Letters to the Editor, March 26, 2015

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A FEW years ago I attended a meeting of councillors from the four councils in the West of England Partnership’s area.

They were told that Weston was the jewel in the crown of the Bristol city region. That should mean that councils across the Bristol region have a responsibility towards Weston.

Nationally, there is concern about the drastic fall in the number of people who have ever learned to swim. In the past, Weston’s iconic pool existed as a beacon sending a message about swimming. The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) gave North Somerset Council a huge amount of money to persuade Weston College to take the Winter Gardens and pavilion off its hands, further chipping at the ‘jewel in the crown’.

If the LEP can find £15million to help North Somerset to chip away at Weston, why shouldn’t they give a few millions to restore the pool?

ROBERT CRAIG


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Priory Road, Weston

THE late Jerry Wiggin, as our MP at the time, was the Back to Somerset’s guest speaker at our first annual meeting in 1989.

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I shall always remember his opening remark: “The worst thing that ever happened in local government was when councillors started sitting together and voting together”.

Prior to that, councillors stood in their own names - without any labels or rosettes – and largely worked together for the good of (in this case) Weston. However, from that point onwards, every councillor needed to be in a group and Westminster politics came to local government. It often seemed as if doing other groups down had become more important than working together for the future good of the town.

Independents are already the second biggest ‘group’ on North Somerset Council (NSC) and with so many new candidates offering themselves for election there is a distinct possibility that they will be able to seize control to the extent that Westminster party politics will be pushed to the margins.

Weston has suffered over the past few years: badly neglected by NSC - look at the state of many of the roads, used as a cash cow regarding car parking charges for locals and visitors alike, its former assets neglected to the extent that they are now being given away, public toilets either closed or pay-to-use. The present custodians (ie North Somerset Conservatives) have shown scant regard for the town and the wishes of its residents. Surely, they have forfeited the right to continue in office.

I urge the local electorate to think very carefully about the way they cast their votes on May 7. There is the real prospect of a significant change in local government – which can only be to Weston’s long term benefit.

JOHN LEY-MORGAN

Independent Candidate for the new enlarged Uphill Ward

Elmsleigh Road, Weston

IF THERE was ever an example of the gross stupidity of North Somerset Council, it has got to be over the proposal for a new swimming pool.

After years of trying to demolish the Tropicana and now having just filled in the pool there is suddenly a need for a pool due to demand. Has this demand just materialised over the last few months?

Still they fail to address the demand for visitors who want a swimming facility on the seafront and want to put instead a new pool next to the existing. They simply do not know how to run a seaside resort.

RON FIELDHOUSE

Boundary Close, Weston

ONCE again we see our North Somerset councillors working against the people they are there to represent.

Duplicate Hutton Moor swimming pool situated in an awkward venue rather than the Olympic size, all-weather pool that is required for this town. Weston is the first town of the great holiday route all the way to Penzance. Due to councillors who do not listen to the rate paying electorate who provide not inconsiderable allowances for councillors.

When Councillor Derek Mead gave his time, effort and a lot of money to saving the Pool/Tropicana one would have thought that the authority would have stepped in line, not so. They moved in on the pool, removing the asbestos and from then on frittered away up to £400,000 rather than put the money in the building fund.

For 15 years we have put up with incompetence for this holiday and residential town – we deserve better. Not content with working against Mr Mead’s pool these officials are taking over our pool for offices when all they wanted was to bulldoze the site completely. When Mr Mead saved the site the authority pretence of supporting the project was published, instead of applying for all the charitable donations and setting up a fund like the hospital fund that furnished the interior they left him to get on with it. Include the money set aside for the building of the second pool at Hutton Moor and most of the funds would be there to start work on construction.

We need people running this area who truly care and listen to the rate payers, who treat the in town residents with respect allowing them to park outside their homes, and clear away piles of rubble that will put off holidaymakers this Easter.

The RNLI is doing its best to raise funds for a slipway, had the council kept their eye on the ball the original slipway would have been available and better placed to serve the lifesaving they do so well.

All the bragging we see in the Mercury, spending fortunes on new projects cut no ice, maintaining what we have is a basic principal of good management.

C MAINS

Orchard Street, Weston

MANY of the individuals involved in the new parties or standing as independents, recognised long ago the potential of Weston.

Almost all spent large sums of money and effort in putting forward proposals to North Somerset Council, only to be mocked and ignored by councillors whom were supposed to take care of the town’s development and future.

