Tourism boss vows to sue Met Office over 'needlessly pessimistic' forecasts
The boss of a prominent tourist attraction has threatened to sue the Met Office if it continues to be "needlessly pessimistic" about the weather.
Rick Turner, owner of the Big Sheep in North Devon, claims the Exeter-based organisation often wrongly predicts the weather for the week ahead.
He claims visitors, who increasingly tend to book at the last minute, are deterred by forecasts of rain, and instead book overseas – only for fine and bright to be marred by just an odd shower.
But the Met Office has defended its performance, stating that it cannot control the weather in a summer which has seen some of the wettest months on record.
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But Mr Turner said he has been collating evidence on the number of times forecasts proved to be wrong. He says false forecasts cost the industry millions in lost custom, and pledged he is prepared to spend thousands on legal action.
"If they get it wrong next Easter, I'll try and sue them," he said. "Somebody has to hold them to account."
Mr Turner believes the short-term forecasts two or three days in advance are fairly accurate, but takes issue with predictions five days to a week ahead, when he believes people are making critical holiday decisions.
Mr Turner's own business benefits when it rains, as people head there instead of going to the beach. But he believes many are put off coming to the region in the first place.
Malcolm Bell, head of the tourism body VisitCornwall, said Mr Turner's threat raised an important issue, and said people were increasingly looking to the forecast because booking had become so short-term. He said: "It would be very helpful if people could know wether it's going to rain for ten minutes that day, which would be less likely to put them off than seeing a blanket rain cloud which could mean a wash-out.
Met Office spokesman Sarah Holland said: "Devon is one of the wettest counties in the UK, and we have seen the second wettest summer on record. The Met Office is trusted to give the best possible guidance on the weather by the public and we report the weather exactly as it is.
"Research shows our forecasts are right six days out of every seven. The Met Office has worked with the tourist industry in recent years to provide detailed forecasts for resorts, beaches and attractions with local forecasts for up to 5,000 locations across the UK. These regularly updated forecasts provide local detail on the weather to help you plan your day out with confidence and make the most of the great British weather come rain or shine."