Letters to the Editor, October 2, 2014

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THE continuing saga of the fate of Birnbeck Pier has been in the headlines again in recent weeks.

We have seen the slightly bizarre spectacle of public figures lining up to encourage someone who does not actually own the pier – Wahid Samady - to ‘step aside’, whilst those who have owned the pier for some years and done nothing with it – Urban Splash – seem to have been immune from criticism.

In the end it doesn’t really matter. I don’t believe that any private sector led scheme can come forward to save the pier and certainly not one that in any meaningful sense could hope to restore public access and enjoyment of the pier and island.

However, it strikes me that in the model adopted by those who saved Hastings Pier – and who are held up as the example for the Tropicana Trust to follow – we do actually have a pathway that might just work.

Hastings Pier was privately owned and being neglected. It was badly damaged by fire and by the elements, with no attempt at repairs and maintenance by an owner who had run out of ideas, money or both. Sound familiar?


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So the local community formed a charitable trust to save the pier, they fundraised and secured lottery funding and were able to come up with a viable plan for the future of the pier. The local council issued a Compulsory Purchase Order on the pier, took it over and immediately handed it over to the trust.

They then put their plan into action and restoration work is ongoing as I write. They hope that Hastings Pier will reopen in the spring of next year. It won’t be a massive, commercial pier, but it will be a sensitive restoration of a heritage building led by the aspirations of local residents. A people’s pier.

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Surely this is the route that we must follow here in Weston if we are to have any chance of saving Birnbeck? A Birnbeck Regeneration Trust already exists as a registered charity with the aim of restoring Birnbeck Pier and Island. Is it not now time for North Somerset Council, Weston Town Council, the Birnbeck Regeneration Trust and other interested parties to get together and make a fresh effort to move things forward?

More ping-pong between private owners with no real appetite to get things done will get us nowhere.

CLLR MIKE BELL

George Street, Weston

IT IS quite disgusting that North Somerset Council (NSC) has allowed Birnbeck Island and the old pier to get into the disgraceful state that it is in at the moment.

This is not just only of local interest but national too. It does have the power to enforce legislation on the owners why is it not using them?

NSC seems to have a policy of neglect on many of our prime sites as illustrated in the Mercury.

With regards to the article in last week’s edition regarding Birnbeck Pier and forthcoming ideas for its future, CNM will secure the ownership ‘imminently’, this is a development company based in Kingston in Surrey. Wahid Samady is the chairman of this company and co-owner of the Royal Pier Hotel that burnt down in June 2009. If this company and Mr Samady are in the position to restore Birnbeck Pier then how is it that the hotel has still not been restored and why are they looking for other investors to get involved? If they cannot afford to restore this piece of history then why don’t they offer it to someone who can?

Also if CNM Estates does not have the money to settle the council bill for clearing up the mess left by the fires that led to the destruction of the Royal Pier Hotel, then where are they going to find the money to buy the Old Pier from Urban Splash and as their plans have proved so unpopular why do this anyway?

Would it not benefit everyone in Weston if NSC forced Mr Samady’s hand for a compulsory purchase order to gain control of the pier and offer it to either the Old Pier Trust or to the Trop Trust who have charitable status, to tie in with the fundraising they will be doing for the Tropicana especially now they have Jess Steel from Jericho Road Solutions working alongside them, after all it was with Jess Steels help that Hastings Pier is now being restored.

MARTIN WOOLLS

South Road, Weston

I VISITED Grove Park recently and was pleasantly affected by the sight of the renovated bandstand.

My reaction was to say well done to North Somerset Council. Then I read in the Mercury that North Somerset Council had unanimously agreed to bring the erstwhile Tropicana site back to life, sooner rather than later, as an events space.

I proposed some 10 years ago that the space might be used for tennis tournaments, for an ice skating rink or a roller skating rink, or for a rose garden, as an interim measure until the pool could be restored.

It has taken North Somerset a long time, with many twists and turns on the way, to do the right thing, but better late than never.

As I was beginning to think that things are looking up at long last, I saw that North Somerset intends to auction the Hans Price purpose-built museum and library in the Boulevard. Will Councillor Lake say what the reserve price will be set at, given that the sale price is so low, and it still hasn’t sold?

I had read in the Mercury of the week before that the town council pays rent to North Somerset Council for the use of Grove House. Surely the solution would be for North Somerset to sell the old library building to the town council for the parish’s town hall at a nominal price. After all, a few years ago North Somerset leased Knightstone Island to a developer for a peppercorn rent for 200 years. If it can so generously advantage a developer, it should be able to do something of the sort for the people of Weston.