Many of the projects and employment opportunities that are now functioning in Bridgwater and other parts of Somerset were proposed first for Weston but rejected by North Somerset Council. For three decades the town has been suffocated by illogical resistance to develop new projects and ideas by these councillors. Now there is an opportunity for change that could ensure inward investment by those who are experienced in developing viable projects.

Weston at one time was one of the wealthiest towns in the country. At that time almost all the councillors were local businessmen whose financial interests were tied to the town’s success. Our future lies along the same lines and away from political dogma and a cabinet system that has excluded and frustrated new councillors from running a second time and discouraged young and dynamic individuals with much to offer from standing. We should applaud and encourage these business people and others who are ready to put their own time, money and effort without any guarantees of success into becoming councillors and developing our town, not belittle them as disaffected cranks as inferred by Ian Pitch.

JAMES A DOBSON

Swan Close, Weston

WELL there we have it a new swimming pool for Weston, and surprise, surprise it will be built, open and up and running by next year.

Well I had to laugh then I realised, of course it’s got to be an April fool’s day joke, but no, it can’t be April fool’s day because we are still in March, well our council can’t even get that right.

Of course, then it came to me, it has to be propaganda and a party political stunt from our current ruling council led by Cllr Nigel Ashton and his gang of six executives prior to forthcoming local elections.

For the past 14 years Cllr Ashton, along with other members of his party (and Ian Pitch), have repeatedly told us that there is no money available for a swimming pool and if built would not be viable and a drain on council funding. Well Cllr Ashton, you, your executives along with your party must now be desperate and running scared in the knowledge that North Somerset First Independents are now gaining ground and popularity throughout the area, and of course to challenge you and your party in the elections on May 7.

KEN PERRETT

Prospective candidate North Somerset First Independents

Sandringham Hotel, Victoria Square, Weston

WHAT a nasty and underhand executive council we have.

The lead story in last week’s Mercury regarding the ‘outline planning application’ for a second swimming pool at Hutton Moor is nothing more than spiteful attempt to block the proposed Tropicana revamp and is nothing short of vindictive.

It is obvious that this executive is both bankrupt of real ideas and by this particular action appears to be ensuring they leave a lasting bad taste in the mouth on their departure from office in May. Can they give us a full and detailed report on the discussions that have taken place regarding this latest ‘secret squirrel’ decision as I don’t recall any debate at council meetings on this point.

Once again Cllr Ashton and his motley crew (no pun intended Cllr Crew) appear to be confirming their intent to destroy Weston as a seaside resort town and to carry out their stated objective of making Weston a university town.

Over this autumn and winter period we have been subject to the ongoing beach hut/garden shed debacle.

Now we read that these ‘upmarket’ sheds are to be sold off on e-Bay. When? I suggest April 1. What an absolute and total shambles. Didn’t we read that the council had received hundreds of expressions of interest? They use the reasoning that by putting these huts on e-Bay it will gauge the potential rental available. Did they not carry out that exercise before commissioning these posh sheds.

To carry this idea forward perhaps we could put our council tax on e-Bay and pay what we think this council is truly worth.

Once again this reckless council has committed our money to yet another hair brained scheme that, judging from public reaction we neither want nor need.

In the forthcoming local elections we have the wonderful opportunity to replace the dictatorial with the truly democratic.

Please, use your vote. The right to vote has cost many of our brave ancestors their lives so let us honour them by using that legacy.

This is your chance to give Weston and North Somerset a council that truly cares for you and our wonderful town.

JULIAN NORRIS

Prospective Candidate, North Somerset First Independents

Old Mill Way, Weston

I AM very impressed with the rhetoric of the North Somerset First Independents party and I wish them every success in forthcoming elections.

I will certainly vote for them. Unfortunately, like many others at this election it will be a wasted vote. Once the party machines grind into action people will be rolled-out to elect the usual suspects. The old adage that pensioners vote the rest don’t is till true today, especially now that the Chancellor has given obscene amounts of cash to rich pensioners in the budget.

The sad facts are that the independents may win a few seats and become a noisy minority in the Town Hall but they will not be able to change anything. Local government finance is entirely dependent on Central Government hand-outs. Bad as the current lot have been they did not raise council tax as the Lib Dems did every year that they were in power in North Somerset.

Single issues ‘Save Weston’ – ‘Save the Tropicana’ parties are unlikely to get much help from whichever party forms the next Government after May 7.

So what’s the answer? Clearly Weston Town Council is an expensive irrelevance with limited powers, such as the colour to paint the park railings or dog poo collection. It should be abolished forthwith. Why not look at what Nigel Ashton and his gang are so terrified of? A town mayor like Bristol’s George Ferguson?

