Letters to the Editor, December 1, 2011

Initiative

THANK you for your coverage of last week’s Cheddar village meeting and for publicising the group that has come together to discuss how Cheddar could become an even better place.

I must however correct the statement that I have formed a group to campaign against the proposal for a Tesco supermarket.

While I did point out that Sedgemoor has recently adopted a new plan, the Core Strategy, and it is hard to see how this gives encouragement to a supermarket outside the centre of the village, our group is not set up to campaign against what Tesco may or may not be proposing.

My main point was that the future of Cheddar can either be the result of responding to development proposals or we as a community can seize the initiative.


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This could include a Neighbourhood Plan, under the new Localism Bill, which would fit in with the Core Strategy to set out what development should happen in Cheddar in the future.

Also, examples from other towns and villages show that it is not just development that is important. Local people themselves can undertake a whole range of projects to improve their town or village, how they feel about it and ultimately how investors and developers view it.

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So the purpose of the group of local people that has come together is to put forward ideas and eventually to work together, with the parish council and others, to make some of them happen.

Already it is evident that there is a wealth of energy and ideas within the community and there is, of course, already a lot of good work going on.

MEL CLINTON

Glebe Way, Cheddar

Wonderful

WITH the public sector workers embarking on their national strike on Wednesday I would like to offer readers the opportunity to reflect on how their lives have benefited from public sector services and staff.

Do you remember your school teachers, those wonderful people who taught us the ‘three’ Rs, right from wrong, and a sense of self-fulfilment? A little later, how about those teachers who enabled us to achieve A-levels and degrees?

While teachers seem to have a negative profile recently, there are other groups in the public sector. Take for example the National Health Service.

Here groups of workers are constantly underpaid, threatened by some members of the public in A and E rooms, while attempting to cure more patients, with more sophisticated illnesses and with fewer funds.

And yet, everyone must have been treated, or knows someone who has been treated by the health service. In my experience the care has always been completed in a friendly, reassuring and professional manner.

The police and fire service face similar financial constraints yet we all still rely on them being ready, willing and able to respond to our needs.

The recent tragedy on the M5 being a good example.

The list of public sector workers is almost endless; however I also believe that the administrators for all the above services face a raw deal. Traditionally the lowest paid, these are the staff that maintain records, arrange appointments, recover debts and minimise mistakes.

Such ‘unsung heroes’ include the local court service whose role includes arranging reasonable payments and collections for those with fines to compensation where required.

Their role within the justice system is essential to both the Crown and the public, yet they, along with other admin staff, are the most likely to be privatised and ultimately lose jobs while increased workloads ensures a poorer service for the public.

There are a host of other public sector workers, all with similar dilemmas. So please, before condemning the action of the unions, consider these simple facts.

The Government want public sector workers to pay more contributions, for a longer period of time, to receive less pension money.

Despite news media overlooking the fact, public sector workers are taxpayers too.

Good pensions ultimately ease the reliance on the state benefits system.

We all know there is an economic crisis at this time but will it really be improved by taking advantage of this group of workers whose only crime is to want what is rightfully theirs and have a keen commitment to public service?

ROGER BAKER

Longridge Way, Weston

Exciting

READING ‘Happier days’ in last week’s Mercury I wondered if I’d stumbled into a parallel universe.

Robert Craig’s assertion that ‘North Somerset Council is closing down much of Weston’ defies all reason.

Is he unaware of the award-winning new promenade and pier, the revamped Princess Royal Square, the enterprising Dolphin Square development and the exciting Leisuredome project?

He tells us that ‘closures are shrinking the town’s footfall to the detriment of Weston’s economy’ but these bold projects will have, and are having just the opposite effect by attracting many new visitors to the town.

Mr Craig also states that ‘the transfer of employment from Weston to Clevedon… is another example of policies which are damaging to Weston.’

But North Somerset Council has told us that its rationalisation programme will amalgamate 18 costly buildings into two main hubs, saving us tax payers more than �700,000 each year.

