LETTERS TO EDITOR, MARCH 8

Damage

ALL credit to Weston’s MP and the minister responsible for tourism in England John Penrose, for coming to the aid of Weston against the dictatorial North Somerset Council.

This will put him at odds with certain senior Conservative party councillors.

It is to be hoped that Conservatives on the town council who also represent the town on North Somerset Council will follow his example and that one or two more, like Sonia Russe, will make stands against those policies pursued by Councillors Ashton, Ap Rees and Lake on North Somerset Council which do damage to Weston and the surrounding villages which rely on Weston.

As ever, North Somerset Councillor David Shopland, the independent councillor from Clevedon, was bang on target. Too many Conservative councillors who sit on both Weston Town Council and North Somerset Council put their party before their town, although there are one or two who do not, I have already mentioned Sonia Russe who put up a valiant fight to keep the Tropicana and has voted consistently against the party line on the issue.


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Cllr Shopland recommended, to the sneers of the majority party, that North Somerset transfer ownership of the Tropicana to the town council, and to provide the town council with the wherewithal necessary.

His motion was overwhelmingly defeated.

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His new proposal for a central site for a replacement pool (Weston is under-provided with swimming facilities) has merit, but a pool on the site currently occupied by the Tropicana has the added advantage of providing a visitor attraction on the seafront (an important consideration), as well as the second public swimming facility that the rapidly growing town of Weston desperately needs for its residents.

Something else to which the same principle of giving ownership to the town council should apply is ownership of our parks and gardens.

As Cllr Shopland said, before voting according to party label when choosing their representatives on the two councils (town and district), the voters of Weston should satisfy themselves that they know where the candidates stand on important issues which affect the town and the wellbeing of their families, such as the Tropicana and Poppyfields.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

Street parties

YEARS ago in Winscombe, they had street parties in every area, but when it came to the Royal Wedding last year, people did not want to know.

There used to be great enjoyment when everyone got together and they all put bits and pieces together, like one family would get their old tea urn out and someone else in the same street would supply sandwiches and little cakes.

Everyone wanted to be or get involved.

For the Silver Jubilee my mother even made bunting on her sewing machine and rosettes for people to wear in red, white and blue.

But now no-one wants to know and would rather that it came and went without everyone in the street where they live celebrating and getting to know their neighbours, which is really silly in my opinion. There is no neighbourly spirit now, not like there was years ago.

No-one wants to do anything to celebrate this special occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or not around where we live anyway.

My wife has lived in Winscombe for over 40 years and says it was much better years ago than it is now.

PAUL BULLEN

Homefield Close, Winscombe

Charity shops

HERE we go again. What is it with these people who keep whinging about Weston’s charity shops? Can’t they see that these are keeping the shopping areas alive?

Perhaps they would rather see empty premises, boarded up and plastered with crude graffiti and out-of-date fly posters for Bristol night clubs and travelling fairs and circuses?

What a tourist attraction that would be.

I notice that Weston Hospicecare had a shop on the corner of Regent Street and High Street, a temporary arrangement until the owners of the property found a new tenant.

Now they have moved to a newly-vacated site opposite the Odeon, doubtless ready to resume their peregrinations when another trader takes over the tenancy.

Apart from the good work the charity does – and which of us may not be glad of its care some day? – they are benefiting other shopkeepers by their presence.

They deserve our support and our gratitude.

ROY CHANCELLOR

Westbury Crescent, Weston

Sympathise

YES how I sympathise with Richard Bartlett concerning some dog owners not picking up after their dog’s toilet.

I also fully back up the comments made by Sue Bradford.

Some of these dog owners are an absolute disgrace, no regard to other dog walkers, no regard to children out walking with their parents, no regard to cyclist, no regard to hikers.

Can you imagine, if we are lucky to have a decent summer, the stench, the flies etc.

Where are the dog wardens to patrol the Strawberry Line.

They patrol Congresbury and Yatton and caught a few walkers and fines been imposed.

