Letters to the Editor, August 30, 2012

PUBLISHED: 15:15 30 August 2012

Mercury letters

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Adding insult to injury

I READ with interest a short article in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph reporting on how Thanet District Council in Kent will invest more than £10million in turning a derelict seafront landmark in Margate into the world’s first heritage amusement park.

It has apparently just received approval from the Communities and Local Government Secretary for the compulsory purchase of ‘Dreamland’ in Margate, which has been closed for the last seven years.

It struck me there were some comparisons possible with our own Tropicana saga. Thanet District Council covers an area of countryside and coast at the end of a major river estuary. It has three principal seaside towns, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, and it had a derelict but formerly magnificent beachside attraction in one of those towns - in many ways a very similar situation to our own North Somerset position.

Sadly, there the comparison ends as Thanet District Council is actively supporting its seaside heritage where as our district council is intending to pull part of ours down to give us more of what we already have too much of when the tide goes out – beach. To add insult to injury, unlike Thanet it does not even have to compulsory purchase the site as it already owns it.

The Thanet website advises that: “The project will celebrate the British seaside and popular culture with a focus on youth and cultural heritage. It is a major part of Margate’s regeneration programme creating volunteer, learning, training and employment opportunities for the local community.”

The major difference I can see is that Thanet appears to care about its seaside heritage and has been prepared to work with a local organisation, The Dreamland Trust, which developed from a local campaign to save the attraction. Sadly, our Tory dominated council seems to believe it is its purpose to oppose and hinder any constructive suggestions.

At the same time as arguing there is no public money to support or partner any proposed private investment, it has been prepared to spend millions on a new town hall in Clevedon and on the refurbishment and re-furnishing of its offices, and will spend even more to actually pull the Tropicana down.

It is also interesting to note that the same Communities and Local Government Secretary, Mr Pickles, who supported the Tory administration’s proposal for demolition and reportedly described the Tropicana as an “eyesore” appears to have taken a totally different tack with regard to the Margate project. Additionally, the project is receiving funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department of Culture and Media Sports and Sea Change Programme as well as the local council.

Why could not our council have pursued these avenues - especially since partnership with private investment was a possibility? Perhaps even more significantly, where was our local MP, Mr Penrose, who is apparently the Minister for Tourism? One would have thought he might be able to advise on these potential sources of public funds and might have had some slight interest in preserving part of Weston’s heritage and responding to the well expressed wishes of the people he is supposed to represent?

KEITH HARRISON

Atlantic Road South, Weston

Painful journey

IN THE weeks following the Secretary of State’s approval of the Tropicana demolition, it has become clear that Derek Mead does not handle defeat easily.

In last week’s Mercury he said that “we have had great success with the Olympic Games and here we have a Conservative council knocking down a viable swimming facility.” But we all now know that Trop WSM’s plan was unworkable, so why is Mr Mead still in a state of denial? And what difference did the political complexion of the council make to a scheme that was fundamentally, financially flawed?

Furthermore he seems to have lost the backing of a former supporter, Weston MP John Penrose. The Tourism Minister has said in the past that ‘if someone like Derek can’t make the Trop work, no-one can’. But Mr Penrose told the Mercury last week that “there’s no point in kidding ourselves. We have to move forward. The people who say they’re determined to fight on need to explain why they’re still backing a project that’s got no chance of working.”

It is also obvious from the letters that continue to appear in your columns that some Westonians still don’t understand why Whitehall declared that a new seafront pool was impracticable.

Again, the clearest explanation came from Mr Penrose who said “this decision is a pretty clear message that we’re banging our heads against a brick wall if we keep trying to put it in the old Trop building. If the Minister - who’s completely independent from all the campaigns and has no axe to grind - concluded that Trop WSM’s plans weren’t workable…then I’m afraid we have to face reality and start looking for a different site instead.”

When, at the end of a long and painful journey, will common sense and reason finally prevail over the whole Tropicana affair?