How can such essential economies be damaging, or does he think we are not being told the truth?

With a depressing predictability, Mr Craig is the latest of your correspondents who seem intent on undermining the laudable efforts that are being made to drag Weston into the 21st Century.

Perhaps life was better and the summers longer for him in the 1950s, but nothing stays the same.

His naive insistence that an open air swimming pool is still viable in the town illustrates this point perfectly. You don’t have to be an expert to know that such a stand-alone project is commercially unsustainable in these straitened times, funded either publicly or privately.

Perhaps Mr Craig and his negative friends should redirect their efforts to supporting our town rather than constantly running it down.

Or, as my old granny used to say ‘if you’ve got nothing good to say, then say nothing.’

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

Younger days

THE fact that North Somerset Council wants to cut funding for youth work and sack paid youth leaders is a very sad state of affairs and I wonder how we have arrived at this point?

In my younger days I was captain of a Boys Brigade company in Slough for 15 years and we had over one hundred members.

There were 10 other companies in the town as well as scouts, girl guides and many other youth organisations.

In those days there were no lottery grants and as far as I know the local council did not finance any group.

In the Boys Brigade we raised our own funds through jumble sales and other money raising schemes and the members knew that if they did not support these schemes the company could not exist.

All our leaders worked on a voluntary basis and we had tremendous support from all the parents, who in those days actually cared what their children were doing. The Brigade was built on the twin pillars of Christianity and discipline which unfortunately are not foremost in the lives of children today.

Money is the new morality and I do feel sad when I hear the youth of today saying that they have nothing to do or nowhere to go.

So many clubs have closed because they cannot afford to keep going any more.

Insurance premiums are so high because of the claim culture - something that certainly did not exist in my times as a leader. I can see the council’s point of view and also feel very sorry for the young people who will suffer.

If only we could go back in time but that is impossible.

Time has moved on but the question is why have things become so bad?

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Magnificent

WHAT a magnificent carnival it was again. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put it on.

It makes me ashamed that not a single club from Weston has for years past put in a float.

What’s the matter with us, when even villages can put in excellent floats and when clubs come not only from Somerset but even from Dorset and Devon?

And although collecting wagons come to our carnival from other towns to help out, we never send ours to them.

W BEAUFORT

Osborne Road, Weston

New beginning

AFTER a very traumatic time of six operations on my little boy from the age of eight months old to remove what could have been a cancerous birthmark congenital moles on his face, we had to leave abroad as the sun was too intense for him and could be very dangerous.

We heard great reviews about Weston as it was a seaside resort and town similar to what we were used to. The new beginning we were about to embark on has been the best choice and decision for all our lives.

The biggest worry was when Nicholas was to start school as we were very concerned about him having facial scarring and that he would be nervous.

The process for settling the children in and the love given actually had the opposite affect - he cries not to leave Kewstoke Primary School.

It has such a positive impact on his life in education, fulfilling all the areas which give him the best start.

The staff work very hard to promote the children’s self esteem and confidence in striving for them to reach their full potential.

Their passion for the children’s welfare is something which should be noted.

I would like the community to know the choice of schools here are great but Kewstoke Primary is a very special school.

Already Nicholas has won a talent show singing Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and ABC. After attending this we went to the local Playhouse and again watched the tribute act to MJ. If we don’t go to the pier, the new park built for the community, Puxton Park, or just a walk in the local forests there’s an abundance of activities to do and we are very proud to be part of the local community.

My daughter is currently in Weston College doing her A-levels and is very happy with the teachers who support her diligently.

My other daughter has just successfully completed a law degree, and wants to work locally as she has settled in Weston really well.

My son works for a local Italian restaurant and enjoys serving the community of Weston as they are all very pleasant.

Our new beginning after what was a terrible ordeal, has given us the chance of living here with what we dreamed, giving us a fresh start.

We would just like to say on behalf of my family, Weston a big thank you to all in the community.

