Letters to the Editor, February 5, 2015
- Credit: Archant
STAY quiet and listen to your superiors. We can speak to each other on a daily basis but when it comes to our representatives on the district council, they only want to know us, the voter that is, every few years at election time.
Between elections we are expected to stay quiet. We have no say in whether a new supermarket can be built or if we want to become a college town.
The sell-off of the Winter Gardens without consulting the electorate is yet more evidence of complacency from our elected councillors.
Now that the Winter Gardens is sold, the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) is to be moved into the town hall building along with the police, library, register office, rangers and Uncle Tom Cobbley. And now the TIC and the TIC-run coffee shop. Is there any room in there for drug rehab I wonder or a swimming pool?
And all they can say is maybe we could have handled it better. The work being done on the Tropicana must be a desperate move to try and retain their seats. It cannot be because the public have requested it. Can it?
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Milton Lodge Hotel owner, Milton Road, Weston
I AM not often prompted to write to the local press, but I felt it necessary, due to so many negative comments, to outline my position on the future of the Winter Gardens Pavilion.
As someone who was born and brought up in Weston I value this venue very much and am keen to see it thrive again rather than fall into more disrepair.
Weston has seen considerable improvements over the past few years, and although there are still a few disappointments, I fully support the council taking the opportunity to work with Weston College to fulfil its vision to build on its tremendous reputation and make Weston a university town. This would not only be a real win for the college but also a bonus for Weston in acting as a catalyst to help revitalise the town centre. The success of Weston town and its facilities is also very important for those living in the surrounding villages.
So why the Winter Gardens? Well it is some 50 years since I used to attend Teen and Twenty nights, and at that time the Winter Gardens was a vibrant venue. Times have now changed, with many other interests occupying our time, but this iconic venue, in my opinion the best in North Somerset, can still have an exciting future.
At a recent event in the Winter Gardens it was disappointing to see how much further it has deteriorated since I used it on a number of occasions for charity and civic events as chairman of the council. I selected this venue as it gave me the opportunity to show off such a unique and splendid setting for events in North Somerset.
So as at this time its poor state of repair requires considerable investment, which makes attracting clients very difficult, if this work is done, and it is managed and promoted properly then I am sure it can have a bright future.
Like others I would have liked more time to consult on the proposals regarding the college, but there are occasions when a unique opportunity presents itself, and a quick decision has to be made, or the opportunity lost. This is where Weston College comes in, as this not only offers the opportunity to finance these renovations, but I am confident when completed the proposed Community Board, as long as it is properly constituted, would be able to do an excellent job of managing and promoting the ballroom for the local community.
I recognise and appreciate the concerns felt over maintaining the ballroom area for community use, and I consider this vital to a successful transfer agreement, and it is important when the details of the contracts are completed that there is adequate protection to secure the original Winter Gardens for long term community use. This is one aspect that I can assure you will be scrutinised very closely by both me and other councillors to ensure our complete satisfaction. We need to recognise that this whole process is still in its early stages and there are many more discussions necessary and decisions yet to be made.
I consider the cost of preserving the original Winter Gardens in character and for community use is well balanced by developing the newer part of the Winter Gardens for the college use. This new college development will also enhance this area of the town in many ways, although I still consider work will need to be done in the area of the Italian Gardens.
I personally consider that there are exciting times ahead for Weston and it needs all bodies to work together to secure success for the town. I congratulate the Weston in Bloom group for their positive approach and wish them every success in promoting Weston in a national competition, together with the support of the local communities, North Somerset Council and Weston Town Council.
CLLR TERRY PORTER
Conservative Councillor, Hutton and Locking Ward
Moorcroft Road, Hutton
IT SEEMS some of our councillors are of the opinion that Weston should become a university town, citing Brighton and Bournemouth as seaside towns with universities.
Both these are 1992 conversions from colleges and with populations of around 273,000 and 183,000 respectively are more than twice as large as Weston. On top of this Weston has nearby, at Bristol, one of the best universities in England.
