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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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Taking stock: what makes West Cumbria such a special place...

SIR – My name is Henry Gee and I have lived in South Derbyshire for the last 40 years.

Now that we are nearing the end of a year that has been very traumatic for the good people of Whitehaven and the surrounding area, I wish them all of the best for the future.
I do have a connection to Whitehaven – having being evacuated there during World War II, it is a place where some of my formative years were spent. I was lucky enough to have lived in New Street with the Robinson family who took me under their wing. I lived there for I think about two years, long enough to have a broad Whitehaven accent when I returned to my native Newcastle.
I think that Mr Robinson senior had served in World War I and he had two sons serving in the forces when I was there. I think that one of the sons was an army sergeant at the time. The other son might have been in The Royal Navy.
While living with these good people I had my first experience of wearing clogs, which were to me, a “townie”, surprisingly comfortable. I also used a slate at school, something else completely new to me. My school (I can’t remember its name) was on a hill somewhere behind the bus station.
It was here that I learned about growing vegetables in the school allotment, it was probably part of the government ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign. One of the other delicacies that I was introduced to was rum butter – fabulous stuff.
I was in Whitehaven at the time of the William Pit disaster and I remember walking with my friends past the railway station to the pit head. Crowds of quiet people were there and there was excitement when some of the mine rescue teams arrived. All in all, a very sad day.
I also learned to swim at the public baths near to the docks and I can remember when some escaped German prisoners of war were taken to a small police station near the baths. I believe they had escaped in a rowing boat from the Isle of Man.
I had a number of friends who lived in Bransty and also at Kells. Two of my friends were the Douglas brothers, one was Alec but unfortunately I can’t remember the name of his brother. Walking from the docks they lived in a street towards the left, and the police station was to the right.
My favourite place to play was around the dock area, part of which was fenced off and out of bounds. In the other part of the docks there were trawlers some of which were I think from Norway.
I also learned a bit about the local history then, like the Wellington and Haig Pit tragedies. I had my first ever holiday in a seaside chalet at Braystones – happy times for a young lad from the ‘toon’.
Once more my very best wishes to the people of Whitehaven and the surrounding areas.
Henry GEE

