Letters to the Editor, April 19, 2012

Pull together

I AM emailing to make a comment regarding Robert Craig’s letter in last week’s Mercury, in which he mentions that he recently attended a meeting in Weston which was addressed by a prominent local politician. This politician told the meeting that Weston would never again be a seaside resort.

This town is a seaside resort and a very popular one at that, and most certainly should stay as one.

Everyone needs to pull together and do the best for Weston-super-Mare - residents, businesses, visitors, councillors and the local authorities.

After all, if Weston has all the attractions and facilities that people require then it will continue to be successful - and become even more so.


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Attractions and facilities bring in money to the council in terms of taxes and also car parking fees. If they didn’t exist the councils, and businesses, will suffer. Weston is in a great, natural seaside location and we all should appreciate that, not be complacent, and do our best to enhance it further. If Weston does well, this has a positive effect on North Somerset and Somerset as a whole.

STEVEN HARRISON

Most Read

Manilla Crescent, Weston

Conspiracy

IS THERE a conspiracy by North Somerset Council to drive away holidaymakers coming to Weston in order for them to go to Portishead, which has a nice swimming pool on the seafront or maybe Clevedon, which restored its old Victorian Pier, and neither of these places charge very much, if anything, in parking fees? Brean also has a nice swimming pool, with lots of facilities close to the front.

We have been told the sea water has to be brought up to health standards by 2015. If it isn’t, we could face a ban on going in the sea when it comes in, which would automatically mean no use at Marine Lake for the children, so how are you expected to cool down on a nice warm day?

Toilet facilities could be closed down or shut on certain days, so if you get taken short where are you expected to go? Maybe we should use the sea as it is already contaminated! Is there nothing this council will do to eradicate these problems, or is it falling back on that old story, that it has spent money on the paving along the front and given us the “carrot” and the expensive roundabout by Morrisons. Two out of these three are simply not justified

JACKIE MCCARTHY

Oaktree Park, Locking

Hardship

I AM writing this letter with concern, due to the changes at the GP surgery at Weston General Hospital being brought to my attention.

I am a new resident to Uphill having moved just two months ago from Worle, however I registered with the GP surgery at the hospital where I have already used the great service given by the doctors and was impressed with the overall treatment and patient care received. For these reasons and many others I am dumbfounded how anyone consider or justify the closure of something that gives such a great service and if closed will cause a great hardship and suffering for many or all the patients.

When moving from Worle I was told due to not being within the catchment area of yet another great doctors surgery I had to change but the registered GP element of the surgery at the hospital could be stopped.

Not only I, but for many other patients, we will now be looking forward, thanks to the PCT, of finding another doctors. This also means for mainly and in particular the growing number of elderly patients of Uphill, that they will be looking forward to waiting around in all kinds of weather at bus stops for not always reliable buses (another story) with maybe a couple of hours journey – let us say a morning or afternoon gone – to make sure they arrive to their new doctors, that will possibly be out of the catchment area (funny that hey). The surgery of the hospital is a much-needed service and without that service will cause added distress to all patients involved, so in turn will cost more to the NHS.

Please PCT listen. We need our doctors surgery at the hospital

W J WOOD

Folly Lane, Uphill

Positive difference

I thought it would be useful to clarify the aims and ambitions of the Big Lottery Fund’s �200million nationwide Big Local scheme, of which at least �1million has been allocated to an area within Worle.

Big Local is an opportunity for residents in selected neighbourhoods to make a lasting positive difference in their communities. Unlike many larger initiatives, this scheme is about putting residents in charge of decision making, and ensuring that everybody can input into plans to improve their local area.

Big Local is a way to get funding into very targeted areas that have missed out on investment in the past, from the Lottery and elsewhere. We have worked hard to select the areas to benefit from the scheme, looking at the amount of funding they have received and the levels of disadvantage they face, as well trying to achieve a geographical spread of Big Local areas across the country.