Like Sue Bradford said, are they embarrassed? Maybe they are too lazy to pick up?

They have no respect for other people and I wouldn’t be backwards in coming forward in telling you what I thought of your disgusting habit.

B SHERGOLD

Orchard Drive, Sandford

Standard of care

TWO weeks after the leader of the council implied that the standard of care in North Somerset care homes was consistent yet another case of sub-standard care was reported in last week’s Mercury.

When are social workers and the commissioning department, who pay and say they regularly visit these establishments, going to open their eyes?

Policing these establishments should not be left to infrequent visits by the Care Quality Commission whose record alone in the light of the Winterbourne Down and other scandals says it all.

PAUL DOOLAN

Chestnut Close, Congresbury

A little extra

FIRST we have Councillor Elfan Ap Rees stating that those who write letters in the Mercury write a lot of rubbish and now Councillor David Shopland is reported as saying that the residents of Weston are sadly wanting and should find money for the Tropicana.

It does seem that councillors are always right and the electorate always wrong.

I may have got it wrong but do we not fund council projects through the council tax? I for one would be very happy to pay a little extra towards the Tropicana. Unfortunately I cannot fork out the millions needed to restore the Trop but I would put my faith in the businessmen who still want to go ahead with their scheme. Not all councillors are professional business people, in fact some have no experience whatsoever, yet we trust them to be good stewards of our finances.

It does seem that councillors are jealous of any business-run project in the town and put many obstacles in their way. Now it seems they are turning their attention to the ordinary people, those who vote them in at the polls. Well we have very good memories and some heads may roll come the next election.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Fantastic

I HAD the privilege last Wednesday morning of watching Churchill Academy/Six Form Centre and St Andrew’s Primary school perform Oliver at the Playhouse – their first show of four, which is a big achievement in itself, but what a fantastic experience for them all.

It was not in the Playhouse’s brochure, because I gather it was initially only schoolchildren who were booked to watch it. This was a great shame as I am sure it would have attracted a larger audience had it been more widely advertised, which the cast richly deserved, to showcase their talent to many more.

It is no mean feat to put on a full length musical and perform in a theatre, especially when the vast majority of the cast were schoolchildren.

They certainly did themselves and the schools proud. It was a joy to watch.

The choreography for the dance routines were brilliant and innovative, as was the dancing, especially considering how many youngsters were on stage in some of the scenes.

They were full of energy, enthusiastic and very well rehearsed. The singing from the cast and soloists were first rate, as were the costumes and scenery.

The young lad who played the Artful Dodger is a star in the making. Fagin was also exceptionally good. You could really believe their characters. Mr Bumble and Nancy also deserve a mention.

I believe the school orchestra was responsible for the music. They were also incredible and so professional.

A massive congratulations and well done to all those involved in any way with the show. The commitment and dedication was really evident. I think we have a lot of talent in North Somerset. This was young people at their very best!

It’s refreshing to be able to write about something so positive and uplifting.

JULIE POWER

Exeter Road, Weston

Prefer work

I REFER to the front page story in the issue for March 1. Stories of this type are, to me, far too frequent in the press although I don’t deny that someone who cheats the system out of �56,000 deserves all she gets.

However I do wish that, just for once, some newspaper would, in the interest of balance, publish a survey of all those on benefits to see just how the more average recipients do get by.

Most do not cheat the system. Most of those out of work are doing their best to find jobs and even if they do not take home much more when working, actually prefer work to unemployment as it confers self-respect.

If I’d been out of work for six months or so doing nothing but sending out applications which are constantly rejected, then I might even welcome so-called ‘workfare’ – at least I’d be doing something positive, however menial, and would be getting out of the house and meeting new people. And benefit money, plus expenses, would still be coming in.

Of course I wouldn’t personally, in that sense, be anybody’s slave even though arguably an employer is getting a part of their wage bill paid for by the taxpayer. Perhaps also some of the press could take a close look at those very wealthy individuals and big corporations who employ expensive lawyers and accountants to exploit each and every loophole which gets them out of paying their far share of taxes.

