Letters to the Editor, August 22, 2013

New strategy

I HAVE huge sympathy with people living in Alfred Street and other parts of the town centre.

Whilst I have a garden, a garage and a large black wheelie-bin in which to store household rubbish for anything up to a fortnight, those living in flats - often with front doors that open straight onto the pavement - have nowhere suitable to keep often smelly rubbish except indoors unless they dispose of it on a daily basis in roadside litter bins.

However, that does not excuse anyone from littering the pavements, particularly when rubbish bags are put out on the wrong day - or days.

I would suggest that North Somerset Council (NSC) must share a considerable portion of the blame for the resulting mess which every right-minded person should find offensive. Expecting rubbish to be put out before 7am all over the town means that most of us put out boxes, green bags and non-recyclables the night before.


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This has the predictable result of bags being ripped open and wheelie-bins knocked over by wild animals and household pets which, anyway, should be locked in at night for their own safety.

It is high time NSC developed and pursued an entirely new strategy.

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Very large bins could be delivered to each street the day before normal collection is due and residents expected to use them - and penalised if they don’t. Those bins would then be removed again immediately after they’ve been emptied - and then be returned again the following week for the process to be repeated.

Yes, such a scheme would be an added expense but once it has been operating for a couple of weeks or so, I believe that the savings in manpower of the present additional visits to clear up the weekly (sometimes daily) mess would see such a new arrangement paying for itself.

JOHN LEY-MORGAN

Elmsleigh Road, Weston

Road layout

THERE has been much chat about the new road layout at Morrisons on Streetlife, and we were wondering what on earth was going on with the markings on the roundabout?

All became clear today when I read that from Friday police will be able to issue on-the-spot fines for various offences - including ‘being in the wrong lane on a roundabout’.

Well prepare to be fleeced as if you wish to go from Morrisons to town by using the roundabout and turning right you will, according to the arrows, be in the wrong lane, because the arrows don’t allow you to turn right. You have the options of left or straight on.

How long before we see the first accident, and who will be to blame?

KAREN TAYLOR

Abbots Close, Worle

Driven through

I HAVE recently driven through the new layout at the exit of Elmham Way onto the A370 roundabout near Morrisons. In my opinion it is very dangerous and there will be a major accident there very shortly.

As you approach the roundabout you can see three green traffic lights, these are much too close to the roundabout and it would be very easy to mistakenly believe that the roundabout has traffic light control and that you have the priority over vehicles approaching from the right.

If it stays as it is I think there is a real risk that someone is going to see the green lights and drive onto the roundabout into the path of a vehicle.

At the very least I propose that prominent give way markings are painted on the lanes as they meet the roundabout, or consider moving the bus filter back away from the roundabout.

I hope I’m not proved right in my concerns, but suggest you review the layout as a matter of urgency.

MARCUS NEWEY

The Lynch, Winscombe

Survey

THIS is not a complaint just a request for further information regarding Councillor Elfan Ap Rees’ letter of August 15.

According to your information how many car owners are there in the area who do not have off-road parking facilities? There must have been a survey of some kind.

Therefore, what is the council’s ‘guesstimate’ of how many residents would pay for a permit to park in the street of their area?

Surely the present traffic warden could enforce a permit scheme as he/she currently does regarding valid parking or disabled permits.

The council already has authority for that. Simple - no resident permit on show then a penalty is issued - as in other areas across the country. Why should it become a police matter?

Why cannot some beneficial car parking fees be on offer to those who commute and work in town to dissuade them from blocking up the local streets?

Finally an observation: I never realised that the parking meters were also installed to deter cars from parking in the streets so the motorised street cleaner could have free range.

I just thought it was a cash cow for the council as has been discovered with other councils.

S CLARKE

Hopkins Street, Weston

Not in the road

AT LAST Councillor Elfan Ap Rees has decided to try to justify his bad decisions in the Mercury. I should be happy to accept informed criticism but not this diatribe.

In doing so he has shown how little he knows about the area.

In reply to his request for advice from me on street cleaning, when residents parking is introduced, I would point out that if he looked in Hopkins Street, Palmer Street, Palmer Row, etc, the problem over rubbish has been on the paths not in the road. So there is no problem.

He mentions the high number of car owners in the area.

How does he know?

When I asked the council and suggested a survey I was told it did not know.

Does he not know that a number of houses in Hopkins and Palmer Street also have off-street parking as does Alma Street?

Does he know how many would pay to have a permit?

