Letters to the Editor, June 6, 2013
IN HIS complaints about the decision of the full North Somerset Council meeting to recruit a replacement for the retiring chief executive officer (CEO), Mike Bell failed to mention that he didn’t vote against the proposal.
In fact, no members voted against but the four Labour and four Liberal councillors present did not vote.
The criticism that the council has not considered other options is simply not true. In October 2011, the council decided to remove the post of finance director whilst retaining the CEO and is currently implementing the decision to merge the roles of director of children’s services with that of director of adult services and housing. Thus the council will have moved from a CEO and four service directors to a CEO and two service directors with consequent significant revenue savings.
Of course, the council researched other options but with no outstanding examples of, or compelling arguments for, alternative arrangements, the council has rightly opted for a slim, efficient and focused senior management structure to deal with the current and future challenging circumstances which we face.
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We don’t see this as a development role but will expect the new CEO to hit the ground running and deliver the level of success which has been delivered by the current managerial and political team.
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Executive member for finance, North Somerset Council, Greenhill Road, Sandford
I AM worried and concerned by the news that my local Councillor, Mike Bell, is now the Prospective Liberal Democratic Parliamentary Candidate for Weston as well.
I thought that the General Election is supposed to be held in May 2015, on the same day as the next set of council elections.
Surely Mr Bell can’t be expecting to stand for both jobs at the same time? There is no way he could be an MP in Westminster and a councillor in Weston simultaneously unless he owns a time machine. So is he planning to stand down as a councillor in May 2015, or is he just filling the Parliamentary Candidate role because he does not expect to win?
Your report did not explain which and, since he’s currently representing me and my neighbours on our local council, I feel we have the right to know.
Station Road, Weston
Round of visits
THE problems, and intermittent chaos, associated with the new 111 non-urgent medical advice line seem to be following the same pattern as when NHS Direct came online.
It reminds old fogies like me what a brilliant job our wives did in years gone by, dealing with incoming phone calls from patients seeking contact with the duty doctor at nights, weekends and bank holidays.
Out-of-hours became increasingly busy, and by the late 1980s you could expect to receive 30 to 35 weekend calls during a shift lasting from 1pm Saturday until 11pm Sunday, with an average of three to four of them during the overnight period between midnight and 8am on the Sunday.
You spent a lot of time in your car (for me 8,000 miles a year in Weston) and you had to rely on public phone boxes to make regular contact with home to keep up with demand, usually done at the furthest point from home on a round of visits, no mobile phones in those days, (though beepers were a step forward).
Our wives took patients’ details and an idea of what was the problem, if possible – addresses and telephone numbers had to be precise (though some patients were on shared lines or using phone boxes themselves). Occasionally our wives had to send an ambulance immediately or recommend urgent transfer to A&E, but mostly the doctor would visit, usually without phoning first.
The doctors’ wives provided a vital service without rancour or complaint, as in those days it was simply part of life when you were married to a family doctor. Their training was literally ‘in house’ and complaints were virtually unheard of. Mostly they were unpaid and later, when they were, the Revenue seemed sceptical that is was some sort of tax dodge.
Today’s massively expensive 111 debacle shows just how wrong they were, and what a terrific service was provided at no cost to the state.
Am I getting old and making the mistake of thinking ‘some things were better in my day’ or am I right in thinking they probably were?
DR GEORGE PAPWORTH
Queens Road, Weston
I HAVE recently spent 25 days in Steep Holm ward following an emergency admission via A&E.
The highly professional and sympathetic approach by the ambulance crew, A&E staff and ward admittance nurses really helped at a difficult time for both my wife and myself.
The consultants and their teams and the ward doctors were always helpful, responding to questions and giving me information in plain English, before and after surgery.
The staff on the ward were superb, all of them – doctors, nurses and housekeeping, professional, friendly, good humoured, sympathetic and tirelessly hardworking in often very trying situations.
Amesbury Drive, Bleadon
We love Primark
I LIVE in Weston as do many of my friends and family and we all regularly travel either by bus or train to Bristol’s Primark which costs a lot of fares unless you are lucky and have a free bus pass.
Or alternatively travel some 25 miles by car (all in all 50 mile trip) which then makes it not so cost efficient taking into account bus/train fares or petrol. In fact we do not really save that much but we love Primark.
