Letters to the Editor, February 26, 2015

letters

- Credit: Archant

I WOULD like to say how much I enjoyed Alistair Todd’s letter of February 21, regarding the poetic sensibilities of the local council, although I feel he has been misled.

It is my belief that the council has, in effect, created a lasting memorial to the bombing suffered by Weston during the Second World War.

This has evoked feelings of nostalgia as I distinctly remember in my youth, playing on the original bomb sites, so thoughtfully left by the Luftwaffe.

Not to be outdone, the council’s work is a far superior job, as they have been able to remove all the buildings from the area, rather than the few destroyed by air raids. For the sake of verisimilitude they have even added a Brutalist concrete bunker.

Meanwhile, the theme continues, as there are plans afoot to provide an infestation of prefab constructions, aka beach chalets, along the promenade. Once again, it seems as though we shall have to rely on the civic responsibility of local vandals to remedy the situation, in the same able manner they did when confronted by plastic donkeys and the astounding waste that was the Seven Wonders of Weston.


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D HARRIS

Moorland Road, Weston

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IT’S good to see the post office is moving away from its present location.

I have never been in such a depressing environment as our main post office, with all those empty areas and empty spaces. I really feel sorry for the people working in there. After one visit I decided to write to the Post Office and complain about the place. To my surprise I received an answer, but it blamed everything on the landlord.

After being served the last time I asked one of the women in there how she managed to sit on the broken seat she was struggling with, her answer was the Post Office had nothing to do with it, and the owners were responsible for the furniture. With health and safety these days I’m surprised they are allowed to open.

When you think back at that lovely historic building that used to be its home, that was knocked down to make way for a burger bar it makes you want to weep.

All in the name of money and extra profits.

TOM FLYNN

Wainwright Close, Worle

IN YOUR opinion page on February 12, R S Davey asked why the council has decided to add an extra bus company to the service 3/103 route between Worle and Searle Crescent.

This was not a council decision. Any bus company with an operator’s licence can run any service anywhere it wishes, if it thinks it can make money by doing so. Very often a new service is timed to run just in front of the existing operator’s journey in order to win passengers waiting at the bus stops.

Sadly, after a few months of competition, very often one of the two operators finds it is losing money running the route, so it cancels its journeys and leaves the other operator as the only firm on the route.

CLLR RAY ARMSTRONG

Stanley Grove, Weston

I LIVE in Felton and the 121 bus has now been taken away leaving lots of people stuck and not able to get out shopping, etc.

A taxi to the airport to get the bus costs £10 a time then the price of the bus.

It’s not safe to walk there plus many people in Winford and Felton are disabled or elderly and can’t make the mile and a half walk there. They don’t want to risk their life doing the walk to the airport.

I’ve talked to First bus and it says it’s the council. I talked to the council it says its First bus.

It used to cost around £4.40 to get out of the village on the bus now its £20 taxi

then bus fair

We now can’t get to Weston if we have problems with council tax, etc.

I wonder why we have council tax out here as we have no paths to walk on, no street lighting, no shops and no post office.

I do hope you can run a letter to help all of us bus users that are now

stuck and can’t get out of Redhill, Felton and Winford.

HELEN DAY

Long Cross, Felton

I AM writing in response to a letter that appeared in the Mercury (Extra bus company, February 12 wondering why the council has chosen to add an extra bus company to the route of Service 3.

It hasn’t thus chosen, so in response I thought it may be helpful to explain how bus services are provided and regulated.

The bus industry in England outside London is de-regulated. This means that any properly constituted licensed bus operator can provide any service it chooses - at the times and fare that it wishes. The local authority is not involved except where a route does not carry enough passengers to be operated commercially. In that case the council (North Somerset) can seek a tender for the provision of the required service from interested operators.

The position on our Service 3 illustrates how this regulatory regime can have strange consequences. As your correspondent points out, First (and before it Badgerline and before that Bristol Omnibus Company) provides the No 3 service. Before Christmas the other operator in the town decided to run buses on the same (more or less) route running just a few minutes ahead of the First buses.

In the long run there aren’t enough passengers to justify the number of buses now on the route, but for our part we have no plans to cease operating. To explain: competition law dictates that rival bus operators cannot discuss the routing, time-tabling or pricing of services with one another. To do so is illegal, would be anti-competitive and would be considered an attempt to ‘carve up the market’. So it remains to be seen how this will progress.

For our part we schedule our buses in response to the demand for travel that we see on the ground. We cannot, and do not, take what other operators are doing into account, but instead adjust our timetables in response to the number of people travelling on, or expected to travel on, our services.