Following these principles, a small area within Worle has been chosen in consultation with local stakeholders including the local council, Local Strategic Partnership and local CVS. They will be supported by a new organisation called Local Trust, set up to run the Big Local scheme. Local Trust is working with Big Lottery Fund and a range of partners to provide expert advice and support to all the Big Local areas, helping residents to take action to improve their areas, now and in the future. More about how the process will work can be found at www.localtrust.org.uk

It’s not about short-term thinking – areas have 10 years or more to plan and deliver the best options. The Big Local area of Worle will move at its own pace, but it will have access to Getting Started funding of up to �20,000 from next month to help it run consultation activities and community engagement events with local residents.

We are confident that we can work with this neighbourhood to make a huge difference that will be felt by residents right across Worle, and hope that the Mercury will be reporting on the community’s achievements in the coming months and years.

MARK COTTON

Senior head of region Big Lottery Fund

Plough Place, London

Official

SO NOW we know. Trop (WSM) Ltd’s business plan for the Tropicana is not viable – and that’s official.

In the interests of fairness and transparency, North Somerset Council asked expert property consultants DTZ to analyse the plan.

Their independent report revealed a number of inconsistencies in the figures presented by the group, an over-reliance on grants and a significant under-estimate of the redevelopment costs. DTZ also said that the proposal falls outside the brief of a market-testing exercise conducted last year. It is based on acquiring an area of beach for car parking revenue, obtaining the freehold of the Tropicana, securing an immediate �1million subsidy and further public money from an increase in council tax.

But it was no surprise that Trop (WSM) Ltd disagreed. Their spokesman, property developer and dairy farmer Derek Mead was quick to complain that ‘councillors had been deliberately prevented from obtaining the full financial picture of the plan’. Is he seriously suggesting that our elected representatives were hoodwinked in this way – and if so, by whom? He also said ‘in any event, the group did not believe DTZ had the relevant experience or qualifications to understand the proposal or comment upon it’. Not qualified or experienced enough to understand the proposal? DTZ is a global real-estate advisor employing 10,000 people in 148 countries. Somehow, I hardly think it had much trouble with a small Weston swimming pool.

Of course, Mr Mead’s response is nothing new. It seems that anyone who disagrees with him is wrong, whether it be the council, international experts or Mercury correspondents. Mr Mead likes to present himself as a doughty warrior, summoning a heroic image of Lord Kitchener to support his campaign. But with this confirmation of his plan’s fundamental weakness, rather than a knight in shining armour, Mr Mead is looking more like the captain of the Titanic.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

Dreadful

I READ in the Mercury last week that Derek Mead’s plan for the Tropicana is not possible unless he gets a �1million public subsidy and we all have to pay more council tax.

I think it is dreadful that Mr Mead and his partners expect us to have to foot the bill for a new Tropicana because they don’t have the money themselves.

It’s bad enough with all the cuts that are being made at the moment without having to pay for this as well. Mr Mead has no right to ask us for money, if he can’t raise it himself then the Tropicana should be pulled down.

MRS SARAH THORNE

Thompson Way, Weston

Proceedings

COUNCILLOR Mike Bell never misses an opportunity to score cheap party-political points against his opponents, however serious the issue, and the Tropicana saga is a case in point.

Quoted in last week’s Mercury, he said he cannot understand why North Somerset’s executive members will not meet with the group (Trop WSM Ltd). But Cllr Bell knows that they can’t as the council is currently involved in serious legal proceedings against it.

He also says they are happy to spend public money commissioning reports to undermine alternative plans for the Tropicana’. But, rather than undermine, Cllr Bell knows the DTZ report identifies a number of serious flaws in the scheme. It states the plans are not viable, are over-ambitious and depend too heavily on external grants. And a �1million public subsidy, plus a rise in council tax, would be needed to go ahead.

An NSC executive member said recently ‘grant funding all over this country is difficult because of the current economic situation, so there’s very little available as far as we can see and we’ve consistently said grants from the council are not an option’. Cllr Bell may not like it, but at a time of severe budget cuts he knows the council is actually protecting our interests. Its conduct is what I expect of it – sound financial stewardship in the face of big-business pressure.