Worle and Weston are highly populated areas with many thousands of young families with children now living here and there are new housing developments being developed now and in the very near future housing many more young families. It is also a very popular choice for people commuting to Bristol and surrounding business areas. For many years coastal towns have always been linked to the more mature couples but Weston/Worle is no longer in that category. There are only a few outlets with full household linens, etc, and some are quite old fashioned.
There are many senior citizens like me who live happily here but we all have grandchildren and I know that I always buy their clothes from Primark plus many household items and general clothes for my own grown-up children. We all love the fantastic colours and selection of sizes and prices throughout the winter and summer seasons.
We had TJ Hughes in a prime site in Weston and I for one was disappointed when it went and there were rumours about Primark taking it over but as yet it is still empty.
It has a lift shaft, escalator and also a kitchen for a café and I know Primark does not usually have this facility but I have noticed it is about to open one in the Bristol store soon.
TJ Hughes has front and rear access and is in a great place.
There is also the old Comet site on a new exciting out-of-town business site with ample parking, Costa Coffee and Frankie and Benny’s, B&Q, Aldi, Carpetright and Sports Direct would make it a very popular place for Primark and this is all on the main dual carriageway into Weston direct from the M5 junction 21.
Weston would welcome Primark and I know it would make many people very happy.
Myrtle Tree Crescent, Sand Bay
I SALUTE the way, after the Mercury’s front page story, thousands of people on Facebook have lobbied Primark to come to Weston and move into the derelict TJ Hughes building, which has stood empty for nearly two years – then the whole town would be revitalised.
It’s up to all of us to make our voices heard and shoppers ultimately vote with their feet.
I have seen the knock-on effect in our town since our big name stores, like Woolworths, once a mainstay of British shopping life for many generations, went to the wall, have affected small local shops in our town.
You only have to walk down Meadow Street, to see the empty boarded-up relics of bygone times.
The things that make where we live unique are sadly disappearing as the recession takes its bite out of our High Street which is stripped of the local businesses that provide a focus for communities as well as jobs and services.
There are few business sectors as important to the community as retail. Shops provide an essential centre for social contact.
Around 30 per cent of people over 65 do not see any friends at least once a week.
The small shop forms their only form of regular social contact.
So let’s all hope the future of our town can be reversed and brought back to life and show the thousands of people who have lobbied Primark to come to Weston will get their message across loud and clear, and help save our retailers at risk of closure.
D F COURTNEY
Victoria Park, Weston
IT IS disappointing to see the Tropicana in its present state with not even the shops on the promenade open on a busy May Bank Holiday.
Are we missing an opportunity to extend the interest on Weston’s main attraction, the beach and seafront?
When the Tropicana or Pool as it was originally called, was built in 1937 it was the largest lido/outdoor swimming pool in Europe.
It attracted huge interest which included the Modern Venus (beauty) competitions which Laurel and Hardy judged in 1947 as shown with the four finalists on the attached photo. But its fortune, like all outdoor swimming pools was strongly influenced by the vagaries of the English summer weather and in the 1980s the swimming pool closed.
A number of initiatives have been made to reuse this site, most involving the demolition of the original art deco 1930s buildings.
Economic viability and market conditions have brought each in turn to nothing.
Fortunately a number of occupiers such as Vue appear to have been diverted to the Dolphin Square redevelopment which arguably is better located for large scale leisure development.
What is the future for the Tropicana? The council’s response it to demolish the structure and return it to a beach with a new sea defence wall. This removes a problem but would also remove an important part of Weston’s heritage and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
However the existing structure remains surprisingly sound as if defiant against the elements which pound it in the winter storms.
There is another solution which accords with current Government policy on localism. Transfer the Tropicana from North Somerset Council to a community based not-for-profit charity with a dowry equivalent to the cost of the proposed demolition and sea defence works. Any income generated from the premises would be recycled into its maintenance and regeneration. This should at the very least bring the shops on the promenade back into reuse. The charity can then apply to English Heritage and others for grants to bring about the wider regeneration and rescue of the site.
Examples where this community-backed approach have been successfully applied include the lidos at Portishead and Penzance or cinemas such as The Curzon, Clevedon.
The re-use need not necessarily be restricted to an outdoor swimming pool but appropriate leisure related uses given its origin and location.
The road to restoration and reuse may be long but at least there would be a chance to retain the heritage of this area and have the retail units on the promenade open for the next May Bank Holiday.