I am sure he is well aware that residents’ permits rarely guarantee a space in any town so no ‘decision of Solomon’ would be necessary.

We now find that apparently this ‘successful’ town centre parking system does not allow for the town parking wardens to ‘monitor’ residents’ parking permits. He must be joking.

They already look to see if a disabled permit or a ticket is in the car. How difficult would it be to check for a residents’ permit?

I agree that police should not be asked to monitor this. The police have better things to do.

However, if he is really serious in writing that we cannot have residents’ parking permits how dare he not tell residents when the flawed scheme was implemented last year, or when we sent him a petition, or when he promised a review in six months or finally when promising a decision within the year from it starting.

This is a total cynical disregard of residents.

How dare he act in such a dictatorial manner.

I live here and represent the views of a large majority of residents in these residential streets (see the petition).

Would he really be happy to pay 20p to unload the shopping from his car and then have to walk back from a car park up to half a mile away costing £135 a year? Shame on you Mr Ap Rees.

BRIAN SHELDRAKE

Palmer Row, Weston

Name calling

COUNCILLOR Ap Rees you really do have a problem with criticism.

You now resort to school playground name calling, ‘moaning newbies’.

(How I wish you could have joined your sidekick on The One Show. That would have been one hell of a double act which would have done your corner even more damage).

No Cllr Ap Rees, we newbies are only exercising our democratic rights to comment on councillors who are accountable to us.

I, for one, don’t give a ‘hoot’ that you live 500 metres outside the town boundary (only wish it extended much beyond this!).

What I do give a ‘hoot’ about is your obsession with pulling down the Tropicana against the wishes of the majority of Weston.

Last week’s letter from James Dobson summed it all up well and what I and lots more have been thinking and saying for some time, what is the real agenda for the continual refusal, obstruction and lack of support for the development of the Tropicana.

KEN HUNTER

Greenland Road, Weston

Carbuncle

LAST week I requested if you could publish my letter praising the nursing staff at Weston General Hospital. The letter wasn’t published, instead almost a whole page was given over to the self-promoting article from Elfan Ap Rees, who was regaling himself with all his so-called achievements.

Let’s see, now: The outskirts of Weston have been handed over to multiple traffic lights, with the latest addition at the Morrisons roundabout, just waiting to cause mayhem once the school holidays are over and the traffic returns to its depressing normality during the hours of 6.30 to 9.30am.

Why has a pedestrian crossing been installed right on the cusp of the exit of the roundabout leading to Lidl? Once again, this will cause a tailback into Morrisons car park - more mayhem.

There is the useless bus lane stretching about 50 yards from Hewish up to the motorway roundabout, taking away commuter parking and causing the Chuck Wagon in the opposite layby to move away.

Residents having to pay for the privilege to park outside their own homes? Curiously, if you’re prepared to pay at the meters to park in Weston town centre, you can virtually do so easily these days, because people are finding alternative arrangements.

Birnbeck Pier falling into the sea, whilst Clevedon pier frequently seems to be funded for repair easily, and there are no meters in Clevedon, or Portishead for that matter.

Portishead Open Air Pool has had a record breaking year, Weston was also rammed - but no-one had an open air pool facility.

Potholes in the road left, right and centre all over Weston.

The Italian Gardens behind the Winter Gardens – gone and replaced by a few concrete slabs and a market selling plants and hats – marvellous.

Tennis courts being taken away and additional car parking taking its place, when Grove Park car park is usually half empty.

The carbuncle on the seafront called Premier Inn - and they say the Trop’s an eyesore.

That along with the proposed new Dolphin Square project which has so far failed to attract any serious retail chains. Which company in their right mind is going to move into a town centre dominated by charity shops, pawn shops, pound shops and has the general feel of an area on its knees?

I’m told that a large proportion of North Somerset councillors don’t even reside in Weston, the offices are based in Clevedon.

So why is Weston being bled dry by these people’s decisions and policies, who are, by and large, a bunch with no real feel of what the Weston people really need?

Perhaps the nursing staff could have done with some morale boosting instead of letting Cllr Ap Rees sell his own self-opinionated views?

KEVIN EVANS

Dunedin Way, St Georges

Council-led

RETURNING from holiday last week, imagine my surprise to find that a so called ‘tourism turf war’ had broken out in Weston. As the executive member for tourism for North Somerset this was news to me.

However, I am grateful to Weston Town Council for its published intention to invite me to one of its meetings as I always appreciate the opportunity to discuss our success and how it is achieved. Hopefully the town council will be able to explain precisely what it is that North Somerset Council isn’t doing in order to maintain our success.