He also states that ‘they are happy to spend taxpayer’s money on expensive barristers and legal advice to fight a judicial review in the High Court’. That’s because NSC refuses to bow to the aggressive tactics of Trop (WSM) Ltd, who have raised the stakes by bringing the costly action. In a recent press release their spokesman, Derek Mead, said ‘we look forward to seeing them in court.’ The council cannot and must not submit to such a threat. It’s disgraceful that the wealthy group is causing so much extra expense when schools, the elderly and countless other vital social services are being starved of funds.

Finally, Cllr Bell said that ‘residents must give councillors a hard time. Hold us to account for the decisions that we do and do not make’. I agree, and that’s why I find his opportunism so transparent and unacceptable. Is it any wonder that people are so cynical about politics, local or otherwise, with conduct like this from Cllr Bell?

NICHOLAS FERGUSON

Devonshire Road, Weston

Parking income

I KNOW the decisions have been made and there is nothing we can do about it, but is there anyone from North Somerset Council prepared to explain to me and other residents of Weston the truth as to why no parking income will be forthcoming from the rest of the district with the exception of Clevedon?

If it is possible to introduce wholesale changes to town centre parking by September of this year, would it not be possible to do the same thing throughout North Somerset to help alleviate the draconian charges and changes in Weston?

Why should Weston parkers pay �7 to stay on the seafront whilst anyone can stay all day at Portishead Lake Grounds absolutely free? Oh! I had forgotten all the Portishead councillors want to get re-elected.

JOHN WHITTLE

Milburn Road, Weston

Absolutely right

MAY I reply to the very sensible letter from Mr Webber regarding travellers and my apparent change in stance.

He is absolutely right that I took steps to try and stop travellers breaking into Locking Parklands and nearby fields two years ago, and indeed previously too, but these itinerant travellers are often very different from our local residential ‘travellers’, whose children go to local schools, pay rent for their pitches, etc, but simply have a different lifestyle to those who prefer bricks and mortar.

Those itinerants who descend on the area without warning, often just before a weekend and then proceed to break the law and make people’s lives a misery until they depart, leaving rubbish and worse on the land they have vacated, will find little sympathy.

Indeed the council does and will continue to take a hard line policy against such illegal trespasses.

Such persons give all the travelling community a bad name and prejudice law abiding citizens, which is why people are understandably concerned that new sites have to be found.

However we cannot bury our heads and do nothing, for the planning laws quite clearly require us to meet local traveller needs.

If we fail to do so sensitively then we might have no control at all over the positioning of future sites, and that is surely a position no one wants to be in.

CLLR ELFAN AP REES

Deputy Leader North Somerset Unitary Council

Town Hall, Weston

Not outspoken

IT HAS become abundantly clear from readers’ letters, and a couple of reports in last week’s Mercury, that major decisions affecting Weston are being made by too few councillors. One such letter from Councillor Mike Bell admitted that Weston is getting a poor deal from the council and some elected members are not outspoken enough in standing up for the town and are happy to go along with the orders of their party bosses in Portishead.

After reading the report regarding proposals to make changes to the way many decisions are made in North Somerset, and the subsequent result, I think there is really no hope left for Weston. The council was asked to adopt a committee system, to replace the authority’s executive system, which would give all councillors a voice in decision-making, rather than a selective few retaining control, because currently there is a lack of representation for the majority of residents of North Somerset. The motion was defeated, which means there are just six councillors making all the decisions, with only one of these from a Weston ward.

The current system is totally unfair as thousands of people across North Somerset are effectively not being listened to, or their wishes being considered.

Weston is the largest of all the North Somerset towns, but gets the worst deals. It was reported last week that parking meters are being considered for 27 streets around the town, which will have a knock-on effect of motorists parking in roads just outside the pay and display zone. Car parks in Weston are already expensive, yet there has been talk of further increases. However, there are no charges in Nailsea or Portishead and almost none in Clevedon.

