Thursday, 18 April 2013

Oh, thats interesting!!

Interesting facts: 

Cornwall Council Car Park Income/ surf school fees

Gwithian - £103k / £0
Widemouth - £97k / £900
Summerleaze - £178k / £675
Crooklets - £54k / £225

Polzeath - £141k / £20,225 from Surfs Up! Surf School

Why? Why isn't the Cornwall County Council putting other spots out for tender? The council tell us that they need to find the value of their land..... so why aren't these beach car parks put out to tender too? 


Tempted, very tempted, but holding back. That's our position. The national press want a slice of this... they would. Polzeath holiday destination of the PM and Harry and William, you bet they want the story...we're just not quite ready yet. We're a big surf school, but a small business. And that's the way we like it. We have no illusion of grandeur, not looking for an opportunity to get beyond our station. All we actually want is to be able to continue to run our surf school as we have done for the last 18 years, on a safe beach.

Of the 500 + emails sent to the council that I've seen.... one came through yesterday that was short, but to the point. It reads as follows...

Thank you for your generic response.

Perhaps you could answer a straightforward question. Has the control of the number of surfing students on the beach at any one time been addressed in the tender documentation?

If it has, then tenderers will be able to take a view on the prescribed number of clients it may be able to attract and therefore price its bid accordingly. If it has not, then, without doubt, the safety of the surfers and thereby the public is being compromised as you are giving the green light for each of the surfing schools to maximise the number of students in the water at any one time.

Do not be fooled that 'Establishing the new licensed framework for surf tuition from the Council’s land will enable the authority to set minimum standards to ensure a quality experience for the user in line with the historic standards within the former WAVES scheme.'... because that simply is not true. What the council have chosen to omit in this statement is that there will now no longer be any restriction on other surf schools using Polzeath as a teaching venue and there will no longer be any restriction on the number of surfers any surf school can teach at one time. High tide on a hot summer's day? Oh my God! Oh my God. This is absolutely not in line with the former Wave Scheme. It couldn't be further apart.

Anyway, it's business as usual. Van off to get sign written next week - whether we stay where we are or move two yards away... we'll still be here and we're resolved to make it the best year ever! 

We were going to give this the 'One more night' tag line..... but we've been using that one for the past nine years! No one buys it anymore! 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Looking forwards

Firstly let's congratulate two of our former Surf's Up! Boardriders - Liam and Max who both triumphed at the recent Rip Curl Grom Search. A fantastic achievement by both. Trained over a few years intensively by our elite coach and Kiwi, Kelly O'Toole these boys have been going head to head for a while now. It'll be interesting to track their careers as they progress into the older age categories.

Surf today - head high, windy but warm. I much prefer it like this. It's almost balmy! Sunny yesterday. My bonce is browner than on Monday for sure.

Speaking of balmy, went to the solicitors yesterday... that all went well. Few paths to explore for sure. And then if it comes to it we're looking at a bill of £25k -30k to go to Judicial Review. Costly for sure. We'd have to sell one of our kids, but needs must and the cause is a good one! I like to see myself as a visonary :-) and what I see in three years time is sun, surf and three surf schools battling it out to pay for big licence fees in an over crowded black and white surf zone whilst the perpetrators are long gone. It's not about today or tomorrow - it's what happens within that 7 year lease period. The problem only gets worse. And the problem is there to stay. It's irreversible. That's why we have to stand up for what we think is right. 

The council are bending the rules of risk assessments and HSE and it's not right in any shape or form. It sets a precedent. Do you know what I'd really like to know? Where's the expertise coming from to make these decisions. The impact is huge, these are fundamental changes to the way the beaches are managed..... consultation should have been undertaken. If, as I suspect, the council are leaning on someone without the necessary experience, we will get to the bottom of it. Because no-one in their right mind would go forward with this proposal. It's a recipe for disaster. It's a way to raise cash so that someone can stay in employment. But they're not going to get it. If we pull out from the tender process and park 5 yds away, take the view that we'd rather pay £300 for a parking ticket, spend the £19,700 on developing our business in a different way, who's going to pay £20k to sit next to us? You'd think they'd take a view and do the same. What's been proved in this process is that at the end of the lease term, you have a business that you can't sell on and that therefore has no value. I think the council are at risk of making less money than last year, not more. But we'll see. I believe in people, and I  like to see the best in people. I'm also a fatalist ie things happen for a reason. How many of you have said, this could be the best thing that's ever happened to you. 

I should thank you again for the letters of support - we'd like to somehow publish them, it's hard to comprehend the efforts that have been made to write about your connection with Polzeath and real genuine concern that it retains it's appeal. Humbling, make no mistake. Oh and I used to think no-one read my blogs or newsletters - apparently some of you do.

Right, I suppose I'd better do some guitar and singing practice for Saturday. The last time our band played together was September and we won't have time for a rehearsal. We're going to wing it. History tells me that in our case a good rehearsal is no guarantee of a good gig. We've had some shockers! Standing behind the mike can be the loneliest of places when it's all going wrong. I lost my voice once at a private party during the second song. The Amy Whitehouse tribute singer came back on stage to lend a hand. There's a low light right there! But at the same time, I've been past head high amongst the assembled for a bit of crowd surfing - at the Oystercatcher as it goes, which is where we're playing this weekend. I'm hoping that adrenaline, fear and a drunk audience will win the day! Whatever happens, it'll be fun and I feel there'll be a bit more energy and angst to channel into the vocals this time around. Ladies and gentleman, let's get ready to rumble! Oh nearly forget, how rude... of course on Saturday, we'll also be celebrating Plymouth Argyle staying in the football league and the start of their charge towards the Premiership. Get in!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Council Reply

We are truly humbled by the support. I've just seen a response sent out today by Jolyon, Countryside Officer for Cornwall County Council, who I believe lacks the experience to head this up. I've inserted my comments - the lies, inconsistencies and inference that by adding a further surf school represents a step forward re. beach safety is totally incorrect, dangerous and foolish. Letter and reply as follows....  

