Letters to the Editor, October 11, 2012

Day centre

I AM writing in response to a letter by G N Fletcher about ‘soft sentences’ that you printed in the Mercury on October 4.

As manager of a day centre for homeless and vulnerable adults, I work with a number of the people that Mr/Ms Fletcher would like to leave Weston.

Thank goodness there are a huge number of people in the town who don’t share the views of Mr/Ms Fletcher but show sympathy and compassion, giving time and money to help change the lives of people who are caught up in addiction to drugs or alcohol.

It isn’t an aspiration or life choice to become an addict. It’s easy for those of us with supportive family and friends to forget that there are many people who aren’t as lucky as we are. It is unwise to make harsh, critical judgements of people unless you’ve walked in their shoes.


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The good news is that because of the caring people of Weston, many people are able to learn how to get to the recovery stage of addiction, living without drugs or alcohol and living a positive, fulfilling life, working and contributing to our local community and society in general.

The length of sentences will always be a ‘hot potato’ and people will always disagree.

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What I and those who work with me can say with certainty is that drug addicts and alcoholics are human beings like the rest of us, who respond to our concern and encouragement rather than judgement and loathing.

JOHN EALOES

Day Centre Manager

Somewhere to Go, Boulevard, Weston

Soft sentences

IN ANSWER to the letter by G N Fletcher concerning the soft sentences of dealers and users of drugs, I have seldom read such a load of sanctimonious twaddle.

Whilst I have no sympathy with drug dealers, I cannot imagine that any drug user or alcoholic ever imagined that they would land up in that position.

Did they, when they were young and impressionable, make drug taking or alcoholism their ambition in life? Of course not. Has G N Fletcher ever heard of the old adage ‘There but for the grace of God go I’?

I volunteer at a centre for homeless and vulnerable people and feel that they need all the help and encouragement we can give them. Condemnation and misunderstanding does nothing to help anyone.

To quote the Gospels: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

C WILLETTS

Ewart Road, Milton

Big human toilet

I MOVED to the Uphill area last December and have enjoyed walking my dogs on the beach daily since that time.

Like all regular walkers I am diligent in clearing up after my dogs and using the bin provided. We local dog walkers being aware that others using the beach find dog mess off-putting.

During this spring and summer I often park on the beach to watch the kite sailors and to simply enjoy the lovely area, and have become increasingly aware that all the bushes and shrubbery adjacent to the parking area are used as one big human toilet.

If there is a kiting event on, or even just a few people using the marked off area, you do not have to sit there long to see just how many people go into the bushes, some clearly squatting.

The area is also popular for family picnics and children have great fun running in and out of this fouled area, while their parents are oblivious of the hazards and health risks.

I am aware that there are public toilets in Uphill, but sadly people are not prepared to leave equipment or family to walk that far. Some of these events attract large numbers of people which probably means that at the very least, 40 to 50 people will use the area as a toilet over the course of the day. This is just not acceptable.

As part of the licence to use the area for land-based surfing activities, whether it be just a fun day or an event, the organisers should be compelled to provide adequate toilet facilities, and heavily fined or banned for not ensuring the bushes are out of bounds. Until that happens, may I suggest that a large warning notice should be prominently placed warning parents of the health dangers of allowing their children to have fun in the bush areas.

LIZ ALEXANDER

Highfield Road, Weston

Bothering me

TWO statements from North Somerset Council, as reported in the Mercury recently, are bothering me.

Firstly the oft-repeated formula that Castlewood and the Town Hall renovations will “save �750,000 per annum within five years” and secondly that they have a debt on loans of �137million pounds.

As the two major buildings appear to have cost �26million pounds, a saving of �750,000 per annum takes about 66 years to get the money back. Secondly, discussion over the debt never seems to mention the rate of interest on repayment which, at present, should be high – so interest at seven per cent would add �10million approximately per annum.

I’m only a simple country lad but I don’t like the sound of that.

May I add, out of fairness, that the new Town Hall/library ground floor is very impressive and fits the requirements of the modern age.

I have never seen so many pleasant and helpful council staff in one place, and I do hope that it doesn’t get sabotaged by cowboy economics be they local or national.

BRIAN AUSTIN

Alma Street, Weston

Refurbished

I READ the report in the Weston Mercury about the High Court halting the demise of the Tropicana and that the Environment Agency had ordered the council to remove the waste which it had allowed to be dumped in it.

I felt that at long last the council, our council, was being taught a lesson for riding roughshod over us for so much of the time during the last few years over anything to do with Weston and having a pool on the seafront.

