Letters to the Editor, May 8, 2014

PUBLISHED: 14:27 09 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:27 09 May 2014

THE news that Weston's town centre police station is to close in the next couple of years and be replaced by a 'response hub' near junction 21 is no surprise.

This has been rumoured for some time and now, it seems, will become reality.

We want our police on the streets, not sat in buildings. So in that sense, the location of their office base is irrelevant, and better utilised, modern premises may add to their effectiveness. Indeed, for Worle and the villages around Weston, a junction 21 base may actually improve accessibility.

However, as is often the case with these decisions, it is not as simple as all that. There are three key issues that I am concerned about. First, the police enquiries desk moved from the police station to the Town Hall last year and will stay there, so the police will ‘remain at the heart of the community’ according to the Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens.

But that is not true. There are no police officers or even uniformed police support staff based at the Town Hall ‘enquiry desk’. Indeed, the police enquiry desk doesn’t really exist. It is the desk for library and various other council services which happens to double up as a police enquiry desk.

I have been told that if statements have to be taken, a serious crime reported or any trouble occurs, police officers have to be summoned from the police station across the road. How is that to work if the police base is at junction 21?

At the very least, surely there will need to be a real police presence at the Town Hall, instead of the current make believe arrangement? For goodness sake, there isn’t even a sign that says ‘police enquiries’, never mind a police officer.

Second, the police custody suites are being moved from Weston, and other police stations, to a new purpose-built custody centre in Bridgwater. When this plan was first suggested, I raised concerns about it. In future, when an arrest is made on the streets of Weston and Worle, people who have been charged will have to be transferred to Bridgwater. I have heard from police officers about the red tape that keeps them off the streets following an arrest. It is hardly going to make matters more efficient to have to traipse off to Bridgwater and back on every occasion.

Where does Weston’s new ‘response hub’ fit into this arrangement? Presumably, there will be no cells at all in Weston and our officers will be obliged to hit the M5. Good luck in the summer holidays boys and girls. Has this been properly taken into account?

Thirdly, Weston is a relatively low crime area, but we know that significant amounts of antisocial behaviour and crime are linked to the town centre and in particular the night-time economy. We have the singular advantage at present that our town police station is located in the heart of the town centre, making rapid response and prompt access to cells and wider police resources straightforward.

With the closure of the town centre police station and relocation out to junction 21, these benefits will be lost. I do worry whether or not this aspect has been fully thought through? Will the town centre beat team end up being located in the Town Hall, for example, as the only effective way of delivering policing the town centre area?

Despite assertions from Mrs Mountstevens, there are questions that need to be answered about the future of policing in Weston and Worle. As it happens, the Police and Crime Commissioner is attending the next town centre PACT meeting on Tuesday May 13 at 6.30pm at the Town Hall and I hope many residents will attend this and question her about these proposals. I certainly intend to.

CLLR MIKE BELL

Prospective Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Weston

George Street, Weston

THERE is outrage in Weston at the planned closure of the police station with the force relocating to a newly-built hub near junction 21 of the M5 motorway.

The idea is to give better coverage to rural communities, but I cannot imagine that there are many yobs in Yatton, con-men in Congresbury, hoodlums in Hewish or burglars in Banwell.

According to Chief Inspector Alex Cohen their cars can get held up by traffic congestion, but by the same token they can hit plenty of traffic in the five miles between the new hub and Weston town centre.

He also states that the changes relate to buildings rather than officers, saying that the present station is underused.

In financial terms this suggests that it is cheaper to build a spanking new building than make better use of the present station.

Surely it would be better to transfer the police reception desk from the town hall back to the station and if there is unused space let it out to law firms or similar agencies. Our MP John Penrose says that the move could have a positive impact with the emphasis on the word ‘could’ which hardly inspires confidence.

What next - the ambulance service and fire brigade moving out of town?

Weston is one of the biggest towns south of Bristol and its population nearly trebles during the holiday season, with most visitors heading for the seafront.

It is absolutely ridiculous to move the police five miles inland when their biggest need is in the town itself, and I hope there will be a big re-think before any final decision are made.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

WELL done, Judi Kisiel. Enjoy you retirement. Thank you so much for revitalising the Weston Mercury as its editor.