We love it here and look forward to being true Westonians.

MELANIE NIKIFOROU

All Saints Road, Weston

Temendous

THIS week I visited The Blakehay Theatre to see The Mama Mia Experience presented by Sunshine Productions.

Mama Mia the musical has been running in the West End and around the world for many years and played to thousands of satisfied customers and was a very successful film.

Sunshine Productions adapted the well- known story to suit the small stage at The Blakehay with tremendous precision. The story was narrated and interspersed with ABBA’s timeless songs ranging from Honey Honey to Money Money Money to Super Trouper and, of course, Mama Mia. All the artists Laura Grace Leadbetter, Leah Farmer, Simon Duffill, Mike Purnell and Ian Doswell performed very well together and on their selected individual songs.

The audience, which consisted of many ABBA fans, knew all the moves to all the songs and the show ended with a medley of ABBA hits which encouraged all the audience on to their feet to dance and join in with all the songs.

The auditorium was only half full and I am sure if the company were to put on this show again in the New Year a full house would definitely be guaranteed.

So come on Weston don’t miss this show next time round.

DAVID KINGSBURY

Mendip Avenue, Worle

Wait and see

IS IT really true that after eight plus years of pleading, begging, attending meetings with the council, highways, the police, hospital board members, etc, that the council are at last ‘Up to speed’ (Mercury November 17) with the on-going parking problems in Uphill? Was it the withdraw of bus services that made them sit up and take notice? Now it’s a game of wait and see, but how long will it be before we see any improvement?

The introduction of double yellow lines (Mercury November 24) will solve some of the issues but create more in some areas.

If parking is restricted along Uphill Road South, where are the cars going to park? Would the hospital be willing to look again at its parking charges?

Uphill Way is a prime example, any more parking along there will create another bottleneck, perhaps leading to more bus services being taken away, even now they, First and Webber, have enough trouble using Uphill Way and negotiating congestion in Thornbury and Ellesmere roads.

Double yellow lines on the corners of the side roads leading off of Uphill Road South is an excellent idea but it’s going to push the traffic further into the road.

On a personal note, I live in Little Orchard, a cul-de-sac, and it’s a nightmare now, cars parked on pavements, green waste and refuse lorries have trouble getting into the road, also the carriageway towards the end of Little Orchard is only 14ft wide, hardly any room for residents let alone extra parking. It’s a huge problem to solve and like Carole Fisher said in her very impressive letter on November 24, please everyone involved in getting this escalating problem sorted, get together and find a solution.

If Cllr Elfan Ap Rees is now on the case perhaps he should arrange an on-site meeting, so he could hear our side of this nightmare. Something has to be done. Uphill Village is losing its charm.

JEAN WILLIS

Little Orchard, Uphill

Impossible

I SEE the news is the Tropicana once again. The council have decided to demolish. With so many companies willing to invest in Weston, why now do they decide to demolish the Tropicana?

If investment continues the way it has been then there is more chance of finding an investor willing to take this project on.

We all know that planning will be more readily accessible to builders to replace an existing building, rather than start from the scratch.

Surely it would be regarded as a brown site with a building on it, but once it is returned to sandy beach then it will be regarded as a green site.

Planning permission would be difficult to near impossible.

To spend three quarters of a million pounds raising it to the ground at a time when councils are having to make vast savings is not an option.

We need more indoor activities to encourage more visitors all year round then we would have the funds to invest.

JOHN CHRISTOPHER

Milton Road, Weston

Shameful

DISGRACEFUL is what I feel about the shameful way the council has handled the Tropicana affair. Ten years plus of mismanagement and wrong choices.

Now the incompetents have sold the people of Weston and their heritage completely down the river.

Are we now to gain a large patch, of extra sand or is it to remain as concrete to have minimal use as a car park to add another unwelcome curse to visitors.

Either way I cannot understand how a public amenity can be thrown away so easily and at huge cost to the local community.