I commiserate with V Webley whose visit to the cinema at Burnham cost him £35 - £5 for the ticket to see the film, and £30 for the taxi to get him back to Weston, because the bus does not run after 6pm. What is needed is co-operation across the Weston Town Region, that is between Yatton, Blagdon, Highbridge and Burnham. The opening of the walking and cycling path across the Axe to Brean is a good beginning.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

WELL congratulations North Somerset Council (NSC). It was not long ago that the promenade was upgraded and NSC allowed the contractors to put the spoils into the old pool.

Then NSC put a contract out to empty the pool. Now NSC is going to upgrade the Tropicana after leaving it for 14 years. Why? It was not long ago it wanted to demolish it. Does it know what it is doing?

Cllr Lake stated in last week’s Mercury that he had instructed the work to be started sooner rather than later. Oh I just remembered that there are elections next year.

For info I don’t know Mr Mead, never met him but because of his bloody mindedness NSC has obviously taken notice. Good on you sir, keep on pushing and find those much-needed funds.

NSC has still not dealt with the road issues ie Winterstoke Road bus lane and also Morrisons and traffic lights on the roundabout but I expect it will all be sorted before the elections come around.

I have another issue I cannot understand and that is how can NSC afford to lease Carlton Street car park for £450,000 per year. How can that pay?

I will be looking with interest to see the list of candidates for the next year’s elections, ie Mr P?

Look out Mr Penrose. An empty cart will always make more noise!

JOHN TERRY

Hutton Park, Weston

WELL there we have it, after 14 years of wasted time and energy, chasing grand schemes to include a hotel, bowling alley and a cinema which no one wanted costing £50million plus, our council has now about turned, seen sense and committed £750,000 to re-open part of the Tropicana.

Had this investment been made available 14 years ago, prior to allowing this site to deteriorate to the state it is in today, the cost would have been far less, probably self-financing and may well have made a financial return on the initial investment. Most privately-owned bars, restaurants, clubs, shops, gift shops, and even the limited amount of toilets along the seafront make a profit, so why not the Tropicana, probably because it would be run by the current council and its staff.

I personally attended the council meeting last Wednesday; a senior council member was against handing the Tropicana over to Trop trust saying that all doors should remain open as someone else may come along and show an interest. Well our current council is still being dogmatic and fails to recognise that it has been trying to find someone with a credible scheme for the past 14 years without any success, so who is it to impose conditions when it has failed in the past over many years. It’s time for it to step aside and leave it to those who know how to achieve success and make a profit.

Can I suggest that those who have not seen the artist’s impression of the new Tropicana to look it up on the internet. This could be the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom and Weston’s jewel in the crown. Let us be worthy of Weston’s motto, ever forward.

It was interesting to note that not one councillor at that meeting recognised or preferred not to comment on the fact that they were all there discussing the Tropicana as a direct result of the effort, time and money forwarded by Councillor Mead and his intervention to stop the demolition of the Tropicana. No credit was afforded Cllr Mead what-so-ever. Had the current council had its way the Tropicana would have been demolished 12 months ago. Strange that they now feel the building could be viable. What does that tell us all?

The Trop trust with the best intention now has the time to bring its plan into being without interference or criticism from council members or others, if it fails then so be it, however I for one have a good feeling that this project can succeed and be successful given time.

At least the forthcoming season of 2015 will begin with an eyesore being removed from our seafront, something that could have been done long before now. We must all be grateful to Cllr Mead for this achievement as the credit belongs to him.

I am sure the best is yet to come for our Tropicana, once again given time.

KEN PERRETT

A Resident of Uphill

Sandringham Hotel, Victoria Square, Weston

IT IS such a great shame that nobody wants the old library building in the Boulevard and that it is being put up for auction.

I am surprised at the valuation of £250,000, which is the same price as a decent house, although I do understand that it is in need of some renovation.

The building would make an excellent museum and it would make sense if the current museum in Burlington Street could move in. After all the Boulevard site is far more accessible and, I would have thought, larger than the present museum site.

Maybe the town council could move from its current cramped conditions in Grove House. It would make a good town hall, after all the present town hall is owned by North Somerset Council and is not really a town hall any more. It is a good thing that John Crockford-Hawley ensured that the old library building was made a listed building because otherwise it could have been demolished and ugly flat built in its place.

There are far too many empty buildings in Weston, but none so as iconic as the old library and I am sure there are many readers of this newspaper that could come up with ideas that would keep the building as an essential part of the community.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

I READ your article regarding the call for a crossing to be created on Wansbrough Road with interest in last week’s Mercury.