These establishments cost a great deal of public money to run, and it is very doubtful during these times of reductions in Government grants to councils if a university at Weston is affordable or even worth thinking about.
C J PEVERELLE
Edinburgh Place, Weston
THE Mercury has recently been besieged by letters from its regular panel of armchair experts, bemoaning the prospects for the ageing Winter Gardens. These doom-mongers still seem to resent any project that will drag Weston from the 1950s and into the 21st century. But I’m puzzled.
Despite their predictable objections to the opportunities offered by the proposed college expansion, someone who knows the facts - Charles Walker of the North Somerset Business Agency - said last week: “I think it will bring a lot of jobs to the town, not only directly in the Winter Gardens but also around the town.” And he wasn’t alone.
Nick Horne, chief executive of the highly successful Knightstone Housing Group told the Mercury “the positive impact would be felt across the town.” He also observed: “what will underpin future investment in Weston is there being a clear vision for the regeneration of the town… the plans for the Winter Gardens look like a definite step in the right direction.” Moreover, town centre manager Steve Townsend said: “I think it’s going to be brilliant - it’s been number one of our hopes for a number of years now to get Weston as a university town.”
Furthermore, an enlarged Weston College - already acclaimed for its great success - will offer even more potential for prosperity and expansion in years to come. Principal Dr Paul Philips said: “this facility will meet the demands of local employers and continue to raise Weston’s reputation nationally as a centre of excellence for education and training.” So what is there not to like?
Quite a lot, according to North Somerset First’s prospective candidates. Their party website confidently assures us that: “Our mission is to make North Somerset vibrant with new business opportunities, offer excellent education facilities, and raise employment growth prospects.” But its political hopefuls Ken Perrrett and Julian Norris clearly haven’t read or understood their own party’s manifesto. Judging by their recent Mercury letters they remain as beacons of petty objection and discontent, opposing any redevelopment of the Winter Gardens site, not to mention other innovative projects in our town.
So who should we believe, the experts or the nay-sayers? Until we get some positive responses from the dissidents rather than just more boring criticism of North Somerset Council, serious doubts must remain over their true commitment to Weston. Unless they still only wish to pursue narrow political feuding and self-interest, it’s high time they gave us the practical details of their vision for our town and how they intend to achieve them.
Church Road, Winscombe
LIVING in Cloud Cuckoo Land springs to mind in thinking that yet more students will help bring regeneration into the town.
There is no comparison between other university towns and Weston, because the likes of Bournemouth and Brighton have lots to offer their residents, tourists and students, having invested in leisure facilities, large multi use complexes and shopping centres with big name stores, etc. So if Weston becomes a university town it is hardly going to entice more retailers, etc, into the area in its present state. If by some fluke it did it wouldn’t matter where in Weston the law college was situated. It just shouldn’t be in our prized Winter Gardens and grounds, at the residents and tourist’s loss. There are far more suitable sites. What will happen with the building when it is not in use during all the holidays throughout the year? A waste of space. The proposed new extension looks hideous and totally out of keeping with the rest of the building.
Shops are closing all around Weston as they cannot afford the sky high business rates imposed on them. There are also empty offices, pubs, eateries and takeaways dotted around the town. The Dolphin Square debacle is proof that new retailers do not want to come here for whatever reason. However, it’s not all about retailers.
The college has to attract the students to come and stay here in the first place. And therein lies the problem, as the vital ingredients in achieving this are missing – entertainment, leisure and sports facilities. We have lost our bowling alley. We have no large cinema complex. We have no decent swimming pool.
Richard Nightingale, at his expense, wanted a large pool, as well as a leisure pool on the Tropicana site (but was refused). Surely a no brainer with all the new accommodation planned for the town centre.
However, (thanks to North Somerset Council) apparently there is going to be a café, toilets and foyer at the front of the Tropicana (inside – empty). What a let down for visitors. It beggars belief.