I think that it thought that by allowing the pool, which, when it was closed 10 years ago was still a fully-functioning swimming pool capable of being used again with very little effort being spent on it, to be used as a dumping ground would end once and for all the idea that anyone would consider even trying to do something with it. Well it has been proved wrong.

The council has repeatedly ignored the possibility of our much-loved pool being refurbished or replaced while at the same time spending more than �20million in having a new Town Hall in Clevedon and completely refurbishing the old Town Hall in Weston as well as giving a grant of �750,000 to Clevedon for its pier.

So much time has been spent by the residents of Weston in trying to have a swimming pool back, why couldn’t the council consider giving it to the Weston Town Council?

At least it has the interest of the Weston people in mind, not, as we all well know, its fate being in the hands of people who have no interest in Weston.

I am sure Weston Town Council would at least see if they could get a lottery grant to get something done.

Look at its success with its water park on the seafront.

Now that it has all gone this far why the hurry to pull it down? In the current financial climate why waste ratepayers funds and money on it? It is still an Art Deco building, it’s not hurting anyone why not take a step back and put it all on hold.

Let’s hope the High Court can put the stop on this and the council should listen to the Weston people and let us be a seaside resort once again like in the good old days.

LAURENCE F ORME

Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

Strong views

EVERY time a letter is published in the Mercury, a certain Ian Pitch from Winscombe berates the writer.

Now we respect the fact that Ian has very strong views but in his latest letter he is completely disrespectful to those who protested outside the Tropicana.

He writes that the protesters desperately squeezed together to look like a crowd but completely overlooks the fact that these are people who also have strong views.

Recently those protesting against a new Tesco Express in Milton Road won their case which shows that David can win over Goliath.

Who knows, even at this late hour, we could still have some sort of attraction on the Tropicana site. After all that’s what the majority of Westonians want.

Ian has asked for bright ideas on the subject and I am sure that many will oblige him. Where there is life there is hope and I hope that even Ian Pitch will agree with that.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Tourist town

WESTON is a tourist town and the bulk of its businesses rely on tourism for its income.

There, I’ve said it. Now if Councillor Ap Rees and co can read it a few times, then say it out loud to each other then perhaps we’ll start to get a town, a Weston, that we can all be proud of. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to our councillors but somewhere along the line they lost the plot big time.

Years ago the need for a bigger hospital was met, Knightstone pool was closed but replaced with Hutton Moor. More recently the Grand Pier was rebuilt and the promenade given a welcome and tasteful facelift. Whether Government funded, private investment or financed by the local authority these improvements and needs were recognised and fulfilled. So what’s so different about the Tropicana? Cynics could begin to think there are ulterior motives. Perhaps a car park in its place?

The statement above says it all, it’s not rocket science. Weston is on a one way road to oblivion, a town filled with tumble weed blowing in the wind, boarded up shops and restaurants, a ghost town.

It could be oh so different. Imagine a fully functioning Tropicana alongside the refurbished Grand Pier. (Credit to the owners for their continued drive in promoting their attraction). Combined with the new promenade, the water park and the establishments that work so hard to make their premises look inviting and fashionable, the Beach Lawns, not to mention the beach itself. The key in all this, the missing piece of the jigsaw, is the Tropicana. “Build it and they will come,” to quote a film.

A leisure pool on the seafront, somewhere for families and friends to come, to swim. This will bring more people to Weston, in turn more people will visit the High Street and surrounding area, therefore attracting more high profile stores attracting more people and so on. Before Cllr Ap Rees gets blisters rubbing his hands together thinking of car parking, how about reduced parking charges for limited times attracting yet more people to spend money in Weston?

Ian Pitch (or should I say Private Frazer from Dad’s Army “We’re all doomed”) has had another go, criticising those who love this town and want it to flourish. He also suggests we should come up with the ideas. I’m sorry but I thought it was the local authority’s job to do that, to look after this town, the people in it and those who visit. Having said that, many people have had ideas about the Trop. Are they all wrong? Can’t the authorities work with Mr Mead? If he is genuine then a solution will be found.

Apparently Eric Pickles visited Clevedon this week. Did he take time to visit Weston in view of his decision? If not, why not? Did the Mercury question him on this? Then there is John Penrose who seems more concerned with twittering and trending. He said he did his best with Mr Pickles. Surely his best would have been persuading Mr Pickles to visit Weston and speak with all the relevant parties, to see Weston for what it is and what it could be, after all Clevedon managed to get him there. I mean this is the former Minister for Tourism who had a major tourism issue regarding the town he represents where the major industry is tourism. You really couldn’t make it up.

