Letters to the Editor, December 18, 2014

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- Credit: Archant

ALONG with several hundred other rugby enthusiasts I attended the local derby between Weston and Hornets last Saturday - a game well-won by the visitors who were superior in every department.

From the kick-off, the Hornets forwards dominated their opponents and continued to do so at almost every scrum whilst winning a constant stream of possession at the lineouts.

The threequarters ran and handled well and every one of the players, as well as all the coaching staff, deserve considerable praise and respect. Bragging rights are most definitely now with the younger club.

The Hornets performance spoke volumes for the club’s policy over many years of bringing on home-grown players through their mini and junior sections with a steady stream of those youngsters going on to excel at senior level.

However, the game was, unfortunately, somewhat marred for many of the spectators by the constant stream of bad language coming from many of the younger Weston supporters. Seemingly, most of them were playing members of junior sides. Given that there were many children of tender years in the crowd - I considered that the occasion was diminished.


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I would urge senior and committee members of the Weston club (which has a long and proud history) to adopt a policy which makes it clear to young members that the club’s image is more important than the continuing membership of those who are, unthinkingly, capable of bringing Weston Rugby Football Club into disrepute.

JOHN LEY-MORGAN

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Elmsleigh Road, Weston

MORE and more people in Weston are worried about the future of the Winter Gardens. It is in the prime position on our glorious seafront and is such a distinctive building.

Most will be pleased for the college to expand and for educational opportunities for youngsters to be enhanced. But does it have to be there - on the seafront, diminishing facilities for other community and leisure uses? We have so many derelict sites going begging in the town.

Can we trust North Somerset Council to make any restrictive covenants on its use legally enforceable? They have made such a mess of other proposed developments.

I hope at least to find out more about the details of the plan from the public meeting arranged by Weston Civic Society on January 15 since the council has failed to carry out any sort of public consultation at all so far.

MARTHA PERRIAM

Upper Church Road, Weston

YET again we are seeing North Somerset Council (NSC) prove themselves completely incapable of running Weston.

They continue not to recognise Weston as a seaside town and fail to recognise its singularly most important asset, its seafront.

After the debacle of the Tropicana, they now want to technically close the Winter Gardens citing the false premise of regeneration. Student accommodation will do nothing for the economic enhancement of Weston town centre, except for a bit of food shopping. What happens when the students go home for three to four months of the year, no money for Weston at all, not that students have money to spare anyway. So NSC where does this benefit Weston? The truth is NSC don’t want to think about the future maintenance cost of the Winter Gardens and would rather just give it away, out of sight, out of mind.

Elections are coming in May, let’s make this the main election issue. To now I have been a lifelong Tory voter, but recognise the failure of our Tory administration.

So what have they done for us?

They were dogmatic in their insistence in turning the Tropicana to sand, only thanks to Derek Mead does it still have a chance.

Can we trust it in the hands of this administration in the future?

We still have streets empty during the day outside homes. Any decent person would revert those streets to parking meter free.

When the recycling scheme came in they gave us brown boxes for food waste, this was counted as recycled and then thrown in with general waste for landfill (this was confirmed by a councillor). They then had the nerve to boast one of the best recycling rates in the country.

Dolphin Square, an example of this council’s regeneration.

Carlton Street car park costs us £200,000 a year.

So voters of Weston don’t vote on party lines in the May elections, vote for the people who will be best for Weston and save the Winter Gardens.

RON FIELDHOUSE

Boundary Close, Weston

I AM sure I won’t be the only one who is totally in shock following the revelation that the ownership of The Winter Gardens is to change hands unchallenged, with no consultation, and no consideration for those of us living in Weston.

Democracy does not seem to be a part of North Somerset Council’s ethics so I would like some answers as to why they seem to think they can do what they want when they want. And more importantly, why?

There always seems to be double standards in their decisions, one rule for Weston with Weston always coming off worse and other rules for Clevedon and Portishead - it’s disgusting, unethical, biased, and quite honestly shameful.

