Letters to the editor - July 29
PUBLISHED: 09:51 30 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:51 30 July 2015
Following on from the piece on the Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve in the Times, as the person who got the subject discussed in council I would comment as follows on the article.
There is a great deal of local anxiety about the fate of the much-treasured Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve due to threats to both its funding and management.
I was very pleased a motion was passed at the last North Somerset Council meeting for the whole matter to be properly considered and proposals presented to consider the options to secure the reserve’s future, as so many residents want. However reading Cllr Pasley’s comments my fears have now grown rather than been calmed.
As executive member responsible for the decision-making process Cllr Pasley’s statements seem very much to infer that, despite no consultation with many key stakeholders, he has already made his decision, as council officers will be meeting to finalise a deal. He implies the council already has the capacity to run a nature reserve when none currently exists; one cannot compare the management of the Lake Grounds to Portbury Wharf reserve.
Since he is ‘in charge’ of finance his comments on optional payments of legally-binding agreements, such as the levies on Village Quarter residents, are particularly interesting. He suggests he has decided that, because some people don’t wish to pay, instead of pursuing those non-payers through the courts, he will instead pass the costs onto the residents of North Somerset as a whole.
Will he apply this principle now to local government finance? He seems to be saying that, despite making a commitment to pay for something quite freely, one can renege and the rest of the residents will pick up the tab. Is it OK, for instance, to only pay part of the council tax, as you don’t use all the services? The Pasley principle seems to say so.
Finally David is clearly ahead of the rest of us on the Hinkley Point Overhead Line route finalisation, as last time I heard the recommended route was down the A369 corridor, splitting Portbury village in two and no longer going through the reserve.
One does wonder quite where all this is going? Are the council’s executive seeking to save face for Cllr Ashton?
North Somerset councillor (Pill) Star Lane, Pill
Nature the priority
Following North Somerset Council’s proposal to adopt and manage Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve I have heard at council meetings and read on social media sites, on several occasions, how the existing levy system, implemented under a section 106 planning obligation, for funding the upkeep of the reserve is unfair to Village Quarter residents and others who pay the levy.
One reason for this discontent, which I believe is held by only a small minority of residents, is because they finance the reserve through the annual levy of £54, but non-Village Quarter people, who do not provide any money, can access and benefit from the reserve.
To some extent I can understand these feelings, but provision of funding by the few, for the protection of nature and benefit of the wider public, is by no means unusual in nature conservation.
Throughout the country, millions of volunteers and members of organisations with an interest in nature conservation, such as the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and National Trust, not only give time, but also their money through membership fees, donations and legacies, for example to protect nature. All of these organisations allow non-members free access to large areas of the sites they own, or manage. Occasionally, a fee may be levied for non-members to enter a reserve, or a request made of visitors to provide a donation to the organisation. At some sensitive sites it is, of course, necessary to restrict all access to safeguard endangered species.
There are many examples of local sites such as Priors Wood, Sand Point and Middle Hope and the Avalon Marshes, which are freely enjoyed by the public irrespective of whether they have contributed, or not, to conserving nature within that particular site. It is perhaps worth noting section 106 agreements are commonly used in this country to accommodate and fund the impact of new developments on public services, such as health centres, nurseries, libraries and town centre facilities. I have yet to hear anybody suggest access to such facilities should be limited to those who fund a particular agreement.
The key issue is nature has never been as seriously threatened as it is today. We must not become too focused on who should have access to conservation sites if we are to address critical issues vital to the wellbeing, and even enhancement, of biodiversity.
I am not a Village Quarter resident, but I am truly grateful to Village Quarter residents for funding Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve who, like millions of other people in this country, are selflessly doing their bit to support nature without any particular concern as to who benefits from the site, as long as nature is the outright winner.
My only regret is North Somerset Council, for reasons only known to itself, is proposing to dismantle an innovative funding mechanism that all residents agreed to when buying their homes and, with some minor adjustment and regular review, could continue to work effectively.
I believe that, unless people voice their concerns to the council and are tenacious about demanding answers, there is now a real risk the value of this exceptional nature reserve will gradually degrade and the loss will be felt on many levels by Village Quarter residents and other local people alike, but most catastrophically, by our very vulnerable, declining wildlife.
