Letters to the Editor, April 12, 2012

Barricades

IN A recent edition you reported that Councillor Elfan Ap Rees said that the council was under pressure to create new traveller sites and that residents of North Somerset should be prepared for new sites next to some of the new housing developments.

He said that he was comfortable that house prices would not be affected and that people should not worry about traveller behaviour.

This struck me as odd as my only memory of Councillor Ap Rees was his action in helping organise physical barricades to prevent travellers entering Locking Parklands some 12 to 18 months ago.

It became clear when I read page 14 of April 14 Daily Mail which reported that as part of the Government’s New Homes Bonus, North Somerset is due to receive �2million to provide new traveller sites.


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This is seen by many as a misuse of the New Homes Bonus and a way of bribing councils to clear the way for new sites. The electorate doesn’t seem to be involved or educated in this matter at all.

I don’t think that Councillor Ap Rees has been honest about this issue and should be more open about why he is urging voters to accept more sites.

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R WEBBER

Address supplied

Needy

BRIAN Austin asked: “What on earth is happening to Weston and is there anyone in authority prepared to care?” The fact is that councillors who do speak up for Weston are largely ignored by senior councillors on North Somerset Council, who do not care about Weston.

Weston has a needy population and that increases with every new housing estate which is built without any thought for the consequences for medical provision, increased unemployment and pressure on infrastructure.

The proposed closure of public toilets is part of the same picture. Old people and visitors need those toilets. North Somerset’s response to Weston’s needs is to wash its hands of the town as a seaside resort and allow it to sink into squalor, and they refuse to hand over control of the town to councillors (Weston Town Council) who would care for it. I recently attended a meeting in Weston which was addressed by a prominent local politician. He told us that Weston would never again be a seaside resort. That led me to thinking what it would be.

Weston’s capacity to act as a dormitory town for Bristol is more or less exhausted. Geography dictates that the economic driver for this region will be South Gloucestershire. That is where those 20,000 houses should be built, ie close to the work. To expand the population of Weston further makes no obvious sense.

Weston is never going to be a hotbed of industrial activity, as has been proved over the years. Unless the Weston town region is developed as a tourist area, it is going to be nothing but a vast housing estate.

As was made clear to me a number of years by a couple of Danish back-packers, the two most attractive features of Weston, the Tropicana and Birnbeck Pier, have been allowed to decay. Regeneration of Weston as a tourist centre, demands that those two are restored.

The days of the seaside landlady may be past, but the area within easy reach of Weston has much to offer tourists, if properly developed and marketed.

Parish councils from Yatton to Highbridge and Burnham need to get together to design a touristic experience for cyclists and walkers. For example, a light foot-cum-cycle bridge near the mouth of the Axe would make an enormous difference, linked into a network of footpaths, bridle paths and cycle ways across the town region.

As Clevedon’s independent councillor David Shopland once said at a meeting of North Somerset Council: “Give Weston Town Council what it requires, and let it get on with what it needs to do”.

There would be cost savings which could be spent on employing toilet attendants.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

Waste

I WOULD like the opportunity to reply to one of your contributors under the heading ‘Dangerous’ regarding the lack of street lighting at night and the quite blatant waste of electricity at the St Georges Court opposite malfunction junction mentioned by one of your previous contributors.

What your contributors do not understand is the fact that waste of resources does not seem to apply in the public sector.

Whereas in the private sector the bottom line is profit not only to the company but to shareholders, and therefore income generator for the country as a whole, in the public sector this is not a problem. The taxpayer always picks up the tab. That is why the court buildings at St Georges and the council buildings in Clevedon are lit up like Christmas trees at all hours when no-one is in attendance and the street lighting in Hutton and Hewish and soon most areas will be turned off.

That attitude is exampled when the union representative pleaded via the Mercury a few weeks back, for North Somerset Council to raise council tax to protect their jobs. They are not interested in what they can do to help us out of the mess. All they are interested in is their own jobs, their own pensions, their own salaries. Little sympathy is expressed by them for the poor taxpayer who has to pay for it all.

Here in Hewish where I live, we have to do without the street lighting and in the months since its implementation, we have seen an increase in vandalism, attempted theft and actual theft. For what cost saving? �670.17 per annum.

Now if they wanted to save some real money and not inconvenience the taxpayer they could always look at the cost of union representation. The same ones that pleaded with NSC not to freeze council tax.