As someone who has lived on the road my whole life, has used it as a pedestrian walking to Priory school and now using it as a driver, there has been a call for a crossing for many years, but I personally don’t think it’s the answer.

I use Wansbrough Road every day to commute to work and have witnessed people using and crossing it for a number of years. I feel that if pupils are considered to be ‘dicing with death’ and are responsible enough to walk to school on their own, then they need to learn how to use a road safely.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have seen people – not just school pupils – walk down Wansbrough Road as if it is a continuous road and not broken up by a number of side roads. With headphones blocking out the noise of traffic and eyes glued to phones with fingers moving 10 to the dozen, it’s no wonder people are considered to be ‘dicing with death’, but this has nothing to do with the traffic, it’s due to a lack of attention, concentration and awareness of how to use a road. Most people don’t look when they walk down the road let alone when they cross, yet if they were knocked down it would be the fault of the driver.

On all roads there are peak times of traffic and I’m not denying Wansbrough Road is busy, but with a small bit of care and attention from both pedestrians and drivers – some of whom do seem to use it as their own personal race track, there wouldn’t be a need for a crossing. I would however support traffic calming measures, but good luck to whoever is tasked with coming up with the best idea.

SAMANTHA BALL

Wansbrough Road, Worle

THIS letter is in response to Mark Redman’s suggestion that the areas around schools be limited to 20mph, as published on September 25.

I would suggest going one further, and reducing the speed limit in all residential areas, as well as the town centre, and Worle High Street to 20mph zones.

Most of the roads in the centre of town are very narrow, with pavements barely wide enough for two people to pass one another. Combine this with the often poor state of repair of the roads is a recipe for disaster. I’ve witnessed many close shaves, especially when drivers drive down those busy areas at the current speed limit, assuming that it is safe to do so.

Slowing traffic encourages people to walk into the non-pedestrianised shopping areas like Meadow Street and Orchard Street.

I for one would happily trade a few seconds of time getting to/leaving my home to help improve safety and encourage more trade to our local businesses.

It’s certainly been successful in Bristol, and we should not be afraid to follow in their footsteps, even in a more limited fashion.

ANTHONY YEATES

Palmer Street, Weston

WELL heaven help us if Councillor Ap Rees can’t see the solution to the St

Anne’s school problem.

As a commuter to Bristol along the A370 every day perhaps I could make a suggestion.

The reason so many cars were presumably caught speeding along this stretch of road is that it is a 40 speed limit for the sake of the school.

In my daily travels I don’t pass this school, in either direction, when it is actually open. At 6.45am and 4.30pm there are no children, in fact in the morning I never see anyone. And for 13 weeks a year it is closed for school holidays.

Why wasn’t a variable speed limit imposed when this was first changed? If cars knew

that the speed limit was there because the school was open it might have more of an effect.

We all know that in a perfect world everyone would obey the speed limit, but it isn’t a perfect world, and for Cllr Ap Rees’ information - there are signs saying ‘School’ - which I would have thought he would have been aware of, at least before he went to the meeting.

KAREN TAYLOR

Abbots Close, Worle

“I AM at a loss to understand what you actually want to be done. In an ideal world there wouldn’t be a school here. It is a highly-trafficked main road.”

This is the astonishing comment made by Elfan Ap Rees when addressing the concerns of staff and governors of St Anne’s Primary School, Hewish. Is the man stupid or just trying to appear so? What a ridiculous statement to make. The A370 through Hewish is incredibly dangerous and traffic speeds along it as if it were a motorway.

As we don’t live in an ideal world, and there is a school there, here’s a suggestion for you, Mr Ap Rees, (I hesitate to use the title Councillor as councillors are supposedly there to serve the public) reinstate speed cameras - both ways - enforce the speed limit and issue spot fines for anyone found breaking the speed limit. Not exactly rocket science Mr Ap Rees.

Would you be spouting such arrogant nonsense if a child was killed on this road?

TERRI BORASH

Maysgreen Lane, Hewish

I READ with interest all the objections to the proposed Sidcot School enhancement scheme to the sports field.

I really am surprised, if not disgusted by them, for not encouraging more sport activities. Due to all the Government and media coverage on obesity and unfit children, we should all be actively encouraging not only the players but also the committees that give up their valuable free time voluntarily.

My family was born and bred in this village as was my grandmother, mother and siblings, who down the generations have all used the sports facilities during their childhood.

Those people who have now moved into the neighbourhood have done so knowing that the playing field was in existence. The purpose of the proposed plan is merely to improve. There is clearly the need to enhance and upgrade.

