Letters to the Editor, October 18, 2012

Mature trees

WE WOULD like to express our alarm and concern over plans North Somerset Council has for further tree felling in Weston.

In the vicinity of the Town Hall alone something like eight mature trees have been taken out in recent months - trees that have taken many years to become established.

Especially distressing has been the loss of three fine Italian alders planted in the bleak streetscape west of the Town Hall extension; these were paid for and planted by Weston Civic Society in the 1990s.

Many of the trees lost from High Street South could easily have been incorporated in the recent re-landscaping scheme.


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Now we understand the pleached holm oak hedge bordering the Italian Gardens and the Town Square is to be removed. The high hedge acts as an invaluable windbreak to the gardens and the High Street - as well as softening the rather bleak view eastwards from the square. Other trees including a eucalyptus are due to be felled - again ill-considered. Trees in Grove Park are also at risk.

Also under threat are the holm oaks that border the doomed putting green at the southern end of the Beach Lawns. This splendid shelter belt of trees not only does a job of work; it also makes an important contribution to the attractiveness of the seafront.

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Trees like these need the protection of tree preservation orders. In Weston, the street and the promenade are difficult environments for trees to become safely established - all the more reason for their destruction to always be a last resort and not the easy option.

DAVID AGASSIZ AND HOWARD SMITH

Weston Civic Society

Town Quarry, Weston

Improvements

THE so-called improvements to the Town Square planned by North Somerset Council reported in last week’s Mercury give much cause for concern.

The proposal to remove mature trees and hedge are surely not necessary. The holm oak hedge, between the Town Square and the Italian Gardens, gives some shelter from the strong winds to which the High Street is exposed. These trees were well chosen for they are evergreen and withstand salt spray; removing them would give very little extra space and could not conceivably improve access. The removal of eucalyptus trees is also to be deplored, they are among the few mature trees in the vicinity.

Earlier this year the circular pergola and associated planting were removed and replaced with featureless paving. It was stated that this was to make space for major public events – how many have there been? None to our notice. There is a massive amount of paving around Pier (Princess Royal) Square – could this not better host such events?

The council’s stated policy is that trees removed should be replaced. We have seen much removal and little replacement. It should also be noted that a tree cannot be replaced like a bus stop – it takes 10-20 years or so to achieve.

D RILEY

Stafford Place, Weston

Be prepared

HOW refreshing it was to read in last week’s Mercury the two letters written by John Christopher and K Perrett.

I cannot recall any more convincing and stylish previous correspondence to the Mercury which has put the argument for the Tropicana.

What a contrast to the hypercritical outpourings of your regular correspondent Ian Pitch who, over many months, has lambasted those in favour of the resurrection of the Tropicana. But I must warn Messrs Christopher and Perrett that Ian Pitch will come out firing on all cylinders in his own inimitable, trenchant and defensive way. So be prepared for the onslaught.

RON ELLIS

Westbrook Road, Milton

Perfectly proven

I HAD to chuckle when I read last week’s responses to my recent Mercury letter on the funding of the Tropicana rebuild.

What amused me were the predictable howls of anguish in reply to my simple question – where’s the money coming from?

In a clearly co-ordinated campaign, my point was perfectly proven. Because despite all the synthetic outrage, nobody could provide an answer.

Compare this continuing tedious story with an altogether more inspiring one, also in last week’s edition. We read that Weston’s local heroes, Kerry and Michelle Michael have just received their MBEs at Windsor Castle.

When their Grand Pier burnt down, they didn’t run to the council or the National Lottery with a begging bowl to rebuild it. They simply got their heads down and raised the money themselves – all �51million of it. And yet, after all this time, Derek Mead’s Trop (WSM) cannot tell us where the comparatively paltry �4.6million for its pipedream project will come from.

So Messrs Orme, Malham, Perrett, Biggs and Christopher, rather than take cheap shots at me, enlighten us all as to who’ll pay for the Tropicana when the time comes? And, since you’re all so keen, will you be chipping in too?

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

Sadness and anger

TO THE reader the mention of the word Tropicana does not in any way give a feel-good factor. It represents to many of us both sadness and anger.

I remember, as many others do, the pool provided a wonderful experience and jolly good fun.

To walk past in the summer to the sounds of both laughter and screams of delight coming from the people enjoying one of Weston’s premier attractions was wonderful.