Furthermore, where we see opportunities for growth and development in our network we also take these, doing so again completely independently of what other operators may or may not be doing.

Finally and very importantly we are proud of the people who deliver our services, day in, day out in all seasons - successors to generations of bus drivers in Weston.

I hope this clarifies the position.

JAMES FREEMAN

Managing director, First West of England, Easton Road, Bristol

WESTON is the largest town in North Somerset and contributes the lion’s share to the economy from its population and tourism.

It is therefore surprising that an independent councillor from Clevedon has described Weston’s influence as ‘overbearing and cloying’.

The district council is ruled by an executive committee of which only one member represents Weston so much of the influence comes from outside the town. There is a north and south divide and unfortunately Weston is on the wrong side of the line.

Some years ago when Weston Town Council was created Westonians believed that they would have a bigger say in their own affairs but unfortunately this council with 33 members has very little power, even plans submitted to the council have to be ratified by North Somerset.

There are two parliamentary constituencies in the district, John Penrose represents Weston and Liam Fox – North Somerset and I have a fantasy that there should also be two district councils.

Weston could cope very well on its own especially with income from tourism and it would be great to see a Weston council back, where it belongs, in the town hall.

Weston Town Council would cease to exist but reform as the new Weston District Council.

North Somerset already has a purpose-built HQ in Clevedon and I am sure the residents would be much happier, if not better off, than before.

Of course some services, such as re-cycling would still be shared between the two councils but at some time in the future charges will have to be made to create a fairer society. I did say it was a fantasy - well anybody can dream.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

JOHN Christopher’s letter (‘Any room’) claims councillors only listen at election time, I beg to differ.

The local Conservatives have a canvass team that is active every Saturday from March to December each year.

John Penrose accompanies the team unless he is already involved in local constituency events, councillors attend areas relevant to their wards (or prospective wards).

We are keen to hear residents’ comments which are followed up if appropriate.

As for being quiet, residents are perfectly entitled to let their opinions be known on many matters via various channels, all made public through published planning notices and from the council website and Life magazine. Perhaps the silence referred to suggests there is an overall acceptance of the council’s actions.

With regards to the comment about sell-offs and relocations, had difficult decisions over the last few years not been made by the council the severe budget cuts would have had a far greater impact on jobs and services.

I believe the decisions were made to protect certain assets by rationalising those that cost more than the income they generate and provide an alternative way of being run without liability. These steps have been necessary in times of great budget pressures.

Many businesses are seeing the benefit of shared services in an aim to provide ‘value for money’, why can’t the council be seen as working to ensure it is efficiently run for the benefit of residents and their council tax being spent wisely rather than it being constantly accused of being irresponsible, which it is not?

SUE CREASEY

Sedgemoor Road, Weston

RUTH Jacobs was right to remind us last week of the great investments that Weston has enjoyed recently, adding to the town’s growing success.

Apart from the £41million new seafront, the 42 acre Weston Gateway development will offer up to 1,300 new jobs, while The Hive enterprise centre is already attracting many new start-up businesses.

In addition, Weston College goes from strength to strength with its new South West Skills Campus and proposed £11million legal and professional services facility.

So it’s no surprise that youth unemployment in the town fell by more than a third in 2014, with an overall 37 per cent drop in those seeking work.

All this has been achieved while North Somerset Council has saved nearly £47million over the last two years although another £53million needs to go before 2018.

No wonder John Penrose declared recently that Weston’s recovery was stronger than average for the rest of the South West.

But sadly it appears that such excellent news still isn’t good enough for some mean-spirited souls. In his Mercury letter ‘Closed doors’ last week, North Somerset First’s (NSF) candidate Julian Norris regaled us with yet another predictable moan about how useless the council is and how the town is going to the dogs. But what’s always lacking in such submissions from Mr Norris and his colleagues is any suggestion of how his party will change and improve things for the better. For example, the NSF website bravely declares ‘Our mission is to make North Somerset vibrant with new business opportunities, offer excellent education facilities, raise employment growth prospects’. Perhaps I’m missing something, but isn’t that what’s clearly already happening?

Meanwhile, another NSF hopeful tells us that he has ‘encountered maintenance issues regarding public open spaces. I believe that service provider contracts are not being managed properly.’ So perhaps the party can tell us how it would deal with the recalcitrant companies whose refusal to address their obligations caused the years of delay that blighted the Walford Avenue play park?

With the election not far off, isn’t it time that NSF candidates told us in detail how, if elected, they will rescue our lives from the current state of abject misery they suggest we suffer? And how, as a rag-bag of assorted individuals with pick-and-mix policies, are they going to form a cohesive, organised and effective administration?