Dr Gavin Rider’s comment: “This latest scheme will just compound the damage already done to the tranquillity of the village,” I ask what damage? If he means lighting, the street lights are just as ‘damaging’ but an essential part of living. This field has been a sports field for the last 100 years. He also states that ‘Winscombe has been voted the third best place to live in England’. It must be what it has to offer eg sport, shops, church, community spirit, etc.

The objectors who seem fit to take the matter to judicial review do not do so with the backing of all that live in the immediate vicinity of the sports field as we are led to believe many who live directly around the field are all for the improvements. The majority of village residents and those who live close to Winscombe are all in favour of this improvement, the village survey which resulted in the parish plan written three years ago proves this.

The three objecting homes have asked to limit their cost to merely £5,000 therefore the cost to the rest of the community will be an estimated £100,000 plus. I am one of the phantom residents Mr and Mrs McDowell, and this I object to most strongly. Why should we all have to pay? This should be their costs, they are the ones taking the matter to the bitter end, and after all it is for the good of the players who want to keep healthy and fit. We should all be behind them, or is it a case of not in my backyard?

JACKIE COTTEY

Wimblestone Road, Winscombe

AS DIRECTORS of the Weston Super Food Festival it is our great pleasure to thank everyone who helped to make it the success it was last weekend.

You know who you are - businesses, organisations and individuals. However, we particularly want to take this opportunity to thank (and congratulate) the one person without whom the festival just wouldn’t exist. Fellow director Sally Packer has worked tirelessly on behalf of the whole of Weston to organise, manage, persuade, juggle, create, problem-solve, etc, this amazing event.

The big question is – does Weston value it enough to want it to continue into the future? As a not-for-profit social enterprise company and without the sponsorship of a major national business (although many thanks to the local sponsors and organisations who currently help make it happen - including, of course, Weston Mercury) the festival does not have the benefit of a certain budget nor the luxury of a regular ‘team’ of people to share the workload and responsibility.

This letter, therefore, has two purposes. The first, to publicly thank Sally. The second is to ask the whole of Weston - businesses, organisations and individuals - to speak up now if you want to continue to enjoy Super Food Festivals into the future, and to offer whatever support you can. This means all of us. Complacency and inaction is not an option if we want a 2015 event.

Thank you again to everyone who was there or ‘behind the scenes’ in whatever capacity this year. Fingers crossed for next year. Supportive comments and offers of

help to superfoodfest@gmail.com please.

LESLEY ASMAN AND PETER JOHNSON

Hawthorn Hill, Worle

COMPARED with other towns I and my many relations have lived in, Weston, in my opinion, is especially well-served by publications telling you everything you want to know about the town.

The Mercury is a delight for schoolchildren, so many photographs of their activities and lists of their exam results. If you want to buy or sell just about everything the Mercury has the adverts.

North Somerset Life keeps you up-to-date with voluntary groups, gives you useful information, offers details of wonderful walks, all with one small article by the leader of the council (never party political). This magazine (so we pay for it without rates) comes into every household. A lifeline when your life meets troubles. So why is the Government suggesting it does not think it is good for us?

BARBARA SEATON

Martindale Road, Weston

ON BEHALF of Weston in Bloom, that is sponsored by Weston Town Council, I should like to say a big thank you to all of our volunteers for the splendid work they have done through the year resulting in a Gold Medal Award and an Outstanding Award for Worle in the South West in Bloom Competition.

Unfortunately a number of our volunteers have had to retire due to ill health, so we are now looking for more volunteers in order to keep up the high standard of our numerous floral projects throughout the town and in Worle.

If anyone is interested please contact Bert Filer on 01934 514057 or Zoe Scott at the Town Council telephone 632575.

BERT FILER

Vice Chairman Weston in Bloom

Cormorant Close, Weston

A BIG thank you to everyone who participated, supported and helped for the recent Family Walk Along The Prom Charity Walk.

Thanks also to sponsors Traditional Pasty Company, Grosvenor Park Advisory Partners, Bakkavor Desserts and Cheddar Water Ltd. Many thanks to Cllr David Hitchens (Chairman of North Somerset Council), Peter Trego (Somerset County Cricket Club) for appearing, thanks also to Sophie Michael and all the staff at The Seaward Hotel for the venue and great hospitality.

To all for helping making it an enjoyable success in aid of The RNLI, Weston General Hospital, The British Heart Foundation, the event hopes to have raised £1,500.

PAUL HOBBS

Event organiser, Canberra Road, Weston

A BIG thank you from Paula Grubb and her sisters and brothers to all the people who donated delicious cakes and raffle prizes for the Macmillan coffee morning on Saturday.