I’m off to buy a coffee and watch the tumble weeds roll by.

STEVE BIGGS

New Bristol Road, Worle

No footprint

AFTER reading Mr Pitch’s letter about the crumbling Tropicana, I am obviously one of those ill-informed people to which he refers.

The Tropicana was once a place for not only local people to meet but holiday-makers to enjoy.

We all know from past experience that if it is demolished, there will no longer be a footprint for any building that may follow.

Derek Mead is a successful businessman and approached the council on several occasions to discuss his ideas but for reasons that only it knows it declined.

Mr Pitch appears to agree Weston needs a pool but for some reason not on this site.

Although his invitation was for protesters to come up with their bright ideas, I would not call myself a protester just someone who lives and works here.

My bright idea. Although Weston has pools they are all privately run. They are popular and very busy but unavailable to short stay holiday-makers for that reason.

Being the owner of a B&B I am regularly being asked why we have no pool.

If a pool complex was properly run there is no reason why it could not pay for itself.

It would bring in tourists and tourism brings money. It would look good on posters and postcards and any advertising, as it did when it was first built in the 1930s.

We have had a dreadful season this year mainly due to the bad weather, to have another indoor attraction on the seafront would boost local trade for shops and restaurants and hopefully accommodation providers.

The Olympics gave a boost to many sports including swimming and diving.

The pool would provide local employment, would help residents stay fit and healthy, it would become a place to meet others and give a greater sense of community.

It is a shame to read about the Trop rubble having to be removed at the taxpayers’ expense of �75,000 instead of getting it removed at their expense by the builders who put it there in the first place. Not forgetting the cost to demolish the building and then clear all that rubble. If it cost �75,000 to clear a bit of builders rubble, how much to clear the whole site? Ten times that - �750,000? Then we have our beach back to park more vehicles, I guess, more revenue for North Somerset Council?

JOHN CHRISTOPHER

Milton Lodge Hotel, Milton Road, Weston

Tradesmen

IT IS with deep regret that I have to inform you that I have not received a reply to my letter of September 6 from Councillor Elfan Ap Rees nor any of his colleagues as to how he/they would advise us regarding the financial deficit and inconvenience of the parking situation we are shortly to incur.

However, I will be thankful to all those tradesmen putting themselves out during their busy programme to obtain permits at our added expense in order to maintain our properties to the high standards expected by our revered council.

Meanwhile, I do so look forward to seeing the hordes of affluent shoppers streaming in to town to take advantage of the exiting new parking facilities shortly to be on offer and wish the local shops (that are still open) all the best as they benefit accordingly from the council’s foresight.

Sadly, I will not be one of them as I will be forced out of town during the opening hours but will no doubt benefit from the walking during the dark to and from the higher roads as it is very difficult to park in the evenings when the evening diners and party-goers take over.

But with all this in mind, and very conscious of the adverse effect all the rubbish on the streets may have on our esteemed visitors, I will of course take heed from Councillor John Crockford-Hawley’s comments in the Mercury on August 9, regarding “It is more the grot end of residents..,” and promise to take greater care of my community. So when in the process once again of advising a neighbour that there are recycling facilities not far away and that bin day is Friday, I do so hope that my kind intentions will this time be taken on board in a jolly sociable manner. Finally, I am still surprised at Rob Thomson’s (senior engineer highways and transport, North Somerset Council) statistics quoted to me on June 28: “We know from the 2001 census that 55 per cent of the town centre residences have at least one car. We’ve assumed this figure remains appropriate and therefore there are likely to be at least 600 vehicles registered in this area. Few properties have off-street parking spaces in the town centre so it’s fair to assume at least 400 vehicles need to be accommodated on-street.”

Have any local residents any comments on these figures?

S CLARKE

Hopkins Street, Weston

Pressing ahead

I AM appalled to hear that the council are pressing ahead with its policy to introduce parking meters outside residents’ homes near the town centre.

The annual charges are outrageous and unaffordable to most people who, let’s face it, don’t live in the most prestigious part of town.

I have returned to the place where I was born because my son lives here and I want to be near him.

He lives in George Street which is one of the roads affected and will shortly be closed to traffic for six weeks presumably for the instalment of the meters.

My son relies on part-time agency work as a lecturer in animal studies which is sporadic to say the least, these days.

He needs his car because most of the work he is offered is generally far from here. What about the elderly, people who work from home, those who stay at home to care for children etc? I used to live in Bath where the annual charge for a resident permit is �60 per year for parking in restricted areas but at least they don’t force you to move your car at 8am and not allow you to return until 5pm.

