Letters to the editor, March 29, 2012
THE newsagent’s hoarding at the Precinct screamed: ‘Gypsies could be on your doorstep’. I blinked in disbelief.
Then I stared at it with the eyes of a parent of one of the gypsy children at our local primary school, who has started to trust that their child would not suffer taunts. I looked at it with the eyes of a young man who approached Congresbury Parish Council some weeks ago with his grandfather, to ask about a memorial for his dad, who had died suddenly. Their family had been ‘on our doorstep’ for generations and the funeral was one of the largest the village had known.
I recalled chatting to him a few months back, as we watched a group of his friends playing at the riverside ball court. He was unable to join in because of his disability. I always admired the way he made light of it. He was one of the few to attend secondary school and he even learnt to drive a van.
Congresbury parish has the largest Roma/gypsy/traveller sites in North Somerset within its boundary, one of the largest in the South West. It is a neat, well managed site privately owned by a businessman who is himself a gypsy. A community of around 200 with its rich and poor, elderly and young, have their weddings, funerals, useful employment, joys, sorrows, conflicts and occasional crime. No different from the part of the village I walk through most days to the bus stop.
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There have been problems over the years and we have learnt to tackle them. There are myths around, like the assumption that gypsy children are given preference in allocating school places, which is absolutely untrue. It takes time and effort to build trust on both sides. Young people from Moorland Park have recently started to use the village youth club; not yet integrated with the main group, but a huge step for them to be even allowed off site, to be truly on our ‘doorstep’.
I looked at the poster again and in my mind replaced the word ‘Gypsies’ with ‘Blacks’ or ‘Jews’. Oh yes, that rang a bell. Sixteen members of my wider family were killed in the Holocaust, including my father and two of my grandparents. My mother and I survived in hiding in Budapest. It all started in the 30s with press articles and billboards scapegoating Jews. Gypsies were holocaust victims too and are targeted again by modern Nazis throughout Europe. What was it Britain fought against in the war?
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When I asked the newsagent to remove the offensive poster, she told me she did not wish to upset the Mercury. So I removed it and reported my theft to the police, at the same time as reporting what I believe to be a contravention of the Race Relations Act. I don’t break the law lightly. Even the smallest crime weakens the fabric of our society, which, as a councillor, I do my best to strengthen. I broke the law to draw attention to an unacceptable and damaging use of words, which broke a higher law.
I am pleased to say I had strong support from many, including local councillors and the police. I am also pleased that the Mercury acted the same day to recall all their offending posters. I accept that the poster was thoughtless, rather than deliberately racist, but I want to see a culture in which such wording is unacceptable. The article in the paper had a misleading and provocative headline, but its content raised a matter for legitimate debate.
It is the job of newspapers to report on controversial topics. It is not their job to fan racial prejudice.
CLLR TOM LEIMDORFER
KEN Perrett’s gushing letter ‘Professional’ in last week’s Mercury reads like it could have come directly from Derek Mead’s own PR department rather than a member of the public. Apart from the usual nonsense about the North Somerset Council executive behaving like the Mafia, it continues to deal in myths rather than facts.
For example, Mr Perrett suggests that the three previous attempts to redevelop the Tropicana site all failed because they included a hotel, a bowling alley, an ice rink and a cinema.
He opines that ‘they were all non-starters from day one’ but the developers (including Weston’s own Richard Nightingale) clearly didn’t think so, nor did the council when it granted planning permission for them all. And, of course, we now know that they were unsuccessful for economic rather than conceptual reasons.
Mr Perrett’s financial observations are interesting too. He tells us that ‘the Mead Group is prepared to commit a million pounds to this project and with a further million earmarked for the demolition we are nearly half-way there.’
? Continued from page four.
Firstly, the reported demolition cost seems to vary so wildly depending on its source - from �250,000 to �800,000 and beyond - it’s hardly a reliable figure. Secondly, the cost of the project itself appears unclear. The current Mercury story says �4.6million, but a few weeks ago it was �3.5million and an earlier Mead Group press release said ‘the Tropicana can be turned back into a top-notch attraction for �2.8million’ – so again, what is the correct sum?
But whatever the amount, this still leaves a significant shortfall so where will the remaining money come from?
The group’s accountant has supposedly ‘identified eight different sources of grant funding that could become available’. But ‘could’ is yet another feeble word in the vague vocabulary that seems to be the hallmark of this enterprise.
And while all the posturing and delays persist, the poor old Tropicana will continue to crumble – an embarrassing blot on the seafront for yet another summer season and a sad reflection on an otherwise thriving town.
Church Road, Winscombe
I NOTE that in the same week that the Chancellor unveiled a tax on fast foods, a tax that has been called “Greggs tax”, that the Mercury front page boasts its latest promotional offer for the said baker.
As I understand the purpose of the Chancellor’s tax is an attempt to readdress the current alarming rate of obesity in Britain (the latest Health Survey for England data shows us that nearly one in four adults, and more than one in 10 children aged two-10, are obese) I ask if such scant regard for the health of the good people of Weston, represents a new shift in the policy of The Mercury.
Can we now expect perhaps future editorials written by Ronald McDonald, with regular features on nutrition by Colonel Sanders?
South Terrace, Weston
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Greggs promotion was planned a month ago so has nothing to do with the Chancellor’ budget.
We do find that offers of this kind are very popular with Mercury readers.
SUGGESTIONS for celebrating the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
The Queen Elizabeth Sovereign Shopping Centre, Queen Elizabeth Street, The Queen Elizabeth Museum, The Queen Elizabeth II Winter Gardens, The Queen and Prince Philip Harbour, Queen Elizabeth Town Centre, Queen Elizabeth Town Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hill, Queen Elizabeth Park, Queen Elizabeth Pier, Queen Elizabeth Boulevard and Queen Elizabeth Promenade Walk.