The pool was a great favourite with families.

Having once owned a small seafront hotel I remember our visitors enjoying Somerset delights such as Cheddar, Wells and Glastonbury and indeed Weston itself.

Born in Bristol 85 years ago I well remember our trips to Weston.

I married a Weston girl and we raised a family here. My daughter and her family live here and love Weston, as I do.

The reader no doubt is saying “not another story about the Tropicana”, but the situation is serious and is not to be pushed under the carpet.

Since the formation of North Somerset Council so many things have happened in the town.

Not all bad, but one of the major expenditures being the relocation of the council offices to Clevedon, under the flag ‘it will save us money’.

Maybe it will, but on the record of the council today its spending must be off the page.

The town must provide a large amount of income to North Somerset Council and yet it seems to have no voice in what is happening here. It is reported that Eric Pickles has been to Clevedon.

Did he come to Weston I wonder and if he did, did he view the Tropicana, I don’t know.

I have just listened to the Prime Minister on television and his words of encouragement to us all to make things better does not seem to matter to those in charge here.

In conclusion I say to the council “look after Weston”, elections in the future will no doubt judge your response to our concerns.

F J BRITTON

Hutton Hill, Hutton

Fouling

ON READING October Life magazine I see that dogs and their owners are again being targeted for fouling, with all other types of fouling being conveniently ignored ie broken glass, litter, soiled nappies, drinks cans etc.

There are, in Weston, 32 people authorised to issue �75 fines to anyone caught not picking up after their dog or dropping litter of any sort.

If only these people had been more active in issuing these fines, not only would we have the cleanest litter-free town in the South West but the �75 fines would have helped reduce the council deficit considerably.

Just to reiterate the state of the town is not just a dog problem so, as we are having a zero tolerance month for dog owners and their pets, maybe we can have a month of zero tolerance for the litter throwers, graffiti artists and the flowerbed destroyers, not forgetting the sand sculpture defacers.

Finally dog poo can contain toxocara eggs leading to unpleasant illness, but so does cat poo and that is in just about everybody’s home garden and, as any gardener will

Testify, just as unpleasant and is as dangerous as dog poo.

Children are therefore at risk in their own garden even if they do not have a family pet dog or cat.

ROBERT LOWE

The Swallows, Locking Castle

Shocked me

A RECENT article in the North Somerset Life magazine concerning the cost of removing dog fouling rather surprised and shocked me.

It helped to explain the problems of council budgets and overspending. Apparently it costs �55 per pick-up to dispose of, which I suggest is excessive. Surely in these times of high unemployment, someone can be found/contracted to perform this task for a fraction of that cost.

If this is an example of the cost of council services in general, then is it little wonder that there is such difficulty in meeting budgeting costs?

It also confirms my opinion that there is much scope for improvements to the efficiency of council spending. Or perhaps I am out of touch with costing?

MR J LYNCH

The Hedges, St Georges

Competition

HAVING always felt the North Somerset monthly Life magazine is a waste of council taxpayers’ money and unfair competition for local newspapers, is it not time to scrap it?

Bob Neil the Local Government Minister has made these points especially where they tout for advertising.

The local authority publicity code states publications should not appear more than four times a year and next year the Government plans to bring in legislation to stop unfair newspaper competition by these authorities, which in many cases act as a ‘smokescreen’ to publish pro-council material in the guise of proper information.

These magazines are a comparative new phenomenon by councils and as such, with all the cuts needed to overcome the deficit and reduce borrowings, an obvious candidate for the chop, even if the amount saved is small it is very high profile.

C J PEVERELLE

Edinburgh Place, Weston

Explain the cages

I UNDERSTAND that North Somerset Council is responsible for the prevention of fly tipping in North Somerset.

Perhaps it would like to explain the refuge cages that have been dumped on the Bournville estate.

This is on the main road next to the school which has just been built.

This is encouraging fly tipping.

I have friends who live on this estate and they tell me that everything is dumped in these cages. There is no control whatsoever. When will the council be removing these as they are a health hazard, or if they are not being removed when will they erect other cages in Uphill, Locking village, Worlebury, Bleadon and the South Ward.

Don’t take my word for it go and have a look for yourself. There are more young families on the Bournville estate than anywhere else in North Somerset, dumping those cages there is an absolute disgrace.