Bristol is the only city in the country without a major events arena, now after 15 years of party wrangling the mayor has made it happen. Building starts next year.

I believe that if Weston had had a mayor for the last five years we would not be looking at the pathetic superficial revamp of the Tropicana or bits of the old pier being washed-up in Swansea. Not to mention the hole in the ground that was Dolphin Square.

So who would be the ideal candidate? Some of the regular contributors to the Opinion columns seem to be perfect for the job. But if they write to the Mercury every week they are just armchair pundits that like to see their names in print, so unlikely to “put their heads above the parapet” at election time.

Perhaps the Mercury should hold a referendum; nominations for Weston Town Mayor – all current members of North Somerset Council and Weston Town Council need not apply.

BARRY HARPER

Locking Road, Weston

UKIP’s Chris Childs was right to question the curious goings on behind North Somerset First (NSF) last week.

Who is funding its operation, premises, printing costs and expenses because boat trips, whist drives and race nights can’t do it?

Perhaps I can help Mr Childs because it’s common knowledge that NSF is the brainchild of a well-known local landowner and property developer. He has long been at loggerheads with North Somerset Council (NSC) over his wish to build many houses and industrial units on greenfield sites, especially east of the M5. This is in direct opposition to NSC’s current policy of more sustainable building within the town, a programme also supported by our MP. But this has so annoyed the gentleman that he has gathered together a group of supposedly ‘independent’ councillors in the hope of gaining a council majority which will then accede to his wishes.

But Mr Childs clearly has no sense of irony when he refers to NSF as a ‘one trick pony’ party. Surely that’s also a perfect description of his own ‘Nigel Farage’ party. But that’s hardly a recommendation for the rest of us voters, considering UKIP’s extraordinary number of prospective national candidates who’ve been suspended for various misdemeanours - an astonishing 22 at the time of writing. Moreover, it’s difficult to see how UKIP’s ever changing election manifesto is suitable for a town like Weston.

For example, it wants Britain to leave the EU. But how will our local farmers survive without their considerable subsidies, and businesses without their export markets? And UKIP maintains that EU workers are taking our jobs, but Weston recorded a 37 per cent drop in unemployment in 2014, with a 39 per cent fall in North Somerset. Mr Childs’ party wants to limit immigration but how will our hospitals, hospices and social services cope without essential overseas staff? Furthermore, such a divisive policy is at odds with the rich cultural fabric of Weston with its families from the Far East, the Indian sub-continent, Vietnam, Europe and beyond. And let’s not forget the immense contribution that the Greek and Cypriot communities have also made over decades, including the vast sums raised for charity by the Grand Pier and the Axentis Michael Trust.

No political system is perfect but neither are over-simplistic solutions. For this country to leave the EU would be the greatest disaster of a generation. And a growing climate of xenophobia, suspicion and fear undermines the innate tolerance, understanding and refuge that symbolises everything that is great about the UK. Not forgetting, of course that a united Europe has also ensured the 70 years of peace that have blessed and benefitted us all.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

JULIAN Norris’ reply to Ian Pitch last week proved Mr Pitch’s point perfectly.

He has maintained for ages that North Somerset First never tells us what their specific policies are, always resorting to bland generalisations and moaning about the council. And Mr Norris did it again, only inviting Mr Pitch to call in for a cosy chat at their shop. But what about the rest of us?

I thought that elections were all about canvassing voters with literature and visits to gain their support.

So when is North Somerset First going to get out and about and give us some straight answers?

AMY KNIGHTS

Milton Road, Weston

WHEN is an independent candidate not an independent? When they become a member of a party.

A battle royal seems to have broken out between UKIP and the group of independent candidates in the forthcoming local council elections.

I agree with Chris Childs, writing in last week’s Mercury, that you cannot be a true independent if you have to follow party lines in council. However Chris, and his fellow UKIP pals are relying on the word Independence which is completely different to Independents.

UKIP is a party that was formed to fight for this country to leave Europe and until last year only had two local councillors in the whole country.

Independents are individuals who are dedicated to fight for those who voted them into council, because they are not members of a party.

It all may seem rather confusing but these two groups are making a big mistake in attacking each other rather than the established parties.

Conservatives, Labour, and the Lib Dems must be licking their lips whereas they could have been licking their wounds after the election.

It will be very interesting indeed to see the makeup of the council after the results have been declared.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

I’M A Weston man and I very much love this town.

