Letters to the Editor, July 30, 2015
PUBLISHED: 10:29 31 July 2015 | UPDATED: 10:29 31 July 2015
I HAVE just spent another lovely long weekend in Weston from Cheltenham.
The very sad thing I noticed was the constant ‘attacking’ of holidaymakers trying to enjoy a family treat of fish and chips.
I, fortunately stayed in a hotel but felt so sorry for all those opposite the pier trying to enjoy their meal.
Please do something or I am sure families will go elsewhere.
Mendip Road, Cheltenham
THE news that North Somerset Council is one of the worst local authorities for unpaid council tax is shameful.
It shows that despite being, by its own admission, exceptionally heavy-handed with those who fall into arrears, it is still unable to collect what it due.
This really underlines the council’s financial inefficiency: a double-whammy for the people of North Somerset losing out twice. We end up paying more, but still we get cuts and a continued lack of investment in the things we need, particularly here in Weston.
But it’s not just council tax that North Somerset can’t collect. Where we ordinary citizens would be threatened with being taken to court and prosecuted if we miss a single council tax payment, others who owe the council large sums of money get away with paying nothing. I am referring to the owners of the site of the former Royal Pier Hotel, who still owe the people of North Somerset in excess of £100,000 for the demolition of that structure. This amount has been outstanding for five years now but still the council are doing nothing towards its recovery.
This financial ineptitude by the council is costing us money.
Weston Town councillor, Central Ward
Upper Kewstoke Road, Weston
FOLLOWING Councillor Mike Bell’s recently printed argument against further development of the SeaQuarium, I wonder – might the defiant walls of our old open air pool hold their new building?
Perhaps the proposed two storey addition, could be placed where the ‘Olympic sized’ diving board once stood (even possibly painted with some clever Trompe-l’oeil to remind us of it?) and thus perhaps, since the swimming pool is almost certainly not to be resurrected, this struggling site might be brought back into use once and for all, and be loved again.
Moving the SeaQuarium from its present position would re-open a lovely vista, and maybe the land on the Beach Lawns, where once stood a large and charming Victorian shelter, could be sold in little packages to folk who would like to place a memorial bench for a loved one, thus returning this sad little derelict site to a place where people can again sit and relax, with memories perhaps, but most of all, with Weston’s greatest asset, it’s lovely bay.
Severn Avenue, Weston
RESIDENTS of St Georges, make the most of the lovely smooth road surface in Shepherds Way.
It took 18 years of nagging to get it done, down a few months and BT are going to dig a channel across it. T’was ever thus.
Willow Gardens, St Georges
I ONCE again find myself writing to the Weston Mercury for the third time with concerns regarding the ridiculous car parking arrangements in and around Weston General Hospital.
I am convinced that Councillor Elfan Ap Rees fails to read the comments in the local rag.
When are the so-called leaders of this town going to listen to those having to put up with the parking on a daily basis. I’m sure that if it were outside his house he would have something to say.
Ash Grove, Uphill
WE NOW learn that the replacement of the dam at Knightstone is going to cost £50,000 on top of the original £250,000.
How can this be described as snagging, when it was a fundamental design failure? It was clear from the start that with this being the second installation in the world there was huge risk. The installation involved 24 identical panels that had to be filed to fit and then numbered with letters T, M and B for top, middle and bottom. Clearly storing under the site would not work with sand everywhere.
The manufacturers say ‘24 metres Dutchdam-Bold-3 installed within 45 minutes by two persons only’. Strange that these details are now not on its website.
Who was responsible for authorising this solution with all the operational and technical issues not being identified from the start? The main reason for the dam would appear to be that it would take less time for larger boats to get to the slipway. Classic.
To pass it off by saying the money is there is completely irresponsible for the management of our taxes. If the £300k was not needed what would happen to it?
PETER BARRINGTON CEng
Hutton Hill, Weston
COUNCILLOR John Crockford-Hawley made the point last week that drug dealing in Weston appears to operate unhindered by police action.
The newly arrived chief inspector denied that, and stated that police would act on information received.
Those of us who regularly walk the streets of Weston Town can spot the same old faces, the same old houses, the activities around the same old telephone boxes that has been going on for years.
The bicycle delivery service for drugs continues to be faster and more efficient than the Post Office, and might explain the recent phenomenon of unemployed people zipping around on brand new high-range bikes.
So shall we tell the police? A call to 999 is liable to be badly timed – no officers being available – or apparently annoying because it isn’t important enough (whatever it was), so to avoid upsetting call staff we try phoning 101 to be met with everyone being too busy to interrupt the endless trail of recorded messages trying to stop you reporting what you phoned about – thereby helping prove that “recorded crime is going down.”