JOHN SHAW

Ney Close, Cheddar

Victims

I FEEL very angry at the story ‘Arson attack leaves pensioner terrified’.

A pensioner has been left terrified and traumatised, another person left homeless and with destroyed possessions, and all we hear from the judge are comments addressed to the person found guilty: “This was undoubtedly committed when you were unwell. The most important thing now is that you get better. All the very best for the future.”

What about the welfare and care for the victims? Surely that is the most important issue here. Is our society now so completely PC and unbalanced that we can’t see a priority here? Of course we need to give support to someone mentally ill, but to have no comments, sympathy or regard for the victims or crime is scandalous. Surely “the most important thing” is that the innocent are protected and publicly the law is seen to be on the side of law-abiding citizens.

Weston has suffered more then its fair share of arson-crime, without the courts appearing to go gently on the perpetrants and show little regard for the sufferers. I hope the Mercury will highlight this case, and that those who are suffering from the crime will be offered at least the same amount of consideration, counselling and financial outlay as will the person found guilty.

Otherwise, are we in a completely insane society?

ROGER JONES

Clifton Road, Weston

Substantial

I RECENTLY wrote to your paper drawing attention to the differences between North Thanet District Council and our own dearly loved North Somerset Council when it came to positive support to work with local interest groups to preserve and enhance the character of their respective seaside towns of Margate and Weston.

North Thanet had worked with the Heritage Lottery Fund, Government departments and local interest groups to raise substantial amounts of money to restore a former seaside attraction in Margate.

In contrast our North Somerset Council (NSC) was ignoring local wishes, failing to support local interest groups and intending to spend substantial amounts of money to knock down the Tropicana in Weston and convert it to beach.

However, it seems I may have got them wrong because it appears that North Somerset Council is actually prepared to fight for lottery money and work with local interest groups to preserve and enhance the seaside heritage. Sadly for us, however, the beneficiary of this positive responsive attitude is not Weston but Clevedon. Well there’s a surprise isn’t there?

As an article on its website proudly announces, NSC in conjunction with Clevedon Town Council has made a successful bid for �40,000 of lottery cash to help fund repairs to Clevedon’s Marine Lake and will then go for a further �350,000 of funding “to carry out repairs and develop educational facilities”.

There is also a quote from Councillor Peter Bryant, who is apparently the NSC Executive member for Marine Environment: “We are delighted to have been successful in this lottery application. Clevedon seafront is a fantastic beauty spot and the Marine Lake is a really significant part of the landscape and so it has been a priority to try to preserve it for the future. I am also pleased to have been able to work with the local community in achieving this bid and without their help this would not have happened.”

Whilst I am not one to begrudge Clevedon their good fortune in this – it is an attractive place – I do feel obliged to point out that this follows very quickly on our NSC having stumped up some �657,601 to restore Clevedon Pier – and then there was the little matter of their new duplicate Town Hall?

Now it is well known that most that run NSC have their hearts – or certainly their seats – outside of Weston. What is perhaps surprising and very disappointing is that Councillor Bryant was elected to represent our own Clarence and Uphill Ward. One might have expected him to have rather more interest and take rather more delight in Weston’s rather than Clevedon’s seafront?

Why could not NSC have shown the same initiative and willingness to co-operate with others to save the Tropicana or at the very least not be insisting that it be pulled down?

Still, having given us the ‘Zimmer frame’ railings on the seafront and the monstrous carbuncle that is the new Premier Inn, plus giving us parking meters in place of trees in the town centre, I suppose they may think they have done enough to preserve the beauty of Weston for the future?

It’s a shame we will have to wait until the 2015 elections to tell them what we think of their stewardship.

KEITH HARRISON

Atlantic Road South, Weston

Planking

I HAVE a certificate for a length of planking with an engraved inscription, in aid of the restoration of Birnbeck Pier.

It is signed by Peter Lay and dated December 17, 1998. I have not had a letter from Friends of the Old Pier and would appreciate one with news of my certificate’s standing.

B M DIXON

Milton Hill, Weston

Banishing

IN THE Midweek we read that the town centre regeneration is taking place.

Part of this plan is to remove residents’ cars from the town centre by banishing them to distant Locking Road car park.

The parking restrictions mean no parking near home between 9am and 5pm. Yes we can buy a further two more hours in a bay if we can afford the residents’ permit but no more.

