Letters to the Editor, April 17, 2014

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I AM writing to voice my concerns regarding the poor treatment of Weston Allotment Club members at the Hutton Moor site by Weston Town Council.

All plot owners pay a yearly fee to cover rent, access and site upkeep. Indeed we have all received the invoice for this year (2014-2015).

The council is aware our main access road has been badly damaged by subsidence caused by badgers. The council restricted access to the site through this entrance to pedestrian use only for safety reasons some three weeks ago. The council had previously been made aware of this problem during the summer of 2013 but declined to act to remove the badgers and carry out what would, at that time, have been relatively minor repairs.

As you will be aware we are at the start of the growing season and the busiest time of the year for allotmenteers. We started to use our other entrance which is a level crossing over the railway line at the back of the Virgin Active sports club. This enabled us, especially the elderly and disabled members, to still deliver heavy bags of compost, plants and hand tools directly to the site by parking on the road at the gate.

Two of us tried to deliver exactly this to our plot on April 5 using this second entrance only to find the council had, without consultation with the site users, locked and chained this entrance. A notice on the gate states that this will ‘continue for the foreseeable future’. We had no option but to drive to the car park at Hutton Moor sports centre and park there. This is the closest public parking to the allotment site. Our plot is at the other end of the site and we had to undertake two half mile walks carrying two 125litre bags of compost, gardening tools and five trays of plants. Luckily we are relatively young (56 and 60) and fit.


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We have a number of disabled and more elderly people on our allotments that will now not be able to effectively work their plots which they have paid to do. This is because they are not able to deliver the equipment they need because of the walking distance from Hutton Moor car park. This is run by North Somerset Council and has a maximum stay limit of three hours. Notices state that overstaying this limit will incur a £70 fine. Allowing for the 15 minute walk in both directions plus 10 minutes to change into street or allotment wear leaves just over two hours to work your plot.

I have concerns that this closure of one point of accesses and restrictions on the use of the other entrance is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 in that these elderly and disabled persons will no longer be able to enjoy the same access and use of the site as able bodied persons which, until the closure and access restrictions, they were able to do. They have paid to for this right the same as their younger and more able bodied friends.

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I would also draw the council’s attention to the Highways Act 1980. This legislation clearly states that a right of way cannot be closed until a notice has been placed in a local newspaper and formal notices placed at both ends of the right of way. Twenty eight days must then be allowed for formal objections to be made. If the order to close is opposed then the matter must be passed to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for a decision to be made. This has not happened.

The town council’s delay in removing the badgers remains unexplained however we are told repairs cannot be carried out because the badgers are in residence. People who have paid for the right to use the allotment site cannot do so due solely to the lack of action by the town council.

TONY FRENCH

Bournville Road, Weston

I WAS interested to see the letter in last week’s Mercury from an objector to the proposed pirate themed crazy golf on the seafront.

Without commenting on the benefits or otherwise of the ‘attraction’ I would like to raise the following issue.

In July 2009 North Somerset Council approved its own Regulation 3 application for a change of use for Beach Lawns to allow it to be used for up to 180 days in any year for the purpose of events and entertainment.

The approval for the change of use included the provision that no single activity would exceed a maximum of five days and that no permanent structure would be built on the lawns.

This was firstly to prevent disturbance to residents and secondly as to not affect the ecology and open appearance of the area, in accord with various elements of the local area plan.

That planning permission has not been amended and the granting of approval for the pirate themed crazy golf would, therefore, appear to be riding roughshod over previous assurance that the Beach Lawns would be protected from future permanent development.

This is another instance of North Somerset Council being happy to ignore the rules when it suits it. Roll on the local elections.

C NEWNS

South Road, Weston

WESTON Town Council is paying Crossville Motor Services £20,000 to operate a hop on - hop off tourist bus to see the sights but is it really needed?

Crossville now operates the land trains that run along the promenade and are very popular with visitors. It would be an advantage if they each ran the complete journey from Royal Sands to Knightstone. There could be stops at the Sea Aquarium, Grand Pier, Winter Gardens and the ‘mousehole’ in front of the children’s play park.

Crossville also operates the lovely scenic service to Sand Bay with open top buses and has now become a major transport operator in town.

Places like Jill’s Garden and the museum are easily reached by foot and visitors enjoy mooching around the town.

It hardly seems necessary to have yet another service, duplicating what we already have. This is only a personal view and I am sure the town council thinks our £20,000 is well spent.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

I HAPPENED to notice that the North Somerset Council magazine Life contains a fascinating two-page spread about how to use a bus.

The article covers such important details as arriving at a bus stop five minutes before the bus is due (presumably better than five minutes after it has left), boarding the bus, paying for your ticket with money, storing baggage in the baggage storage area, choosing your seat and ringing the bell to ask the bus driver to stop the bus at the bus stop.

If this is not clear enough the feature is lavishly illustrated with photographs of a bus, a bus stop, a person entering a bus, a person enjoying an on-board seating experience and a photograph of a bell with which to request a stop.

Some unkind critics have expressed the view that Life Magazine is a waste of ratepayers’ money and just a vanity project of North Somerset Council, full of patronising articles, half-truths and spin, but now that this important issue has been covered, to the satisfaction of the man on the Clapham (and Weston) omnibus, I look forward the next article on how to suck eggs.