Recent council-led infrastructure development in the town includes the total refurbishment of the promenade and the associated sea defence works, the redevelopment of Princess Royal Square and the ongoing improvements to the town’s transport links in the shape of Weston Package. This infrastructure investment has given increased confidence to the private sector leading to the development of the Premier Inn on the seafront, which I hear is doing very well, and the ongoing success of the Weston Wheel. Dolphin Square will be next. Getting the product right, and making sure we have a town that people want to live in and visit is key to our success.

Then there’s our varied and extensive programme of events throughout the year to keep people coming. I won’t name them all, but just to give you a flavour, already this year we have had the return of Weston Air Day, the Armed Forces Day, the Redbull Motocross Pro Nationals and aerobatic displays, the Sky-televised England beach volleyball tour, the water ski races, Weston Kite Festival, Weston Sand Sculpture Festival, the Cricket Factory sponsored by the ECB and a host of smaller local events. Still to come, of course, there’s the motorcycle beach race and the carnival.

Our seafront and events team are, as usual, already working incredibly hard on the main attractions for 2014. And I would like to add that they are universally appreciated by all those we work with. The BBC and Sky come back to work with us time and time again because of the warm and easy reception they get.

Talking of filming, we have done our bit to get national prime time coverage of the resort, achieving the sort of exposure that would normally cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in the shape of The Café, now in its second series and the recent One Show special.

Last week a new report was published examining the plight of a number of seaside towns across the country. Unlike Blackpool, Margate, Great Yarmouth and Clacton – all avowed big-hitters in the seaside tourism trade – Weston did not feature. In fact, the day the report was published, editorial in one of our local papers praised the work that has been done by both the public and private sector in recent years to turn Weston’s fortunes around – work that we will continue to support.

CLLR FELICITY BAKER

Executive member for tourism, North Somerset Council, Town Hall, Weston

I take issue

FURTHER to my £10,000 challenge to MPs to explain the Trading Schemes Act 1996, I take issue with the comments in reply from Tessa Munt.

She blames ‘very, very poor legislation under the Labour Government’. If she looks at the year she will see the Act was 1996, very much a Conservative piece of ‘very, very poor legislation.’ The clue is in the title.

However, it doesn’t alter that very, very poor legislation is still legislation. It remains on statute.

Tessa states that it is difficult to assess what has happened. I have been through it many times with documentation that proves. This question is only complicated for someone who is trying to get the answer wrong each time it is asked, it should take about five minutes for someone trying to get it correct. I just Googled on it and found what I believe to be the correct answer in less than two minutes on a firm of solicitors’ website. If it helps I will give you some assistance in getting the £10,000 cheque cashed and that is to stop asking the civil servants and start asking law officers for the answer. Perhaps there is someone local who may wish to assist?

The challenge still stands.

PAUL ARNOLD

Orchard Close, East Brent

Helpful but busy

I READ the letters in the Mercury and would like to comment on the letter regarding John Penrose.

Having Mr Penrose to meetings in our house to discuss topics with us and our neighbours, we find him a genuinely nice MP but with the usual rhetoric all MPs have.

We do always go straight to the person we are annoyed with. Mr Penrose will be hearing from us again.

In his defence I feel if the person writing about him has not written to him it is a bit unfair. However we agree with the sentiments in the letter. We did not know he was an ambassador for the blind. I am a carer for my sister who is in a wheelchair and totally blind and have sight problems myself.

On behalf of her and her blind friends I would like Mr Penrose and any other ‘experts’ for blind people to go to the new library in a wheelchair, totally blind and try to cross the road, go up the slope, check their books in and try to find new books! When did the library buy new books? The staff are helpful, but busy. Let Mr Penrose go along Oxford Street, the Boulevard and Tudor Market in a wheelchair blindfolded. This would be a good reality experience to understand how terrifying blindness can be. With regards to Councillor Elfan Ap Rees’ letter, I agree there are ‘moaners’ who do nothing but moan at those who try to do something to change things.

We have friends who live in the town centre who do their best to keep their homes and gardens clean and tidy.

Most people are genuinely nice and very helpful. The ‘moaners’ don’t do much but moan.

We are going to contact Mr Penrose but hope he can do more to help those who live in Weston and vote for him, but maybe no longer?

PAT AND LYN HEANEY

Oaktree Park, Locking

Anger

IT WAS with considerable anger, indeed fury that I read of the disgraceful action by North Somerset Council to replace Ebdon Court with 64 flats, particularly for dementia patients.

