Letters to the Editor, April 24, 2014
- Credit: Archant
I COULDN’T agree more with both John Warren and Rachel Ling’s recent correspondence to the Mercury’s Opinion page stating that party politics should have no place in local government.
I led the Back to Somerset campaign from 1988 to 1996 and around 1989 I invited Sir Jerry Wiggin, our long-serving Member of Parliament at the time, to speak at our first annual general meeting. I can still quote him verbatim when he observed that, in his opinion, “the worst thing that ever happened in local government was when local councillors started to sit together and vote together”.
But that’s how it’s been throughout all our collective memories and election after election local people have largely voted for one of the main parties who more properly operate out of Westminster. Surely, national issues have little to do with local problems. What, for example, has the Government of the day got to do with the appalling state of our roads or the fact that car parking in Weston is charged for over an increasingly large area whilst drivers can park almost anywhere in Clevedon, Portishead and Nailsea for free?
I represented the Uphill and Broadoak ward on Weston Town Council (WTC) from its inception in 2000 until 2011. In 2000 the Conservatives decided not to put up candidates who would be likely to be dual-hatted ie successfully contest seats on North Somerset Council (NSC) and WTC at the same time. That was the right thing to do but, as a consequence, they were unable to cover every ward. The Lib Dems and Labour groups, similarly short of candidates, did not make the same decision and many local people were consequently unable to vote for a candidate from a full spread of parties.
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The Conservatives reversed its decision in 2003 and since then all three parties have been represented by councillors many of whom sit on WTC as well as NSC. However, ‘loyalty’ to Weston and its residents flies out of the window when the majority of dual-hatted councillors vote one way at WTC meetings and the absolute opposite way on the same issues at subsequent NSC meetings.
I only ever sat on WTC and did so in the hope that I could act in ways which would benefit Weston, my home town which I love with a passion. I strongly believe that all councillors representing Weston wards should always act, firstly, for the benefit of the town itself and should always be fighting Weston’s corner on every issue. Can you imagine today’s councillors building the seafront, the Winter Gardens, the Pool etcetera? Money has always been in short supply for projects of that magnitude but those who ran the town in Victorian and Edwardian time (and later) had tremendous foresight, energy and faith in the future and frequently risked their own money to achieve the advances we’ve all grown up with.
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I was elected as a Conservative in 2000, 2003 and 2007 but subsequently offered myself as an Independent in 2011 when I narrowly lost my seat. As Rachel Ling observed, there are eight Independent councillors on NSC and they form the second largest group. I hope that she and John Warren will offer themselves as (Independent) candidates at the next local elections in May 2015 and that they will be joined by many others. It’s no good carping to friends and colleagues at the pub or over the garden fence or, indeed, airing grievances through the letters page of the Mercury if you’re not willing to offer yourself for election.
Being a councillor does not require previous experience - just a love of Weston and a desire to see it flourish.
Anyone willing to stand as an Independent is welcome to discuss the matter with me.
Town Mayor 2007/8, Elmsleigh Road, Weston
I WISH to reply to the letter published on April 17 regarding the suggested ‘Lack of Action’ by a plot holder at Hutton Moor allotment site.
Since Weston Town Council was established, it has worked relentlessly with Weston Allotment Club to help all plot owners, on all sites in Weston, and opened three more sites to alleviate the waiting list.
As far as Hutton Moor site is concerned the town council has spent thousands of pounds installing new fencing and a new gated entrance
What people don’t seem to understand is that badgers have more rights than human beings, and that it is a criminal offence to interfere with a badger sett.
With regards to the Equality Act 2010, it is not true, to infer that there has been any indirect discrimination against people with disability, access is still available on foot and provisions for wheelchair entry are in place.
Concerning the Highway Act 1980, the point raised would be a valid one if the entrance was a highway. However it is not a highway, but an entrance to the allotment site, and therefore out of the scope of this legislation.
With reference to the closure of the level crossing, in March 2014 two persons were alleged to have transported garden machinery, across the railway line in fog. They heard a train approaching, dropped the machinery and ran.
They risked being killed and the train hit the machinery which could have resulted in a derailment.