If we had an ice skating rink it would attract people of all ages from far and wide. The college offered to turn Grove Park tennis courts into a multi use sports site, but the council is blocking this as it wants to extend the car park.
Students will go out of town for their shopping – where parking is free. They will go to Bristol for entertainment. Weston has lost everything. The museum will be closing for months for refurbishment. The parking charges are putting off residents coming into the town centre for their shopping. The roads and constantly being dug up, leading to road closures and diversions. Hoardings and shutters seem to be abound in the town.
By doing everything they (certain councillors) can to discourage tourism in Weston they may just have shot themselves in the foot, as the success with their plans to this end could well prove to be detrimental to bringing all these ‘new’ students into the town. Let’s hope I’m proved wrong.
Exeter Road, Weston
I WISH to bring to your notice as a resident of the town I, and a majority of residents in Weston, think it’s a disgrace that North Somerset Council makes a decision without any consultation of the local people of the town.
It says the council is short of money, but it sells the Winter Gardens for a pound and the building is worth £11million.
The council seem not to listen to what the people want.
If the council had sold the Winter Gardens for the proper price, that money could have helped build a swimming pool and a bus station.
And why was the big clock not put back in place.
A K ADAMS
Swallow Gardens, Worle
I RECENTLY wrote a letter criticising North Somerset Council’s handling of the Winter Gardens in which I compared their betrayal of Weston to that of Judas ‘selling’ Jesus.
This comment raised a strong objection from Amy Knights of Milton Road and, having studied both my letter and her comments I realise that this comment was indeed, although not intended, an insult both to the Christian faith and, probably more importantly to God and Jesus Christ.
I am a practising Christian, with the emphasis on practising and like all mortals prone to the occasional error of judgement such as this.
I would like to apologise to Ms Knights and all others who may have been offended by a rather crass and unnecessary remark.
Prospective candidate North Somerset First Independents
Old Mill Way, Weston
IT HAS been reported that the current Winter Gardens project has ongoing issues in relation to EU compliance.
My understanding of the European regulations is that they are there primarily to tackle collusion, fraud and corruption, by insisting on transparency and competition across the whole single market.
Has any other college or organisation been given the opportunity to acquire our £11million Winter Gardens for redevelopment? It seems not.
Will our council’s apparently cosy plan to offload our community building on to Weston College pass EU scrutiny? It seems to me unlikely.
Clifton Road, Weston
IN RESPONSE to the letter from Chris Childs, the UKIP Prospective Candidate for Winterstoke Ward.
I am surprised that as a Prospective Candidate for this area, he has not ascertained the facts before making assumptions which could be misleading for local residents.
His view regarding the responsibility for the clearance and maintenance of the rhynes (drainage ditches) is incorrect. The majority of the rhynes in Locking Castle and Weston Village (Winterstoke Ward) are not the responsibility of the council, but of Persimmon.
As one of the councillors representing this area I, together with council officers, am regularly contacting Persimmon to inform them of rubbish and asking them to clear it and to maintain the rhynes on a regular basis.
CLLR DAWN PAYNE
Abbots Close, Weston
BOTH C Horn and Mr Penrose can rest assured that I wasn’t trying to draw any comparisons between my ties to the town and Mr Penrose’s.
I’m the fourth generation (at least) of my family to be raised in the constituency, I went to local schools and I bought my first home in the centre of town (which I still own) - I think my local credentials speak for themselves.
But I agree that in this election we do need to focus on the issues. As well as being a Weston man, I’ve got a record of campaigning to protect and rejuvenate high streets so if I’m elected I’ll lead the much-needed reinvigoration of our town centre - including insisting that the council and developers find a solution to the problems that beset Dolphin Square. I remember swimming in the pools of the Tropicana so I know what it means to locals to drive the resolution of that quarter-century old saga. I know what it’s like to have to leave Weston to find work and that’s why I care passionately about creating highly-skilled jobs in our area so that people who were raised locally can realise their potential locally too.