Yes, the North Somerset Conservative Council Executive (as they grandly call themselves) do appear quite happy to see Weston decline as long as their own areas outside the town prosper, but my personal experience dealing with the actual officers of the council is quite different and very positive.

These officers are the people who have to deliver services for the whole of North Somerset day in and day out, doing their best regardless of the damaging political and personal whims of their elected masters.

A simple thing like the repair of individual potholes is a case in point. Everyone knows, via The Mercury, that potholes are incredibly common in the town; not just in roads but in pavements too. What strikes me is that elected North Somerset councillors in the wards don’t seem to see these potholes, or don’t want to see them or just can’t be bothered to do anything about them - maybe they feel themselves to be above that sort of thing, I don’t know. I’m just an ordinary bloke who’s received a lot of help from local people and just wants to put something back into the Worle and Worlebury areas. Well, I can see these individual pot-holes and know enough about the danger they are capable of causing to want to get them fixed.

And do you know what? It’s not that difficult. District councillors may not be much use, but Town Hall officers in the highways department appear very keen to try to repair these smaller problems before they get worse and cause accidents. They’re interested and actually want to help. What’s more, it’s easy to keep track of progress because highways officers come out to mark up reported potholes for repair and then, amazingly, repair them. It’s not rocket science. OK, diligence and a genuine desire to help is required, but surely that’s something councillors themselves should possess.

As an ordinary Weston citizen, and like most other people, I have given no previous thought to putting my name forward for anything. But as I have gradually learnt how straightforward and rewarding it can be to deal with relatively simple problems once the right amount of focus has been set, I have become keen to do more and stand for the town council. This is the forum that most people who write to these pages seem to agree is the only elected group that truly has the town at its heart and a desire to make Weston a better place for everyone.

BEN NICHOLAS

Bailey Close, Locking Castle

NORTH Somerset Council – are you actually being serious about the beach huts?

Did one member actually claim they will make Weston a more ‘upmarket’ tourist resort? How would Reyna Knight vote if we propose beach huts for the marina at Portishead?

Weston has a promenade that some people will argue is second to none and now you propose to install beach huts to interrupt the phenomenal views and restrict the width of the promenade for everyone.

Has anybody from the council actually been along the ‘prom’ during the height of a busy summer weekend – it is packed with people.

All you will do is put people off coming to Weston and provide a blank canvas for our resident graffiti artists.

And as for the extra revenue created – that will only be able to part fund the added security needed to prevent vandalism and umpteen thousands litres of paint to cover up the ‘budding Banksys’ overnight works of art.

When the fabulous weekend air show returns to Weston amongst many other summer events will you be using a forklift to remove the offending beach huts so everyone can enjoy the views?

Clearly this decision rates as one of the most ridiculous ideas ever to emerge out of a council meeting anywhere in the country. Period.

A MILTON

Quantock Road, Weston

FURTHER to Brian Austin’s comments about getting facts straight over the Winter Gardens.

My facts/information were derived from the bronze plaque that used to adorn the old gate posts to the Winter Gardens that led onto the old taxi rank in the High Street just near the entrance to the old post office.

This was before the council had them destroyed during the process of downgrading the area. I am sure that there are many other old Westonians who will remember this plaque just as I do. I assume that the information thereon explaining that the Winter Gardens had been left to the townsfolk by Henry Butt was correct as it had been there for decades.

I wonder what happened to that plaque.

MARTIN WOOLLS

South Road, Weston

RECENTLY this newspaper printed a letter regarding the difficulty experienced when trying to view the North Somerset Council’s planning application website.

For the best part of a week I could not access the council’s planning applications, as I wanted to view the number of applications to build housing estates around Congresbury.

If people are unable to access such important information, a democratic right and causing a delay if they wanted to make an objection, then surely any decision should also be delayed for the length of time internet access is not available.

F SNOXALL

Verlands, Congresbury

I HEARTILY agree with D F Courtney in celebrating the return of the Sand Sculpture competition.

This is just one of so many events that make Weston such a successful holiday resort. This summer will also see the Weston Air Day, the big wheel, the beach race and many other super events. Along with the attractions of the Grand Pier and the promenade this shows just how good a tourist attraction Weston is.

What a contrast to all the moaners who say that Weston is a tired old dump. I say far from it.

BETTY ROBERTSON

Locking Road, Weston

I AM looking for a picture of the original Bournville Church (St Andrew’s) in Coniston Crescent.

It was a wooden structure built about 1940. If you can help please contact Bill Caple, tel 636202 or bill.caple@talktalknet

MAUREEN HARVEY

Stradling Avenue, Weston

REGARDING the recent Life magazine reference troubled families, the article states families living with crime and antisocial behaviour. If ever there was a misnomer this has to be it.