MRS BARBARA HAINES
Kenn Close, Weston
MOTHERING Sunday should be a day of love and appreciation but try telling that to Royal Mail.
My wife was expecting two cards, which we know were posted on the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Mother’s Day but neither turned up.
We visited the Weston sorting office to enquire if there was a problem only to be told that there was a pile of cards which had failed the size slot process and we would be hearing from them in due course.
? Continued from page six.
We were even refused permission to look through the pile for our cards.
We then received a card from Royal Mail inviting us to visit them with a surcharge so that we could collect the card and are currently awaiting the second invitation so that we do not have to make the four mile round trip twice.
I appreciate that when posting cards we should be aware that there is an extra charge for larger items but I would have thought that on occasions such as Mothering Sunday Royal Mail could show some compassion.
Faith, hope and charity and the greatest of these is charity. Well we all have faith in the service that Royal Mail provides, we hope that they will deliver on time but obviously they believe that charity begins at home, soliciting a few extra quid from disappointed mums - unbelievable.
Clarence Grove Road, Weston
I CANNOT get my head around the way some businesses work.
Basically, I am a fully-qualified hairdresser (qualified for two years now) and have six months salon along with almost two years mobile experience. And yet I just cannot get a job in a hair salon because I am told I do not have enough salon experience. How am I going to get this experience if no one is willing to give me a chance?
I would even go down the route of being an apprentice so that I could work my way up once I’ve proven my skill but don’t have that option as its only available to people up to the age of 24 I have been told.
It’s the most frustrating thing ever, to want to do your dream job but get knocked back all the time.
I do not intend on giving up. I just feel these employers should give people in my situation more of a chance.
Brighton Road, Weston
THE needs of this gloomy, dirty and classless town, will never improve while we have the present North Somerset Council which is totally devoid of vision and in denial of the decline.
This can be seen everywhere: when so much of our taxpayers’ money is frittered on worthless and often unattractive projects.
Perhaps we might have less litter too, if more litter bins were available.
I doubt the council has made any cutbacks in its comfortable lifestyle, as it has enforced upon us, and somehow managed to find funding for the building of its lavish new Town Hall and staff in Clevedon at a cost of �9.7million, and making it even more difficult for the people it is there to serve in Weston, who have no access to computers or a car, to struggle to get to see someone in the council offices. It just does not make sense.
Now we hear of their latest expensive project: to build a false ‘pond’ on the flood area in Locking, to enable more developers to safely build hundreds of more new homes, and when the countryside is already being ripped out at an alarming rate: and this at a cost of �10million.
If this is Government-funded, then it is misguided, when Weston is without a doubt the most deprived town in Somerset.
Can you wonder when we have no lush green areas surrounding us anymore, when it is so vital for our wellbeing?
People are encouraged to live here, even though there is no work, so are forced to commute out; adding to the already high congestion suffered by motorists: lengthy queues in local supermarkets: and impossible to find parking spaces; not to mention the impossibility of getting a doctor’s or hospital appointment, because of the mounting increase in population not accounted for.
With the closure of so many shops, it adds to the already serious lack of decent shops and can been seen as a ghost town at 5.30pm with yet a still high volume of violence here and where police are a rare sight indeed.
Public transport is not to be recommended either, it is very expensive, and sadly the bone-shaking rides on the buses have to be endured mostly by the elderly, and I would add as I too have to endure, with no heating on the coldest of days.
It was my misfortune to come here nine years ago. After looking hard at this town I cannot find one thing I can sing praises about, even the seafront resembles a ‘little Blackpool’.
Given the opportunity, I would be out of here tomorrow. It is shabby and rundown, and not a place to ‘hang your hat’ for good.
There are much better places, as I have since discovered.
Harvest Lane, West Wick
HAVING just read a letter, ‘Give us some hard facts’, by Ian Pitch in last week’s Mercury, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with every single word said.
It’s all very well of Derek Mead saying he has big plans for Weston’s dilapidated Tropicana, but he really does need to put his money where his mouth is on this one, otherwise it’s all very much pie in the sky.
Call me a cynic, but one can’t help but think this is a fantastic way for Mr Mead to drum up some free publicity, by making sure he gets seen, week after week, in the local press, whilst not actually doing anything to secure the future of the Tropicana.
I clearly share the same frustration as Mr Pitch, as we hear Derek Mead and his grand plans for Weston seafront, over and over again.
We could all get a few architect’s drawings drawn up, but this means nothing unless the cold hard cash is available... something which Mr Mead has yet to provide information of.
It’s all rather too familiar for myself and the residents of Weston, who not so long ago could not open the Weston Mercury without seeing the face of Richard Nightingale, again, promising water parks and hotels, without any evidence of available funds to back up his wild and imaginative plans.
It’s all just so frustrating and when I read these promises over and over again, I feel as though I’m banging my head against a brick wall.
After a public exhibition at the Winter Gardens, headed by Trop (WSM) Ltd, concerns were raised by some residents and the council in regard to securing the millions of pounds needed to bring the Tropicana back to life.
It was even suggested by Conservative councillor Sonia Russe that, if the residents of Weston really do want the Tropicana re-opened, then “they may have to accept that they are going to have to put their hand in their pocket” and “perhaps donate a �100 bond”!
Why would the residents of Weston need to do this, when, Mr Mead clearly has the funds to stump up the cash himself or, is Ian Pitch correct, is it really all just hot air that Mr Mead is spouting?
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing and bad publicity, wouldn’t you agree Mr Mead?
Let’s stop with all this to-ing and fro-ing and, if the money isn’t there to rebuild our Tropicana, just knock the damn thing down.
It’s an eyesore and an embarrassment.