Crucially though, when I look at these issues, I do so with the passion and pride of someone who has always called Weston-super-Mare home. In exactly 14 weeks we get to choose new champions for our town. I believe that Weston and the villages deserve better and I look forward to meeting people over the coming months to explain how my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will achieve just that.
Weston Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
Drove Road, Weston
I AM moved to respond to the letter ‘Laudable goal’ from Ian Pitch in last week’s Mercury.
I sympathise with Mr Pitch’s jaundiced view of politics and politicians I decided to call in the newly opened UKIP shop opposite the main college campus, in West Street to find out some facts for myself.
I found Ernie Warrender to be a dynamic person who has built up a large group of companies employing nearly 100 people locally from nothing, and he now intends, not only to bring that dynamism to our town, but to forego the MP salary for the benefit of our youth in Weston.
Has Weston finally found a potential MP with the town and surrounding villages’ best interests at heart? I would urge Mr Pitch to do what I did and go and actually do some research himself in order to make an informed decision. I am sure he will find a courteous welcome
Warwick Close, Weston
ALTHOUGH the Post Office’s 11th hour agreement with the landlord to keep the Regent Street premises open and consult on new premises is good news, we still need to know why they allowed the situation to reach a point where closure was imminent.
I’ve written to their senior management and whilst I’ve had an immediate response to most of my questions they haven’t given me a direct response on this key question.
Trust is everything in these situations and local people and businesses need to have their confidence in the Post Office restored following last week’s events.
I urge the Post Office to work with the Weston community to make this happen.
Weston Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
Shadow Walk, Weston
THE four pillars of any community are usually a church, a pub, a general store and a post office.
Unfortunately villages are losing these amenities at an alarming rate but you do not expect this to happen in a town the size of Weston, where the main post office is in danger of closing.
There appears to be a problem with the lease but this is strange because if a business lease is up for renewal either the lease is renewed or the business plans for new premises.
In Weston the situation is a shambles as nobody seems to know what is happening. The only plans being made are for free buses to convey customers to a branch in the suburbs and this would only create more problems than it solves.
The main post office is always busy with long queues so imagine the pressure being put on a smaller branch. Being a holiday resort, what would visitors make of such an arrangement – a free bus ride to buy a stamp.
The whole situation is a disgrace as well as ridiculous and the Post Office needs to stamp on the problem immediately and get it sorted.
Clarence Grove Road, Weston
IN RECENT editions of the Weston Mercury there have been reports with regard to the application for a large development of 170 houses at the North End of Yatton in addition to the 150 dwellings already agreed.
It seems that the planners are still considering what can be done to compensate for the problems that will be caused if this development is accepted.
Actually, it does not seem possible for sufficient funds to be made available to pay for a new school to be built to accommodate a further increase in the number of new school age children and a new health centre to replace the Yatton and Congresbury Medical Practice to deal with all the extra patients from 320 homes.
It would also seem to be impossible for the developers or North Somerset Council to pay for a bypass from Yatton (Arnolds Way) to Congresbury to avoid the inevitable build up of traffic in the narrow, congested Yatton High Street.
R V WATHEN
Chescombe Road, Yatton
I THOUGHT your readers, especially those interested in the reduced fare Taxicard scheme I wrote to the Mercury about last October, might be interested in knowing that I was invited to put the Taxicard scheme forward to the Town Council Policy and Finance Committee in December.
I must say I was delighted by the positive response to the proposal from all members, regardless of party allegiance, and want to thank the whole committee and chairman, Cllr Peter Crew, for being prepared to take the scheme forward to the Expenditure and Governance Committee.
A lot of people know that I struggle with Asperger’s and verbal communication is not my strong point, so I was particularly grateful that David Cordingley was able to put the key points of the scheme to the committee on my behalf. I do very much understand the cost constraints the Town Council (and North Somerset) is under these days, but I have worked hard to ensure this scheme is affordable and controllable and, at the same time, will be as fair as possible to many of Weston’s local elderly and disabled folk who, for whatever reason, have difficulty using the bus network. Under the Taxicard scheme they would receive a limited number of taxi fare reductions for journeys within the town.
