Letters to the Editor, October 16, 2014

Help and advice will be offered to serving and ex armed forces members

Help and advice will be offered to serving and ex armed forces members - Credit: Archant

CLLR Bell advocates North Somerset Council (NSC) issuing a Compulsory Purchase Order on the Old Pier and then handing it over to the Birnbeck Pier Trust.

What does he imagine would then happen to the pier when, some years ago, the figure of £12million was cited for its reinstatement? I’ve no idea where such a figure came from but there is no doubt that a massive amount of money would be needed to make the pier safe and to turn it into an attraction for locals and visitors to the town.

However, it is pie-in-the-sky to imagine that any individual or organisation would be prepared to sink that sort of money into such a project. Those in the past who have claimed ownership were only interested in obtaining planning permission to build on the shoreline, something that NSC - quite rightly in my opinion - has consistently refused to grant. The associated offers to ‘reinstate’ the pier was, on every occasion, simply a sprat to catch a mackerel and one can imagine that the promised ‘reinstatement’ would have been at a very superficial level.

Unfortunately, the Old Pier is simply in the wrong position to attract the sort of visits which would ensure its long-term survival. Most importantly, there is no parking whatsoever at that end of the town except for a few spaces for those who want to tarry a while to admire the view.

As I have written before, the pier lost its raison d’etre in the early 1960s when the White Funnel Fleet (which operated the Campbell Steamers in the Bristol Channel) went bust and ceased to operate. Up until that point my mother found it easier to shop in Cardiff rather than endure the tortuous bus journey to Bristol but the increasing availability of cars was a final nail in White Funnel Fleet’s coffin. The pier has had no useful purpose since those days except as a lifeboat station and a popular casting point for local line fishermen.


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My love of Weston is second to none. I want to see the town flourish and fulfil its potential and sometimes that will require thinking outside the box. I suggest that the Old Pier should be demolished and Birnbeck Island restored to its original state - an attractive island just off the shoreline and accessible at low tide. I’ve been told that before the pier was built a local cow used to swim out to graze on the island so, at least in those days, it was capable of sustaining vegetation.

I am sure that the structure of the pier could be demolished for free with the contractors taking their profits from the scrap metal produced. I commend this suggestion as being worthy of consideration and debate.

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JOHN LEY-MORGAN

Elmsleigh Road, Weston

I WOULD like to thank Gareth Withers and his team for having a sort out at Ashcombe Park.

There is some way to go, but we are seeing light. Perhaps something could be done concerning the tennis courts in Ashcombe Park?

Comparing it with the tennis courts at Clevedon it looks like a scrap yard. So how about Weston Town Council taking over the tennis courts?

They seem to have loads of money to spend on The Blakehay and the tourist side of Weston.

How about spending it for the people of Weston and up-grade areas that have been left to decay.

After all it’s their money you’re spending.

CLLR CLIVE DARKE

Weston Town Council

Forest Drive, Weston

I READ in the Mercury that tourism contributed more than £457million to North Somerset.

That raises a number of questions. Why is Weston’s central ward one of the most deprived wards in the country? Why has Birnbeck Pier been left to deteriorate? Why has Weston’s seafront pool not been re-opened? Why has the Hans Price designed museum and library in the Boulevard been put up for auction, after not selling (despite being priced at the same level as an average house), rather than being given to the town for community use? Why did North Somerset Council put out the begging bowl for the restoration of the Grove Park bandstand?

It is obvious that Weston and the surrounding villages are not being adequately served by North Somerset Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. Clearly, North Somerset’s southern area needs powers to invest that £457million locally within the Weston town region.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

I THINK it’s such a shame that the old library is up for sale.

What about the council giving it back to the town and creating a gallery, media centre, photography and classes for all ages relating to the arts?

This town has no cultural identity and when we have thousands of tourists here, as is often the case, it would bring people off the beach. Who needs another block of flats when we really need the arts that people love getting involved in?

So come on everybody let’s stop this and have somewhere that people of all ages can get together and be creative in many ways. It’s the perfect site the perfect building.

CAROL DELANEY PENNY

Cecil Road. Weston

THERE is a huge lack of car parking space in Winscombe. There is also the fact that North Somerset Council has refused to register the two car parks as community assets, as the parish council has asked.

So Winscombe could lose its two car parks.

I have a solution: use part of the site at Woodborough Farm. The site is already allocated as a mixed use site for ‘housing, employment and possible community uses’ by North Somerset. This is also recorded on the latest map held in the town hall library.

