I WAS extremely saddened to read Derek Elliott's polemic on Heartlands, especially as it contained inaccuracies that he should be in a position not to have included.
Heartlands attracted 274,000 people in its first full 12 months; and has already attracted 214,000 in the first ten months of its second year, making it on target for a second-year total of 85 per cent of the first year – so, plenty of people have wanted to return, meaning that it is proving its value as a community facility.
That there might be wet and windy days in February when few people are outside is hardly surprising.
Heartlands was a project that originated from a desire by the local community for a regeneration project that benefited them; rather than the supermarket and yet more housing that was the original future for what was a derelict and abandoned site.
The old Kerrier District Council backed the local community, and won the battle for a community asset that reflected the area's mining heritage with pride, against the then policy of national regeneration agencies that any physically visible evidence of the area's recent mining industry should be obliterated as it was seen as a barrier to inward investors.
Any councillor would be aware that Big Lottery grants are awarded for specific projects, and not on the basis that they can be used for alternatives on an either/or basis.
The Big Lottery does not award grants for enticing, or supporting, manufacturing industry.
Similarly, the other grants awarded would not have been transferable to the other uses that Derek Elliott suggests.
The European grant which he also mentions and seems to take exception to was actually quite small (£2.8 million). None of that, or the Big Lottery grant, or any other grant, has gone towards the Linden Homes development which is nothing to do with Heartlands.
The Heartlands Trust, as has been well reported, has adopted a new business plan aimed at reducing its costs in line with the current economic environment and people's reduced spending power.
It has reduced rents to revitalise the craft units and is issuing an invitation to local community groups who need open space for events to come and ask us to see what we can do for them.
There is a refund voucher being introduced in the car park for use elsewhere on site; but car park income is still needed to pay for the upkeep of the play facilities, garden and facilities. We are not subsidised by taxpayers' money.
In its first three months the new business plan is already achieving the expected results and the response has been positive.
On a wider perspective, Heartlands is recognised as having helped influence the speedier regeneration of the wider area, with a community focus at its heart that is actually very well used.
Vice-chair, Heartlands Trust, Pool
ALTHOUGH Heartlands has been very nicely done, I agree with Mr D Elliott.
Why was so much money wasted on something you would visit once maybe twice, at a push?
Wouldn't the money have been better spent on proper sports facilities, such as an up-to-date, Olympic-sized pool with high diving area to encourage the young swimmers of the area to represent their county and go for gold at future Olympics? Or perhaps the money should have been spent on a decent-sized ice rink, to promote figure skating and ice hockey, not the frozen puddles at Eden and behind the cathedral at Christmas time.
Plymouth is a long way to go to train in swimming, diving and skating. It costs a small fortune in fuel, too.
It would create jobs and give more opportunities for youngsters in the area to follow their dreams of representing their county and country.