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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Shoppers driven out of town as motorists are used as cash-cows

SIR – Copeland Council’s decision to increase car parking charges is yet another blunder. As usual the motorist is being used as a cash- cow, a simple method of obtaining extra revenue through the line of least resistance.

twtickets
driving shoppers out of town: Copeland Council has decided to increase car parking charges

What the council has again failed to realise is that revenue is not a simple bottom-line number – there are other, less obvious, effects which it would seem they are not considering or choose to ignore.

As a result of the charges currently applied, shoppers are not coming into town but instead going to where the charges are less or where parking is free – Tesco, Morrisons and more recently Asda, for instance. This has the effect of small businesses in the town shutting their doors for good, adding to the 30-plus empty shops in Whitehaven town centre.

The loss of revenue to the council from these empty shops and the knock-on effect of wellbeing in the town does, in my opinion, amount to more than any revenue from car parks. My views on car parking charges in Whitehaven town centre are well-known – they should be much less than they are now, with periods of free parking, where someone coming into town for, say, a visit to one establishment and then leaving should be accommodated, or the first part of a longer stay free.

Some time ago, for some insane reason, Copeland Council handed on a plate most of the car parking spaces in town to the Harbour Commissioners who now take whatever revenue comes from that. It is noticeable that the loss of revenue from these car parks is not mentioned in the report. The figures given in the report are somewhat confusing: it states that free weekend parking would cost the council £168,000 and yet a 2.5 per cent increase would only fetch in £8,579. Perhaps someone might explain?

While on the subject of the harbour, I think the people of Whitehaven are entitled to an explanation for the granting of planning permission to Magnus Homes for the development of the swimming baths scheme.

It seems most of the planning committee were originally against the application as it was, but then miraculously fell in line with the demands of the chief planning officer as soon as costs against the council were raised. This in my opinion is not a reason that should have been brought into the equation. Talk about democracy, it’s like the European Union – if you don’t get the result you want, just keep voting until you do.

That the area needs developed is not in question, but the scheme just passed does not even resemble a Georgian town. A much more sympathetic design could have been used, but then that might have affected the profits of the developer. I mean, five floors! Just think of the apartments that will bring. It makes one wonder what threats, covert or otherwise, were issued to the planning officers that it was either this or they would walk away.

It also raises the question, when there are 30-plus empty shops in the main street areas, and still not all of the retail units in Pears House have been occupied since completion, who might the council suggest is going to occupy the retail units in the new development?

Allan MOSSOP

West Cumbria chair

Federation of Small Business

HOSPITAL

Sellafield should sponsor ward

SIR – I am a regular reader of The Whitehaven News and it appears that there is some question as to the future of the West Cumberland Hospital.

Might I suggest that, to partially help to maintain its future, Sellafield sponsor a whole ward? This would be for day-patients only, so that in the event of an emergency at Sellafield the ward could be quickly emptied of day patients and used for casualties from Sellafield.

Very briefly, the ward would need a dedicated supply of HP&S monitoring instruments, decontamination unit etc and staff who knew how to process contaminated/injured people.

Obviously HP&S staff could be sent from Sellafield and to such end there should be a “rehearsed” accident on one day of each year, with health and safety inspectors present and involving hospital and Sellafield personnel.

Obviously this is quite sketchy but I feel it would be of good use if needed.

B BRADLEY

Oxcliffe Road, Heysham

SIR – Elsewhere in the UK, the PFI acronym stands for Private Finance Initiative, a way of creating “public–private partnerships” (PPPs) by funding public infrastructure projects with private capital.

However, as Ed Balls in a Times Educational Supplement in 2010 said: “Carlisle is a long way from London”. His comment was made about the Richard Rose Academy PFI debacle and he further said: “The lack of a local body meant the problems were not acted upon at an earlier stage” and “no one thought it was their responsibility to understand what was actually happening”.

It would seem that his comments are also relevant to the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust’s handling of the Cumberland Infirmary PFI, which now basically has an £18million annual ‘rental’ problem it can’t afford. This is what currently jeopardises not only the Cumberland Infirmary but also the West Cumberland Hospital.

Obviously Ed Balls and Tony Blair failed to understand that PFI could be translated as ‘Public Foul-up Initiative’ as has been done so well by our public servants.

It is thus a shame that Mr Reed did not campaign for HIS party to provide a ‘bail out’ in 2006 (their supposed affluent years) instead of just marching back then.

Arthur MILLIE

Longcroft, Egremont

SIR – I should like to add my commendation of the staff at West Cumberland Hospital to that by Tim Knowles (The Whitehaven News, letters, November 17).

The care and attention I received there before, during and after a recent cataract operation were superb in every respect.