You will have to act quickly as there seems to be some agreement to change the site from mixed use with the 100 houses to full housing with 184 houses.

There is no alternative area anywhere near Winscombe local centre for parking and Winscombe desperately needs more parking or it will become an employment free area like Banwell.

A public footpath from the north east corner of Woodborough Farm to the bride over Woodborough road already exists. All that is needed to make the path suitable for wheelchairs or mobility scooters is tarmac or concrete, as the slope is a gentle gradient.

Creating a new access at the south east corner will allow an overspill from the car parks at the recreation ground for the football, rugby, cricket and evening entertainment crowds. Maybe also Sidcot School sports activities. (There are already two pedestrian access paths between the Woodborough Farm site and The Lynch but neither will be obvious to the casual visitor.

Winscombe is nowadays the meeting point for many hillwalking groups which floods our existing car parks. On most fine days the King’s Wood car park at Shut Shelve is overflowing with the consequence that on-the-road parking restricts Winscombe Hill.

Obviously the many people walking on the Strawberry Line would now have a proper car parking area.

Parking off The Lynch road for the Lynch Chapel becomes available for its religious, community and Montessori activities.

The car park could be a coach park, as we have none. This would stop the German coach blocking The Lynch road during football tournament week.

Small businesses try to park their large vans and small lorries in the two existing car parks but are discouraged at present. Here is a place to park off the highway.

A small part of the existing car parks is taken up by recycling bins so recycling could be expanded if transferred to Woodborough farm.

One of the two roadside cafés in Winscombe could transfer to the beauty and tranquillity of the Strawberry Line.

I hope that you like my solution.

Also we need car parking at the church, up Winscombe Hill.

We need an additional lay-by type of bus stop on Woodborough Road opposite Church Road, especially if additional housing is created. The current bus stop is off the highway on the triangle at the base of Church Road. The problem is that this bus stop on the south side, is for traffic in both directions. Buses on the north side stop on the highway, on the bend in the road, as it is dangerous to cross to the south. The pedestrians then have to cross from the bus stop on the south to the bus waiting on the north. Danger exists for pedestrians and traffic.

DOUGLAS THOMSON

Church Road, Winscombe

I CONTINUE to be saddened at the lengths a handful of vociferous Winscombe Nimbys will go to to oppose the planners decision and the wishes of the silent majority of reasonably minded Winscombe residents.

I have lived in Winscombe all of my life, as have my children and grandchildren, all of us at different times playing an active part in the rugby, hockey and football clubs, their friends and families running to hundreds who support the application.

The playing fields are not being extended, merely the addition of an all-weather surface and lights, which are already in place on the football, rugby and tennis areas. George Berry declares his lifelong love and support for all things sporting in Winscombe yet is going to great lengths to oppose this plan, perhaps his home overlooking the area is affecting his judgement?

ADRIAN ELLIS

Wimblestone Road, Winscombe

WITH the advent of the Localism Bill and the proposals for Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDP) last year, the Winscombe and Sandford Parish Council chairman of the planning committee, along with other councillors and the parish clerk, carried out an extensive investigation and research into the advantages and disadvantages of carrying out an NDP.

This included visiting the two pilot schemes at Long Ashton and Backwell, talks with senior planning officers and members of North Somerset Council.

Their proposals were presented to the full parish council who agreed that post Core Strategy development of Woodborough Farm and the Chestnuts, it would not be cost effective to develop a NDP as there is no intention of developing any commercial, industrial or retain units or estates in the parish and any further residential areas would be on a small scale thus retaining the status quo. Therefore the parish council policy towards an NDP is a very firm no.

Why then was Cllr Cresten Boase permitted to resurrect the NDP project without parish council permission, call a public without parish council permission.

Most of the people attending that meeting thought they were going to discuss the Woodborough Farm and Chestnuts developments and that the meeting was called by the parish council. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This was purely a Cresten Boase initiative. She failed to explain the parish council position and the whole meeting was an attempt by Cllr Boase to ride roughshod over authority and present the parish council in a bad light.

If she wants to continue as a private individual with this fatuous action group, then she should resign from the parish council and organise it as a private citizen, but at the same time realise her action group will receive no support from the parish council or North Somerset Council.

Should she not wish to resign, which would be a shame, then she should tow the line and stick to parish council policy.