You resurrected a lame duck (broadsheet) of a local newspaper and presented us with a tabloid to be proud of.

It is to be hoped that the new editor, Simon Angear, will continue with the great work you have left him.

RON ELLIS

Westbrook Road, Milton

IT IS to Judi Kisiel’s credit that the Mercury has gone from strength to strength under her editorship.

At a time when the print media is under greater threat than ever, there can’t be many towns in the country that still enjoy a packed 80-page paper every week (and for only 80p too).

Ms Kisiel tells us that it ‘aims to tell readers what is happening in their neighbourhood, informing, shaping opinion and holding those in power and authority to account’.

While this is undoubtedly true, there is always room for a more robust and challenging stance on certain key matters of local concern.

Campaigning newspapers, large or small can still run stories that have a profound effect on us all - the exposure of MP’s expenses and revelations of widespread phone-hacking being just two examples.

Good luck to Simon Angear too. Under his stewardship, let’s hope that the Mercury flexes its muscles a bit more, asks more awkward questions of Weston’s great and good on our behalf and rattles some new cages in the process.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

IT SEEMS that Nick Corcos has not read the Mercury lately, or he would know of the flurry of letters and reports in the paper about the state of the bandstand in Grove Park.

He is wrong to blame Weston Town Council for the ‘outrageous state of decay in which it currently stands’.

The blame lies fairly and squarely with North Somerset Council; not with the town council.

The sooner we, as a town, break with North Somerset and take control of our own affairs, as Alderman Ken Lacey indicated in his letter, the better for Weston.

In one of my letters on the subject of the bandstand, I asked the Mercury to enquire of the relevant North Somerset councillor, Peter Bryant who is in charge of heritage and culture, how much it cost us to have kept scaffolding standing unused around the bandstand; rather than getting on with repairing it.

The Mercury did not get an answer from Mr Bryant and in the retiring editor’s article on her 25 years in the job, in which she disclosed Mr Bryant’s bad relationship with the paper, we may have the reason for that.

The Mercury reported that the Weston Town Trust has given £10,000 towards restoration work, and the Civic Society has donated £500. Since then, the condition of the bandstand has deteriorated further.

Surely the donations were sufficient to stop matters getting worse, if nothing else.

ROBERT CRAIG

Priory Road, Weston

NO, NICK Corcos, you are not the only person in the district who is truly appalled at the state of the late-Victorian bandstand in Grove Park.

If you had been a regular reader of this paper you would have seen many articles and letters published on the subject, one of those letters from myself, wherein I suggested donations be collected towards a repair project to be called ‘S.O.B.S.’ (Save Our Bandstand Soon).

John Horler (of Grove Park Café) has been inspired by my brilliant idea and tells me he will be organising collections during his live music events held every Sunday throughout the summer months.

I was honoured to be asked to go around with the bucket.

So, if you see me heading towards you wearing a big encouraging smile, please dig deep and support this good cause.

JUNE BASTABLE

Stanley Road, Weston

RE: CHARGING for public conveniences. Further to last week’s letters about the new charges being levied at Weston’s public lavatories, I write to remind people that years ago we were all expected to pay to use conveniences, hence the term ‘spend a penny’.

I do however think it’s a shame when the local economy is struggling already to bring in these charges that hit tourists and day-trippers. It costs a pound to walk down the Grand Pier now and heavens knows the cost of attempting to walk down Birnbeck Pier.

Us locals have no choice but to pay if we are caught short whilst strolling along the prom’, so I for one will save up and have a jolly good clearout for my 20 pence. One has to get value for money these days.

MISS J D MAPLETREE

Elmhyrst Road, Weston

I READ in last week’s Mercury that three people were stabbed plus the café in Grove Park was ransacked.

How many police were on duty in Weston at the time?

Plus the police station is closing down and Dolphin Square hasn’t started, what are North Somerset councillors and our MP doing about it. No wonder people are voting for UKIP.

S BARRINGTON

Beach Road, Weston

WITH reference to the access road to Hutton Moor Allotments, it is great to use the road again.

But I think the reason the badgers have not used the entrance since the subsidence is that they are probably using the entrance on the other side of the access road under the bramble bushes.