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

I READ in the Mercury that Weston Town Council has stepped in and is offering a £5,000 grant to the Weston Sand Sculpture promoters. How very generous of them.

Last October I wrote a letter to the Opinion page asking why was it that this very successful seasonal attraction was in danger of not returning this coming season. The reason given by Nicola Wood was she had not been able to find enough sponsors to cover the £30,000 it cost to store and build the Sand Sculpture’s site .They wanted to expand and improve what they had already featured for the past nine year? But at that time a North Somerset council spokesman said: “It has been a pleasure to host the Sand Sculpture Festival on the seafront for a number of years and the event has been enjoyed by thousands of visitors, many of whom have continued to return. We would like to wish them every success with their future ventures”

At that time I questioned why North Somerset Council was so short sighted? I even suggested that it save money and not publish its own self-praise, political publication called Life, for just one issue and use the money saved.

Life is published at a cost, I believe, of more than £250,000 a year but if saved and used to sponsor the Sand Sculptures Festival.

Let’s hope this offer by Weston Town Council can be accepted by the sculptures’ promoters and allowing Weston to retain the festival however I don’t know if the offer they have made to the promoters is going to be enough?

Last year the promoters told North Somerset Council they would like a site in Weston which could include a facility for refreshments, etc. It is obvious that this landed on deaf ears but as a major seaside resort of England how is it North Somerset Council cannot do more to ensure this already proven attraction becomes a regular part of the features offered to the life blood of Weston, our visitors.

Why has it been left to Weston Town Council to try and save the day. It has already given us the very successful children’s splash park on the seafront.

North Somerset Council has given a grant to the Clevedon Pier of £750,000 while at the same time cutting down on local services.

Is it because the council doesn’t think Weston is worth its investment or local support, in spite of being its largest revenue provider?

It can spend £20million on a new town hall in Clevedon plus another £9million on refurbishing the old Town Hall as a library, police point and now it is going to spend about a further £400,000 or so on the Tropicana for what? To house its Council Events Team.

The Sand Festival had more than 100,000 visitors last year. The town now has the latest attraction for Weston The Pirate Adventure Land with a mini 18 hole golf course. This being placed in the most prime site in Weston on The Beach Lawns and which we are told has cost more than £750,000 to create. I am sure this is going to be good for Weston and an extra attraction for our visitors.

But when you think of what people in power have done for Weston during their term in office it makes you wonder.

But then again the voters only get what they deserve. Look at the Winter Gardens (sold for the price of a cup of coffee) to become a six-storey seat of learning right in the heart of the seafront and with no car parking and Dolphin Square still a bomb site with no takers for shops or department stores but it does have a multi-story car park. Possible now maybe to have flats built on it.

But also taking a long lease on the Dolphin car park, which is now going to cost the ratepayer many thousand of pounds, in rent and this for land it had already owned.

I think it looks like all bad news and if I’m right it still hasn’t even managed to recover the £102,000 it cost to secure and clear the Royal Pier site.

So why can’t our council bite the bullet on this one and give £3,000 originally asked for by the promoters of the Sand Festival and not need Weston Town Council to step in trying to save the day.

I suspect a lot of this lot in power will be replaced hopefully by completely independent councillors not tied to any political party, but by people who will act and speak for Weston.

LAURENCE F ORME

Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

IT WAS reported in the recent Weston Mercury that the plans to built up to 80 homes on the edge of Congresbury have been rejected by North Somerset Council, due to safety concerns.

It was interesting to read that the key reasons for refusal were three of the reasons that residents of Yatton can cite against the Hallam Land Management application to build 170 homes at North End.

The case for refusal of the Congresbury site plan mentioned the scale of the development and stated that the homes were out of character with the village rural roots, and also pointed out that there were concerns about the impact on road safety.

There are, of course, concerns about the impact on road safety in Yatton when some of the vehicles from the major development at North End will use the High Street and add to the numbers of more than 800 vehicles an hour between 8-9am (recorded by the local Speedwatch).

The North Somerset MP has stated in the past that Yatton High Street is already hugely overcrowded and represented a risk to the passage of emergency vehicles when the M5 and A370 are closed, and that there is a need for a road to bypass the village.

The application for 170 houses at North End is, of course, a large scale development outside of the Yatton village boundary following the acceptance of the application for 120 homes in the same area, and is obviously out of character with the village’s rural roots.

R V WATHEN

Chescombe Road, Yatton

WHILST I agree that plaques relating to Mr Judd’s tenure as mayor which are giving offence should be removed it would be wrong to erase him from Weston’s history completely.

