Letters to the Editor, July 9, 2015

PUBLISHED: 10:38 10 July 2015 | UPDATED: 10:38 10 July 2015

Letters.

Letters.

Archant

AS SITE manager for the Hutton Moor allotment site and following your recent articles I felt that some clarifications regarding the ongoing problems we are experiencing and the allotment club’s proposed solution may be useful.

I would like to point out that that the asbestos found on the track at Hutton Moor allotments came from existing site material rubble, etc used for the filling of potholes. There is no evidence to suggest that the person or persons who did this would have had any knowledge whatsoever that the material they were using was asbestos. This is due to the fact that it was broken up into small (one inch) squares and coloured so it resembled broken flower pots.

Due to the access problems caused by badgers undermining of the main entrance it has not been possible for more than two years to bring the necessary quantities of stone onto the site to effect repairs to the track.

The town council has acted quickly to address the asbestos problem. I was informed by council staff that this type of asbestos is known as ‘encapsulated’ and is considered a low level hazard. A check on the Health and Safety Executive website confirmed this.

Club members would not be facing possible total loss of their crops and waste of months of hard work if time had not been wasted with delays to addressing the badger problem (more than two years).

I am aware that DEFRA granted more than one licence to control the badgers at a cost of around £900 per licence and these licences were unused due to delays by the council in carrying out the work.

The town council has been working with the allotment club to make a new entrance to the site. Due to the location of the site any new entrance has to cross land owned by North Somerset Council. It has produced plans with a new access track 164 meters long, cost in the region of £50,000.

To repair the original entrance costs again range from £20-£55,000 as reported in your paper.

As I understand it the town council is looking to save money as both options are over budget and the finance committee has asked North Somerset to reconsider alternative access.

Our club chairman, at the request of the town council allotment committee, has planned and costed an alternative access to the site getting estimates from contractors. This is positioned some 160 meters further along and would result in a new track which would be three meters and 50 meters long. It would not need to be surfaced. The playing field entrance gate on Hutton Moor fields would need to be relocated to provide a method of stopping people parking on the track. The allotment club would provide lockable gates at the other end by removing the section of fence for the new entrance and swapping this with our original gates.

At the last town council meeting this was proposed along with an offer from the allotment club to donate £5,000 toward the costs of the work. The total cost of this work is in the region of £10,000. However when these plans were presented to North Somerset they were dismissed because of (alleged) extensions to the leisure centre and car park.

Come on North Somerset in these times of austerity do the maths.

Your choice of track where your own estimate is up to more than five times the necessary cost (£55,000) or the allotment club’s plans, which bearing in mind our donation means costs to the town will reduce to around £5,000 plus a piece of land three metres by 50 metres from North Somerset from the edge of an unused section of field on the leisure centre.

It really isn’t rocket science.

TONY FRENCH

Bournville Road, Weston

ORIGIANLLY we were told that the Hutton Moor allotment site will be locked from 9am - 5.30pm every day this week to allow men to come in and remove the red asbestos from the site.

Today, one man turns up, removes the barrier that currently prevents allotment holders from driving down where the red asbestos is and then drove a mini digger with a caterpillar track on it all the way down to the bottom of the path and over the red asbestos crushing it even more. All he did was a little area at the bottom car park and all the asbestos in the potholes down the main path still remains and even more crushed than before as he then drove his digger back up to the top car park and then went home at 12pm. Allotment holders turned up at 1pm to find the normal padlock on the gate and no sign of the workmen.

Is this what the council are paying £5,000 for, to have someone work half a day, to drive a mini digger over the asbestos which allotment holders aren’t allowed to do and then pack up and go home after the first three hours of work?

Absolutely outrageous. At this rate I can’t see the job being completed by Friday. It’s an absolute joke and we the allotment holders aren’t laughing.

BEN NICHOLAS

Bailey Close, Locking Castle

I WAS pleased to read Cllr Richard Nightingale’s letter praising the recent Air Days and Armed Forces Days on Weston seafront, any event that attracts 170,000 visitors is indeed worthy of praise.

However please allow me to clarify a couple of points contained in his letter.

The Air Days and the Armed Forces Days although working hand in hand, are in fact events planned and run by two different organisations.

The seafront events team do an excellent job of organising the air days and all credit to them. The Armed Forces Days, as Cllr Nightingale correctly stated, is run in the name of Weston Town Council. In fact this event is run and organised by a management committee, consisting almost entirely of hard working and enthusiastic, unpaid volunteers who plan and execute Armed Forces Days in the name of Weston Town Council. These volunteers work tirelessly, to showcase the contribution of UK Armed Forces, past, present and future.