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

The final blow

WHEN we first moved to Weston it was a thriving town with plenty to do for young and old alike. Gradually over the years we have sat and watched the council bit by bit bring it to its knees.

Now the final blow is to demolish The Tropicana. Why? Where are we supposed to go to swim and enjoy ourselves? Unfortunately the sea at Weston has two tides and when it goes out it takes about 12 hours to return and some weeks you have no sea at all during the day. Would it not make more sense to rebuild the swimming pool so locals and holidaymakers alike have somewhere to swim all through the year so everyone can enjoy it again (if they put a sliding roof on it)?

Yes, we have local swimming baths which, I might add, are out of town so not easy to get to unless you have a car, which cater for lane swimmers, schools and clubs, but not where can you go and just swim or play about with your children.

Holidaymakers who come to Weston go to the seafront to enjoy its beautiful front and sometimes swim in the sea, if it’s in and not polluted. They do not want to have to travel out of town to have a swim, especially if they come by train or bus. Also, when the Tropicana was up and running, people from all over would come to Weston for the day, and would enjoy swimming in the pool and then have a family picnic near the water’s edge. It became a meeting place and brought families and holidaymakers together. This cannot be done in our local swimming baths.

Over the years North Somerset Council has had many offers to rebuild the pool and every attempt has failed or been turned down, yet a monstrosity of a building, called The Premier Inn, which is right on the seafront, has been built without any problem at all. It seems to us that if the council wants it then everything is passed, but if it doesn’t want it then every obstacle is put in the prospective buyer’s way.

In the past North Somerset Council has allowed buildings to be put up which are not in keeping with the rest of Weston, and are a complete eyesore, such as Weston College and Carlton Mansions.

It seems North Somerset Council can do and build what it likes regardless of what the taxpayers of Weston think. Surely it is about time the people of Weston should be allowed to vote as to what is erected and also what is to be pulled down; after all it is taxpayers’ money the council is playing with.

ALAN AND BARBARA BOARDMAN

Elm Tree Road, Locking

Problem solved?

IT SEEMS that we have two major problems in sunny, blue-skied, golden-sanded Weston.

First, with the Tropicana gone, or at least nearly gone, pending yet another legal action by the largely unfunded pool-savers, there is nowhere central for anyone to swim and we have the backing of our hard-working MP Mr John Penrose in our search for a new place to put a pool.

Secondly, the Central Library has moved and the derelict shell has been designated a listed building thanks to the never-ceasing efforts of Councillor John Crockford-Hawley. Whatever happens, the quaint old facade has to be retained, and, as it looks more like a Victorian swimming pool than anything else, there seems little that can be done with it.

Of course these two problems are completely unrelated, and, whilst I would never wish to be accused of being so old-fashioned as to be guilty of joined-up thinking, couldn’t they merge into one mutually satisfactory outcome?

MIKE ROGERS

Baker Street, Weston

At full capacity

I WRITE in response to Mrs Johnson’s recent letter expressing concern regarding the stray cat and kittens that a young couple had been feeding after they had arrived in their garden, and her criticism of the RSPCA at Brent Knoll for failing to take them in when requested to do so.

Her concerns are entirely understandable but I can assure her that the RSPCA would have dearly wanted to find space for them but is, in common with Cats Protection and other rescue agencies, under unprecedented pressure to take in animals that have been abandoned.

It is, as usual, working to full capacity with some 68 cats and kittens at the animal centre and in the care of its dedicated team of fosterers. In addition, there are a further 50 cats on the waiting list.

What many people do not realise is that RSPCA branches are totally responsible for raising every penny to fund their animal welfare work and the Brent Knoll Animal Centre costs more than £600 per day to run.

Mrs Johnson castigates the charity for being uncaring when nothing could be further from the truth.

Staff members are faced with challenging and often impossible situations on a daily basis and sometimes have to make difficult decisions.

Blame should instead be levelled at irresponsible owners who fail to have their cats neutered or micro-chipped and heartlessly abandon them when they are no longer wanted.