It’s bad enough to be charged �5 to park on the seafront (four hours) when all you want, as a resident, is to walk your dog along the promenade for a short stroll.

I am at a loss to understand the mindset of this council which can’t even get it together to fill the potholes on roads and repair pavements (which I have complained about) not to mention the litter on the streets.

PRISCILLA LANGRIDGE

Stanley Grove, Weston

I READ with great interest the latest report in the Weston Mercury that the Tropicana has been granted a stay of execution in favour of the Trop group.

At last someone in authority has come to their senses and given the Trop group more time and ordered members of the council to clean up the mess they created.

It was reported that this will cost �75,000 to clean up the mess and the leader of the council had the nerve to suggest that the cost of the clearance should be paid for by the ratepayers of North Somerset.

If we the public created a mess in the same way then North Somerset would clear it and then bill us personally. North Somerset should now do the same and bill those responsible.

The cost of the clean-up should be paid for by those who created the problem and that has to be our executive members of the council who allowed this to happen in the first place. They should be brought to account and pay up. I wonder if planning consent was ever given to Birse to use the Tropicana as a dumping ground? When will our elected members realise that Weston is supposed to be a so-called holiday resort. If Weston is to be worthy of that title then we must offer our visitors the facility they would expect at a holiday resort, a swimming pool. At the current time apart from the Grand Pier, Burnham holiday village and Brean have more to offer their guests on a daily basis or those on a longer stay.

A new promenade is not enough and that pathetic sea wall will be totally inadequate if we are faced with the same weather conditions of 1981 and 1990. If Derek Mead and the Trop group are unable to bring this project together and provide us with a pool then Weston will never ever have an all-weather facility for the residents or our guests to enjoy. Weston should then forfeit its title as a seaside resort described as Trop of the West Country, ever forward and countless other slogans.

Our elected members must have gone to ground and are nowhere to be heard on this subject, or perhaps they have been silenced or forced to follow the party line by our executive members who are frantically trying to demolish the mistakes they made by allowing heavy machinery and rubble to destroy what was there.

This is a local issue where party politics should play no part. The general public of Weston need to know where councillors stand regarding the Trop group then we can all vote accordingly at the next local elections. Let’s not forget Ian Pitch, of Winscombe, who pops up on a weekly basis and must be speaking on behalf of all those elected council members who are supporting the demolition of the Tropicana and unable to speak for themselves. All Mr Pitch is able to do is write letters and criticise others and has nothing to offer the residents of Weston. Can I suggest that you step aside and let those who have already achieved in life attempt to rebuild the Tropicana for one and all to enjoy. Mr Pitch this is not a saga as you suggested last week, this is the future of Weston as a holiday resort.

At least Derek Mead has already achieved in life and I am sure there is no personal financial gain from his project just satisfaction. I have met Mr Mead on several occasions but I do not speak for him and have never been a part of his PR machine as Mr Pitch suggested in a previous letter. I can assure you he definitely does not need me.

Nigel Ashton in an article last year asked the people of North Somerset, how can we save money? Now we have been told by Councillor Ashton our leader at North Somerset that he has to save �86million. Our council headed by him has spent between �30-�40million on new offices in Clevedon, the refurbishment of the Town Hall plus the purchase of more offices next door. Well Nigel, it’s not rocket science. Stop spending!

The development of a further 1,600 homes on the outskirts of Weston and the arrival of thousands of people will bring in 10s of millions pounds in rates and the economy of North Somerset. The development of the Tropicana would be a drop in the ocean.

Weston was able to support two pools in the past on the seafront when the population of Weston and North Somerset was a fraction of what is today, so what has gone wrong?

K PERRETT

Sandringham Hotel, Victoria Square, Weston

A FANTASTIC effort was made by the Michael family in restoring the Grand Pier but unfortunately, without some back up from the council like saving the Tropicana, I’m afraid that the new pier only serves as a life support system for the dying tourist industry of Weston.

Forward-thinking councils, like the one that had the promenade built 100 years ago, are sadly a thing of the past and have been replaced by ones like the present one, manned by people who are too comfortable with their expenses getting paid irrespective of the town’s fortunes.

It would take a bold person to lead the town back to prosperity with, say a marina scheme like the one shown, but to date I haven’t heard of anyone in the Town Hall who remotely fits that description. Look across the water at night - Cardiff, where a scheme like this has already been built. Cardiff can afford to keep their street lights on and I would suspect their public toilets open.

Maybe we should head-hunt some Cardiff councillors!

JAMES SCOTT

Moorland Road, Weston

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