LETTERS TO THE EDITOR DECEMBER 2

PUBLISHED: 10:47 03 December 2010

Mercury letters

Mercury letters

Archant

He is in tune

FOLLOWING last week’s article in your paper from Havard Tisdale and the letter from the concerned chairman of the Torbay Development Society, it would be an absolute travesty if the North Somerset Council is still seriously considering this company as a viable contender for the Tropicana development.

To admit at this late stage that it has no finalised drawing yet, because it doesn’t know what the site will contain, but is possibly considering the inclusion of apartments and a hotel, is just not acceptable. To then say that it is not here to tell the public what it wants to hear will only add fuel to the fire.

The company should be put on the back burner quick smart.

Havard Tisdale appears to have a rather woeful history to date. Worringly Torquay is two years down the line with boarded up shops in a prime location, near the harbour. The other development that the chairman of the secretary mentioned, which she says is running a year over time, is the construction of a mere eight holiday homes in Bude. Surely our council should take heed of this, as it does not bode well.

In Bournemouth it is attempting to turn an existing car park in the town centre into two hotels, a skybar and leisure club, together with residential apartments and a multi-story car park. Its past developments include the conversion of a former art college and council offices into a café/bar and seven apartments in Taunton; the conversion of a warehouse into residential units in Marlborough and the re-development of a derelict house into two split-level homes in Torquay.

We have been privy to four excellent designs (showing his level of commitment to this scheme), from Richard Nightingale, one of which has now been chosen by a public vote and submitted to the council. He is in tune with what people want and is ready to deliver – if only he is allowed.

This farce has gone on long enough. Please can the council just listen to all the concerns being expressed this time round and opt for the right and only viable project on offer.

Failing this, could a spokesman for the council explain exactly why it does not want to grant Richard Nightingale this contract? I think we have the right to know what is going on and should be given a valid explanation. Surely we are owed this much, as the electorate.

JULIE POWER

Exeter Road, Weston

The best

ANOTHER first for The Playhouse. Well done on the staging of another great show last Friday evening, “Talon the best of the Eagles”.

What a night – brilliant 11 out of 10.

BRYAN POPEL

Langport Road, Weston

Hotspot

I HOPE that I am not too late to be allowed to comment on John Crockford-Hawley’s piece on the Wonders of Weston which appeared in the Mercury on November 18.

Although he tells us a great deal about his tastes in art, he does not tell us what we should do to take advantage of what is, after all, a project designed to promote the regeneration of seaside towns. May I suggest, therefore, that he takes a look at Creative Clusters and Innovation, a report which has just been published by NESTA (and which can be downloaded from http://tinyurl.com/27duhty)?

The report finds that the creative industries account for some 6.2 per cent of the UK economy and that they are growing at twice the rate of other sectors. Furthermore, it claims that there is evidence that these industries support innovation and growth in other areas of the economy.

It will come as little surprise to any of your readers to learn that it also identifies Bristol and Bath as two of the UK’s 10 creative hotspots. Surely Weston’s proximity to these two cities, coupled with the recent investment in the town from the Sea Change project, presents us with an opportunity which we would be very foolish to ignore?

Weston’s creative community, which John Crockford-Hawley rightly praises, may well be the foundation on which we can build a broader, stronger economic foundation for the town at a time when the future of the tourist trade, on which we have relied on for 200 years, seems uncertain. We have been presented with a challenge. Can we afford not to accept it?

KEITH RAMSEY

Upper Bristol Road, Weston

Excellent

REGARDING David Cordingley’s letter on the excellent frontline service he received from the Aisecombe Way recycling centre, I would also like to add my appreciation of some recent sterling assistance.

Just over a week ago one of our local urban foxes took it upon itself to curl up and die in an outhouse in our garden. Not knowing quite what to do I rang our trusty local council.

Their response was that dead wild animals on private property were nothing to do with them and I should contact the RSPCA or an animal shelter organisation. Not surprisingly, none of these organisations were able to help - so back to the council helpline. Their next range of suggestions were bury it in the garden, put it in a bag and put it in the waste bin or take it down to the tip. Not wanting a dead fox in my bin for two weeks I asked if they were sure they would accept it at the tip. Despite actually employing the contractors they could not tell me so I had to ring the tip myself.

A very nice man there said that if I took it to the tip they would have to charge me £20 for disposal! However, appreciating I would not be too happy with this he then said he would ring a friend of his in another part of the same contractor’s organisation who might be able to help. Some 15 minutes later two guys from this organisation turned up and with no fuss and some gentleness collected the fox and took him away.

What a helpful and refreshing thing this was and I can only echo Mr Cordingley in saying hats off to these golden frontline workers and to hope they are not let down by the council bureaucrats whose sole role seems to be to make life more difficult for them and us.

KEITH HARRISON

Atlantic Road South, Weston

Concerns

I WRITE in response to your article on the advertisement for a commercial and contracts manager at North Somerset Council.

A £60,000 per year post, which apparently will help the council make £42million of cuts over the next four years.