Many people have helped me so far and I do thank them, especially Mercury readers; Weston & Worle Taxi company; Worlebury Residents’ Association Committee; and Iain Leith, Transport Controller at Dundee City Council, who already uses the scheme successfully.
Bailey Close, Locking Castle
HAVING walked regularly on the beach, going towards Uphill, I see the inconsiderate dog owners regard this beach as a dog’s toilet. Beach Lawns has also become a dog’s toilet.
I see people with dogs, early in the morning walking alongside the wall, thinking no-one can see their dogs going to the toilet.
This is becoming a very serious problem. As the council cannot possibly come up with a solution, perhaps responsible dog owners could volunteer (myself included) to patrol these areas with waste bags and persuade people to clean up behind their dogs. If this is not acceptable, start charging people to use the beach and Beach Lawns with their dogs. Then the monies collected could pay for people to patrol these areas.
Of course, I would rather not have this happen, because the majority of dog owners are responsible people, who clean up after their dogs and leave the beach and Beach Lawns clean, but because of a few lazy, dirty, uncaring individuals, they must be taken to task.
MRS R V COOKSLEY
Severn Avenue, Weston
IT IS good that the county council is consulting the public about rights of way, particularly as the council has recently been granted extra money from the Government to use specifically on roads, cycle and footpaths. You have said the public rights of way network is key to enabling residents and visitors alike to access services and enjoy the beauty of the Somerset countryside. To make that a reality however the council needs not only to listen but to act, and experience with the Strawberry Line makes one doubt whether action will ever be forthcoming.
As you know a number of local groups have been asking the council to take action for over a decade since they first agreed to develop an off-road route between Wells and Cheddar, linking into the wider Strawberry Line path. Residents have made their support for such a path clear many times; at public meetings, through local surveys and through letters to the press. The only response each time however has been to ask for more information.
Local people have not only expressed their views but have, with the help of the cycling charity Sustrans, undertaken almost all of the action to date. We organised a feasibility study. We found external funding for an environmental survey; and then an extra survey because the council wanted another one done later in the year; and then a separate tree survey because that was council policy. We found funding for the topographical survey they requested; and then won funding to second a council officer to do all the design work necessary to back a full planning application.
Before submitting the planning application the council asked for a business plan to show how the path could be built and maintained without drawing on council funds. We were able to hire consultants to research and present such a plan which showed that it could be viable without the council spending a penny. But only if they were to give planning permission for the path first.
The final impossible demand from the council was that we should give a cast-iron guarantee that all the money had been found before planning permission had been granted. Clearly no funding body would make such a commitment and for that reason alone progress has stalled.
The danger is that because of this experience many in Mendip will see the current consultation not as a guide to action but a substitute for it. To forestall such a reaction it might help if you could confirm that you still support the principle of the Strawberry Line path and indicate how the council can contribute to bringing it about. Without some assurance of action those reading your consultation may feel that responding is a waste of their time.
Chairman of Steering Group - The Strawberry Line Association
Sandford Road, Winscombe
IN MAY this year people will be given a change to vote ‘no’ to EU membership and regain control of our borders.
However, many will ask just what UKIP candidates propose to do locally. What is our agenda for this town?
Weston has a beautiful seafront, an excellent pier and a very successful college. Yet the rest of the town is mediocre and in need of regeneration. UKIP stand for simple, practical steps that will give our town a fresh start. This is what we want.
More powers transferred from North Somerset to Weston Town Council, particularly regards street cleaning.
Lower car parking charges.
Cutting back on councillor’s expenses.
Although there is no money for rebuilding the Tropicana as a swimming pool, it must be refurbished and used as public open space for festivals, etc.
More high quality town centre residential development on vacant sites in order to boost custom for downtown shops.
The site of the former Royal Pier Hotel to be subject to a compulsory purchase order and re-sold to a developer who will develop the site, with community gain.
More consultation generally eg on matters such as the Winter Gardens.