The closure of the crossing was for risk assessment, and was opened again after five days.
Please be assured along with all other plot holders at Hutton Moor that everything possible is being done to resolve this issue.
CLLR CLIVE DARKE
Chairman of Allotment Committee, Weston Town Council, Forest Drive, Weston
I HAVE been disappointed and concerned about the image your newspaper is promoting of the side streets of Weston.
Every time you run a negative story you reinforce the message that the side streets of Weston are run down and only have failing business. The area you seem to have a main negative focus on at present is the Orchard Meadows area.
Whilst there are empty shops, there are also a number of fantastic shops, with independent specialist traders from food and deli to aquatics, hairdressers, furniture, pet shops and florists, to name a few.
Where are the positive stories of these traders? It’s about time we saw a showcase of these fantastic shops, to show the people of Weston the side streets are worth a visit. It’s not all doom and gloom.
The more your paper tells the people that Weston is full of closing or failing business, the more people won’t bother to pop into town and have a look. You are encouraging people to travel further afield to shop. You should be showing them Weston is full of fantastic local shops.
It’s time your paper scraps its attitude of a failing Weston and starts to show everyone how amazing the side streets of Weston really are.
MRS J HARDWICK
Yarbury Way, Locking Castle
RE: POLICE Recruiting Programme. It will be interesting to see how Avon and Somerset manage to fast track the extensive front line experience that police officers need to do their job efficiently.
I believe that the probationary period is still two years after which time the officer may be retained. They then start their police careers and after passing the required exams and a few years under their belt they might make sergeant.
It is difficult to see how university graduates or leaders in private, public or voluntary sectors can gain this valuable experience in three years, inspector, superintendent. The normal rank and file officer has to react to various situations as they unfold and weigh up the consequences of their actions.
Sometimes a more relaxed attitude rather than a firm one helps diffuse the problem. Knowing how to deal with violence, tragedy, etc, every day is different and no amount of theory or education is any real substitute for years of on the job experience. In this age of cutbacks to all our services, I hope the taxpayers’ money is being wisely spent on those that can walk the walk not just talk the talk. The good old days when PC stood for Police Constable not Politically Correct.
Mayfield Avenue, Worle
MY husband and I have lived in Claverham for 32 years. After a heart bypass operation I bought him a puppy to help him get more exercise.
What a pleasure to walk along the Strawberry Line at Congresbury to Sandford End. It was clean, very well maintained and so pleasant. The sun was out, everyone that passed by said good morning. What a lovely area to live in.
As a responsible dog owner it was most enjoyable. I am fed up with letters being written about dog mess. We have been stopped from so many places because of stupidity, which is a shame.
There are a lot of good dog owners in this area and a lot of us care about our surroundings. As for the people who don’t pick up dog mess, what must they live like at home?
Please don’t let the council stop walks with dogs along the Strawberry Line.
MRS L PERKINS
Claverham Park, Claverham
I WRITE in response to a letter in last week’s edition ‘Proper signs’.
The on-street signs in question are designed in accordance with Department for Transport regulations which we must conform to.
When the pay and display charges were introduced the relevant signage across the town centre was thoroughly reviewed to ensure it conformed to the regulations and was as clear as possible.
On the section of Boulevard that Mr Andrews is concerned with three old signs were replaced with four new signs, evenly spaced along the length of the parking bay. The ticket machine is located near the centre of the bay, and its location is indicated on all signs. On the sides of each machine there is a ‘P’ parking symbol.
I hope that clarifies the situation.
Parking services manager, North Somerset Council, Town Hall, Weston
Push for more
I FEEL I need to write to your paper as I was so dismayed and shocked to read that the board members of Weston General Hospital are discussing losing 20 beds on the acute treatment wards.
Weston has grown over the last few years with more housing developments so in my opinion the board members should be thinking of expansion. I know the argument of money is always there but one just needs the political will power to push for more, after all money was found to do the so-called road improvements around the Asda roundabout.
All the staff working at Weston General Hospital, especially in the acute treatment wards, are such a dedicated hardworking special type of person. If ever problems arise on the hospital wards in my opinion it is due to understaffing.