Mark Brunsdon Property Limited, Bath Road, Langford
MY HUSBAND and I are very excited at the refurbishment of Weston over the last few years; the beautiful promenade, the wonderful pier, and the up-market clothes shops, like Viyella and Country Casuals, restaurants and coffee shops springing up which will entice new customers and more importantly, more discerning visitors who will want to tell their friends to come.
How disappointing then on our usual fabulous lunch at our favourite restaurant, The Flute de Paris in Oxford Street, to find that the council will not allow it to put some tables and chairs outside the restaurant to give it more of a French ambience.
These tables and chairs will in no way obstruct foot passengers as the pavement is extremely wide at this point.
I understand that it did have some tables with pretty red gingham and as it’s a sun trap there, people enjoyed having a morning coffee and a paper, just as on the continent. The council ordered it to remove them.
Lots of other coffee shops in and around Weston use the space outside their premises for tables and chairs, why then have The Flute de Paris been singled out and refused permission?
It’s barmy, and in my view, missing an opportunity to create a welcoming atmosphere to a part of Weston that is currently extremely dull and deserted. Could the council not have a re-think on this one?
I notice there’s a transit van permanently parked on the pavement just a few yards down.
Church Corner, Lympsham
IN THE next few weeks Somerset will be the scene of carnage as thousands of our beloved badgers are to be slaughtered if the badger cull goes ahead this week.
Despite opposition from the RSPCA, International Fund for Animal Welfare, PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals) ETA, Secret World Rescue and famous faces such as Queen’s Dr Brian May and Born Free founder Virginia McKenna, our beloved Con-Dem (condemn) Government is pushing ahead with allowing marksmen to shoot badgers during the night for the next six weeks as a trial.
It hopes to kill at least 5,000 badgers (70 per cent) and a lot of these badgers will be healthy without TB. This cull may go ahead despite scientific evidence to the contrary that disputes that this badger slaughter will make any difference to TB in cattle at all.
Yesterday (Weds) Labour started an Opposition Day Debate on plans for the badger cull to start. Mary Creagh MP (Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary) is hoping that MPs will put an end to this cruel and barbaric cull stunt as it is unnecessary and expensive at a cost of £4million and rising to the taxpayer and is just in place to satisfy intensive animal farmers who need a carrot in the form of a cull to satisfy them and justify their own poor cattle health and hygiene standards that is likely to be causing the TB.
I am asking readers to voice their disapproval of the cull by writing to our MP John Penrose or emailing him to ask him his position on the cull and how he will be voting.
You can email John Penrose at email@example.com
Because culling is starting in Somerset I feel it is up to Somerset people to voice their concerns if they feel this is wrong and let our politicians know that destruction of our wildlife in this cold and crazy manner is totally unacceptable and irresponsible to us.
Many places like Secret World Animal Rescue must feel very sad about this happening.
It has spent many years protecting and healing badgers that have been injured and abused and to see its good work damaged like this by a Government that should know better must be awful.
Also this cull has given the green light to wildlife brutes to start terrorising wild animals again. There is already a sharp increase reported in this.
This cull must be stopped and people need to voice their anger at this practice.
Our beautiful English badgers are at stake here. The badgers epitomise the beauty and secrecy of our rolling countryside which, just like our green belt land, is being wiped out with concrete and developments.
Manilla Crescent, Weston
Plan to wait
RETURNING from holiday I see there is no let-up of the vicious indifference of North Somerset to the plight of residents in the residential streets of the town centre.
We were promised a revise of parking in May. We did not want a review, we wanted action last January to give residents in certain non-business streets the opportunity to park their cars near home.
In spite of the council’s apparent plan to wait until enough holidaymakers arrive to fill all spaces, last week’s half term break saw Hopkins Street and Palmer Street average well less than half full except Saturday. Even then there were still spaces.
Palmer Row, Weston
Last week we inadvertently added a question mark to Lesley Asman’s letter. We apologise for the error and any embarrassment caused.
JUST having read Paul Burns’ letter decrying Weston as a place to visit, I felt I must reply in a positive manner.
I have lived here, on and off, for 70 years and walking along the seafront on Easter bank holiday afternoon I have not seen so many people since the late 1940s, early 1950s. The weather was perfect and the tide was in! Many hotels had entertainment and soloists giving their best.
I think Mr Burns must have walked on a dull day. The weather does make a difference.
Birnbeck Road, Weston