In all we raised a total of £493 in memory of our dear sister Helen Puddy and Derek Taylor who we lost this year.

PAULA GRUBB

Flamingo Crescent, Weston

I WOULD like to tell you of my experience approximately one year ago at Weston General Hospital.

A friend of mine had some pain in his leg, I have had some experience of medical issues and I recognised the bump in his leg as a deep vein thrombosis. We attended the hospital and after triage we waited in the waiting room. Whilst waiting, there were some people who had their feet on the wall as they took up two seats. There was some anti social behaviour. At various times the security staff walked through.

I had noticed many signs proclaiming that staff would not tolerate bad behaviour and violence. I should like to know what the most important people, the patients can tolerate, as there are no signs to be more respectful to each other and the patients.

As the hours ticked by I noticed there was no sign (in the waiting area) to say how long the waiting time actually was.

After five hours I walked outside and the sign, a hook on the wall with a round piece of plastic with a hole in it, stated four hours waiting time for A&E.

I told the lady in check in and she said she would alter it.

After six hours the people waiting (with children) were complaining. After seven hours the same people complained including me.

After seven and half hours (4.30am) my friend was seen and my diagnosis was confirmed. The whole episode was very traumatic (apart from my friend’s issue).

I duly complained to the hospital and contacted the PALS, which are supposed to help with such issues as procedure etc.

After many months I felt utter despair at the bureaucracy I had to endure in trying to get answers. Eventually a meeting was arranged.

At the meeting was a matron, the PALS manager and security. It was obvious to me that all the people apart from my friend and I knew each other and effectively were colleagues

They said they would look at signs re bad behaviour, and at better signage outside and inside hospital re hours waiting.

Re security they said they only have two people for the whole site and they have no more power than the average citizen.

Look at better seating, as most of the seating is double seats, which encourage people to lay on the seats.

PALS manager said reference to seven hours wait that from August 1 2013 to January 28 2014 that 24,180 people attended A&E, of these 2.7 per cent waited more than seven hours, 94 per cent were treated in under four hours. She seems quite proud in telling me this.

So 2.7 per cent of 24,180 is around 650 people. To quote to me in percentages looks good, but I feel sure that 650 people would disagree.

After the meeting (at the hospital) I was told that they would let me know when it would be possible to view changes, and indeed after many, many weeks I was told to attend the hospital. When I attended I could not find anything that constituted changes.

This took many months of my time attending the hospital, phone calls, etc. The PALS (who I was told would assist me in arranging answers) were in my opinion poor.

After a while I was told the signs were in place regarding respect signs in the A&E department. The signs in question were alongside other signs but were at least a third smaller. I presume the staff is more important than the patients were.

Regarding the other issues raised I was told there is no money to put an electronic sign (which now has a permanent number four written on it with a permanent marker pen).

The seats (too much money to change) and anti social behaviour remains as there is in my opinion no deterrent. Signage remains poor.

I hasten to add that the staff at the hospital when my friend and I saw them eventually were excellent.

This is not about them but the people in the back office management, etc, most shocking were the PALS department.

After this I was told if I wish to complain to get in touch with the Ombudsman, which I did, with the help of SEAP which is a body who will help you bring any complaint. This I did however these are part of another bureaucratic system, indeed correspondence from the PALS office to my advocate calls him by his first name after some correspondence saying they (PALS office) would not supply information as they considered the case was closed.

After many more months meetings, etc, and a complaint to the Ombudsman they eventually said the hospital followed the procedure and dismissed my complaint.

In all it has taken since attending initially at the hospital one year to go through bureaucracy that in my opinion is weighted clearly in the public body’s favour, and I believe is in place to deter people from complaining in the first instance.

I do not wish to throw metaphoric stones at the NHS indeed I know that they are a find body. My dispute is with the bureaucracy behind it, which negates the good work staff are delivering in the actual service on the front line.

MR D J TINAY

Dunster Crescent, Weston

LAST week I attended the endoscopy clinic for the first time and was very worried not knowing what to expect and as there must be many other first time patients in that position, I would like to reassure fellow patients.

I was greeted by a team of very calm and professional staff, each one having a part in the procedure. The examination and scanning was a little uncomfortable but the care and consideration of Dr Bell, Mr Johnston and the superb team of nurses in the mini theatre were just amazing. I felt as though I was the only person that mattered and they did everything to prevent me feeling any paid and to feel safe in their hands.

I was so impressed with the care and consideration that I was given by all the staff in the clinic that I would have no anxiety or worry should another examination be necessary.

My thanks to all the staff in the endoscopy clinic.

BARBARA SLINGER

Dartmouth Close, Worle

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