It is encouraging that our councillors and the public enjoy and support these events and long may they continue.

GARRY HAWKES

Fairfield Close, Weston

I WAS so pleased to hear that the Air Days went well.

It is a great pity that council greed prevented a number of small local traders,

craftspeople and artists attending.

North Somerset Council’s (NSC) reply would no doubt be something along the lines of ‘our charge was similar to the charge levied by similar events’.

True, but other airshows also have indoor interests for when it rains and stallholders’ stock is not subject to deterioration due to windblown sand.

There are also adequate toilet facilities.

Sorry NS, the facilities available on the Beach Lawns do not match those offered by other airshows. Nice try but no cigar (not at that price).

PETER COULDWELL

Holly Close, Worle

THANK you Weston for two days of a great show, with the Weston Air Festival, they were wonderful, especially the Red Arrows.

VAL STONE

Eton Road, Burnham

IN HIS letter ‘Good news’ last week, Richard Nightingale was quite right to praise the team behind the Weston Air Day.

The impressive figures speak for themselves - 170,000 visitors, more than 100 aircraft, displays and stalls, the hotels full and an estimated £100million boost to the local economy.

Add this event to the Grand Pier, Beach Race, Sand Sculpture Festival and countless other concerts and events and it’s clear that Weston has a huge amount to offer. But that’s not all. With a highly successful college, falling unemployment and such thriving enterprises as The Hive, our town looks set for a bright future. And yet the Mercury’s regular cohort of complainers will still moan about ‘the council having absolutely no idea how to manage tourism’ or that ‘the town looks like it did in the war’. I guess there’s no pleasing some people.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

AFTER reading the letter from Ian Pitch twice I wonder why he is so aggressive in his comments regarding Julian Norris in particular and the independents in general?

As for the rest of his letter I agree that in general the masses will stick with what they know unless some unexpected event or charismatic individual comes along and changes their mind. However considering Mr Pitch’s attitude of not striving for change because it looks impossible to achieve we would still have the Corn Laws and would not have many of the freedoms we now enjoy.

Things can change and individuals who feel they have abilities should be encouraged to chase their dreams. In 2001 a local Mansfield businessman Stewart Rickersey thought the council’s rush to cabinet local government was undemocratic and seriously flawed. He was ridiculed and ostracised by the political establishment both national and local. Then to the amazement of all the naysayer managed to overturn decades of Labour control. From 2003 to 2011 Mansfield was run by independents. Yes they lost their power in 2011 but there has been realisation by politicians that in this town the electorate could not be taken for granted.

There is no doubt that when most individuals strive to be councillors they do so for all the right reasons unfortunately, like the rest of us, they are flawed human beings and will either become disillusioned or frustrated by the way the system works and leave politics or become part of the system. In North Somerset we have a group of long term incumbents that are excellent political operators who can ensuring they retain power.

Unlike Tony Blair, the instigator of modern council operations and awarding councillors substantial salaries, I do not believe that it’s democratically safe for any councillor to stand for more than two terms or to receive remuneration above the living wage. As Mr Pitch says this is the system we have flawed as it is, but this does not make it right, nor does it mean individuals should not fight to make it better.

Things will change as the demographics change in the area. The young educated Europeans now taking up residence in the area are all politically aware and will soon be eligible to vote. When that happens the political dynamics will change.

JAMES A DOBSON

Swan Close, Weston

DEAR Mr Jakeman, I was very sorry to read your recent letter to the Mercury and that you feel I do not listen to or act on local residents’ views and concerns.

It really is something that I take very seriously and work very hard on everyday. Firstly may I say I don’t believe we have spoken before, but I would be happy to discuss this or any other matter with you, council or not council connected.

My contact number is 07963404250 you can also email me at centralwardwsm@outlook.com, or www.twitter.com/centralwardnews I hold regular drop in meetings, and anyone and everyone is welcome to attend, where I am happy to take up any issue and take forward any concerns. My next drop in meeting is at noon Saturday July 25 at The Waverley in Severn Road. We have also helped to form and work with, almost on a daily basis, the new Central Weston Residents Group, lead by Chris Nettleton 07981105965 who will also be attending.

