Letters to the Editor, July 10, 2014

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I WAS recently reminded, by an old colleague, of some of the important campaigns of Weston Civic Society including the battle to prevent the overdevelopment of this area and the plan to flatten and rebuild Palmer Street area after the council had destroyed Carlton Street to create Dolphin Square.

Of course not all battles were victories, but I find honour in those who stand up for their town and their beliefs rather than hide behind a tree waiting for someone else to do it for them.

Ever since last year’s vitriolic revolution in Weston Civic Society I have been looking out for signs of life, but all I can see is some convoluted attempt to provide occupational therapy for the under-employed by providing flower for the Old Town Quarry Nature Reserve (whilst eliminating an entire bank of nettles) and by creating an increasing spiders-web of committees and ‘officers’ who begin to outnumber the membership.

There is even a strange tale of someone calling a meeting to create a president of a sub-committee after failing to be elected chairman of it.

Weston has a whole load of volunteers whose work on local flower displays is self evident, we don’t need another lot, but what we don’t have is a civic society that campaigns on behalf of the residents in an intelligent and civilised manner – just like the civic society used to be in fact.


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BRIAN AUSTIN

Alma Street, Weston

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IN RESPONSE to last week’s article regarding yellow lining removal in Uphill I should like to raise the following points.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines road thus: “A wide way leading from one place to another, especially one with a specially prepared surface which vehicles can use” likewise, it defines car park thus: “An area or building where cars or other vehicles may be left temporarily”.

I believe that an approach to the highways department by Uphill Village Society (UVS) possibly three years ago requested that action should be taken to curtail unruly parking by hospital staff who abandon vehicles on grass verges and dangerous areas of road around the village. The object of this appeal by UVS was to deter such parking and ease congestion.

Incidents of public buses unable to continue journeys and passengers asked to disembark, residents unable to access homes, parking on yellow lines, etc, were commonplace.

Uphill Road South is a village road with in-built hazards in the form of blind bends where there is no line of site at certain points. Parking is now permitted on one of these blind bends which incorporates a bus stop area and parking area for a Blue Badge holder’s car.

There also exists a chicane (S bend) with a bus stop midway; a hazard for all road users especially buses whose drivers admit to having extreme difficulty making progress without clipping parked vehicles.

Residents of Uphill do not want more parking but less parking on their roads. The new areas of parking are full immediately the hospital shift changes at 4am and remain full all day; ergo no benefit to residents.

I thank my fellow residents for their support for my concerns over these safety issues and hope that common sense will prevail.

DAVID BRICE-BENNETT

Uphill Road South, Uphill

I SHOULD very much like to respond to David Brice-Bennett’s comments in last week’s Mercury regarding the double yellow line issue in Grange Road/Uphill Road South.

Of course the gentleman is entitled to his view, however, I have personally only heard of one accident in Grange Road and I believe I am correct in saying that was down to driver error.

Grange Road is the main thoroughfare to the hospital but for the life of me I cannot see a problem – yes the additional removal of the yellow lines does slow the traffic as this creates a chicane effect but in my opinion it’s not the removal of these yellow lines causing the whole problem. I would suggest this is more likely to be due to impatient drivers and common courtesy just needing to be applied.

The yellow lines do however need to be policed, at the moment this is not happening. Almost every day we walk to Grange Road and see at least two or three cars, sometimes four, parked illegally on the double yellow lines adjacent to the kerbs which have the stripes which indicate no one, not even Blue Badge holders have the right to park there. The problem is because it is not being policed, drivers are taking the chance and still parking there and totally abusing the law.

North Somerset Highways is doing its best and Uphill Road South, with some tweaking, is finally showing some improvements.

At the end of the day Uphill village is not the hospital’s extended car park, and no matter what is said or done the ultimate responsibility for these issues lies in the hospital’s court. It needs to stop increasing its car parking charges and allow its staff free parking. This would be the obvious solution and would solve most, if not all, of our problems immediately. After all this issue has only manifested itself since the hospital implemented its car parking charges.

CAROLE FISHER

Uphill Road South, Weston

I WAS recently rushed into hospital where I found the staff in Weston General Hospital absolutely brilliant.