I still maintain we would be better served by selling the site to any local businessman for a nominal amount. I have a pound in my pocket and would make a go of it. We don’t need to knock it down at all, even if the council does not provide any facilities, surely just paving the area would give a sheltered area to the public.

We need toilet facilities for our tourists, Tropicana present or not and any other business that can develop alongside is surely a bonus, providing pitch rental, but more importantly giving visitors what they want, a place of interest along a couple of miles of near barren sand, and incidentally the real possibilities of some local jobs.

I believe any further encroachment of sand will make our seafront a desert, and it won’t be appreciated as that.

PAUL BURNS

Sunnyside Road, Weston

Demolition

COUNCILLOR Elfan Ap Rees must be cock-o-hoop. The committee which he chairs has recommended, surprise surprise, that demolition of the Tropicana, which I believe was once the largest open air swimming pool in Europe, be allowed to proceed.

That will be rubber-stamped by the formality of the executive meeting on December 13.

After 11 years of giving the town the run around, and failing to impose what they wanted, North Somerset Council and Cllr Ap Rees will oversee this reminder of the wasted years swept away.

The independent report concluded that redevelopment is not viable in the current economic climate. That is not the same as saying that renovation is not possible even in the current economic climate. When in the 1930s Weston Borough Council took the decision to build the open air pool, it did not look for a commercial developer, but went ahead on its own on behalf of Weston’s ratepayers.

When a developer does deign to develop the site, when the economic climate is more favourable, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that North Somerset council taxpayers have given them something like a million pound gift by clearing the site for them.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

Thank you

MAY I through your paper express my gratitude to Paddy Payne and The Playhouse for the Sunday Night Live Concert on November 20 on behalf of Help For Heroes.

As the local co-ordinator for the area I was invited along. I was not at all disappointed; the whole show was absolutely fantastic.

Everyone gave their time for the event, Steve Yabsley was the host. Each of the performers were outstanding. So thank you to Chantel, Ian Erasmus, Spotlight singers, Weston Aerobics Elite Team, Sunday Night Live Dancers and St Martin’s School Choir. All these young people left me speechless.

SHEENA HAWORTH

Help For Heroes local co-ordinator, Somerset

I LOOK forward to seeing Stephen Butt’s new book on Weston, featured in last week’s Mercury, it looks fascinating with old photos new to me.

However, I fear that two of the photos featured in your article have been mis-dated.

The ‘site of the current Macfarlane Fountain in the 1920s’: true, it is the site of the fountain, but if the date was 1920s the fountain would already be in situ - it was donated and built on the site in 1913. Judging from other photos I have I would suggest the date of this photo is around 1910. ‘Regent Street in the 1920s’ is also of a similar date (1910). The building on the right hand side of the photo was demolished when the fountain was built and the surrounding square re-landscaped.

I also feel that the dress is more of the style of 1910, and I would think that by the 1920s there would be some motor cars about.

MARY MACFARLANE

Palmer’s Way, Hutton

IT’S profoundly sad when something rather fine is undermined by a failure of design.

During the several years it took to refashion Weston’s seafront promenade, I had been struck by the outstanding quality and care with which the paving, masonry and flood gates had been put together.

There was a wonderful symmetry to it all; the town had not experienced such creative investment since Mr A Krauss began work on the original sea wall back in 1883.

Accepting North Somerset Council had no choice other than to build a protective barrier along the sea wall between Knightstone and the Grand Pier - why oh why did they choose such an intrusive design? The recurring, angled stainless-steel supports completely obscure the beautiful masonry of the sea wall when viewed along its length; the perspective you have most of the time when walking along the prom.

The railings around Knightstone Island work far better, with the added benefit of being comfortable to lean on and peer over. And do you know what makes me feel especially nervous about this assembly of shiny metal?

It has the unfortunate appearance of a massing of Zimmer walking frames!

DR HOWARD SMITH

Stafford Place, Weston

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