It’s about time the council gave some honest answers and made their decisions affecting Weston with the same consideration they give to Clevedon and Portishead. As taxpayers and supposedly with equal rights, I think we should get the same respect and a chance to voice our opinion. Either that or different councillors - preferably those who will fight for us. Food for thought when voting.

JUDI MASSA

Bristol Road Lower, Weston

THE executive committee of North Somerset Council (NSC) met on December 9 and approved the proposal to pass the freehold of the Winter Gardens over to Weston College for the nominal sum of £1 and this is to be achieved by September 2015. Examination of the official report of this meeting does make interesting and worrying reading.

This proposal is described as coming under the council’s Surplus Asset Disposal Policy. A search of the NSC website for this document was not successful. However there is the Community Asset Transfer Policy and Procedures which makes reference to the Declaration of Land and Property Surplus to Service and Council Requirements Procedures, which again results in an unsuccessful search for procedures.

It has to be asked who declares one of Weston’s prize assets as ‘surplus’? Perhaps this means anything that NSC wish to get of their books.

The proposal hangs on the basis that the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will provide £18million funding to Weston College. The proposal was due to have been discussed by the LEP on December 12.

The Agreement to Transfer would need to be in place early in 2015 to provide the college with the certainty required for it to progress the detailed design and planning work for the proposed works. This is presumably why it is to go before the full council on January 13.

Although the freehold transfer to the college for a nominal £1 a paperwork exercise needs to be undertaken to show the full value of the property, so as to match funding, to secure the maximum possible funding from the LEP, not for the purpose of getting a realistic payment to the money-strapped council.

Included in the proposal is that Weston College will continue to make the original frontage part of the building before and after refurbishment available for continued community access.

Worryingly it appears that approval is being sought before the community access has been defined. The report states that “communities will be able to secure the use of the facilities to host events that are proportionate to the utilisation of the building primarily for education purposes and that this be ascertained through a programme of community engagement and reviews.” This definition could severely limit community use for what has been a community asset for decades, with no planned replacement.

In addition it is likely that by a freehold transfer it will be very difficult, and in practice probably impossible, to guarantee continued community use of the ballroom and front of the premises. However a Leasehold transfer should guarantee it.

This whole proposal has lacked a public consultation process. Details were given to a selected number of bodies behind closed doors. The report does state that “there will be wider engagement with the general public as well as key community and interest groups as the project is developed.”

This is far too late as the fundamental decision will have been made and the pressure will then be on to spend the LEP money to an agreed timetable and public consultation will just be a token gesture.

PETER DOWNS

Mansfield Avenue, Weston

ONCE again we have evidence of the underhand, secretive manner in which our elected officials are stripping our beautiful town of its assets.

How can they honestly expect us to believe that the devious way they have gone about the disposal of the Winter Gardens does not have a peculiar smell hovering over it?

This whole affair needs to be fully investigated as once again the executive is attempting to steamroller a totally flawed project through before objections, or otherwise, can be thoroughly examined.

How can we possibly believe a word that comes out of the town hall when we read that according to Councillor Tony Lake: “We are not transferring willy-nilly. They (the college) have to make sure the funding is in place, just like the Trop really, before we transfer”. What kind of joke statement is that? Does Cllr Lake conveniently forget that the problems with the Tropicana began with the infamous Boot regime. May I ask what guarantees were sought then? And dare I mention Dolphin Square and the big fanfare that accompanied that signed sealed and delivered debacle?

I note with scepticism that the leader has given his word that community use “will be protected”. If, as expected he among many others are defeated in the forthcoming council elections how does he intend to keep his promise? It is quite interesting to see that no mention of exactly how much ‘community use’ will be made available.

The authority also maintain that the scheme must push forward to bring life back to the town.

So killing off a major asset, sticking what appears to be a bolt on Lego set on the back of it and building more student accommodation in the resort centre will bring the town back to life?