As the branch secretary of North Somerset UNISON, the union which represents council workers, I have a number of concerns about this post.

If the post was purely about monitoring contracts, UNISON would have fewer issues with it, as it is our view that one of the many problems associated with contracting out public services, is that the contracts are not monitored effectively and contractors are not held to account and penalised for failure to abide by the terms of the contract.

But it is my understanding that this post will also have responsibility for contracting out services and this is something that UNISON does not support, because it is our view that the privatisation of public services leads to poorer quality and more expensive services, because private companies put profits before people – our fuel bills confirm that.

Privatisation also takes public services out of the control of locally-elected councillors and therefore local people. Privatisation quite simply means that public money – our money – is used to create profits for private companies.

The Coalition Government is arguing that the private sector will create jobs to take us out of recession. But it is more likely that so-called new private sector jobs will actually be old public sector jobs transferred to private companies. We also have to wonder how the council will guarantee no loss of jobs in Weston due to the transfer of council staff to Clevedon, when we are likely to see redundancies.

It is a great sadness for North Somerset Council employees that the council has in the recent past shown little interest in involving staff in internal service improvements, despite requests from UNISON, and instead its preferred option has been to look to the private sector.

With the advertisement of this job the council has made it clear it intends to privatise many more services.

The leader of the council has also said that they will be asking local people to volunteer to provide services, such as libraries and youth clubs, and that some services will simply stop – for instance street lights will be switched off after a certain time, and grass won’t be cut.

The council has also made it clear that it intends to make the cuts by cutting the pay and conditions of some of the lowest paid council employees, the majority of whom are women.

The people of North Somerset are about to find out which services they will lose. Any reduction to public services always impacts more severely on the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, as these are the people who rely on public services.

We have asked our councillors to use their influence within their own parties to make it clear to the Coalition Government how the cuts will impact on North Somerset.

We ask the people of North Somerset to join us in our campaign to defend public services – A Million Voices for Public Services at www.unison.org.uk/million

HELEN THORNTON

Branch Secretary, North Somerset UNISON, Town Hall, Weston

Concerned

RICHARD Nightingale is rightly concerned that some promised franchise operators for the Tropicana have defected to the proposed Dolphin Square project and in turn the developers of Dolphin Square are up in arms that they have lost one to an out of town retail park.

Everything seems so piecemeal with no master plan for the future of these promised improvements to our town.

Visitors come to Weston for either the seafront attractions or the town shops and there is a distinct difference. Whilst each area is different there should be a co-ordinated plan by the council otherwise all the plans could fall by the wayside. Putting red tape and money problems to one side Richard should be given the go-ahead for the Tropicana with immediate effect and how about inviting Debenhams to take over Dolphin Square, with a decent covered market incorporated? James Street could be turned into a shopping mall connecting Debenhams with the town centre shops, after all there are a number of empty premises in this street. To ease the traffic flow Carlton Street could be made one way towards the seafront and Oxford Street one way away from the seafront.

A Park and Ride should be built on either the old airfield or near junction 21 of the motorway. I know I am a dreamer but one day I will wake up and see not only a seafront but also a united front - if only?

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Celebration

MAY I through your paper say thanks and well done to all who organised, helped and took part in the Faith and Harmony celebration presented at the Blakehay on November 20.

It was a most enjoyable and enlightening evening and hope it is not a one-off, so hopefully encouraging more faith and harmony within the community of Weston.

MR G BOLTON

Locking Road, Weston

Brady Bunch

I WAS saddened to read on the front page of last week’s Weston mercury how councillors are being sent into schools to warn pupils of the perils of video games.

This follows the shocking questionnaire put together by addiction specialists at Broadway Lodge rehabilitation centre in Bleadon which revealed children are addicted as young as 11 who are spending up to eight hours a day playing the games.

Cast your mind back to the 1970s. Remember watching a popular TV show called The Brady Bunch? When they weren’t all gathered around the dinner table eating pork chops and apple sauce, chattering about their day, they were out riding their bikes or playing endless games or the family might be camping together, competing in a sack race – or even just running down the stairs to answer the phone.

The wholesome family show may not have reflected some of the harsher realities of family life in the era, it did show that we moved around more (and ate better) in those pre-computer, pre-mobile phone times. I reminisce about how families lived before video games usurped football and fast food replaced meals around the table. In addition, so much of what’s been designed for our high tech age keeps us from moving around. We sit for hours at the computer, working, shopping, reading, researching, playing games, even making friends. Without ever leaving the couch, we can answer the phone, change the channel and send emails from our handheld devices. Studies have shown that some kids brought up on these gadgets may expend almost no extra physical energy in the course of a day.

But here’s how it used to be. We got up to change the channel, we walked to the corner to post a letter, we got up to answer the phone, we went to the library to do research, we made new friends in the park, parents went for a walk after dinner, kids went out and just played.

Is it any wonder childhood obesity is rising at shocking rates in this country?

D F COURTNEY

Victoria Park, Weston

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