While I believe some families, indeed people, need help, there is no mention of the victims of this type of behaviour, let alone the cost involved.

Everyone must be responsible for his or her own actions; it would appear these people get all the help yet the victims get no help at all.

If people have issues in their life, of course, help should be forthcoming, but not seek it by behaving in the ways described in Life magazine. I fear that some of these people will exploit the situation for their own ends, and further to that jump any queues that are relevant to their needs.

And even worse at the expense of the people who face up to their responsibilities and receive nothing for behaving like a responsible citizen.

I note that Mr Chinn (Alliance Homes) says we live in a complex world, which is true, I would add there are a lot of people living in Alliance Homes who are model citizens, are we to believe that only people in Alliance Homes have issues? Some of these people, of course, live in private accommodation albeit paid for through the Government.

I myself come from a social housing environment so I understand some of the issues involved but being poor and out of work did not make my family act in an antisocial way or turn to crime.

I hope that other families receive help in circumstances, which are beyond their control, but do not forget the rest of the citizens suffering from bad behaviour form the small minority.

MR D J TINAY

Dunster Crescent, Weston

ON February 13, I fell at home and split my knee so badly that is required stitches.

I therefore went to the A & E department at Weston General Hospital.

The staff at the A & E were absolutely brilliant. They were so kind, helpful and extremely efficient. I had the wound attended to, x-rayed and stitched in 1.5 hours from start to finish.

The hospital was very clean and it was a pleasure to be a very satisfied patient and I am very grateful to have received such wonderful attention.

L OLDHAM

Atlantic Road, Weston

RECENTLY I spent just over a week in Steepholm Ward at Weston General Hospital.

I would like it recorded that I could not fault the care and attention I received. Everyone gave me the utmost in their kind and caring attention, despite my sometimes quirky sense of humour.

From the anaesthetist, operating and ward nurses, physiotherapists, and general ward orderlies, everyone was kindness itself.

Even after leaving hospital I had a problem, which was dealt with promptly by the staff in the surgical assessment unit, and the physiotherapy department.

My sincere thank you to all of those involved in my care.

MIKE HEATH

Clarkson Avenue, Weston

NOW in my eighties, I don’t think living longer is favourable at all.

When I go out to join the land of the living, I look directly at each one I pass with a smile in my eyes ready to reach my lips, but there is no response whatsoever. I feel invisible.

Unlike the days when people were happy to greet you, and engage in eye to eye contact – how well you can read people.

SYLVIA THOMPSON

Harvest Lane, West Wick

HAVING tried out the ‘newly refurbished’ Odeon I have decided I will not be going back there.

My husband and I were in Room Three to watch The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The seats were so uncomfortable and upright that our backs were killing us when the film finished, also the arms are so short that your elbow rests in the place that holds the drink.

The seats are so short and feel slightly tilted that you feel as it you are slipping off the seat. There is no leg room as the seats in front are very close and are not tiered, so you are unable to see the screen clearly if a tall person is sitting in front of you.

I can’t understand where all the money has been spent in this cinema, it was certainly not on the seats.

MRS S HUMPHRIS

Notgrove Close, Weston

THOSE that vote are all fully aware there are far too many district, town and parish councillors, and those who do not vote feel, if they did vote, nothing will change and what’s more they may be right.

It was pleasing to note the local boundary commission reduced the number of district councillors and that there will be 50 elected in May, instead of 61.

It was hoped at the time that Weston council would be reduced from 31 to 23 in line with the present number of wards, and that parishes would agree to a system of four seats for an electorate up to 300, five up to 600, six up to 1,000 and seven for more than 1,000. In this way, it was hoped that out of the 85 parishes in our area, instead of 49 per cent not being contested, (as most of these are self selecting when there is a vacancy) far more parishes would need to hold elections as there would be more candidates than seats and thereby it would allow a little more democracy to creep into the grass roots of our political system.

Many people who vote decry the allowing of candidates to seek a seat on two councils, this seems right from a democratic point of view. The answer is in the hands of voters, to boycott voting for any of those that endeavour to wear two hats.

Today, with the marvellous strides in information technology the 200-year-old present political system needs major surgery to reduce the ever-mounting cost, to the public, of politicians and their expenses. The old problem is, without a revolt, politicians will always make certain cuts will not be at their expense, even if they did believe it was in the interest of the country; be they Peers, MPs, district, town or parish councillors.

C J PEVERELLE

Edinburgh Place, Weston

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