Ah but I’m a cynic by nature, and the police have a rotten job what with the cuts and all. Fair enough, they do, but I have one question. As people are trying to report drug activity will most likely use 101, rather than 999, why is it that 101 has neither a ‘call-back’ or recorded message service?
Alma Street, Weston
WITH reference to the short article printed recently in your paper describing the dangerous speeds used by motorists when driving up the Scaurs in Worle, I would like to expand on Martin Board’s observations.
It is not only on the Scaurs where excessive speeds can be routinely observed. I have been a resident of Church Road for more than 20 years and have witnessed more near misses than I care to remember, the most recent being just last evening when a car heading towards Milton sped past, hit the kerb by Maywood House and veered across the road. Luckily there was no oncoming traffic on this occasion. We have had to replace our front door step when it has been hit and dislodged and have also retrieved countless wing mirrors and hub caps ripped form cars which have clipped the wall or step.
I have long been of the opinion that pedestrians are not catered for at all in this area and that the current road system is just an accident waiting to happen. Drivers using the Scaurs and Church Road would do well to remember that roads in this part of the village were built for the use of horse and cart centuries ago and have changed little since then. I believe traffic calming measures are long overdue.
E F RANKIN
Church Road, Worle
IS THE council tax payment department incompetent, without electricity, or is it just too much trouble for someone to press a few keys on a computer to change my council tax payments from 10 months to 12?
It is two years since I first requested this change, yet last year’s bill was spread over 10 months and despite writing again so was this year’s.
The council has responded to my letters since this year’s bill by sending statements showing how much I have paid – totally unnecessary as I already know that, yet no confirmation of 12 monthly payments for next year.
With the Mercury reporting £11million in unpaid council tax, surely the council should be encouraging more people to spread their payments over 12 rather than 10 months as the lower more affordable payments might prevent some of them from going into arrears.
In the meantime could someone pop a hamster in the wheel long enough to power up a computer and change my payments for next year onwards.
MRS J EDWARDS
Constable Drive, Worle
I AM writing because on Friday, July 24 my friend and I went to The Playhouse, Weston to watch Hits of Motown, which was one of the best shows ever.
We were so disappointed with the turn out for this amazing show, with the original Drifters member, Roy G Hemmings, its so sad that more people don’t support these shows. If we don’t, three brilliant people might not return to Weston and this will be a great loss. We try to go to The Playhouse at least once a month, don’t let us lose it.
Earlham Grove, Weston
THERE’S just one word for it “Brilliant”, I’m talking about Weston Operatic Society junior section, Oppitts, who last week gave a most enjoyable performance of the musical Cats at The Blakehay.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket last minute, for the Saturday matinee with a full house. What a show, the costumes, the choreography, the standard of singing, they surpassed themselves, shall I go on.
The Blakehay has produced some very successful shows in the past few years, long may it reign.
Jubilee Road, Weston
IT WAS encouraging to read the “questions about the nature and effectiveness of representative democracy” raised by David Drinkwater and others in connection with fox-hunting, or the lack of it. I think such questions are important, because they tie together a number of matters that are usually considered separately.
The main reason for foxhunting being supported in the past by the ruling class was surely the need to train the Cavalry. Acts of desperate gallantry by a relatively few skilled riders of fast horses and armed with lances, sabres and the occasional pistol, could turn the course of major battles between large armies of foot-soldiers, and decide the fate of nations. This sort of thing was last seen in England when a mounted police charge routed the coal-miners led by Arthur Scargill
One has to say that the hunting of foxes does not require ladies and gentlemen on horseback to leap dangerously over hedges and ditches. A pack of hounds though is an expensive tool, and money is raised for it by encouraging dangerous leaping, and the subsequent excitements of the Hunt Ball, etc. Some of the money then comes from Army salaries, while farmers make their hedges and ditches available.
In Scotland today whole packs of hounds are still allowed by law to “flush out” foxes, which must then be shot. The hounds may consider this is unfair, but they have no votes. Scottish people have votes, and until recently mostly elected Labour MPs; they have now decided to have Nationalist MPs, but from the fox’s point of view there is no difference, as it is only to humans that representative democracy matters. Humans in Weston have elected a Conservative, not for the first time, and there was a suggestion that Conservatives thought that on the question of fox-hunting, the Scottish model was the way to go. This might have been seen as promoting Unity amongst the realms of the United Kingdom, but it was quickly obvious that the Scottish Representatives would not agree to anything, so the matter was let drop.
The English foxes were probably pleased, as this meant they would continue to have only two dogs set on them at any one time, plus of course any number of guns. I am sure there will be a variety of views expressed about this, such as the desirability generally, of gun control. Like most true animal lovers I am against their slow death from shotgun wounds, though I appreciate the rhetorical force of talk about being savagely torn to pieces.