STEVE BRIDGES

Parish councillor, Hillyfields, Winscombe

AN OVERWHELMING majority vote in favour of bringing forward a neighbourhood development plan for Winscombe and Sandford was the real news item of the public meeting in Winscombe on October 2, not the behaviour of Cllr Bridges headlined in your article of October 9 ‘Councillor booed over housing plan’.

For the record, it’s true that Cllr Bridges was resoundingly booed, first for telling parishioners that they were being ‘hoodwinked’, and then for disrupting the meeting by shouting out his objections to having a neighbourhood development plan, after which he left.

It’s not true that Cllr Bridges was booed for backing affordable housing, or that any of the three speakers, including myself, spoke out against new housing for Winscombe and Sandford, or that we suggested having a neighbourhood development plan as a way of blocking development, as the article implies.

People at the meeting, including nine parish councillors, heard from us how any neighbourhood development plan that goes ahead must be in line with North Somerset Council’s Core Strategy and the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework.

Although the Council’s Core Strategy figures for new housing haven’t been decided yet, approximately 21,000 new houses are suggested, which will put considerable pressure on the council to find new sites for 3,000 of these. For Winscombe and Sandford, this is likely to mean more development, over and above the 184 new houses Tuckerwood Developments propose for Woodborough Farm in Winscombe.

By law, the planning authority has to take account of a neighbourhood development plan, so even if there is no plan in place by the time the Woodborough Farm development goes through, it is still worthwhile to decide a neighbourhood development plan for the community’s increased housing and infrastructure needs over the next 15 years. Several hundred more families will need food, energy, jobs, transport, education, medical care, recreational facilities and access to commuter routes. Having a neighbourhood development plan also means that the community gets a much bigger share of the Community Infrastructure Levy, 25 per cent uncapped, which the developers will have to pay for every house built.

Opponents at the meeting, and only two spoke up, cited the time, effort, and expense involved in preparing a plan. My answer is that this hasn’t stopped other parishes going ahead. Winscombe and Sandford are just as capable as Long Ashton and Backwell, who have already lodged their neighbourhood development plans for approval. Six parish councillors have already pledged support for a plan, which will be considered at our next parish council meeting on October 27.

Central Government is backing neighbourhood development plans, and parishes can apply for Central Government advice and funding. The local authority is paid by Central Government to support and process neighbourhood development plans.

In my view, the strongest opposition to any neighbourhood development plan is going to come from those developers and their followers who are against contributing to the improved infrastructure the community will need once developments go ahead.

CRESTEN BOASE

Parish councillor Winscombe and Sandford

Winscombe and Sandford Neighbourhood Action Group member

Roman Road, Sandford

I AM concerned as many others regarding the development of Yatton. My fear is that the people of Yatton have no idea of the extent of development being planned and the implications.

But more to the point that if they wish to object they need to contact either the North Somerset Council or Anabel Tall to register their objections. Objections have to be registered by November 1 2014 before the full planning application is put in. There is more than one developer ready to take advantage of a potentially disastrous decision for the village.

LESLEY GRIFFIN

The Old School, Yatton

WITH regards to the planning application for 80 houses at Brinsea Road, Congresbury. This land is farmland and should stay that way.

If this planning application is passed it would open the floodgates for more building firms to build even more houses which is what has happened in Yatton, as reported in the Mercury last week.

Yatton share the same doctors as Congresbury and they are already overstretched and even if there are only two children per household it would mean 160 children looking for school places.

Also how are the drainage and sewage system going to cope. There must be a point where they can’t take nay more.

I can remember when the centre of Congresbury was flooded including the cottage I was born in.

We were very lucky last year with all the rain we had. At the moment these fields soak up the water but if they are built on the water can only go down the drains putting more pressure on the drainage system and putting the village at risk of being flooded again.

We already have houses built on The Bell pub site and another 25 are being built down Mill Lane, Congresbury.

I think enough is enough no more houses in Congresbury especially on farmland.

TED CLARK

Chestnut Close, Congresbury

IN MY line of work it is necessary to pay close attention to detail and I get upset when I listen to people who don’t, for instance, making grandiose plans without considering the end results of that plan. I’ll give a couple of examples.

It is generally agreed that there could be shortages in the supply of electricity within five years, so why choose now to electrify the railway line to London and promote the use of electric cars?

Another thought. Water is a finite source and needs careful management so is it really helpful to impose another 20,000 homes on this sector, where the sewage system is allegedly at maximum capacity, at the same time as discussing licences for fracking which is a process utilising vast amounts of water in itself.

