' Night Club.

The last attempt at use was for an art gallery and restaurant, but planning permission for that was refused in 1998. The owner appealed, but in September, an Inspector working for the Secretary of State refused the appeal and upheld Fylde's decision not to allow the development

None of the previous commercial ventures succeeded, and at least one went bang in a fairly spectacular way. Another burned down. So the record of success is not great. In part, the trouble was the location. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, there are people walking past, but on a windy (frequent) or wintry evening (half the year at least), it's a long way from the warmth and comfort of a heated car through driving wind and rain (that messes up your going-out clothes) to reach the site. So folk, quite naturally, patronised less exposed establishments.

Another tricky bit is that from time to time, the site is prone to flooding (especially given that it sticks into the sea a bit further than the Esplanade does), but hey, when the juices of Mammon are flowing, who cares about someone else's problem.

If it is planned to make the 'Juice Bar' a year round facility, the only way to make it work would be to extend the car park along the Green toward it, so patrons could park right in front of it. Even then they'd need to be geared up like Nanook of the North on some nights.

The again, maybe more parking income is what is on the Commissar's mind.

Perhaps, (at least initially), the plan might be to have it as a summer-only operation, but we also know that many permanent arrangements begin on a temporary basis.

So the stage is being set. 

Stage right is the Civic Society and their allies 'Defend Lytham' headed by Alyson Jack. (You remember them, they are the ones that saw-off the ridiculous Lytham Quays plans by intimidating councillors with an excellent campaign backed by sheer weight of public opinion)

We also understand that 'Defend the Dunes' and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England are also assembling forces of opposition to align with the Civic Society.

 At stage left, we have the Politburo, represented by Dim Tim (sans dummy), and now (it seems) fellow Politburo member Paul Rigby, who is being lined up to lead the attack.

That itself is interesting. Dim Tim is vulnerable to Lytham's voters, but Rigsby isn't. Being a Warton based Councillor; he can't be unseated by Lythamites. (Although maybe Lythamites could vote out all of the Lytham Councillors to be sure of a change).

A friend of counterbalance wondered if we might eventually see a little pile of neatly folded clothes on the edge of Lytham's high water mark if Rigsby ends up taking the can for this. 

Rigsby says "it [the Juice Bar] would be a good use for the site, and people have nowhere to go for light refreshment" (this quote obscures the real reason for the plan of course, and it ignores the 50 or so establishments dispensing liquid refreshment in Lytham - but maybe maths isn't his strong point). 

But then, just like Nancy Sinatra, "he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid" and tells the 'Express' that "the financial pressures are great on the Council at the moment" (this is the real reason for the plan). He also said that [speaking] as a businessman there is a site there, and it could be used. 

Well right-on Rigsby, there's a whole green you could 'use' 

It's doing nothing at present, it's just empty space. Think how much parking it would hold, or how many slot machines you could get on it. What about a lap-dancing club or two, or some more nightclubs. Any minute now you can expect to hear the Politburo chanting the mantra "Lytham Green is a wonderful idea, we should build on it!" 

They recently had an umbrella entertainments license granted for all manner of open spaces - including the Green. Who knows what sort of high jinks people like Rigsby and his pals have in mind?

You'll remember this is the man who chastised Treales Councillor Mrs. Speak for not getting enough facilities for her residents - suggesting his own efforts have made Warton the beacon of civic excellence that it presently is.

When our elected representatives behave ignorantly and out of tune with the local electorate, people are right to take matters into their own hands, and that's what you can expect to see here. Lytham folk won't be pushed around - as they have ably demonstrated in the recent past. 

The elections in May will provide a very convenient opportunity for Lythamites to express their dissatisfaction with the present administration, not least for introducing a cabinet system that appoints impregnable out-of-towners to front unpalatable policies in Lytham, and for reducing the part that the whole Council can play in restraining the worst excesses of ignorant and avaricious leaders who become bloated with arrogance and self importance.

So as the advertising men say.... "Watch this space"

Dated:  28 November 2006


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