RITA HINTON

Branch Secretary, Brent Knoll Animal Centre, Brent Road, Brent Knoll

Interference

I WRITE in response to concerns held by residents local to the proposed Pilrow wind farm regarding its possible effects on television reception.

Broadview’s studies have identified that the proposed wind farm at Pilrow could degrade television signal by physically obstructing and therefore ‘reflecting’ a signal which is trying to pass through it.

There are currently three transmitters that send television signals to the area around the Pilrow site, all of which have completed the digital switchover and no longer transmit analogue signals. Ofcom states in its report on the effects of tall structures on television signals (specifically referencing wind turbines) that “digital systems are usually much more resistant to the effects of reflections.” Anyone who wishes to read this report can find it on the Ofcom website.

Nonetheless, there may still be properties that are affected. As the three transmitters serving the area are in different locations, it will be a very simple exercise to switch to an alternative transmitter from which the signal is uninterrupted. Concerns have been expressed by some residents that switching to an alternative transmitter would mean that the local element to the programming would change. This may be the case depending on which transmitter is switched from and to, however, there are a number of further solutions.

Repositioning the aerial on the property may well solve any interference problems without switching transmitters. In the event that it does not, there are subscription free satellite packages available which will receive local channels, will not be affected by the proposed wind turbines, and which Broadview will set up and install where necessary.

It is Broadview’s intention to undertake a survey of signal strength at the potentially affected homes prior to construction of the wind farm, so that any signal degradation as a result of the wind farm will be easily identified and an appropriate mitigation solution employed. It is common practice for this to be a condition of any planning permission granted for a wind farm, and it is Broadview’s intention to agree this with Sedgemoor District Council.

Importantly, whilst problems with television reception are unlikely, any that are experienced as a result of the wind farm can and will be addressed by Broadview and will not be left to the householder to sort out themselves.

TOM COSGROVE

Broadview Energy Ltd,

New Cavendish Street, London

Obliged to provide

HAVING read Councillor Bryant’s letter regarding collection of refuse, I have a few comments to add.

He states: “We do have to make an additional charge for collecting large items, as not everyone requires this service and it wouldn’t be fair to spread the cost across all council taxpayers.”

Mr Bryant, I don’t have children of school, college or university age, but I still have to contribute to this cost within my council tax.

As I understand it, refuse collection is a service councils are obliged to provide, not to use it as an extra source of income when it suits them.

PATRICIA EDWARDS

Griffen Road, Weston

Marked down

FIRSTLY, I would like to point out that we are just an ordinary working class family.

My daughter had not been doing too well in her GCSE maths and mock results placed her at D grade. In other subjects she is pretty good and we already knew she had made the A grade in her level 2 creative media diploma modules that make up the full diploma and a C to B in her English language. But the fact is she could only be awarded the full diploma if she got a grade C or above in maths. Grading at D level would not be good enough for her to progress.

If she were awarded her level 2 diploma she could then go on to college to study for a higher level 3 diploma in media and film studies and AS photography. She had provisionally booked her place at Bridgwater College in Somerset. This is her chosen career path and eventually she wants to work in film or television.

She is still only 15 as her birthday is on August 29 and yet she has taken all of her GCSEs. She has always been at a disadvantage with respect to other students in her year because she is almost a year younger than some of her classmates.

However, the Government has moved the goalposts in ‘marking down’ the recent GCSE exam papers. I can understand this if re-working the system was planned for say five years’ time, but it is wrong to down-mark exam papers midway through an academic exam year.

The whole thing is a disgrace and the Government has affected the future further education path and careers of this year’s students. It should be ashamed of itself. I demand a public enquiry leading to those exam papers being re-marked to the standard they should have been.

I am pleased to say my daughter got her C grade in maths and a C grade in English language but her teacher thought she would get a B in English. Maybe she would have done, maybe she should have done, but nonetheless, she is going to Bridgwater College in September. That is a fantastic result and a whole lot of relief for the rest of the family. But things could have been very different because of blithering Government idiots tinkering with our education system.