It also might interest you to know that since I was elected to the council in May this year, I receive approximately two to three calls a day from local residents. They are on a wide ranging series of topics, from school places, GPs missed appointments, adoption, to the weather forecast for our recent fantastic Air Festival. Some are council related and most are not, but I am still happy to help wherever I can. Some can be resolved very quickly with straightforward advice or information, others are on more complicated issues and can take many hours, if not days of work. I am pleased to say though out of the 42 calls, which needed further investigation only five remain outstanding. Listening is not only important, it is something I take pride in.

I have only been elected for a short period, however I firmly believe in looking forward not back. As a town we have come so far, but there is much more to be done. Progress is nearly always painful, I want to concentrate on speeding up the long awaited results.

CLLR RICHARD NIGHTINGALE

Aisecombe Way, Weston

I READ C J Peverelle’s letter published last week with interest but to enable real reflection, I feel we need a rounded picture.

There are indeed some benefits to being a local election candidate of a political party but it is certainly not the guarantee of electoral success or even the wholly advantageous position suggested in this letter.

Firstly equality for candidates in terms of campaign spending is largely ensured by the strict legal expenditure limits.

Secondly the ‘party machine’ locally is only a handful of individuals who volunteer to deliver some leaflets or stuff some envelopes. Weston Conservative Association is comprised of ordinary people who love where they live and have been inspired to get involved to help their town. Although not blessed with great numbers of volunteers or funds, we do have commitment in abundance. This means that small teams hit the streets most Saturday mornings all year round (elections in the offing or not) to knock on doors and ask residents if there are any issues or concerns they would like to see addressed. Our team is regularly made up of our MP John Penrose and local Conservative councillors.

The councillors in the Winterstoke Ward where I live and now also proudly represent, have drop-in surgeries and we can be contacted directly. We are proud to be invited to community events and I really enjoyed the warm and friendly welcome at the Haywood Village Residents’ Association barbecue last weekend. We are here to help so please get in touch if there’s anything we can do. All our contact details are on the North Somerset Council website and in the latest North Somerset Life magazine. If you would like to keep right up to date with what we are doing, you can follow us on Twitter via @Winterstoke2015

COUNCILLOR SARAH CODLING

Winterstoke Ward

Worle Moor Road, Weston

COUNCILLOR Nigel Ashton uses the platform of ‘Life’ magazine – published at taxpayer expense – to praise himself and the council for their good works on our behalf and to criticise those he thinks are frustrating the council’s attempts to improve life for us all.

So it is that he complains about the council being ‘forced to allow builders to develop… too many homes’ in the next decade – and more after that – thereby ‘over ruining our villages and green belt’ and to make matters word ‘without much infrastructure as developers routinely argue they cannot afford to provide the facilities needed’ etc.

This he tells us is because the ‘Government listens to developers’ views of the need, not the local authority’, adding that the developers then “pick the easy sites and leave the rest of us to suffer the consequences of fragments, unsupported communities”. His remedy? Developers should be forced to build instead of just ‘land banking empty sites for the future’ which, so he claims, ‘would bring prices down and force them to be more honest about numbers in the first place’.

Older readers like me will instantly recognise echoes of the self justifying rhetoric of the old Soviet Union using its huge centralised powers to bully its subjects, to distrain upon their resources, to remove their freedoms, to force them to act against their will, to destroy free markets, to enforce compliance with its dictates by powerful sanctions and by bureaucratic encirclement; all this was to provide a glowing future for everyone which never actually came – things just got steadily worse – just like today’s housing crisis in this country. Councillor Ashton, sad to say, is not part of the solution but he and those who share his mindset are part of the problem.

Planning legislation has granted an outright monopoly to state and local authorities to deny development upon land they don’t own on basically whatever grounds they choose; so it is that we have the ‘green belt’ which has established a tight ‘no build’ corset around growing urban areas which in turn has led to villages being overrun as the demand for housing, backed by city incomes, leapfrogs the belt and changes the whole character of villages thereby creating ghettos for the better off who use their material advantage to displace local people; worse still, the infrastructure required to cope with the greatly increased commuting habits obliges our planners and councils to provide infrastructure if the transport system is not to degenerate and seize up.

Compounding the pernicious effects of this monopoly is another monopoly – that of the big developer – who are the only ones who can build houses in sufficient numbers to get anywhere near meeting the demand.