Please don’t let Weston General become a cottage hospital.
MRS J FORD
Accommodation Road, Wharfside, Lympsham
WHEN I saw the two page spread in the North Somerset Life magazine about how to use a bus I honestly thought it was an April Fool joke.
Then I read the amusing letter from Mr Harris, in the Mercury, and realised that the article may have been a serious piece of education after all.
Is it possible that this is the first in a series of articles with titles such as - ‘How to shop in a supermarket’ or ‘How to spot pothole repair machines’?
I look forward to the next edition of the Life so that we will know once and for all if it was a joke or just patronising humbug.
Clarence Grove Road, Weston
I WAS at the waterpark on April 4 with my daughter having a teddy bears’ picnic, and there were a lot of people.
My little girl decided she wanted to go on the wooden castle.
On getting to the bridge part, a very polite young man, no more than about seven or eight waited for us to walk across patiently and when I thanked him, he very politely replied “that’s ok, no problem” and smiled, it was wonderful to witness. Several minutes later, I believe he tried to swing across the monkey bars and fell awkwardly on his hand/wrist and he was lying on the floor in agony, where I believe his mum ran to his aid.
It looked very serious, in fact it looked as though he may have broken several bones. I would just like to wish him well and to know if anyone knows if he’s ok. Also myself and little girl would like to send him an Easter egg as a get well present.
If anyone knows please let us know.
Draycott Road, Cheddar
FOR those not familiar with planning details, last week’s article in the Mercury needs some explanation.
The title ‘Traveller site to grow – but not again’ means that the gypsy/Roma/traveller site at Moorland Park will stay as at present.
The first sentence ‘an extra 24 pitches will be added to a North Somerset gypsy and traveller site…’ means that the site will be authorised to stay the same size for the next five years as it has been for the past five years. Nothing will change.
So why did that need a decision at Central Area Committee? Because the extended site does not have permanent planning permission.
The original plans were for an extension of 12 large pitches and this was supported. Economic conditions changed, so the site owner subdivided the site into 24 pitches when it was built instead of 12. This was not universally welcomed, but there was demand and it took the pressure off North Somerset Council, which failed to find suitable sites elsewhere.
Officers recommended approval four years ago, but the Environment Agency objected because it has become more worried about caravan sites in low lying areas after 2007 floods near Tewkesbury. So the site only had temporary permission, which has run out. The Environment Agency objection remains, so the permission we granted now is for another five years.
In spite of the planned new traveller site at Old Junction Yard in Weston, it is predicted that there will be more need for sites within the next decade. The article correctly conveyed my views that there can be no more site extension or new sites in the Congresbury/Puxton area, which already has 49 pitches, more than double the number in the rest of North Somerset. Local Roma/gypsy families have been part of this community for a century. The site is well-managed, the local primary schools have developed expertise in integrating children, the Playbus and a youth worker visit the site.
There are problems, as in any community and last year’s unexpected festival on the site did not help. Some families are struggling to pay rent and council tax, as elsewhere. The point is that all the challenges increase with size and this is now one of the largest settlements of this kind in the South West.
Any further increase would put at risk all the work of reducing tensions, building trust and dealing with problems as they arise.
On the whole, Moorland Park is a success and thanks to its owner, the local community and the majority of its residents. More work needs to be done and further growth is out of the question.
CLLR TOM LEIMDORFER
RE THE appalling and mindless vandalisation of Grove Park toilets within days of opening after the £160,000 had been spent to make them ‘pay as you go’.
Had the toilets remained free there would not have been any machines containing cash to steal from. It will now take an awful lot of 20ps to repair the damage. It seems us ratepayers have paid for the refurbishment, we will pay for the damage to be repaired and then still have to ‘pay to go’. It would have been considerably cheaper to leave them free.
If only those vandalising our facilities would spend just a quarter of that time doing good, what a wonderful world it would be.
The Swallows, Locking Castle
Had to give up
THANKS badgers. After 16 years, I have had to give up my plot at Hutton Allotment as the gates are closed to cars.
Now I have to buy my fruit and veg.
Wynter Close, Worle