PETER MITCHELL

Wentworth Close, Worle

Medal winners

COUNCILLORS should do a little more research before making a final decision as regards to any proposed Olympic Gardens in Weston if they wish to build on the achievements of the 2012 games.

Have they never heard of Thomas Henry Thould? He was a native of Weston, born in 1886 and living in Albert Road and passing away in 1971. He was a winner of gold medals for polo in 1908 and 1912, and many more medals in other events too numerous to mention.

All these medals, along with his swimwear and memorabilia, were all sold at Clevedon Salerooms a few years ago after the death of his daughter, Barbara, who was also a successful swimmer along with those of her mother, Alice, who gained many medals for swimming.

Barbara remained single having served in the army during the last war.

The gardens should just be named Olympic Memorial Gardens with the names of the gold medallists underneath, after all he was a native of Weston and should be recognised as such.

MRS B STEAWARD (nee THOULD)

Church Road, Winscombe

Forgotten them

MY FATHER fought in France in World War One and for more than 70 years I remember the saying ‘We will remember them.’ Alas, I fear we have forgotten them.

I refer to the memorial garden at the junction of Grove Road and Milton Road. It is a disgrace, overgrown with weeds and brambles over five feet high, and covered in rubbish. A few years ago over £8,000 was spent on roses but they are now choked with weeds.

I have called the council. It took ages to be put through to the right department then I had to wait while the man I spoke to found the spot on a map, but still no results. Please, let us remember them.

HELEN WHEATLEY

Woodcliff Road, Weston

Priced out

NORTH Somerset Council is planning to sell-off Weston Court in Oldmixon Crescent and the William Knowles Centre on Winterstoke Road.

This is in addition to the sale of Weston’s Central Library, designed by Victorian architect Hans Price, which is on the market for the knock down price of £350,000. A resurrected Weston Borough Council or Winterstoke District Council could scarcely do any worse than North Somerset Council.

Councillor Elfan Ap Rees is now saying that Weston is a ‘major tourist attraction’, and should not lose its direct train service to London. This recognition of Weston as a major tourist attraction has come too late.

It might still have been, but for North Somerset Council, which has expended millions on moving council staff to Castlewood in Clevedon and renovating Weston Town Hall while doing nothing to attract visitors. In fact, it has been pricing them out of the town with expensive parking charges and now parking meters. There is a limit to what North Somerset can extract from Weston without putting anything back, e.g. an all-year-round swimming pool on the seafront.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

WHY IS vandalism so rife? Is it down to drink, drugs, boredom or just a statement against all that is good?

Here in Weston we have recently had two illustrations of moronic vandalism, both aimed at establishments that help the tourist trade - the cafe in Grove Park and the sand sculptures. Some £3,000 of damage was sustained at John Horwood’s cafe and many of the sculptures on the beach were destroyed - all this at a time when tourist businesses are struggling against the weather that is threatening their very existence. There can be a number of reasons, but surely the real cause is the fact that we no longer have corporal punishment to act as a deterrent. If vandals could see that

the rest of us mean business then we might start to get back on the straight and narrow, or have we all finally lost the plot?

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

I HAVE read again that proposals are being discussed regarding a Severn Barrage and wanted to state my objections to the whole idea.

It would ruin the view from Weston out to sea, any railway/road on top would look unsightly and would be noisy and well as bad for the environment. Any pylons running from the barrage would be unsightly.

The barrage would be bad for wildlife and also silt up Weston’s lovely sandy beaches, this would be bad for tourism.

Maybe submersible turbines on the seabed would be something to consider instead.

STEVEN HARRISON

Manilla Crescent, Weston

YESTERDAY, I saw a man picking up dog poo.

What’s amazing about that, apart from the fact that a lot of people don’t bother?

This gentleman was blind, his dog a guide dog.

Hopefully others will take note and follow suit instead of turning a blind eye when their dogs perform.

M SHERWOOD

Monks Hill, Weston


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