Am I the only one who believes that this current council has given up and simply run out of enthusiasm for Weston and feel it’s easier to give something away rather than use some imagination. If it is intent on stripping Weston of tourists then it is, for once, doing a brilliant job.

JULIAN NORRIS

Prospective Independent Candidate, North Somerset First Independents

Old Mill Way, Weston

THREE cheers for David Jacobs’ robust defence of Weston last week. Like him, I’m constantly baffled by the parallel universe in which the regular critics of our great town seem to exist.

The marvellous new pier and promenade attract countless visitors from far and wide and major events such as the Beach Race, sand castle competition and major concerts also boost the town’s economy. And there are many new jobs being created in the town too, not to mention the ever-growing expansion and success of Weston College.

But some of the nay-sayers now seem to have another, more cynical agenda. They suggest that all the ills that assault the town are the fault of North Somerset Council (NSC). I’m no supporter of NSC but Whitehall has faced it with a seemingly impossible task of cutting more than £100million from its budget over the next few years. The critics say that the solution lies with the free market rather than an overpowering centralised state or local authority. But recent experience has demonstrated that’s hardly a good idea. After all, we were confidently told that Derek Mead had the solution to the long-running Tropicana saga.

Nevertheless, unbowed by such humiliation, Cllr Mead has launched a new political party - North Somerset 1st - that claims it will free us all from the oppressive shackles of local government slavery and return power to the people. And, judging by recent Mercury letters from prospective candidates Steve Bridges, Mel Ashworth and Julian Norris, it is already assuring us that it has all the answers to our current difficulties. But, rather than a wish to simply propel us all back to the golden heyday of the 1950s, when will their predictable, rhetoric be replaced by viable policies?

In the tough world of politics, it’s easy to criticise the incumbents from the sidelines. But it’s far harder to offer a credible alternative that works within the current harsh realities of economic restraint and vicious cuts to essential social services. So we all await with interest the words of wisdom from Cllr Mead and his acolytes that will miraculously free us all from our current predicament.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

A FEW weeks ago, when a director of Hallen Land Management met villagers and parish councillors to introduce an application for a new development of another 170 houses at North End, he referred initially to the “town of Yatton”, but some of the residents pointed out to him that Yatton should still be recognised at a village.

Unfortunately, due to major development the village may seem to some people to be the size of a town, but there is actually a dire shortage of local facilities, especially at the North End of the village, where applications for more housing are being considered.

The older residents still remember the shops, the farms and the dairy that supplied them with butter and cheese, all these sites have been replaced by housing development, which has brought with it a huge amount of traffic.

One elderly resident still remembers when she played with her friends in the middle of Yatton High Street until someone shouted “get on the pavement, there’s a horse and cart coming”, other residents remember when the farmers drove their herds of cows through the High Street. We now have the situation where it is possible to record the passage of more than 800 vehicles through the High Street from 8-9am.

Although it is obvious that the residents of Yatton could expect changes over the years, Yatton is a village not a town and the residents should not be expected to accept this chaotic situation of more major development being agreed, bringing the volume of traffic up to a dangerous level and causing many other problems.

R V WATHEN

Chescombe Road, Yatton

HAVING read your article I am not surprised by the attitude of Somerset County Council (SCC) as many councils give a low priority to maintaining traffic signs.

Your quote from the SCC spokesman shows a complete lack of understanding as to the significant risk to drivers (and pedestrians if there is a footway adjacent) this sign is causing now.

The sign has not been correctly maintained and it appears the fixing brackets have failed.

The sign was structurally designed, manufactured and installed to meet a wind loading, which it now no longer meets as it is not fixed to the supports correctly.

At worst strong winds or slipstream from a passing truck will probably result in the sign falling into the road and causing a traffic accident at significant cost.

And the spokesman states there is no safety benefit in attaching the sign to the posts.