As I write this the authorities have taken people who have ebola virus out of the contaminated countries and taken them to areas that don’t have it so that we have already had accidental infections in Spain and Australia.

If people in authority continue to be unable to think things through properly life is going to get a lot tougher than it is now.

BRIAN AUSTIN

Alma Street, Weston

WHILST sitting on the seat in the bus shelter waiting for the number 83 bus, feeling fine and talking to other passengers, due to no fault of my own I made a spectacle of myself when I suddenly collapsed onto the pavement, resulting in bodily injury and feeling very poorly.

The driver of the bus was my Guardian Angel and Good Samaritan rolled into one, taking control of the situation, contacting the ambulance service and staying on line until the ambulance arrived.

Despite my repeated requests: “I need to get on your bus to get home as I am a carer to my very sick husband.” He assured me the bus was going nowhere until he was happy I was receiving medical assistance from the paramedics and in safe hands.

He certainly went the extra mile for me (not on the bus I hasten to add) providing extra special customer service. It’s people like him who make the world a nicer place to live in.

I sincerely hope he didn’t get in trouble with the manager when the bus was running late.

His kindness, caring and compassion was very much appreciated and for that I will always be grateful.

The paramedics stopped at my home on route to the hospital, to pick up my medical records, check on my husband, gave him oxygen and got a neighbour to stay with him.

MRS BRENDA PORTER

Uphill Road South, Uphill

I NOW read in the Mercury that Weston is going to lose one of its main summer attractions.

But why is this? The answer is our North Somerset Council is not prepared to support it by becoming a sponsor. Why?

This sand festival has proved itself over the past nine years. It has had more than 100,000 visitors this year alone.

Now the organisers are looking for a sponsor to enable them to expand and improve their already successful attraction.

They would like to be able to offer its and our visitors a permanent location where they did not have to dismantle everything every year but be able to leave it in place and be enabled to offer more facilities and attractions by improving the café and with a storage area facility. But it cannot continue to finance it unless it can come up with about £30,000 in sponsorship money now.

I read that a spokesman for North Somerset Council actually said and I quote: “It has been a pleasure to host the Sand Sculpture Festival on the seafront for a number of years, and the event has been enjoyed by thousands of visitors, many of whom have continued to return. We would like to wish the organisers every success with their future ventures.”

Is the council mad? Why is it so short sighted?

What is wrong with them?

Why can North Somerset Council not publish its very controversial own political advertising monthly publication called Life publication for two or three months and put the saving of its cost to sponsoring this fantastic advert for Weston.

I am sure the people of Weston wouldn’t miss it for two issues.

At least the town would be getting good value for its money. It could add any cost to its promotions and advertising budget.

Here we have an asset on the Weston sands over the last nine years have proved, in fact I think over one million visitors have passed through its gates over the nine years.

Does it actually affect our beach that much? So what if the council gives it more room? It’s not as if people have not got used to it and I have never heard of anyone complaining.

I am sure if Nicola Wood, the organiser, was able to agree with the council Weston would be proud to have it and maybe even we could have the feature open nearly all the year. All they need is the sponsor able to put up £30,000 which would also keep Weston with a special feature almost unique in England.

Weston is to have a fairly large leisure complex nine hole mini golf course and a pirate ship on the Beach Lawns very near to the Grand Atlantic Hotel, so why not let the sand sculptures have the same amount of space but on the sands, and with no noise.

LAURENCE F ORME

Shrubbery Avenue, Weston

IT WOULD be a great shame if the sand sculpture exhibition could not return for its 10th anniversary next year, especially as 100,000 visitors have passed through the gate this summer.

It is only a thought but would it not be possible to relocate to the revamped Tropicana next summer, I am sure some space could be found to accommodate the exhibition?

Security would be much better and the more permanent structures could remain in situ. There is a side entrance for the sand to be taken into the Trop and it would make an interesting addition to the events the council hopes to stage.

The current site of the sculptures blocks the sea views from four Victorian shelters on the promenade so it would be an added bonus if the fencing was removed.

Early this summer I wrote that the Weston tour bus was a waste of money and I stick by this statement even though the town council wants to update it next summer.

It is well documented that the service has not been a success in 2014 so why not just admit that it was an idea that should now be dropped and save us the £20,000 it has cost the taxpayers.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

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