Review of the year 2017: January, February and March
PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 December 2017
This year may be best remembered for two controversial subjects – the overnight closure of Weston A&E and parking. But 2017 was also filled with the generosity of strangers, people taking a stand in campaigns and well-attended events. Sarah Robinson takes a look back at how the year unfolded, starting with January, February and March.
• Generous Mercury readers ensured a three-year-old boy from Weston could walk for the first time in his life. Jacob Baird’s family needed to raise £75,000 so he could have life-changing surgery in America. Through countless fundraising events and the generous donations from the people of Weston, young Jacob, who has cerebral palsy, was able to take his first steps.
• The historically important ancient monument in Worlebury Woods was declared as ‘at risk’ by Historic England. The Iron Age hill fort suffered from antisocial behaviour and vandalism.
• A star-studded TV show was filmed on the Grand Pier. Comedian and actor Stephen Mangan was spotted filming a new Sky Atlantic comedy called Bliss. The show will air in 2018.
• Weston Town Council announced its commitment to repair the war memorial in Grove Park, which had been broken for decades. The bronze winged victory sculpture is missing its olive branch, and it is hoped the figure will be repaired in time for the World War One centenary commemorations in 2018.
• The Grand Pier’s future was secured with a seven-figure bank deal, which safeguarded the attraction’s 100 jobs.
• A host of improvements to the Winter Gardens’ 1920s pavilion were due to begin.
• Weston General Hospital continued to battle unprecedented demand and its alert status reached the highest possible level.
• Major changes were proposed for Weston General Hospital, in the first of a number of big announcements made by NHS bosses throughout this year. Suggestions put forward by health bosses included scaling back A&E to limit treatment between 10pm and 8am, and increasing the number of pre-planned operations. Consultation on some of these ideas will continue into 2018, while A&E proved to be a huge issue in the town later in 2017.
• A star-studded line-up including singer Newton Faulkner, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Reef and Sophie Ellis-Bextor was announced for the second Hazy Days Festival to be held at the Tropicana.
• Two helpless kittens were sealed in a carrier bag in a supermarket car park – with the RSPCA’s help, they were rescued and later adopted. Sadly one of the kittens died in freezing conditions.
• The owner of a Kewstoke recording studio managed to restore tapes of Bob Marley performances from 1974-1979. The recordings had been lost for years, and suffered from mould and water damage, but painstaking work by Martin Nichols ensured they could be heard again.
• Council tax bills were due to rise dramatically, but North Somerset Council still needed to make £10.4million in savings.
• And there was further bad news, as 12 Weston firefighter jobs were lost as a result of service cuts.
• Moor Lane Bridge in Worle was closed as North Somerset Council said it could not justify spending £100,000 on repairs.
• Weston College started a new partnership with Uphill Castle Cricket Club to develop cricket in the town.
• Weston College stepped in to save the Lauriston Hotel from closure. The specialist hotel for blind people, in Knightstone Road, was due to shut as the charity which ran it could no longer afford to do so. The college ensured the hotel’s future after buying it for an undisclosed fee.
• A 23-year-old Weston woman who was denied a heart operation on the NHS following a series of strokes was able to pay for surgery thanks to donations from Mercury readers. Steph Hooper needed £16,000 to pay to have a hole in her heart closed – and donations were given so quickly, it ensured the funds were raised in just one month.
• Car parking charges rose in Weston, with the price to park for 20 minutes increasing from 20p to 30p.
• More support was to be given to the town’s homeless, after the YMCA was presented with a £200,000 grant.
• Worle Community School became an academy as part of the Priory Learning Trust.
• Police launched a fresh appeal for information into the murder of 66-year-old Helen Fleet, who was stabbed in Worlebury Woods 30 years previously.
• Brunello Lounge restaurant opened on the seafront.
• Financial support for Weston RNLI was said to be dwindling as a result of the lack of progress being made on its new lifeboat station. The wait for a new station in the town continues.