In addition, a fair number of claimants are actually in work and using such as housing benefit and tax credits to supplement low pay.

There is also some evidence that high-profile stories about cheats who pretend to be disabled have actually led to an increase in assaults on, and abuse of, those who are genuinely disabled. Such assaults are beneath contempt and should not be encouraged in any way.

HUMPHREY READER

Greenwood Road, Weston

Memories

I STRONGLY object to MP John Penrose’s statement when he says he speaks for everyone else in Weston regarding the ex-Tropicana. Here’s one he doesn’t speak for.

People of a certain age group all have fond memories of the open air pool with its shute, springboard and Olympic-standard diving stages and all the fun we had.

Then what happened? The council let it run into disrepair bit by bit and then said it would cost too much to put right.

Then we had the Tropicana and virtually the same thing happened there. With years of indecision over various schemes the council has now made the right decision.

Flatten this eyesore and return the space to nature and the people. Enough is enough.

A S DAVIS

Victoria Quadrant, Weston

Oppo Comedy

IT WAS nice to see a preview of Bristol’s excellent Oppo Comedy night in the Weston Mercury dated March 1.

However, it might be worth clarifying a couple of points for any readers who might be considering making the journey.

The club night is indeed called Oppo - named after a defunct Bristol caf� where it used to be held - but it actually takes place in the basement (Pembroke Bar) of Channing’s Hotel in Pembroke Road, Clifton. Anybody looking for, or asking directions for, a building called Oppo would be thwarted.

Also, the stated �10 admission price for James Acaster’s appearance on Sunday March 18 is much exaggerated. In fact the usual entry fee - a far more reasonable �2 - will apply. This was confirmed by compere Jared Hardy during Sunday night’s show.

F HARVEY

Prince’s Buildings, Clifton, Bristol

Meet privately

IN LAST week’s Weston Mercury town councillor Clive Darke accused Lib Dem and Labour councillors of bringing party politics into council business, implying that his Conservative colleagues couldn’t possibly stoop so low. Really?

Is Councillor Darke actually telling us that his own majority tribe doesn’t meet privately before decision-making time in order to ‘arrange’ matters and is this not the councillor who exercises a consistently belligerent attitude to anyone not of his own persuasion? Get real Clive - politics put us there and we all play the game to lesser or greater degrees.

I wonder just how many councillors are in post as a result of what they are rather than who they are. We could solve the problem quite easily.

Come the next town council election in three years time why don’t we all stand as non-party candidates? Devoid of blue, red or yellow crutches the composition of the council might become a hint more interesting.

COUNCILLOR JOHN CROCKFORD-HAWLEY

Gerard Road, Weston

Heartfelt plea

DEREK Mead’s latest heartfelt plea ‘Cannot present our business proposals’ in last week’s Mercury was very touching but bears closer scrutiny.

He continues to claim to be the victim of obstruction and prejudice from North Somerset Council (NSC) regarding his plans to redevelop the Tropicana. But the fact remains that he has still to offer a viable planning proposal for the council to consider. As Nicholas Ferguson correctly wrote last week “if you have a good plan then submit it rather than just talk about it – put your money where your mouth is”.

But things aren’t necessarily as simple as they seem. Mr Mead says he has a solid plan to redevelop the existing building but the structure is known to be basically unsound. We are told that there is no satisfactory underpinning of the pool and the whole edifice is even said to move with the tides. And it should be remembered that all the previous proposals for the site – including the much-vaunted Nightingale plan – were based on the total demolition of the Tropicana. So how could Mr Mead’s radical scheme sensibly defy all the earlier architectural and engineering evidence for demolition?