After a few days I was diagnosed and sent home with an immediate appointment to see a specialist.

I was in the ward known as MAU which is at the front of the building directly outside the main entrance.

On the Tuesday and Wednesday I was not feeling too good but I thought I could smell somebody smoking but I dismissed it.

However on the Thursday I was allowed to get up and immediately noticed people smoking directly outside of the main door under the MAU open windows where I could also see three no smoking signs that clearly stated no smoking on these premises. What made it worse was several elderly people were on respirators. Windows had to be open because of the hot weather. When one of the ward sisters told someone to go away and smoke somewhere else she was given a look of total indignation.

Don’t get me wrong the staff were absolutely fantastic but the trust needs to and should clamp down on people smoking at the front or any part of their premises. Security should have the power to fine people on the spot.

If people want to kill themselves why don’t they just walk to Wales when the tide is out rather than make other people suffer.

DAVE TABRETT

Hannah Moor Close, Wrington

DURING World War Two, when doctors were posted to the front line, surgeries still gave caring service to their patients, with many of the doctors being women.

They devoted their days equally between the surgery and home visits and often made follow-up calls to check on patients.

If they could not follow up district nurses made the calls and nothing was too much trouble.

How things have changed. We are often told to contact our doctor for check-ups but this is not easy.

We make early morning calls hoping that we can get an appointment only to be told that there are none. If we ask for one for the next day we are told they cannot do this and we have to try again tomorrow.

This morning lottery can be quite ridiculous and home visits are out of the question.

I realise that with the increasing population doctors are overworked but surely the NHS should increase the number of doctors to cope with the demand.

Unfortunately we are now a materialistic country and medicine, which was once a calling is now a business with everything governed by money.

Health is the most important thing we have and should be the Government’s top priority but so much money is wasted on trivial schemes elsewhere.

I have often been accused of living in the past but can you blame me when I can remember what medicine was like in my youth.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

WHEN is North Somerset Council going to wake up? If it wants Weston to prosper it should have taken special note of the parting comment from Thorntons when it closed in the High Street. It hoped to see Weston customers visit its shops in Bristol or Taunton. Weston is too close to Bristol to attract major high street traders.

Weston has proven it can hold quality events on the seafront but that won’t attract new shops who need to trade 364 days of the year. Weston needs attractions open all year around to attract new shops.

The parking meter roll-out is fast becoming a major disaster for businesses in Weston, we continue to be treated differently to the rest of North Somerset. If it has increased footfall why are so many shops empty, losing the income from business rates?

I think what sums up our councillors best is the comment from one a few months ago, that Weston is prospering because of all the building work. I think it was workmen putting up the shutters on closing shops that he mistook as prosperity.

RON FIELDHOUSE

Boundary Close, Weston

COUNCILLOR Nigel Ashton provides the lead article in the North Somerset Council periodical Life, July edition.

It comes over as moderate and sensible but for me, at least, deflects the point of concern away from the real one.

In essence his complaint is that the media ignorantly and aggressively have developed a tendency to attack those in authority over us and “can anonymously publish outrageous lies without ever having to justify themselves”.

He implies that there should be some means to bring control or correction to such behaviour. In the past, so he suggests, there was much less of this and what there was largely acceptable or could be shrugged aside. The councillor uses the metaphor that “a politician complaining about the media is like a sea captain complaining about the weather” subtly leading to the implied suggestion that the governing classes (of which he is a member) are right to suppose that the frail vessel they find themselves in is liable to be wrecked by a wicked typhoon oblivious to the damage it does.

There is another side to this interpretation: as Edward Gibbon wrote “The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators”. If the ship is so poorly managed and there is no way in which a superior crew can be appointed to the task there may be much to be said for the ship foundering – bailing out those who have put the ship’s passengers and cargo in danger supplies no proper remedy. I submit that we are very seriously over-governed, over-taxed, over-regulated and misdirected in all sorts of most wasteful ways and consequently exposed to the fierce winds of international competition robbing us of the living standards we once had and imperilling our national ownership of the nation’s skills and resources.

We need to remember that members of the political classes, unlike the rest of us, have no need of any qualification to demonstrate their suitability for the powers they exercise.