The licence awarded to the existing provider of surf tuition from the Polzeath Car Park recently expired after a long period of operation (18 years).  The Council has a duty to achieve best value from publicly owned assets, which informed its decision to advertise two opportunities for licences (where and when was the consultation process to turn the car park spaces into a trading pitch - apparently the reason why this isn't being done on any other beach is because the consultation process is lengthy) through a publicly advertised (wrong dates, not on tender website, no reply to questions asked, submission date on bank holiday) competitive process . The existing provider was notified of the Council’s intention to tender (the first we heard about this was through our main competitor the day before it went in the paper - upon which we were given 14 working days. The previous tender was carried out over an 8 week period). 

The Council has now evaluated the tenders received and has offered the opportunity to trade from the car park to two successful businesses catering for surf tuition and hire. The Council’s proposed licence agreements would contain the same standards covered by the former WAVES scheme to ensure the highest operating and health and safety thresholds are met. (except the numero uno condition - they've taken away any restrictions on numbers ie we can take in as many students as we like with no reference to tide or season. Really? Wow! At high tide we used to be restricted to 20 students, we could now take in 100? plus the two other schools, plus any other surf schools operating on the beach as they've taken away that restriction too. Free for all.)

The Council recognises the importance of the beaches to the environment and economy of Cornwall and is committed to ensuring that it works with both local communities and businesses (the council have received over 500 e-mails opposing the introduction of a new surf school - it has not in any way worked with the local community or businesses) to ensure that these are managed in a sensitive way.  Revenue generated from the issuing of licences is used to support the provision of services such as beach cleansing and Lifeguards and the authority is required to ensure that it generates the best possible value for Council Taxpayers’ money. (which brings us back to - the tender sum will be the key criteria and why not roll it out on ever beach).

Local authorities in this area have worked with activity providers on the beach for a number of years to try and improve standards and manage the quality of experience in the surf zone. (so why change it now - why the backward step?) Polzeath has a number of surf hire outlets (including the surf schools) and shops in the village selling surf equipment, many of which operate without the formal structure that relate to Cornwall Council’s procedures. Establishing the new licensed framework for surf tuition from the Council’s land will enable the authority to set minimum standards to ensure a quality experience for the user in line with the historic standards within the former WAVES scheme. (Absolutely total rubbish!!! That is a complete falsehood of the situation and the statement should be retracted. What has actually happened is they've taken away any restrictions - ie we can teach as many people as we like at any state of time, whilst at the same time allowing any surf school to operate on the beach - the situation before was that there were only two surf schools permitted to operate, now any surf school can operate).

So in summary - it's all about the money, end of, cloaked in misleading info about making the beach safer. The statement 'new licensed framework for surf tuition from the Council’s land will enable the authority to set minimum standards to ensure a quality experience for the user in line with the historic standards within the former WAVES scheme.'.... is absolute nonsense. Complete nonsense. No one would agree with this statement. I think the council is assuming that you have no knowledge of how the beach works. With their actions I think you have more. This is a fob off and totally unacceptable. With falsehoods such as this, into misleading the general public that this is going to better.... I truly believe now that enough is enough and the council officers need to stand down or at the very least hold an open meeting so that the points can be discussed in an open and transparent way. 

I believe that there may be a fourth Muskateer who is watching all this from his ivory tower... you might like to make your views known.
Alford Jonny (

Jolyon Sharpe - 01208 262836 / 07974 916505
Off to see the solictors this afternoon - Compliants Procedure in process, Ombudsman informed and watching. Will consider a Judicial Review, may consider setting up a fighting fund in return for lesson vouchers to go down that route as it's costly. But all so unnecessary.
Other news - erm, well obviously this is dominating our every waking hour. Massive thanks to everyone who's shown such amazing support.. it's been quite a journey! We feel we need a knees up, music soothes the savage beast, so the Surf's Up! rock band Mahoustic (Wailo, lead guitarist; me, vocals and weak link; Grattman, bass former instructor; Will, drums and mate) - we're going to play up at the Oystercatcher this Saturday. Might just have a bit of angst to release with our Foo Fighter, Pearl Jam covers. All welcome!! Be great to see you there.
P of the Deep Blue C

Monday, 15 April 2013


I know of another 200+ letters that were sent via e-mail to the council on Friday and over the weekend opposing the new surf school. So that's over 500 that I know about. Will they read them? Doubt it! So Complaints Procedure in process, Ombudsmen informed and watching with interest, meeting with solicitors tomorrow. Not going to sit back and take it. Press lined up as and when we need them. We've had a deadline moved to Wednesday... think a lot will happen between now and then. Really miffed that the council misled the district councillor by saying they'd had a bid from a business that wasn't surf related - that was to deflect the criticism, it was a lie.

Surf today is massive! A 6.1 m high tide and it swept under our trailer - wow! That's never happened before. I blame the council. I told you they'd lost all control of our beaches!