Peter WILSON

Wasdale Park, Seascale

SIR – Hideous Harbour Horror. Like many people I am appalled at the decision to approve the latest harbour-side development of the old Mark House site.

Both the planning officers and the Copeland councillors on the planning panel who caved in under pressure, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Only Coun Haraldsen seems to have had the sense to see the failings of this design and what it will do to the harbour and town.

No one ever suggested keeping the ugly 1960s buildings that are on the site but to replace them with an even uglier monster of a building seems ludicrous. Many people have commented that the style is more fitting for the beach resorts of Miami or the Spanish Costas. New developments can look very good; for example, look at the new flats in Irish Street or the southern end of the harbour.

What is particularly awful is that the planning officers have, in my view, totally disregarded the guidelines for development within a conservation area. Their own suggestion for this development within the Whitehaven town centre conservation area states: “Site development should be good quality architecture which improves and enhances the character of the conservation area and does not detract from or overwhelm the setting of nearby listed buildings in New Lowther Street or Duke Street.”

For the chief planning officer to say there are no good planning reasons to refuse this plan is ridiculous. Here are a few which appear to have been ignored:

in a conservation area any development should preserve or enhance the area;

new developments should use traditional materials;

the detailing and design should compliment the prevailing form and character of the area;

the development should be of a suitable scale and size to the surrounding buildings.

As for the Copeland councillors on the planning panel they should be more aware of planning issues. Coun Docherty does not seem to know the criteria for a conservation area and Coun Wormstrup is completely wrong to say that there are “little or no Georgian buildings in this part of town”. Where has he been looking?

Those who did not approve of the plans but still voted for them or abstained have done the town a great disservice.

Mrs Christine O’RIORDAN

Ravenglass

GRITTING

Harsh winter for rural people

SIR – I noted with interest the council gritting map for winter. I am sure people who live and own businesses in Eskdale and Wasdale were delighted to learn that for the third year running, depending on the weather, they will be cut off and isolated.

As Cumbria is mainly dependent on tourism in the rural areas, I assume that those running businesses or own holiday homes and accommodation in these valleys are going to receive a reduction in their council tax?

I also assume those living in the valley will also receive a reduction in council tax and road tax? Let’s face it, they pay the same (or more) as the rest of us so should receive the same benefits!

Maybe the Government should be ensuring business owners in the rural areas are actually able to provide the service they are in business to provide, instead of providing millions in aid to other countries (£80million to Rwanda, for example).

I work two days a week in Eskdale and should the roads prevent me from getting to work I shall certainly expect to claim benefits.

It is about time rural people demanded – and received – the same service from the local councils as those living in urban areas. There is no excuse!

S CLARKE

Drigg

SIR – The Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership is now encouraging the people of Cumbria to tell them whether the local authorities of Allerdale, Copeland and Cumbria should ‘volunteer’ to host the world’s first deep nuclear dump for high and intermediate level nuclear waste in West Cumbria.

This would be a very significant step to take, and we should be in no doubt that the idea of ‘volunteering’ is restricted to such local authorities, and NOT the many communities which would be affected.

The Government White Paper made this very clear in June 2008 (p55, clause 6.33) yet the Partnership has on many occasions reassured people about the ‘Right of Withdrawal’ by couching it in general terms, both in its literature and in its meetings and discussion groups.

There is no Right of Withdrawal for any communities nominated to host the dump – only the right on the part of a Community Siting Partnership to recommend it to a local council. And what’s more, the White Paper also says that “all parties in a Community Siting Partnership should work positively together to seek to avoid the need to exercise the Right of Withdrawal” (p56 para 6.39).

Therefore we should all be aware that NOW is the best chance we have to make sure we all understand what is involved here, and to make our views known.

For us in Friends of the Earth, the shabby way in which this expensive process has already misled people is bad enough. But it gets worse, there are 101 serious technical issues raised by Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates (www.nuclearwasteadvisory.co.uk). The NDA says it will address these at a later stage, when a commitment would be hard to reverse. So we could be facing a dump in an unsuitable place with hopes pinned on a technical fix, with massive engineering works and spoil heaps in the back door of our National Park, and potentially devastating effects on our economy, not to mention effects on the health of humans and other life-forms in the far-distant future.

This mess is the result of a dereliction of duty on the part of government and industry, who together, over the years, have failed to deal with nuclear waste at all – let alone deal with it properly and responsibly. This is what the people of Cumbria deserve, nothing less.

Dr Ruth BALOGH

Nuclear issues campaigner

West Cumbria & North Lakes Friends of the Earth

TUC ACTION

Be content with your wages

SIR – Singing their new song Let’s Work Together, we are invited to put our left foot forward on November 30, the TUC’s day of action.

Meanwhile, fresh from the taking of two high-office church scalps, St Paul’s protesters will not be out-sung. They too have a song called We are in this together.