Once the multi-storey car park in Dolphin Square is demolished it will leave almost half the amount of available spaces than before in the area. The building of the new multi-storey car parking will contain 359 spaces, which is less than the old Carlton Street car park alone. Then we have the Premier Inn (previously a car park), with 159 bedrooms and no car parking provision, for staff or visitors, plus the Dolphin Square redevelopment, with employees and tourists etc. It’s not rocket science – potentially a lot more people, with a lot less parking spaces.

A report in the Mercury on February 9 state that budgets were being cut for youth services and adult social care across the town. Yet �4.5million which was intended for use in this current year has been ‘squirreled away’ for pet projects.

Money is always readily found when the council wants to fund a project. Demolishing the Tropicana at a reported cost of �800,000 immediately springs to mind.

A reader’s letter last week said that, a year or so ago, Councillor Elfan Ap Rees wanted to prevent travellers entering Locking Parklands. However, he is now urging voters to accept sites, giving travellers access to schools and doctors – but school places and surgeries are not plentiful in Weston, especially as further large housing developments are earmarked for the area. It has since been reported that North Somerset would receive �2million to provide new traveller sites.

Street lights are being turned off overnight, which is proving dangerous for walkers and cyclists, and has led to an increase in vandalism and theft in Hewish. However, the court buildings in St Georges and the council buildings in Clevedon are lit up at all hours, with no-one in attendance. More cost to us, the taxpayers.

The list just goes on and on. Slowly but surely Weston is being destroyed as a viable seaside town by just a few councillors, as the majority don’t seem to have (or are allowed) a voice. Unfortunately the next local elections for North Somerset are not until 2015, so the ‘few’ are sitting pretty and it seems can do whatever they choose.

Goodness knows what will happen over the next three years, but you can bet your life that the ‘super’ will have been taken out of Weston for good and everyone seems powerless to stop it happening. So much for democracy.

JULIE POWER

Exeter Road, Weston

Adjacent

WITH reference to your page three story last week, April 12, headlined ‘health worker accused of having sex with mentally ill patient in hospital’, we would like to point out that the defendant in the case is not and never has been an employee at Weston General Hospital, and the alleged offence did not take place on our premises.

The case refers to the mental health unit run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust, which is adjacent to the hospital, but not part of it.

ALISON KINGSCOTT

Director of Human Resources

Weston Area Health NHS Trust, Uphill

EDITOR’S NOTE: When the Mercury attended the court case it was said that the care worker was working at Weston General Hospital.

We did not say he was employed by the hospital. We understand the hospital has asked the Crown Prosecution Service to amend this.

MY ATTENTION has just been drawn to the decapitated trees in Weston’s south High Street.

I understand North Somerset Council is responsible for what appears to be an act of extraordinary civic vandalism - it does seem as though someone has just motored down the street with a horizontal chain saw.

These were established trees, primarily limes, which Weston Civic Society helped plant (and pay for) in the 1990s. The trees relieved the bleak street-scape of this part of town. With others, I was involved in their planting. It’s really heartbreaking to live under an authority which is so tree hostile and which can carry out such sabotage with no reference to the community.

By the look of it, no tree in Weston is safe!

DR HOWARD SMITH

Stafford Place, Weston

ALTHOUGH I write this letter for the Opinion page, I would also like to have it as an open letter to Craig Laird. Manager of Weston FC.

I have supported the club since its formation in 1948 – that’s about 64 years, so I feel entitled to express these views.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Mr Laird and his management team, on a miserly budget, for getting the club out of its doldrums of recent years.

However I know that many Weston supporters are, like myself mystified why the team’s top scorer, Sahr Kabba (15 league goals), has been confined to the bench these days.

His pace, control and deadly finishing upset visiting defenders early on, but if he is confined to a few minutes at the end, a vital opportunity to the team is lost. I am sure he would have scored more, given the chance.

The other thing I would mention is those awful kick-offs at the beginning and re-starts.

It would be a viable tactic at the rugby ground; personally it makes me cringe.

In the last match, Tonbridge showed the way, scoring from the kick-off without a Weston player touching the ball.

Keep up the good work Mr Laird, but give some consideration to the above.

DAVE PERRIMAN

Thirlmere Road, Weston

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