During the last three years, the council has had an internal cost of �125,900 (figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) that is an average of �41,966 per annum of releasing employees from their employment to undertake trade union activities on behalf of council employees. The only question I have to ask is why? If the employees are being released to conduct union business, the unions should be paying this amount to the council. After all they have sufficient funds to bankroll the Labour party so why shouldn’t they pay for their representatives when they are on purely union business?

If they did that, then perhaps we may have some of our street lighting left on and the insurance companies in the private sector may not have to pay out so much in claims.

PETER JONES

Watermans, Hewish

Poor deal

IN RESPONSE to Brian Austin’s letter in last week’s Mercury, as one of the 23 North Somerset Councillors representing Weston I wanted to write and say I largely agree with him.

Weston is getting a poor deal from the council and as a community we are not doing enough to stand up for ourselves and fight our corner.

I am not someone who has often been accused of keeping my mouth shut and I apologise to Brian if he counts me as one of those councillors who are not outspoken enough in standing up for Weston. I’ll try to do better.

North Somerset Council is dominated by councillors from outside of Weston and has too many town-based councillors who are happy to go along with the orders of their party bosses from Portishead.

Sadly, unlike much of the country, North Somerset does not have local elections this year. We must wait until 2015 to change the faces and the policies they support.

But in the meantime, residents must give councillors a hard time. Hold us to account for the decisions that we do and do not make. Yes, it may not make much difference. Councillors still may not listen. Goodness knows, we’ve all seen plenty of examples of that.

But the only guaranteed way to get useless councillors, bad decisions and a community heading in the wrong direction is for residents and business people to sit back and do nothing.

I love Weston and love living here. But we have so much more that we can achieve together. I am angry that we have been saddled with councils of all parties over the years that have simply not delivered. We must do better.

CLLR MIKE BELL

George Street, Weston

Compare

I WAS interested to compare the Mead Group’s attitude to old buildings in your report ‘Disappointment at hotel proposals’ last week.

We read that its plan to demolish the ruined, Grade II-listed Highbridge Hotel for a housing-led scheme was rejected by district councillors and residents.

Cllr Joe Leach said ‘it is the sole responsibility of Mead Realisations to bring it back into a usable condition’.

But Derek Mead responded to the accusation of lack of funds for the project by saying ‘I do not know what Cllr Leach expects me to do, wave a magic wand?’ But that’s exactly what Mr Mead is doing with his proposed Tropicana redevelopment.

We have already been told that the vast bulk of the estimated �4.6million cost to renovate the crumbling pool will have to come from charitable grants that have yet to be identified, let alone applied for.

Furthermore, Mr Mead repeated his request for North Somerset Council to hand over the freehold of the site.

They would be mad to give up control of such an important part of the beach and promenade. There would be nothing to stop its sale and the council would be powerless to stop it. Incidentally, where does Mr Mead think that all the paying customers will come from to transform his vision of a new Tropicana into a commercial reality?

From my experience in Weston this cold, rainy, windswept weekend, the last place anyone sane would consider for fun would be an open-air, seafront swimming pool.

PETER JOHNSON

Stonewell Park Road, Congresbury

Concerns

I WRITE to voice concerns about the proposed closure of the GP healthcare service based in Weston hospital. Also the Boulevard site, apart from the walk-in facility, which is scheduled to close at the same time.

I am a registered patient at the GP centre and like may others, I believe it to be a good service which no-one wants to lose.

The cloak and dagger secrecy with which this whole affair is being handled is quite disgusting, and goes against the ‘transparency’ assurances we get these days from bureaucratic departments.

Patients were sent a questionnaire some months ago, but the proposed closure was not mentioned.

The first I knew about it was seeing a notice on the glass partition at reception when I went for an appointment with a doctor.

Suffering with bronchitis at the time, it is a wonder I wrote down the number of Brenda Porter, who has been struggling single-handedly to raise awareness of the issue, and who despite being a carer for her husband, manages to campaign tirelessly against the closure.

We have organised a petition which is gaining signatures.

The strength of feelings of anger and disappointment of those who sign is amazing. Everyone is outraged and shocked at the way their healthcare needs would be compromised.

If it goes ahead, the closure will mean the loss of a vital facility which will be detrimental for many people.

JANE PATERSON

Celtic Way, Bleadon

No street lights on

AT Locking Moor Road, Herluin Way and Maltlands at 5am there are no street lights on, not even at the roundabout - they now only come back on the next night.

I have phoned and emailed the street lighting department explaining how dangerous it is to ride a bike or walk there. Their answer is - it is safe.