For many years a culture of secrecy and cover-ups combined with a failure to investigate children’s allegations enabled children’s home workers, catholic priests, teachers (including one locally at Hillside School), BBC staff, politicians and others to continue abusing children for long periods before being brought to justice.

Most recently in Rotherham police and council officials failure to investigate reports of an Asian gang targeting young girls due to ‘racial sensitivity’ allowed the abuse of 1,600 girls over 10 years.

Weston’s history should state that we had a mayor, Mr Judd, who was later convicted of possessing hundreds of child abuse images and as a result the council ordered the removal of all items in public buildings commemorating his time as mayor.

Evil needs to be brought into the open and confronted, not swept under the carpet to flourish in secret.

MRS J EDWARDS

Constable Drive, Worle

AFTER my letter of February 12 I note a reply from Darren Fairchild (seafront and event service manager) last week.

We note this reply and wonder why Race For Life has not had anything to say.

Nice to know the council is supportive though.

BOB PAYNTER

Moorland Road, Weston

AT THE Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) planning meeting held on February 10 the Conservative administration granted permission for outline planning on a 2.22 hectare (five acres) greenfield site in Wedmore for 55 homes (24 affordable).

Though there was a need for the affordable housing, there was no evidence of need for the 31 outright sale homes, which makes you ask the question why didn’t Wedmore Parish Council (WPC) seek a better deal with the landowner?

You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that at Wedmore’s current house prices this scheme was easily achievable with a lot less outright sale housing. This would have left over a parcel of land for future generations in need of affordable housing.

WPC was also heavily criticised for not consulting properly with it parishioners.

At the same meeting it granted permission for a 6.2 hectare (15.3 acre) extension to the recently approved 30 hectare (74 acre) solar farm in Theale, near Wedmore. This site already has an appeal lodged against Mendip District Council (MDC) for 20 hectare (49.4 acre) which if overturned will increase the total site to 56.2 hectare (138.87 acre).

Constructions on green and brown field sites always has an environmental cost to bear and in this case come the elections on May 7 will also have a political one for parish, district and the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.

TREVOR PRIDEAUX

Combe Batch Rise, Wedmore

WE, THE residents of North Somerset, have always been either taken for mugs or even worse the wool pulled over our eyes.

We are a far cry from the busy metropolis hub of the London financial market, with Weston being viewed as a sleepy seaside town, but I believe it is more of a sleeping giant.

There are some who, like me, are putting faith into our county and are willing to make things happen.

I have clients who, on a regular basis, commute to London because London is where it’s at. But the irony of it all is that it’s all done through a lap top or computer screen. I also know that they, like many others like them, live within our county and crave the peaceful country life once in the metropolis, choosing to power down and ease up from the London rush.

The way I see it is that most businesses are being pushed out of areas like trendy Mayfair by greedy landlords to make way for plush apartments with an eclectic utopia mix of cosmopolitan super rich.

What if, and dare I dream such thoughts, if they choose to work and live in North Somerset full time.

What if they choose to set up their offices in places like the Weston Gateway?

If we give these nomadic bankers and high fliers a place to congregate and converse surely would they know any different, if surrounded by coffee shops and computer screens?

But we must offer these like-minded big cogs of this country’s economy to see something in front of them other than a wet field full of sheep.

Weston is progressively moving up a gear (probably still in second to London’s fifth) but with welcoming sites like the Weston Gateway and the business hub, it offers us hope.

North Somerset is open for business if you care to dream.

What if, Weston like many great university towns becomes a place where great law academicals are created, placing it on a par with Oxford or Cambridge.

This like many visionaries in history needs belief and investment within their success.

I also see from a distant all the hard work businesses are doing to create opportunities for our school leavers.

Our futures rely on their success.

LAWRENCE WALKER

Post Office Lane, Blagdon

WITH a general election in the offing it’s up to the rest of us to set the agenda. If we don’t then ‘politicians’ will take over and dominate right up to the ballot.

There is a nationwide campaign under way to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures. Organised by 38degrees, these signatures will lend support to a message to every candidate, whichever party they might represent, making it clear that the NHS is of paramount importance to by far the majority of their electors.

More importantly, 38degrees intend to continue pressing elected MPs to keep the NHS in the forefront of their priorities in the months, and years, after the 2015 election.

38degrees is a pressure group independent of all parties and responsible only to its more than 2.5 million members. It is the members alone who finance and run all of its activities. Through organisations like 38degrees those of us outside political parties can have a real say on the national stage.

This campaign culminates on February 28 with on-the-street collections of signatures all across the country. From then on, 38degrees will ensure, right up to the election and beyond, that all Parliamentary candidates are in no doubt as to the importance of the NHS to their electors.

JACK DORAN

Forest Drive, Weston

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