DR MICHAEL W BRIGHTON
Devonshire Drive, Portishead
I am puzzled by the proposal to take the management of Portbury reserve in North Somerset Council control.
I did receive a letter expressing an interest in this issue, but it appears that the rest of North Somerset was not put in the picture.
At a time when all local authorities have been ordered to economise I do not understand why this expense should needlessly be added to the council tax. At a time when the value of our homes near the reserve is increasing by hundreds of pounds a month, I find few who begrudge a small charge. Furthermore I believe that this charge forms part of our deeds to our homes.
In order to no longer have this liability I assume that every deed will need modification.
Let me guess that each change would be half an hour’s work for a solicitor, perhaps £100 a time. With 2,700 homes involved that amounts to £270,000. Who will pay this? North Somerset Council?
If it is not broke, don’t mend it. The existing system is not to everybody’s taste but all we residents in the affected area volunteered to pay and no more time should be spent on this suggestion.
Merchant Square, Portishead
Over the past months far more objections than support have been registered with North Somerset Council for a wakeboarding scheme at Portishead marina. A decision on the application is likely to be made at the planning and regulatory committee meeting on August 12 at 2.30pm in the Town Hall in Weston. Members of the public can attend and may address the committee providing they give prior notice.
The impact of this commercial venture – and don’t be fooled it is a commercial venture – will have a huge effect on the area.
Although starting small the venture will increase as more participants are encouraged to take part. The applicant’s agent is taking it as ‘red’ approval will be given and has dismissed all objections as being totally irrelevant. A commercial venture is far more important than Portishead residents’ and visitors’ feelings. Planned to be open daily from 9am-7pm or dusk, which can be as late as 9.30pm on a summer evening, a similar venture which the applicant runs in Cornwall also has night rides and stag events.
The reasons for the objections are far and wide and listed on the council’s website. In a nutshell, the venture is completely unsuitable for such a small area with adjacent homes, an area which is also used by the residents of Portishead for walking, running, fishing and bringing families to see the water birds and boats. The ability for all to enjoy the peace and quiet will disappear if this application is successful. Then there will be the visitors who will need to find parking, which is not easy in Portishead at the best of times and so vehicles will end up parking in adjacent streets. The whole ambience of Parish Wharf will change with six-metre high masts, pulleys, cables, six-inch deep flaps on the wires and all with bright yellow fluorescent coverings; other equipment including ramps which the participants will jump over at speed could be included at a later date.
Is it really necessary to have wakeboarding at Portishead when an identical facility is available at Weston, 20 miles and a 30-minute drive away and also at Middlemore Park, Woolavington? Surely the residents of Somerset and the visitors would not wish every coastal town to look the same; each should have their own character and for Portishead it is the boats in the marina and the Lake Grounds.
This planning application should be refused and there are many good reasons for doing so.
Martingale Way, Portishead
As a community Yatton and Claverham (and, indeed, Congresbury, Churchill, Cleeve and other villages in the locality) are becoming increasingly concerned by the large number of planning applications affecting our communities.
The time has come for all of these applications to be considered together as to consider them individually is misleading. The cumulative effect must no longer be ignored. The impact on a very poor and already overstretched infrastructure (in particular our roads, schools, medical centres and green fields) will be nothing short of disastrous unless this is done.
Derham Park, Yatton
Shopping on Sunday
I suppose Sunday opening in Clevedon is as inevitable as the United States of Europe and a single currency – but not yet.
From my experience (20 plus years) in Clevedon, many visitors welcome the ability to visit and relax in our beautiful, uncommercialised resort at the end of their working week. If they had wanted to shop, we are but a stones throw from one of the largest retail sites in the country but Clevedon needs not be part of that.
I feel some recent newcomers, who have opened business outlets in our small town, are not a little disingenuous in their pursuit of Sunday trading. They are, in my opinion more interested in the pursuit of the ‘poor man’s pound’ than in preserving Clevedon’s position as a place of peace and relaxation at the end of the working week.
Sunday opening slowly please but do not spoil our unique tranquillity just yet.
MR S J M GREENE
Wellington Terrace, Clevedon