With policies such as these, voters have a chance to make a real difference in the local and national elections this year. Not all politicians are the same.
Branch chairman, Weston UKIP
Lower Church Road, Weston
A WHILE ago I fell ill, not badly, just enough to make life difficult.
Walking, getting to the shops and other simple tasks have become difficult or sometimes impossible.
I have been in awe of the way people have offered support and kindness, not just friends but people I don’t even know.
I know I am exceedingly lucky to have people around me that I can call on for help but I wanted to share an insight with your readers who know someone in a similar position. I am a stubborn foolhardy person who values her independence and so to call on people for help is exceedingly hard. Especially if the help required is very minor.
If you know someone ill, infirm, elderly or incapacitated or is even just very busy offer them positive proactive help. Instead of just saying ‘call if you need me’, which is no doubt genuine, try saying ‘I’m in the supermarket, do you need any milk?’ or ‘I’m heading into town do you need me to pick up a prescription for you?’ By offering help in this type of way us stupidly foolish people who really would appreciate your
help, don’t feel as if we are inconveniencing you in quite the same way.
Little things can make a huge difference. So if you know someone who is their own worst enemy, and you want to help but don’t know how. Try a slightly different approach and it may well pay dividends - for both of you.
Kind regards, and thanks to everyone for their support.
Milton Brow, Weston
BUS route 3/103 Worle to Searle Crescent: Can anyone inform me why the council has decided to add an extra bus company (Crossville) to this route?
First bus reduce the times out of season because of reduced passengers to every 20 minutes.
Now suddenly we have two buses travelling almost in tandem at times carrying only a handful of passengers each.
It might be to passenger’s advantage if the service were at 10 minute intervals if it is deemed necessary to have two companies running buses on the same route.
What will happen in the season when First bus revert back to every 15 minutes?
Surely there must be an area not covered that needs a new bus route.
R S DAVEY
Coleridge Road, Weston
CONSIDERING what is happening in the Burlington Street and Meadow Villas areas, I would like to nominate Weston-super-Mare the unpicked up dog mess capital of the world.
Meadow Villas, Weston
IT IS gratifying to know that the spirit of kindness and goodwill is still alive in Weston today.
I had a very heavy fall near the Odeon cinema last Thursday afternoon.
I was bleeding profusely from my nose and face but two young people and an older man came to my rescue.
An assortment of towels, tissues, etc, was soon with me (I assume they were probably borrowed from the charity shop opposite) and I was mopped up and the ambulance soon arrived and took me to hospital.
The anonymous helpers, the ambulance crew, the hospital staff and the Red Cross all did their jobs magnificently.
Thank you everyone who helped me in a nasty situation, that could have been a lot worse but for their assistance.
Nithsdale Road, Weston
I AM writing to publicly thank all the staff at Kier, North Somerset Council (NSC) waste collection contractors, for its fantastic achievement in making this year’s Christmas and new year clear up, the best I have experienced in my four years as executive member for environment.
I am only too aware that this time of year poses a real logistical challenge with the increased number of staff and vehicles required to deal with the additional amounts of recycling and waste produced over the festive period. I have been informed of the detailed preparation that went into this year’s plan and delighted that the hard work and effort by Kier has paid off so handsomely.
Over the catch up period 50 per cent additional recycling and 20 per cent additional waste was collected by the recycling and waste teams. This is a huge increase, but the collection crews dealt with this admirably with collections being completed by the end of the revised collection dates. Feedback from the contact centre and customer services has also been positive with few complaints received. Indeed there were many compliments received by collection and recycling centre staff.
I appreciate there are a great many people involved in making this year’s catch up such a success and I repeat NSC’s gratitude in thanking all the staff involved in such a successful operation.
Finally, it would be extremely remiss of me to fail to mention NSC waste management team led by Colin Russell who worked so diligently over this period to ensure that problems as they arose were resolved as speedily as possible.
CLLR PETER BRYANT
Executive member for environment, North Somerset Council
Town Hall, Weston