While it is undeniable that the media sometimes acts very badly, and perhaps more often nowadays, we should not forget the axiom that “for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”: therefore to prevent the escalation of hostilities we must suffer fewer, not more, controls to be put upon us by already well-entrenched political power groups that are addicted to the expansion of their powers and their revenue raising appetites. The blunt and sorry fact of modern life is that our political process is completely archaic and unable to properly handle the complexities of the high tech age in which we live and hence is grossly inefficient in most of its activities. Government is formed out of groups of people chosen by party selection committees who form into bands which then jostle and one another for control of the levers of power, employing all the apparatus of slogans, penalties, incentives, prestige projects and demands of every conceivable kind supposedly all for our welfare but which we are powerless to refuse (the Life magazine being a minor example): only the media can mount any kind of defence on our behalf and if it is not ‘fighting fair’ it is the best we are likely to get: the politicians will have to put up with it just as we have to, so far as I am concerned, at least it makes for a rather more battlefield.

PHILIP BINDING

Monks Haven, Sidcot

I HAVE to say I am getting a little weary of seeing week after week Ian Pitch’s incessant letter, each week the central theme clumping through his letters like hobnail boots is always the same, personal sniping attacks on Derek Mead. This makes one wonder just who is he really writing for?

Personally I think that Derek mead’s efforts to secure the future of the much-loved old pool are to be admired. Let’s not forget that North Somerset Council gave years and years to their preferred friends in big business such as Henry Boot and Mace Estates.

More importantly let’s not also forget that economically we are now in a very much harsher climate than 10-12 years ago.

Trop Trust has only been getting to grips with it for a matter of months and here we are seeing North Somerset Council lining up to put the spike in a the first opportunity.

Securing the right funding package for a project such as this is no mean feat, especially in these hard economic times and cannot be achieved at the stoke of some illusory magic wand. Unlike Mr Pitch, Mr Mead has already put considerable sums of his own money where his mouth is in support of Weston’s tourism industry and I think that he is just the right man to lead the right team to restore the future of the old pool.

I cannot understand just why Mr Pitch is so vociferous on this subject he does not even live in Weston, he hails from Winscombe. Where is Winscombe? Ah yes that’s out near Cllr Elfan Ap Rees’ neck of the woods isn’t it.

MARTIN WOOLLS

South Road, Weston

IN HER letter ‘Tropicana’ last week, Pauline Platten praises the Mercury for keeping us informed about the crumbling pool.

And yet, after the acres of newsprint over the years, she still seems surprisingly ill-informed so perhaps I can help with some facts.

Ms Platten suggests that complaints about the Trop team are mistaken but its progress so far is hardly impressive.

Trop Trust claims to be applying for charitable status with the Charities Commission but is still not registered with that organisation.

It also continues to insist that North Somerset Council (NSC) refuses to offer a lease for the Tropicana site, but that is also incorrect. The council has stated categorically on a number of occasions that it will make such an arrangement when it receives a viable, fully-funded business plan.

Moreover, NSC granted outline planning consent to develop the site ages ago. Furthermore, rather than blocking Trop Trust’s efforts as it claims, council officers have spent many hours (at taxpayers’ expense) seeking potential sources of public funds on its behalf.

For months, Trop Trust’s Derek Mead and Geri Callen have assured us that it is in the process of applying for a £1million grant from the Regional Growth Fund. But The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) states that ‘they (the Trop Trust) haven’t applied for any funding under our current Regional Growth Fund scheme – so no, we have not allocated any funding to them’. Under the circumstances, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Trop Trust has been less than candid on this matter. The LEP is an independent partnership between business and local authorities. It has also recently examined Trop Trust’s latest business plan and concluded that ‘the business plan currently presented together with the clarification provided is most likely to fail in terms of securing funding for their development’.

Ms Platten mentions comparison between the Tropicana to the Portishead pool, but that’s like comparing apples to oranges. A modern seafront complex as proposed for Weston would be hugely expensive to run. When the highly successful Sedgemoor Splash closed in 2009 it was costing Sedgemoor Council more than £700,000 a year just to operate, a cost it said was ‘money not well spent’. Ms Platten goes on to assert that it is ‘a no-brainer for NSC to support the Trop team and invest’ but with what? Doesn’t she know that the cash-strapped council has to make £100million of budget cuts over the next few years and that many essential services are already under threat?