They are still about. I have seen the footprints.

D LAWRENCE

Laburnum Crescent, Weston

ALTHOUGH I am delighted for the over 50s that they have these wonderful facilities, wheelchair access, lifts, etc, I am in despair at the lack of similar facilities for younger disabled people who need wheelchair-friendly, adapted living units.

If you are disabled and between the age of 25 (when childhood support ends) and 50 plus you simply don’t exist.

For over a year we have been searching for such accommodation both in the public (housing association council) and private housing sectors but we are blocked at every turn.

It is time that this group are acknowledged and their housing needs met.

I am sure we are not the only family with a daughter physically disabled in her mid-years looking for independent living accommodation in Weston.

JOSEPHINE COATES

The Poplars, Weston

WE HAVE recently moved to Weston and do not frequent post offices that often but we needed a pre-addressed envelope and decided to use the one in Regent Street and could not believe our eyes when we walked through the door.

The place was full of nothing, none of the usual items on sale that you would expect from a post office the floor was dirty accompanied by bits of rubbish, a roped area guiding customers through to the counter, a small display of pre-addressed envelopes and an atmosphere and eerie silence except for a happy toddler in a buggy.

We spoke to the lady in front who told us that it had been like this for quite a while with no signs of improvement.

We felt sorry for the staff. How on earth do you expect anyone to be motivated looking at and working in such an environment? If this is what privatisation has done God help all of us.

PHIL LEWIS

Shrubbery Road, Weston

I LIVE next to Jubilee Park which is a good park for all to enjoy.

There are people there all the time but there are some people that think that they do not have to pick up their dog’s poo and it drives me mad as it’s the same people all the time.

If I had one of those long lens cameras I would not only send a photo of you to the council but to the Mercury as well to shame you.

Clean it up. You have the dog so you clean up after it.

MARTYN PORTSMOUTH

Colombo Crescent, Weston

DRIVING down Winterstoke Road a few days ago, I actually looked at the state of our premier industrial trading area as it will be seen by not only businessmen travelling to the town but by tourists enroute to the seafront (as directed by signage).

It looks terrible, resembling wasteland around some of our industrial towns hard hit in the recessions of the 70s and 80s which resulted in huge numbers of demolished giants of the industrial heartlands.

Surely even a good basic image of a town with a chronic unemployment problem is going to help attract new business to the town or even just improve the comments of visitors to their friends so that they consider their own trip to the seaside.

With Dolphin Square gone and a barren building plot in its place, surely everything is in an image of a town, wasteland, boarded up shops, shabby streets, falling down structures are not helping.

I’m sure the council will tell us they don’t have the money, well I’m quite happy as one of the thousands who pay their wages to endorse sacking a few of the high paid managers to employ a squad of enthusiastic young people and yes, pay them, to clean up the area. Those youngsters have a stake in this town and maybe they would be proud and perfectly suited to helping turn this towns fortunes to their own advantage, give them ownership of their own future.

PAUL BURNS

Sunnyside Road, Weston

A CALL from my son who has bought a house in Hampshire “Dad can you help me take down a dividing wall and clear the rubbish with your van?

“Yes son but I will need a permit for the waste site won’t I.

“No dad, it’s fine; the site is fantastic, they have a really great household item resale area, helpful site staff and segregated areas.”

When I got there one of the staff said: “Hi what have you got.”

“We’re knocking down a dividing wall it’s plaster covered brickwork.”

“Oh that’s heavy stuff I’ll sort a space close to the rubble bay. Look out for me waving you in.”

Interestingly Hampshire has highest recycling record in the country.

I get home to Weston and think; it’s Friday, while the van is dirty, I’ll do that long promised clear of the garden and shed rubbish so I can get the van ready for my sailing and windsurfing gear tomorrow.

I get to the tip, permit and letter in hand as required. Site attendant says: “It’s Friday.”

“I’ve got a permit!” “Have you got your letter? “Yes! “It says you can’t come on a Friday.” “Where?”

The attendant turns the letter over and low and behold at the bottom of the small print he points out Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10am to 4pm.

“Oh damn! I didn’t see that, why is that?” “So we got time to check your permit!”