D HARRIS (ESQ)

Moorland Road, Weston

I SELDOM visit Weston these days and am always surprised by the massive changes there each time I visit.

None more so than the other week when I had a job interview in The Boulevard.

I used Google Streetview to zero in on the location before travelling there from Burnham.

I’m aware that the images on Google Streetview are at least two years old.

In the Streetview image, at my desired location, it shows a typical, blue parking advisory sign. The ‘8am to 6pm, no waiting more than 2 hours’ type.

So I manage to park right outside the interview venue (44 The Boulevard) and casually glance the same parking sign (about 10 feet away to my left and, because of the parallax view, not readable) and attend my interview.

I come out 45 minutes later and I have a parking ticket.

I am absolutely flabbergasted as to why, until I stroll over to the parking sign which now has, at the bottom, in subtle white text and roughly the same size as the rest of the original text, a notice about buying a parking ticket.

It’s the same sign as in the Google Streetview image but now has a tiny amendment at the bottom.

So I search for this meter that I’m supposed to feed and it’s about 30 feet in the opposite direction, nicely camouflaged in the same shade of grey as the pavement and surrounding building walls. If you weren’t looking for it, you would never notice it. And I didn’t, being focused so fully on my impending interview.

So I paid the £35 fine to North Somerset Council after explaining the situation and asking for some sort of ‘show of faith’. No chance.

I don’t doubt that the over-zealous traffic warden was only, and fairly, doing his/her job (not, in any way, hiding around a corner waiting for some ignorant fellow’s back to be turned and snaring them because they know the parking rules in that area are unclear).

My gripe is that the signage regarding parking fees in The Boulevard is way too subtle.

There should be new, big ‘Pay and display’ logos all over the place, just as there are anywhere else you have to pay to park.

Not some subtle, squiggly amendment to an already existing sign.

North Somerset Council can put that £35 towards some proper new ‘Pay and display’ signs.

I don’t think I’ll visit Weston any more from now on (on purpose, anyway) and I’ll advise other car drivers to do the same.

MR S ANDREWS

Abingdon Street, Burnham

THE RECENT Maria Miller case has shown that the public’s instinct for what is right often demonstrates more integrity than those involved in the matter itself. UKIP members who raised not a whisper of protest over the appointment of Neil Hamilton as its vice chairman should look away now.

The decision by North Somerset Councillors over of the award of increased allowances to five assistant executive members appears another example of the Maria Miller case save here, the decision was not just defended but the vote included those of the councillors who stood to benefit from the decision

The Code of Conduct which provides that councillors with a pecuniary interest in a matter should declare it and not vote is, strangely, not applicable here (current government policy).

Nevertheless by any reasonable yardstick no member should surely vote on their own pay increase. North Somerset Councillor views on this issue would be of great interest as would those of Cllr Elfan Ap Rees who argued the increase was merited.

The defence on pay on merit seems no longer to hold water for many, many people so why is this different?

DAVE WOOLLEY

Pauls Causeway, Congresbury

I REFER to John Warren’s point: “Party politics should have no place in local government. Councillors’ energies and efforts should be solely concerned with the welfare of their local communities”.

It was on this principle that I offered my services to North Worle in its by-election as an Independent candidate following a steep learning curve where I came to the same conclusion.

There are eight Independent Councillors in North Somerset (the biggest ‘group’ after the Conservatives). Out of the 19 seats challenged by Independent candidates in the 2011 local election seven seats were won and for many the Independent candidate came in second. This became eight when an Independent candidate won the North Worle by-election.

So why is there not always an Independent candidate available in a council election? Although there is no fee for standing as a candidate (unlike National and European elections) marketing costs are involved. An Independent candidate needs to come up with the finances to get themselves known across the whole ward area, be this physically, online, or both.

The most common way to ensure all households are aware of ‘who you are and what you can offer’ is to print out and post a leaflet through each door. The delivery takes hours to do even for just one leaflet and in a larger three seat ward this is a massive job. People in the household sometimes do not share the information around with everyone eligible to vote or even read it themselves. Then there could be other expenses: website hosting, posters, banners or public meeting hall hire costs.

Furthermore, there’s the time commitment needed for the campaign – it feels like a four-to-five week job interview with an interview panel of hundreds of people. Can the average person take lots of time away from their other commitments at the potential of getting the post, and ask friend and family to also contribute to help with the challenges within the electoral timeframe? It is no easy feat with no ‘experienced team’ behind you.

I believe we need more direct democracy and Independent representation is a good step in that direction - with no party to ‘serve’, Independent councillors are far more likely to serve their ward members, interact with and represent them.

I really hope that the locals in North Somerset get behind their Independent candidates in 2015 - not just to vote for them, but to offer them support for their campaign, publicity or leaflet delivery - perhaps even by standing for election themselves.

If local people take part in these ways then better representation can be a reality for all areas of North Somerset.

RACHEL LING

@LocalRachel, Osborne Road, Weston

WE WOULD like to thank the Mercury and The Playhouse for a fabulous evening. I entered your competition for the Solid Silver Sixties Show on April 13 and I was lucky to win two tickets.

It really was a fantastic evening, we both enjoyed it very much.

MO AND JOHN TYSON

Worle Court, Worle

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