I asked them if they could at least switch them on at 5am or dim them, or put one light on here and there, or make them solar. They are not interested. We pay our taxes to be safe and to see.

Guess someone has to have a bad accident or die before something is done.

MAUREEN EMERY

Campion Close, Locking Castle, Weston

Thank you

ON APRIL 10, I did a very silly thing - I left my handbag in the trolley at Tesco car park.

May I, through your page, thank the unknown gentleman who handed it in to members of staff in the store? I am extremely grateful for his good deed and hope he sees my letter.

H HARVEY

Ashford Drive, Weston

Appointments

AS A regular patient at Bristol Eye Hospital and Weston General Hospital I am so grateful for all the help shown to me by all grades of medical staff.

There are so many patients who complain about long waiting times and long waiting lists.

There are many patients who are given bad news during their consultation. Show patience and compassion.

If you are unable to keep any hospital appointment telephone to cancel it.

So many times when I attend the eye hospital there are at least 40 patients a day not keeping their appointments. These appointments could have been given to someone else.

At Weston General Hospital there are often patients failing to attend for X-rays, blood tests, etc, too.

I appreciate the help I get for all of the medical treatment I receive.

Show consideration for others and don’t just moan about waiting times.

LINDA HEANEY

Kelston Gardens, North Worle

Collection

A NOTE to acknowledge collection of �40 on March 10 (before I was rained off) for Respect of Animals.

Thank you to all those who contributed in Weston.

GAIL WOOLFENDEN

The Animal Information Bureau

Highcroft, Woolavington

Seaside resort

NORTH Somerset Council should immediately be renamed North Somerset Incompetent Council.

Having lived in various parts of the country under councils of different political persuasions I can honestly say I have never come across a council so incompetent as that at North Somerset.

I find it absolutely appalling that after 12 years of useless debate and prevarication, and a will they, won’t they, North Somerset Council have now given the go ahead to demolish the Tropicana… why?

What is the matter with these people?

Do they not know that Weston is a major seaside resort but has but a brief half hour spell of high tide twice a day comprising shallow muddy water quite unsuitable for swimming?

Weston is a major resort but with the closure of the baths at Knightstone and the Tropicana there is nowhere on the seafront to swim.

You can discount Hutton Moor a mile or so inland, although a very good facility.

It was a horrendous decision by North Somerset to use the Tropicana as a dumping ground for the building materials needed to refurbish the seafront promenade while leaving the Tropicana derelict.

Come on North Somerset Council, how about an urgent refurbishment of the Tropicana to provide the one and only swimming facility on the shoreline.

Why the final decision should now be referred to and rest with the Local Government Minister in Whitehall is beyond comprehension, but so typical.

RICHARD BIRTILL

Bleadon Hill, Weston

First class

I FEEL I must write about our NHS. It’s been in the news rather a lot lately.

My husband has recently had a major operation at Weston General Hospital, he also has Crones disease.

He was in hospital for a week and he had first class treatment from Dr Bell, Mr Pye and all the staff on Cheddar Ward, and the care he has received after his op has been wonderful.

He is now really well and it’s all thanks to the wonderful people at Weston General Hospital.

MRS G HUNT

New Bristol Road, Worle

Bequest

ALONG with so many members of the league, I was delighted to read your report in the Mercury of March 29 with regard to the unveiling of the windows at the general hospital.

To dispel one or two voices of concern which have commented on expenditure of �9,000 on these commemorative window panels, the windows were the result of a joint approach by both the hospital trust and the league, to mark and signify in a tangible way the exceptional and singular bequest made by the late Miss Sybil Jackson-Barstow to the league, for future expenditure in the hospital.

From the gifted sum of �3.6million, the league was able not only to contribute �1.5million towards the constructional cost of the new oncology and day care unit, but to gift a further sum of �1.6million towards the cost of equipment within the unit.

An additional total of some �300,000 has been spent on medical equipment in daily use within the hospital generally, which the NHS was unable to provide.

Great thought was given to the manner in which this extraordinary generosity could best be marked, and it was concluded by the trust, acting in conjunction with the league, that for a relatively modest sum, all visitors to the new extension would be reminded by reading the notation above the first window, that Miss Jackson-Barstow was indeed an exceptional philanthropist, from which Weston has and will continue to benefit.

JUNE STEPHEN

Weston League Of Friends of the Westo Hospital, Walliscote Road, Weston

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