“Well it’s really quiet now I really need my van for tomorrow”, I beg. “Sorry mate you’ll have to come back on Tuesday.”

Interestingly North Somerset has one of the highest rates of fly tipping.

Tell me which local authority offers the best customer care and best value for money.

Please don’t forget to vote at the next county council elections.

G LANE

Southside, Weston

RECENTLY I went onto the Steve Wright show, on BBC radio 2, to clarify a problem that has been bothering me.

Steve has a resident expert called Elvis who can answer any question put to him. This part of the show is called ‘Ask Elvis’ and members of the public are invited to ask questions that might not necessarily be answered correctly elsewhere by our governing institutions.

I contacted Elvis on the Steve Wright show to ask him my question. It was about the holes in our public roads around Weston. Even after the shortest of journeys in my car I am `All shook up` after driving over endless bumps in the highway. This problem is `Always on my mind` so I thought to myself `It’s now or never` and rang Elvis straight away. Luckily he was in the studio and I got through to him first time.

I was aware that the council sometimes feels inclined to repair pot-holes in our roads but do not repair ordinary `standard-sized` holes. Assuming that pot-holes are larger than standard holes my question to Elvis was about the definition and size of a pot-hole?

He told me that a pot-hole was a pot-hole... if I personally, deemed it to be one, irrespective of its size.

On the basis of Elvis’ expert response could you therefore proceed to repair every hole in the roads of North Somerset (starting with the ones nearest my house) as I deem all holes in our roads to be pot-holes. (Under the authority of my newly founded powers given to me by the one and only Elvis.)

Failure to complete this task will result in me asking Elvis to stand outside your town hall offices, (subject to his other bookings) guitar in hand, singing a song he might like to compose, about the poor quality of our tarmac public roads in and around Weston.

PETER MITCHELL

Wentworth Close, Worle

WHILE enquiring about the weather in Weston on April 26, the item about the Weston Gasworks caught my attention, especially the photo of the retort house.

From 1941 to 1947 I worked at the gasworks, first as a laboratory assistant and later as a chemist working rotating shifts. As the gasworks was an essential industry I was exempted from military service.

In 1947 the management decided that my position would be suitable for training prospective gas chemists and suggested that I look for another position. This would have required moving to another town, and the housing shortage at the time was a serious obstacle. Some friends had recently emigrated to the USA, and pointed out the opportunities available, especially for completing my education, which had been interrupted by shift work. I left for America in 1948.

From time to time I tried to find out what happened to the gasworks after North Sea natural gas became available. The only relevant information I have seen was photos of the remaining gas holders.

I would be happy to correspond with anyone who is interested in the history of the gasworks.

DESMOND ARMSTRONG

PO Box 1611, Jacksonville, Oregon 97530 USA

ONCE again I am writing to thank the lovely people of Weston, who donated so generously on Saturday, the grand total of £268 to help save Moon Bears, held in appalling conditions in bear farms across China and Vietnam.

So far we have released more than 400 bears to live in safety in our two sanctuaries in those countries. We are working tirelessly to achieve our goal of no bears being kept like this, it is barbaric and unnecessary, as there are available synthetic alternatives to bear bile on the market and they are much safer and less contaminated.

For more information, go to our website www.animalsasia.org

VIVIENNE SHAKESPEARE-JONES

Kidderminster Moon Bear Rescue Support Group, Dovetail Drive, Weston

WHEN my daughter Hannah and I were walking down Milton Road on or around March 5 we found a gold necklace with a name on it.

It was found on the path between the doctors’ surgery and Houlahans hairdressers.

Hannah is really keen to find the person that owns the necklace and return it to them. If you think this may belong to you or know anyone who has lost a necklace please contact me on 01934 514393 or email wayneandjoanne@tiscali.co.uk Many thanks.

JOANNE AND HANNAH LLOYD

Parklands Avenue, Worle

WHILST enjoying a short break (courtesy of Bakers Dolphin) in the Isle of Man last week, I spotted this parking sign near the beach at Port Erin and immediately thought this free parking for up to 16 hours in any one day is exactly what we need here in Weston.

Dream on.

KEITH STADDON

St Paul’s Road, Weston

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