Let’s not forget that Derek Mead is a property developer – that’s how he makes his money. He’s perfectly entitled to, of course, and clearly thinks that a revitalised Tropicana is a profitable venture. But when a developer starts to use strong arm tactics on the public budget to achieve his aims we should be wary. He says he will mount a Judicial Review opposing the Tropicana’s demolition and sadly regrets the cost to the taxpayer. In his letter he adopts the cynical tactic of “my actions will hurt the public purse, but it’s the council who are to blame”. This is the classic excuse of the classroom bully – ‘it wasn’t my fault sir, the other boys made me do it’.

But Mr Mead has also said recently “I’m a very determined person and I do not like losing, and I’m going to run this right to the end”. So, in reality, his Tropicana plan appears to be little more than a vanity project, a battle of wills between unfettered free enterprise and responsible public stewardship. And the consequent legal shenanigans are nothing more than a delaying tactic as Mr Mead scrambles to formulate a scheme with any financial or technical logic. Such a deliberate delaying strategy also flies in the face of Mr John Penrose’s recent exhortation to ‘turn his draft proposals into a financially solid, watertight business plan as quickly as possible’. But we’re clearly in for a long wait - don’t forget that Mr Mead has said his plan depends on unreliable public grants rather than readily accessible capital.

So, despite his bluster and bravado, Mr Mead still seems to have a great many questions to answer to us, the taxpayers. Rather than being the bad boys of the story, I suggest NSC is being prudently pragmatic in its decision to clear the derelict Tropicana site and provide a blank slate for whatever realistic, viable proposition that may emerge in the future. Who knows, perhaps it might even be from Derek Mead, but with a plan that actually makes sense.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

New surgery

RE: PROVISION of GP services at New Court and Longton Grove Surgeries.

I am referring to a piece in your paper under the headline ‘Patients forced to seek healthcare elsewhere’.

One of the consequences of this article is that some patients of the practices of New Court and Longton Grove have become worried that they will have to find an alternative to their current GP.

Nothing could be further from the truth. All existing patients of the two surgeries will automatically move to the new surgery in Locking Road when that move takes place. There is no chance of any existing patients being asked to look for a new GP, indeed the move will give us extra capacity to take on more patients. I hope this clarifies the issue for all of our patients.

DR JOHN HEATHER

Partner, New Court Surgery, Boulevard, Weston

Rubbish

I HAVE already reported this to North Somerset Council, but I think it’s landed on deaf ears.

I travel the A370 bypass on a daily basis in and out of Bristol and the amount of rubbish that is on the grass verges and hedges is an absolute disgrace.

Large amounts of plastic sheeting hanging from the hedges and the rest is debris. Wheel caps, tyres, bottles, you name it it’s there.

About a week ago there was a fence panel on the bridge, but I noticed recently that had disappeared - not by the council I presume.

Also there is a dead fox which has been there nearly a month on the approach to Flax Bourton end of the bypass.

On the approach to the bypass from Barrow Gurney heading for Bristol there has been a Tesco plastic bag which has been there since October 2011.

Anyone out there that works for the council, can they get them to clear this mess. Not only the bypass, on the A38 around the airport and beyond heading for Bristol.

I do care about the environment, but there are animals that live in our grass verges and hedges and surely the debris must be harmful to them too? But also, I do care that the area looks more like the natural habitat and not a rubbish tip.

LIZ LACEY

Orchard Close, Wrington

Success

IN RESPONSE to Alex Evans’ article regarding Weston Sea Cadets’ support in starting a sea cadet unit in Axbridge, may I give my full support for what is an admirable undertaking.

I spent nearly 12 years at Weston Sea Cadets instructing drill and shooting, and would say that during that time I saw many young people from all walks of life pass through who gained valuable life skills, respect of self and others, and above all a sense of belonging and purpose. I have no doubt that with my knowledge of the dedicated staff and support (a special mention here for George Coles) at Weston Sea Cadets this will become another success in a society that sometimes is sadly lacking in direction.

If you want your children to develop in a disciplined, safe, and yet liberal way, get them interested in sea cadets.

KEN SHARP

Windwhistle Circle, Weston

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