I was one of the campaigners in 2009/10 to keep the remarkable Poppyfields residential home, plus the day care centres open.

Throughout all the discussions, futile as we guessed they probably were, we were told Poppyfields was to be used for a training centre for the council staff. Poppyfields closed in June 2010 and residents were moved to various residential or nursing homes by their relatives, of which I was one. My husband passed away seven-and-a-half-months later.

The two day centres still exist but those using those facilities will have to be uprooted during closure and rebuilding work.

How can the council have a ‘director of people and communities’? Also infuriating is the lack of use by council staff of the Castlewood building at Clevedon – not even half full of council workers as it’s shared by NHS staff

Poppyfields Care Home has remained empty since June 2010, no ‘training’ staff have ever moved in – surely that speaks for itself.

The council is weighed down with one party, whose members should be booted out. If only local residents showed the courage of their often-voiced convictions.

ESME HEAL

Pennycress, Weston

The Beatles

IT BROUGHT back memories when I read your article regarding The Beatles performing at The Odeon back in 1963. As you said some of us were around back then and saw them performing live on stage.

I was 18 then and lucky enough to see all 12 shows, the reason being I worked at the Odeon back then as a trainee projectionist.

In those days acts assembled behind the curtains and were announced by the compere.

As the Odeon’s stage area was quite small a part of my job that week was to be behind the curtains with the bands and hold the curtains and walk back with them so that they would not knock into the equipment.

John Lennon did not want to spoil his image so once he was in position on stage before the curtains opened he would take off his glasses and hand them to the roadie.

One night they asked if we would stay on after the show as they had a new song that they wanted to practise, unfortunately I can’t remember what it was and there were no portable recording devices back then.

On Wednesdays the apprentices from RAF Locking used to get a half day off and many of them were at the Wednesday evening shows. A representative from the camp visited the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, in the dressing room that they shared, with his reel to reel tape recorder to interview them.

I remember him coming down the stairs shaking his head saying it was almost impossible to get a straight answer to any of his questions. I wonder what happened to that recording?

When you see the number of roadies and equipment most groups have these days it is remarkable that the Beatles had one roadie who drove a small mini-bus with all the equipment in (three amplifiers, Ringo’s drums and the guitars).

Another of my jobs that week was to take the Beatles to a different predetermined exit each night and wait with them for a signal from outside to say that their transport was waiting and it was reasonably clear for them to leave.

Paul had told a reporter when asked what sweets he liked that he had a passion for Jelly Babies so we also had the task of clearing all the Jelly Babies that the fans had thrown on the stage for him.

During the summer of 1963 we did not only have the Beatles at the Odeon. A few weeks before they were here there was a one night (Sunday I think) show with the American rock star Gene Vincent and his co-star was Heinz, a singer who rose to fame as a member of the Tornados back in the early 1960s.

After the Beatles week we had a variety show that lasted for four weeks which starred an old time comedian called Al Read and his co-star was someone who had just become popular on Saturday night television as one of the presenters of something new to British audiences, a satire comedy show called That Was The Week That Was. His name was of course David Frost later Sir David Frost. He did a comedy routine and some comedy sketches with Al Read.

CHRISTOPHER ADAMS

Florence Grove, Weston

Privatising

RE: THE strike by postal workers. If I were them, I would wait until the Government sets out its plans for privatising Royal Mail.

They might then think they have a real grouse and decide to organise a serious strike. However, I suspect that the rest of us, when the inevitable privatisation occurs, will be pleasantly surprised.

I am sure that anyone who has had to go to the parcel depot will know what a sad outdated affair it is.

COLIN HUNT

Ringwood Grove, Weston

Prefer the legend

WE SHOULD all deplore the loss of history and romance. As the former curator of Woodspring Priory my experience is that people always prefer the legend to the truth. On numerous occasions I was informed by local people that there was a secret tunnel between the Priory and Kewstoke church.

This information was usually reinforced by a tale of a hairless dog being found in Kewstoke churchyard three weeks after it had been lost at the Priory end of the tunnel. The fact that the terrain and the tidal range did not lend itself to tunnelling made no difference.

Brian Austin is a professional and respected local historian and, in my view, a great friend of Weston with his keen ear and eye for humbug and bureaucratic frailty.

I support his explanation of Pick Winna’s cairn. About 1966 I was told of its removal by Dr David Tomalin, then curator of the town museum housed in the old library. Dr Tomalin now lives in retirement on the Isle of Wight.