That’s two songs with the same message. Wasteful duplicity seems to follow some people everywhere.

Join us, they cry, to “blame the Bankers for the squeeze on our public services and coveted pensions”.

Unfortunately , I can’t, I will be at work on Wednesday. In fact I work every Wednesday.

Bankers are lenders, who by definition need borrowers. Alas, I have borrowed, to take Wednesday off just doesn’t make sense. We lesser mortals (the borrowers) are never satisfied, and according to the TUC, never to be blamed. It’s all the fault of those greedy Bankers.

Do we want to “pay more, work longer for a smaller pension” they indignantly ask. Yes, yes, yes! of course we do, if it’s for the common good, if it will benefit all of us who are all in this together.

And “What would Jesus do?” the St Paul’s campers ask. Let’s ask him, or at least turn a few pages of his manifesto. If Jesus joined the march on the 30th, he would say again what he said in Luke chapter 3 verse 14, “Don’t intimidate anyone, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages”!

Raymond HALL

Isel Road, Cockermouth

SIR – As a regular visitor to the area I still consider myself a Whitehaven lad, having been born and raised here for the early part of my life.

On regular occasions I enjoy walking in this beautiful part of the world, particularly along the coastal walks that were the natural playground of my youth. One such regular walk takes me down South Row (Kells) turning left into an area known as Low Kells and on to the coastal path to St Bees.

Over the course of the past year or so I have noticed that the road surface of South Row has deteriorated dramatically. I accept that weather and normal wear and tear plays its part but the amount of heavy plant linked to the development of the former Kells School has surely taken its toll in rendering this formerly passable way into a minefield of pot holes and mud pools. Indeed recent conditions for both drivers and pedestrians have become positively dangerous; barriers surrounding road works have been left unsecured, heaped into piles inside areas of removed road or are often strewn across the road in the path of oncoming vehicles. Residents must face nightmare parking issues in addition to the risk of damage to their cars and properties from these obstacles. Emergency services would certainly have difficulty securing access in these conditions.

No surprise then to find my normal “Good morning” responded to with a barrage of angry complaints from locals.

“What’s good about it? Have you seen this lot? Look how filthy it all looks!”

One can only sympathise. From my perspective I am particularly saddened by the loss of a spectacular view from South Row across to Barrow Mouth, now scarred by a building site reminiscent of the reconstruction of the Pyramids heralding the building of, apparently, 70 plus houses that will permanently eradicate this precious and nostalgic view for so many Whitehaven folk.

Dodging yet more heavy plant I turn left from South Row into Low Kells. The road here is in an even worse state of repair, though credit to the cottage owners whom I have often seen filling in potholes in a vain attempt to keep a reasonable level of maintenance for coastal walk use.

Suddenly a favourite walk has become a sad statement of the times. The serenity of nature auctioned to the needs of corporate development. I sincerely hope that the naturally vast amounts of money involved will at least trickle down in some way to the benefit of local residents, eg at least in some part to limit the damage done by contributing to the repair and maintenance of local infrastructure and services.

It is certainly common practice to have contingent schedules attached to similar developments in the south of England to deal with these matters, a practice that is expected by town and city councillors and accepted by developers as a matter of course. No doubt the powers that be will argue a portion of the Kells development set aside for ‘affordable housing’ is a concession to this. I doubt local residents would agree.

I sincerely hope local councillors will be closely monitoring and responding to this situation. The voice of nostalgia may well be replaced with a bitter memory if they don’t.

WG

Avon

SIR – In 1956 I was in the Royal Navy’s Devonport Field Gun Crew whose base was HMS Drake in Devonport and subsequently Devonport Dockyard remained the home for the Devonport Field Gun Association.

I’m sure some of your readers will remember the Royal Navy Field Gun competitions which were part of the Royal Tournament each year until 1999.

Earlier this year the Ministry of Defence gave the Field Gun Association notice to leave Devonport Dockyard.

The Association were fortunate to find a new home at Crownhill Fort in Plymouth which is now a small Devonport Field Gun Museum. When all the Field Gun records and equipment were transferred to Crownhill in September it became apparent that all records and photographs for the 1956 crew were missing.

I wonder if, through your letters page, it would be possible to trace any field gunners from 1956, or any other year, who may have some photographs or any other personal records or memories.

If we were able to make copies they could then be included in the Museum records. Field Gunners feel a tremendous pride in their achievements and I know how much it would mean to me and to any other 1956 Field Gunners to have our achievements included in the museum rather than feel, as I do, that we are the forgotten year.

I would also be delighted to hear from old field gunners of any year and, if they are interested, I could give them details of the Devonport Field Gun Association.

My contact details are: 01200 429825 or email stewartmcken-zie@talktalk.net

Stewart McKENZIE

Lancashire

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