There have been three previous, unsuccessful attempts to rebuild the Tropicana over the past 13 years and none were financially viable. Similarly, all the evidence so far suggests that this fourth effort also has little hope of success. Like every North Somerset citizen and taxpayer, I am wholly in favour of a new pool for our town. But 10 months have passed since the Secretary of State granted a reprieve on the derelict lido and it is clear that nothing has changed since then. In all this time, Trop Trust has demonstrated its total inability to raise a single pound of funding for their over-ambitious project, so who knows how long it will be before the first brick is laid? Meanwhile the Tropicana remains a crumbling eyesore on an otherwise splendid, refurbished seafront. Surely it’s high time that NSC was allowed to return the sad old ruin to the sands?

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

I AM writing in response to Dr Tamsin Benn’s letter re the cancellation of the social dances at the Winter Gardens in Weston.

My husband, our friends, and I attended the afternoon tea dance on June 25. On arriving at 2pm the ballroom was already packed. There was a coach party in from Wales, and talking to them I presumed it was a regular thing. A dance school from Birmingham also go to dance there frequently.

How can they say it has to be cancelled for lack of profitability when so many people and groups attend, surely the council should employ someone intelligent enough to know that cancelling the dances at the Winter Gardens, also the ongoing farce of the Tropicana is actually losing the council money?

Do they not see this?

CAROLYN SMITH

Princes Road, Clevedon

IT IS beyond belief that the most treasure pleasure is being taken from us by one man.

The Winter Gardens dancing has been loved and cherished by us all and for my part more than 30 years, I have never ever missed. How can they say an elderly audience are being dropped for lack of profitability, the actual gate at every dance is 300. What is he going to do to increase that? People, including elderly dancers, come from the whole of the South West to dance in a magnificent ballroom and if this man gets his way this will come to an end. We must not allow this to happen.

REG WOODBERRY

Arnor Close, Worle

READING in the Mercury about the Winter Gardens, I agreed with the comments published but write for the people who are too young to remember how it used to be in Weston in the 1950s.

The Winter Gardens was the hub of what went on in Weston. I remember when the general manager Mr Davis was in charge, when things were going on there all the time. It was used or open almost every night and for a time on a Monday we had Go as You Please (the then Britain’s got Talent night).

Wednesday night was young dancers night started by Mrs Marriott, where we danced to the George Locke band and the place was always crowded. My membership number was 17.

Thursday night we had things like old time dancing, and Friday night maybe the Trevor Scoffed Four Star Ball or similar. We also had The Arts Ball, The Police Ball, and many other special nights. The morning coffee dance and tea dance were always crowded.

And Saturday during the summer season, and when the era of the big band was happening we always had a top band such as The Ted Heath Orchestra, The John Dankworth Seven, Kenny Baker, the Ivy Benson all girl band, Vic Lewis, Joe Loss, Syd Lawrence band, Ray Ellington and many others. The Winter Gardens was really the place to be, people came from all over to it and the place was packed.

We also had, playing during the week, resident bands such as Harry Gold and his Pieces of Eight with Geoff Love or Ronnie Hancock with Susan Maughan (Bobby’s Girl), Trevor Brooks and others who I now cannot remember, but Weston had everything going for it.

We had lots of nice shops, many of them run by the people who owned them. We had fishmongers, fruit shops, quality clothing shops such as Tomas Hansfords, Salisbury’s, Trevor’s Ladies Store, Phaffs, Cecil Walker or Adams, etc, but now only Cecil Walker remains.

We also had three cinemas where you used to queue to get in. We had coffee bars like Fella’s in Regent Street and we had the first espresso coffee bar called The Bamboo and another one by the Playhouse.

Weston had lots going for it. We always had something to do and then we also had three theatres. We could go to The Playhouse, The Knightstone Theatre, and the Cove Pavilion and, of course, our swimming pool.