I believe Mr Swift, then head of parks and gardens, was embarrassed by the cairn’s removal and had it replaced. John Bailey in his timeless articles, which are still admired by Westonians, would not have wanted to point up this embarrassing occurrence.

After all he would not want to lose good copy and he was the epitome of good provincial journalism.

Incidentally I once saw an engraving of about 1840 showing the walls of Worlebury Camp standing to the height of five metres. Obviously the speculative builders of new Weston regarded them as too tempting. Had they been left standing we would have had one of the finest examples of Iron Age architecture on our doorstep.

So there it is the truth will fade, the legend continue. The destruction unfortunately has resonances all over this fine town.

CHRIS CROOK

Ashdene Road, Milton

Top pay scales

NORTH Somerset has recently appointed a new chief executive at a salary of £145,000 per year. This brought home the fact that top pay scales in the government sector seem far too high.

Today the minimum hourly rate for those over 22 is £6.19 or around £12,875 per year. Many of these workers are part-time and often have to have two jobs to make ends meet. Can it be possible that one person employed by North Somerset can be worth a salary more than 11 times that of many of this seaside town employees who pay the council tax?

There is no logical defence of this deferential and has come about by our councillors bidding up the value of top positions in the belief there is only a small pool of suitable candidates, which is most likely due to a lack of succession plans.

If a Government can degree a minimum rate it should degree a maximum rate for all civil servants, with say no-one being allowed to earn more than the Prime Minister. Wage/salary scales need to be staged according to the demands, responsibility and qualifications the position requires.

If we are ‘all in this together’ it seems there are huge anomalies causing a bigger and bigger gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’ which can only end up in tears.

What an odd world we live in, just think the Romans had public toilets and baths, yet our councillors are closing these to cut costs. These public facilities and parks, play areas and roadside trees are signs of civilization and any reduction a blow against a progressive society.

The councillors seem keen to reduce workers on low pay who are needed and appreciated, but in these difficult times pay themselves and the executive more and more. This cannot go on as in the end increasing deficits will force even bigger changes.

C J PEVERELLE

Edinburgh Place, Weston

Union flag

CONGRESBURY parish councillor Paul Doolan’s is calling for the union flag only to be flown from the flagpole outside the council offices in the Old School Rooms on special occasions.

Except on a small number of occasions throughout the year, which are UK-wide celebrations, eg, the Queen’s birthday, there is no requirement for North Somerset to fly the union flag from its municipal buildings.

As Councillor Doolan says to fly it every day devalues the currency. It should only be flown on special days.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

RNLI station

I HOPE after reading how Weston RNLI says a new station is ‘vital’ so it can continue saving lives, after revealing it is only a matter of time before its ‘derelict’ Birnbeck Pier base becomes unsafe to use, the public will dig deep into their pockets and give generously to fund it.

At Weston there are more than 20 volunteers with many differing roles.

As well as helmsmen and lifeboat crew members, there is an operations management team and a shore crew, which includes the tractor drivers who are responsible for getting the lifeboat into the water quickly.

Key to the operation are the fundraisers who work to raise the money needed to keep the lifeboats and station operational.

Let’s all remember too the RNLI is a voluntary marine rescue service, which receives no Government funding and relies entirely on fundraising and donations.

In 1891, the RNLI became the first charity to organise a street collection, marking the beginning of its strong fundraising tradition.

It costs approximately £335,000 a day to maintain the RNLI service in the UK and Ireland, and £1,000 a year to train one crew member. Training is all the more key as these days fewer than one in 10 crew members come from professional maritime backgrounds.

The Bristol Channel has the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world and this produces fierce currents and angry seas, because of these special conditions, the crews are called upon to rescue people from rocks, from sinking boats and, of course, from the mud, for which Weston is renowned.

In recent years the crews have responded to an average of 45 calls a year. Last year alone saw 40 calls resulting in 30 lives being saved.

So let’s all give generously to fund a new lifeboat station for our brave Weston RNLI volunteers who do a wonderful job in trying conditions to save lives at sea.

D F COURTNEY

Victoria Park, Weston

I HAD to write and say what an enjoyable performance of Grease at the Playhouse.

I was amazed how two weeks of practice and dedication brought together a show of such talent by all the children and young people involved. What an experience for acting, dancing, singing and confidence building.

A big ‘well done’ to Logan West Productions who put the show together. My daughter joined the show this year for the first time and has enjoyed her experiences and made some very good friends.

She is looking forward to next year’s production.

SHARON BENHAM

Dunster Crescent, Weston

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