Or the sign will be further damaged and a new sign will have to be ordered at much higher cost than maintaining it correctly.

TREVOR WREN

Robin Drive, Hutton

LAST week the Mercury reported that town councillor Keith Morris has defected from the Conservatives to UKIP.

Apparently, he has been ‘allowed’ to remain on the town council for the next five months until May’s elections.

‘Allowed’ by whom? Shouldn’t the electorate of Uphill and Broadoak, who elected him to serve as a Conservative councillor, have the opportunity to either endorse his switch of allegiance or kick him out?

But isn’t the whole notion of having local councillors representing national parties an indefensible one? What values do Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, etc, bring to local matters? Shouldn’t all our councillors be independent - standing and working for the benefit of local people and Weston and its environs as a whole - without wearing ‘tribal’ rosettes which often only serve to promote discourse and argument?

Fifty odd years ago, local people - mainly businessmen - stood for the Weston Borough Council by name only and with the aim of developing and promoting the town. Elsewhere, parish councillors had the same ambitions for their communities. However, some like-minded councillors then started to sit together and vote together and soon the rest were forced to do the same.

Many would believe that that was the worst thing that ever happened to local government.

May’s elections for district and town/parish councils will give local people the opportunity to put the clock back and support independently-minded people who will have no party agendas to adhere to. In Weston, there will be three ballot papers - one for the district council and one for the town/parish council (depending on where you live) where people can vote for individuals and there will be a third paper where voters can exercise their party choice for our representative at Westminster.

Five months from now, there is the distinct possibility of us seeing the biggest upheaval in local government in more than a generation. If so, it will be the voting public who will benefit.

T JAKEMAN

Beach Road, Weston

I AM not surprised that Keith Morris has left the Conservative party.

Some politicians seek power whilst others just want to do the best for their constituents and it is very difficult to toe the party line when the conscience tells you it is wrong.

What does surprise me more is that Mr Morris should turn to UKIP because in local affairs this party does not have the experience.

On the national stage UKIP seek independence from Europe and many confuse the name with independents, many of whom do great work in local government.

I would have thought that Mr Morris would have joined either the Liberal Democrats or Labour, rather than a party this is not really interested in things like potholes or local planning.

When Election Day comes around in 2015 we will be voting on two fronts – national and local and there is no doubt that UKIP will spice up the national vote.

It is worth remembering that we can split our votes, one for the Member of Parliament and the other for our local council.

It is quite likely many of us will vote for a party nationally and an individual who will serve us best at a local level, where people not parties are far more important. However experience has taught me that many more will just put their cross against the party they have supported all their lives without any thought of consequences.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

I WONDER if you might be able to help find the last living relatives of an elderly Irish gentleman?

It would mean so much to him, especially at Christmastime; he is widowed and has no children.

The gentleman is my friend John Kelleher; he believes that any surviving family he now has would be the descendants of Anthony Richard Norris, born in 1944 in Kent, the son of Sibyl Norris of Burnham.

John believes that Anthony would have grown up in Weston and may well have spent the better part of his life there before leaving the UK, probably in the late 1980s, when he emigrated to the USA. Anthony died in Alexandria, Virginia in 2012.

If you have any snippet of information at all, I’d be so grateful if you could get in touch with me, so I can pass this along to John in Limerick.

John is a lovely, lonely man, and it would mean the world to him if I could find his kin for him, particularly at this time of year, when nobody should have to feel alone in the world.

MRS CLAIRE JORDAN

South Cottage, High Street, Staplehurst, Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 0BH

LAST week, I had to attend the physiotherapy department at Weston General Hospital, although I had to wait about a month for an appointment (for a bout of tendonitis in my left foot), I have nothing but praise for the whole affair, especially the handout I got to take home with the necessary physical exercises I need to do.

I find it very hard to believe that the staff involved wouldn’t recommend their friends or family.

I’m sure the changes at the top must be unsettling.

MIKE WALKER

Gloucester Street, Weston

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