Alas all this has changed and I think it all started when we had TV. In the days before everybody went out to meet people, the pubs closed at 10.30pm and most people then went to the coffee bars. There was none of this going out to a club until the early hours in the morning and I don’t remember people getting stabbed or people being assaulted. In fact Weston was a much nicer place to live.

Our council was all from Weston and had the interest of Weston and not like our present lot and they did make things happen.

So I hope the people who have come to live in Weston can realise what they missed, especially with the Winter Gardens Pavilion, but maybe in time they may change their mind.

This letter is just so the older Westonians can take a trip down memory lane.

LAURENCE F ORME

Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

JUST imagine this – ample parking on the Esplanade and all around Marine Lake.

A car park in the High Street close to the shops and parking in the streets. All free and in North Somerset!

A fantasy, no, just visit Portishead. Oh yes, and by the way, they also have an open air swimming pool on the esplanade that is actually open and has people enjoying it.

LORRAINE WOOD

Bournville Road, Weston

WHAT a very self-righteous letter from Mrs Saunders with her plea to ‘all’ motorists to use their indicators as required by the Highway Code.

Well Mrs Saunders, the Highway Code rule applies to ‘all’ road users not just motorists and that includes cyclists (who in the main do not think that this applies to them). However as you quote from the Highway Code with which you are very familiar you would know this.

I am a pedestrian, a cyclist and a motorist and also a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and would never claim to be as perfect a road user as Mrs Saunders leads us to believe she is.

However badly cyclists think they are treated by motorists, pedestrians are treated much worse particularly on pavements (which cyclists should not ride on see the Highway Code and cycle tracks which are after all for pedestrians as well.

So before condemning ‘all’ motorists Mrs Saunders take much more of a general view of ‘all’ road users.

Good and bad can be found in all.

ROBERT LOWE

The Swallows, Locking Castle

COULD anybody who knows the present address or phone number of Mrs Iris Parsons who use to live at 22 Chestnut Close, Congresbury, please contact me as I have a very important letter for her that has been sent to my address.

EDWARD CLARK

Chestnut Close, Congresbury

I WRITE in praise of my doctors at Churchill Surgery, the NHS and Weston General Hospital.

The speed with which I received tests and care and results during a cancer scare just recently was amazing. I am lucky my tests proved negative.

We are so lucky here in this health authority area and people should stop complaining about it.

Many thanks to Mr Rowe and his caring team.

CHRISTINE WOOD

Parsons Way, Winscombe

MY THANKS to the Mercury for highlighting the impending crisis at the Winter Gardens – that hundreds of people will soon find that they are denied the experiences of dancing in its historic ballroom, the pride of Weston, famed far and wide for its ambience, its large oval dance floor and reputation as a centre of excellence.

When I moved to Weston six months ago, I was looking forward to dancing in this beautiful ballroom. I have been enjoying the monthly dances which have been well-attended. I am dismayed now to discover that the new manager, Mark Lammiman, has decided to axe all future dances, even the Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve events, because, as he says, the aim of the Winter Gardens is to ‘provide profit for the board’.

Come on, Mr Lammiman, surely you are capable of making such popular events pay their way. Surely you have some sense of social responsibility to the community of Weston, even to the South West region, for where else is there such a wonderful venue for dancing?

Surely you have some imagination, some ideas, even some desire to make this work.

I appeal to all those who enjoy dancing – ballroom, Latin, sequence, line dancing – to raise your voices in protest by writing to the managing director at the Winter Gardens, Royal Parade, Weston, BS23 1AJ, to highlight how many people could be adversely affected, not only by protesting, but giving ideas for a solution. Perhaps you are involved in a business which could sponsor dances, or could bring along groups of dancers. There is not time to lose, since Mr Lammiman must draw up a new programme for 2015 events by November. He has said he is open to ideas, so please make known your views and suggestions for a way forward.

Dancers of all ages, this may be your last chance of keeping the Winter Gardens ballroom open for dancing.

And by the way – let’s drop these comments about dancing being for the elderly. Surely their money is as good as anybody else’s, and if we are fit enough to dance, what does our age matter? Besides, does anyone consider the over 45s to be elderly these days.

ANN FOX

Wood Lane, Weston

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