SIR – I came to West Cumbria nearly fours years ago to fulfil a dream of living in the Lake District – the lure of the fells has always been strong!
What I hadn’t bargained for was the people of the area would become as important to me as the scenery.
From the first day I arrived, people have welcomed me warmly, despite me being from “out of the county”.
During the past year the community has been tested by tragedy and has shown me even more of the capability, strength, compassion, caring and supporting nature of West Cumbrians.
People often say, “We do know what we have round here” when I go on about the wonder of the fells.
I don’t think you would say the same about yourselves and your communities – trust me you have something very special here and hopefully you know it and will strive to maintain it.
So to celebrate I suggest you should modify the Kells End’s chant during the Cumbria vs England game: “If you’re (West) Cumbrian and proud clap your hands…”
Well go on – you should be proud of yourselves.
Labour also broke pledges
SIR – When I first started to read the letter from Karl Connor about tuition fees, (The Whitehaven News, December 8) I thought it was a very well-written and amusing satire. Only on reaching the signature at the bottom did the astonishing truth dawn that this ridiculous attempt to position the Labour party as the opponents of university tuition fees was meant to be taken seriously.
Which party first introduced fees to go to university, despite promising in the 1997 election not to do so? Do I correctly recall Labour did?
Which party then dramatically increased them in the following parliament, after promising in the 2001 election not to do so? Again we find the answer – Labour did.
All three parties have introduced or increased fees to go to university: the count of votes to do so, and broken election promises, is as follows:
Conservatives – votes to increase fees, one; broken election promises on this subject, none.
Liberal Democrats – votes to increase fees, one; broken election promises, one.
Labour – votes to introduce or increase tuition fees, two; broken election promises on this subject, two.
Oh, and I also notice Labour have failed to make clear what they would do instead, with the opposition leader and Shadow Chancellor at sixes and sevens about whether to introduce a graduate tax. Presumably that’s what Mr Connor means by “share the costs of higher education fairly” but the impact of such a tax rise on the graduates who live in West Cumbria as well as upon on the local economy would not be so tremendous either.
Labour left the country bankrupt. Whilst I admit it is a hand they have been forced to play, at least the new government is trying to do something about it.
Meadow Road, Whitehaven
Shedding light into dark corners
SIR – I would like to make some points regarding the recent spat between Mr Hannah (The Whitehaven News, December 9) and Councillors Clarkson (December 16). Perhaps more people should have attended the public scrutiny meeting which discussed the role of the two councillors appointed to the last board of directors by Copeland Borough Council.
The two councillors were not fully exonerated by this report and myself and others feel the report needs some measure of challenging – but that’s a matter for the future.
However I have to say that if it were not for the actions of Coun Yvonne Clarkson at that meeting – realising there was a wider public interest in the report and in a breakdown of the £150,000 drawn down from the £500,000 earmarked for WRLFC, and her insistence that these documents be made available to persons who bothered to attend the meeting – then everything might have been securely swept under the proverbial carpet.
I remain steadfastly of the opinion that there are still grave issues for the local authority to address with regard to its formal takeover of the club in January 2009.
If Mr Hannah or anyone thinks that a new super stadium is either wanted or needed, then they need to re-assess that against its massive cost with regard to return on investment of public funds in such a venture. Money so far wasted would have provided a superb ground as we speak.
Coun Chris Whiteside summed up the lamentable situation quite nicely when he commented (and I paraphrase here) that we have the worst of all worlds, responsible for a £125,000 debt, no progress on The Pow Beck scheme and the club has gone into liquidation. His comment drew little response from the floor of the meeting.
The council is the one responsible for wearing two hats, running the club and, in this case, not ensuring that the £500,000 has gone to where it was really intended ie WRLFC. Sadly if it is a time-sensitive issue then the remaining £350,000 will obviously have to be spent elsewhere. This delay can hardly be blamed on anyone else but the ruling council. If the £500,000 was to secure somehow the viability of the Pow Beck scheme of which WRLFC (by the council’s own admission) was to be the centrepiece, then why could this money have not been drawn down to save the club, uphold its honour and thus the honour of the council?
Woodhouse Road, Whitehaven
Calls to spare Station Garage
SIR – A visiting motorist called into a Whitehaven garage with a suspected flat tyre. He enquired of the attendant, “Do you have an air line?”, to which came the reply, “An airline? We don’t even have a bus station”.
This is a joke. What is not a joke is the fact that our esteemed council is proposing to spend £2.5million on a glorified bus-stop. (“Transport plan put forward”, The Whitehaven News, December 2).
The suggestion that this development “is the beginning of the transformation in Whitehaven, a real asset to the town” (Coun Cath Giel, The Whitehaven News, September 16) is nothing more than political rhetoric, and ignores the real problems inherent in this town, the lack of facilities, amenities and attractions – there is nothing to offer visitors. Building a new transport interchange will not reverse this situation, it will just provide an easier, quicker route to alternative destinations.
The more critical amongst us will point their fingers and question the validity of building a new bus station when we already have one going to waste. Let me go some way to explain this situation as I understand it. The problem lies with the fact that there is no vehicle access rights available into the current building. When Stagecoach made the decision to move all their operations to Lillyhall/Workington the bus station was decommissioned, and therefore the ongoing permission was revoked.
The County Highways Department or Department of Transport are unwilling to reinstate said permission, citing problems with visibility and increased traffic flow. Subsequently the only way forward would seem to be to re-employ the building for some other use or completely demolish and clear the site.
The latter idea is not unrealistic in itself. If the main structure was knocked down from a point where it adjoins The Shipwrights Arms all the way up to the area adjacent to the old union office on New Road, whilst still utilising the original bus lanes and rear retaining wall, it could be used as a drive-in, drive-out bus terminus, thus saving millions of pounds being frittered away on pie-in-the-sky ideas.
However this is unlikely to happen, as without the new development, Tesco would be unlikely to make major investment in the proposed plans, therefore depriving Whitehaven of an even bigger supermarket, and that’s what we really need isn’t it?