For the most part small builders have been put out of business by the cost burdens of the planning legislation. The developers have is all their own way, of course, because there is no effective competition to restrain their efforts to make a profit without which they would be out of business. The local authority, having given up building social housing, now has to rely on developer not abusing their domination of the market. So without either side meaning it to be so, we now have to cope with two monopolies exploiting the public’s urgent need for shelter.

What a hotchpotch of bad outcomes we now have to endure: young people seeking a future for themselves and their families and suffering severely in the attempt to meet their needs in the teeth of absurd price levels; land owners who make small fortunes if they gain development consent; the local authority that has a national duty to provide the basics for the whole population while it has neither the assets nor the funds to organise anything very much directly and lastly those who can – and will – deliver the goods which they are permitted to supply but will not do so at a loss. They are all at odds with one another and without fundamental change the situation can only get worse.

Well, that’s ‘planning’ for you and the abiding law of unintended consequences.

PHILIP BINDING

Fountain Lane, Sidcot

IT MAY surprise some readers that roads were not invented for the sole purpose of cars, yet our suburban roads are clogged with vehicles parked on both sides of the road.

There is little room to pass on such streets and when vehicles, such as recycling lorries, hog the centre of the roads everything comes to a standstill.

Emergency vehicles find it a nightmare and often there are stand offs as drivers from each direction try to force their way through.

No wonder buses are late arriving when they have to negotiate clogged roads.

I remember the days when parking was restricted to one side of the road – on the left on odd dates and right on even dates.

Of course this was years ago when fewer home owners had cars but I am sure it could still work in some areas.

Another answer is more one way streets to help the flow of traffic.

Whatever happens something has to be done to help the situation and somehow turn road rage into a new age of parking.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

IT WAS my fault? Well of course it was, never the dog or owner’s fault that it gets in my way, circles, jumps up, paws, mauls, scratches and previously bitten me; yes, the fact I got bitten by someone’s dog was my fault (according to the owner, obviously).

I have had one and a half apologies since I started counting, 12 years ago, and the one apology was from a neighbour.

So yet again this morning I am set upon by a dog; I wasn’t happy so I loudly told it to ‘go away’ it should be noted that since being bitten I now expect all dogs that run up to me to be a potential threat to my safety. The response from the owner as she walked past - a disgruntled huff. Personally, I think an apology would have been better, I of course never expect to get one and true to form, didn’t.

Now, had I (or someone I was in charge of) gone up to this woman, walked around her, stood in front of her, scratched at her and pushed her a bit, she would probably be a little concerned and maybe a little scared and I’m damned sure would be expecting an apology at the very least.

Well guess what dog owners, that’s how I feel every time your dog starts coming at me.

Not wishing to tar everyone, some owners, if they see me in time, actually get hold of their dog and keep it out of the way; thank you to those people for being proper human beings. There are then those that bother to give their dogs some training which is great because they don’t chase you, only they let themselves down because the dog has complete right of way, a little annoying but I’ll put up with it.

Then the rest that seem to think their dog can do whatever, whenever and wherever it wants with complete disregard to anyone else and it makes no matter if they are in the wrong, their dog is always right and comes before all else. This group is a high percentage and I’d say probably the majority.

So, to all the rest of you dog owners, if you can’t train your dog then put it on a lead because allowing your dog to chase, circle, jump up, scratch, paw, get in the way, trip me up, get under my bike wheels, etc, this is not acceptable. You need to learn that others may not like dogs near them and that they have a right to use paths and open spaces without being harassed by your dogs. Accept responsibility and understand that your dog isn’t actually the centre of the universe. An apology would be a good start because you know what, it wasn’t my fault, it’s entirely yours.

ANDREW SUTTON

Worlebury Hill Road, Weston

A RECENT letter to the local press referred to the loss of democratic control which allows the mayor of Bristol to dispose of Avonmouth docks at a knock down price.

It said: “Boris Johnson is answerable to the London Assembly and the Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, but George Ferguson, it appears, is answerable to no one, not even the city council, the majority of whom are against the plan. When Bristol citizens voted for their first elected mayor, it was not explained fully to them that he would have such quasi-dictatorial powers.”

The writer accused Mayor Ferguson of ignoring Bristol City Council. What happens to Avonmouth, which is an economic driver for all of us, affects the prosperity of the whole of Bristol province, that is the Bath-Bristol travel to work region, but the decision is in the hands of one man who represents the city but not the rest of us. Lack of democratic accountability is why Bristol province (the Avon area, plus Somerset and West Wiltshire) needs a democratically elected provincial assembly.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

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