I am sure such residents’ parking permits would be laughed at anywhere else in the country. Here we just weep.

BRIAN SHELDRAKE

Palmer Row, Weston

Fantastic

ON SEPTEMBER 9 this year I had a hip replacement operation at Weston General Hospital.

The surgeon was Mr Shannan. He and his team did a marvellous job.

From my first meeting with him everything was explained to me. I elected to have an epidural which meant that I would be awake while they were operating. It was a fantastic experience I felt no pain or discomfort at all.

Later, on Steep Holm ward, I was treated extremely well. All the staff were friendly yet professional and the place was spotlessly clean. The physiotherapists were really very good.

Even in the discharge lounge while I was waiting for my mediation to leave the staff really looked after me.

My first experience of having to stay in hospital was a good one and I have nothing but praise for Weston General Hospital and its staff.

MICK MARKLAND

Grove Road, Somerlane Park Homes, Banwell

I REFER to the article dealing with the threatened planning enforcement in Meadow Place, St Georges.

Mr Geldenhuys has created a lovely area out of an absolute eyesore, where vegetation grew over a well-used lane causing a hazard to drivers and rubbish was allowed to accumulate.

The unitary authority’s argument that the changes have caused harm to the natural landscape and are not in keeping with the rural character of the area is ridiculous.

The area changed radically when 800 houses were built and this small parcel of land is just one of several in St Georges that has just been left unmaintained following development, which nobody takes responsibility for until someone, like Mr Geldenhuy decides to tidy it up.

Hopefully North Somerset Council will see sense and rescind this unnecessary decision.

JANYS WARREN

Willow Gardens, St Georges

AS YOU can see by my address I live in close proximity to Dolphin Square and await with trepidation the proposed demolition and rebuild.

I also live opposite the Town Hall and had the same feelings about its revamp. I contacted the site manager and was assured that the revamp would only take place Monday to Friday operating between 8am and 5pm each day. True to his word this is what happened and so it was possible to live in relative harmony with the contractors and the small amount of air pollution and limited amount of noise from machinery, cranes, lorries, etc.

Not so McLaren Life, the Dolphin Square contractors, which has so far disrupted our lives on a seven days a week basis working well outside the socially acceptable hours.

Its contractors arrived on site at 7.30am in a white mini bus, having travelled (their words) ‘three hours to get here’. They then proceed to start up drills, cutting machines, dumper trucks which continue to run non-stop all day. What happened to local work for local people?

The noise from the paving slab cutting machine is horrendous, and as I watched I was intrigued to notice the operator, working on a public pavement with members of the public passing by, was wearing a hard hat. I would have preferred to have seen him wearing ear protectors and goggles with a face mask. The cutter he was operating was spinning at high speed close to his feet and knees, as he was on one knee to operate it.

After suffering noise from machines, lorries that leave their engines running and small plant fitted with reversing bleepers all day, in the evening I went to speak to them at 9pm due to the continued noise they were making, to ask what time they intended to finish? They informed me they had licence to work until 10pm seven days a week.

One Sunday at 7am they started work, drilling into a wall from a cherry picker which had its engine running constantly until 1pm when they finished the job. The six hours that job took could well have been undertaken between 9am and 3pm on a Sunday.

On occasion, the street marking lorry turns up at 6am to change the road markings, this involves turning on a huge blow torch which sounds like a jet aircraft engine, to burn off the old road markings. On another occasion the same team turned up at 3am to change the markings at the other end of the road. This went on until 4am.

Next at 6am along comes the vacuum road sweeper, which sucks up all of the dust from the road and redistributes it through its filters into the atmosphere at the rear of the truck.

I am sure that at this point McLaren Life will jump up and say road markings and sweepers are nothing to do with them, possibly true, but someone, somewhere is issuing licences to carry out McLaren Life related works, and that person has to realise this is a residential area and we are entitled to a degree of lifestyle in which we can live and sleep.

If I or others were making such a noise at such unsociable hours, I am sure the police or some other authority would be knocking on the door threatening all sorts of legal actions.

We are working people and we have to get up in the morning to do a day’s work. Mine entails driving for most of the day, so sleep is a vital ingredient to my lifestyle. Others here work shifts and need their rest also.

TONY TREMLIN

Walliscote Grove Road, Weston

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