SIR – This letter has also been sent to Planning Department at Copeland Borough Council and Jamie Reed MP.

I am writing with regard to Station Garage in Whitehaven which is about to be served a great injustice for the sake of a few parking spaces.
I fully understand and welcome the need to improve Whitehaven’s infrastructure and have supported all the changes in and around the town. However, Bob Stephenson’s business seems to be a casualty for no reason other than to create more parking for the station – which I understand will be a pay and display car park.
It is people like Mr Stephenson who make Whitehaven what it is; a friendly, welcoming community.
We need to support our local businessmen and women, not force them to “up sticks” and start again. The location of Station Garage is key for the people of Whitehaven, as while their cars are being repaired or serviced they can use public transport to get to work. A town centre garage is a basic requirement for the people of Whitehaven.
I ask you to think again about the decision to compulsorily purchase and instead embrace the local service that Mr Stephenson supplies to the community. As we are always being told, the “old” can work in harmony with the “new”, hence the new-style flats in what was an old beautiful Georgian town.
I hope you take my views (and many others) on board and let Mr Stephenson continue to offer his services to the people of our town from his current location, Station Garage!
Mrs Emily MASON
Church View, Lowca
Victory for autism campaign
SIR - As a supporter of The National Autistic Society (NAS) living in the area, I wanted to make other local people affected by autism aware that the statutory guidance for the Autism Act 2009 was published on December 17. This is a landmark victory following three years of campaigning by the NAS and their supporters.
This guidance sends a clear message to all local authorities and local NHS Trusts telling them to ensure they are meeting the needs of people with autism. Now this has been introduced, people can start campaigning locally to make sure that the lives of people with autism are improved.
I urge people to take action by contacting their local Director of Adult Social Care Services and asking when they can expect reforms to happen. This can be done directly through the NAS website by visiting www.autism.org.uk/dhguidance.
Woodend, Egremont
A big hand for the volunteers
SIR – The WRVS would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers who have given up their time throughout 2010 to help us support older people across Great Britain.
Especially those who battled through the snow to deliver hot meals, to ensure shops and cafes at busy hospitals were still able to open, and to help out at rest centres set up for stranded motorists.
Our 45,000 volunteers make it possible for us to provide vital services such as meals at home, transport schemes, Good Neighbours projects and community centres – helping to make Britain a great place to grow old all year round.
Thank you and Happy New Year to all your readers!
WRVS Service Delivery Manager, Cumbria, Lancashire and Liverpool
Warm thanks for our treat!
SIR – Another very successful occasion laid on for Distington pensioners by the hard working committee was fully appreciated by about 200 of us recently. We had an excellent meal at the Lakes College, with transport and free refreshments (but no one seemed to over-indulge!) This followed our summer outing, and we cannot thank our volunteers enough for their dedication to our pleasure.
Thank you – and roll on Summer!
Name and address supplied
Helping to make a difference
SIR – 2010 has seen some of the worst natural disasters in living memory, with millions of lives devastated in Haiti, Chile and Pakistan. Yet thanks to your readers’ generosity, the Red Cross is helping to make a difference for thousands of people every day.
In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake last year, the British Red Cross response, supported by millions of pounds from the UK public, was huge. Hundreds of thousands of people have received emergency Red Cross health care, vaccinations, clean water and basic sanitation. Hundreds of thousands more have received emergency shelter materials and essential relief supplies. And we are continuing to respond to the cholera outbreak by supporting medical facilities, carrying out hygiene education and establishing cholera treatment centres.
Across the world, and here in the UK, Red Cross volunteers are also responding to thousands of smaller, unreported disasters. Recent severe weather in the UK has seen our volunteers ferry medical staff to and from hospitals and deliver medicines to people trapped in their homes.
All over the globe volunteers are working in their local communities, providing vital relief and helping build people’s resilience so they are prepared should disaster strike again.
The process of rebuilding lives after a crisis can take many years. Your readers’ generosity has ensured that the Red Cross can be there for the long term, helping communities wherever they may be.
Sir Nicholas YOUNG
Chief Executive, British Red Cross


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