Returning to Representative Democracy, the topical example of it happening is now the vote by Parliament in 2013 not to authorise bombing in Syria. It seems that MPs did not realise that British pilots often have exchange posting with friendly Air Forces, something that has been going on for a long time, and neither they nor the Royal Navy ever considered that this could be affected by what a bunch of civilians in Westminster had decided. Who’s in charge? Well, probably the Americans anyway.
Leewood Road, Weston
I FELT I must email to say that tourism must be included as a main element of the town and its regeneration. Tourism and new tourism are vital to Weston. Indeed tourism according to North Somerset Council’s own figures was worth over £457million to the local economy in the year of 2013, the area attracted 8.15 million visitors for day trips and longer stays to the area in 2013 and these numbers look to be rising. Therefore a Tourist Information Centre (TIC) is vital, provides support and information (sometimes safety information) to visitors, residents and businesses, the result of enquiries to the TIC very often bringing money into the local economy. With a partnership between North Somerset Council, Weston Town Council, Weston College, local bus companies, attractions and businesses and the RNLI, surely a Tourist Information and Travel Centre can be provided - in fact a lot of the costs of a TIC are covered for by ticket and souvenir sales (souvenirs often exclusive to the TIC) and in the case of the current set up in the Winter Gardens also coffee and food sales. Another option is for a trust to run it or as in some resorts have a privately owned and run TIC.
It could be run by the existing experienced manager and a combination of employees, volunteers and also Weston College Tourism students and this could stay in the same location within the Winter Gardens where it is now, on the seafront. The current TIC at the Winter Gardens has a footfall of over 140,000 visitors per year. This proves that there is a need for a dedicated Tourist Information Centre. Even if as figures have been suggested 65 per cent of the total visitor numbers to the area use the internet to source information, there are 35 per cent who need a Tourist Information service - either face to face or by telephone, this is a lot of people.
Who will deal with the numerous telephone and other enquiries when there is no TIC?
Even those who use the internet may not want to use it on their holidays and also not everyone relies on Trip Advisor. A TIC has up-to-date information which needs to be constantly updated, touch screens cannot always be updated so easily, they are sometimes expensive to install and maintain, they cannot always be viewed when the sun is shining and they can break down. I spoke to TIC staff in other towns as they told me of examples of touch screens being broken for months. Also they told me that when the touch screens do actually work, that visitors do not trust them and still ask members of the team.
We are a well located seaside resort with the natural asset of a lovely coastline, let’s promote this properly.
Manilla Crescent, Weston
I AM sure I am not alone in realising that, when reading about the management of the promenade tidal defences, I should be crying rather than laughing.
We may have forgotten the failure to provide a safety barrier along the promenade which led to a huge cost. Again we are asked to swallow another extra cost attached to the new tidal barrier scheme. This is dismissed as ‘snagging and contingency’. Who commissioned the first scheme and from whom was advice sought and given, who signed it off and who snagged it? Can the taxpayer expect compensation from the commissioning agent for failing to provide a system fit for purpose? Will anyone be held to account? How much has the write off cost?
To paraphrase the Railway authorities ‘did we use the wrong sort of nuts’?
I remember reading that the Bouncing Bomb was tested in the Weston area during its development stage in World War Two. Those responsible for the barrier should make a mental note. The bomb was used successfully after snagging not before.
I do hope it’s not going to be a case of third time lucky.
Ashdene Road, Milton
IF I know anything about Weston residents, they are welcoming and famous for their seaside hospitality. As a community we also have been and remain understanding and tolerant. As a local resident myself, in my view, in some areas we have been too tolerant.
A case in point is in residential rehabilitation facilities. The council recognised in 2006 that as a community we have tried to facilitate and host people in need, but Weston had clearly done its bit and changes needed to be made, so the council decided to do battle to reduce such facilities on behalf of residents.
There were 270 bed spaces in 2006 for such care (these related to 13 registered premises) There were also a further 230 beds in unregistered supported housing and pseudo treatment centres. These centres have now been closed and there are just 16 beds available in supported housing. There are now currently 175 bed spaces within registered residential treatment in North Somerset (these bed spaces relate to nine registered premises) this equates to a 35 per cent reduction (95 fewer bed spaces). North Somerset also took action to safeguard residents by altering their overall approach to new build and change of use of existing buildings. They said: “In respect of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, there is currently an overprovision of care spaces in relation to needs generated by the existing population. Such facilities have created an actual or perceived adverse impact on existing communities and our approach is to resist any further proliferation of residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services in North Somerset.”
It is a pity that Cllr Crockford Hawley omitted to mention these facts, that he would have been aware of, in last week’s Mercury. Clearly there is still much more to be done on the subject, and I personally plan to continue the battle for a further reduction. I feel we have been and remain charitable as a community, but sadly it is simply not possible to help everyone.
North Somerset Council Central Ward
Aisecombe Way, Weston