READERS’ LETTERS January 13

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Readers’ letters from the January 13 issue of the Observer.

I TAKE issue with regard to the debacle which has taken place over many months at the Westgate Leisure Centre.

I speak as a long-standing member of Westgate.

It simply is not good enough to hear that members have been offered a ‘freeze’ on their membership if they felt that they were not getting value for money while renovation work is carried out.

Any serious member of a gym regime or one of the many excellent classes, will understand that you do not just ‘freeze’ your particular activity.

Basically, the purpose is to build up to a particular level for fitness and enjoyment over weeks and months.

For an individual to stop for many months would be totally counter-productive.

There are many like-minded members who fall into this category who have been strung along with very limited information and given several ‘ completion dates’ since the end of last summer.

It was always the hope that the scaffolding would be down or a class venue would be reinstated ‘soon or by the end of a particular month’ – that was how we all put up with the disruption.

Yes, I already hear the response from Westgate that these circumstances are beyond their control.

I do not disagree with this statement but I do consider that a gesture should be made to the loyal members who have kept faith with the centre during a very long overrun to the work (hopefully, compensation will be paid by the contractors by way of a penalty clause).

I would finally like to add that great effort is now being made to gain new members with preferential joining fees... so what about the loyal rest of us?

Michael Downey, Chichester

REGARDING recent critical comments in letters against Nic Fiddian-Green’s impressive horse’s head sculpture on the Trundle, the saying ‘Can’t see the wood for the trees’, comes to mind.

To object to a splendid piece of sculpture when there are two massive aerial masts, dominating the landscape, together with their ugly huts enclosed in high-security barbed wire fencing, seems a little strange!

Critics use the word intrusive but on the eastern slopes of the Trundle, overlooking the racecourse and the busy main road, there is a real blot on the landscape in the form of two old brick structures.

I wonder why nobody ever calls for their removal?

Michael Scott, Beech Avenue, Chichester

THE ISSUE of public subsidy for the Festival Theatre and Christmas Lights raises questions over what is the purpose of local and national government and what can we as a nation afford?

On the one hand we have massive public deficits leading to money being drained away in interest payments and on the other a view that public subsidy promotes economic activity and ‘wellbeing’.

We have choices to make as to what is necessary and what is discretionary.

The core purpose of government is to ensure the collective health, safety and security of the people.

This is achieved by the collection of taxes which are then distributed by public bodies which do the things that cannot be more appropriately done by private and commercial concerns.

Once those areas are adequately covered, then the discretionary items can be brought into the realm of public funding.

Do we believe that our public health/environmental/police services, defence forces and even the maintenance of our roads are adequately funded?

If so, then we can afford to subsidise the arts and public displays.

A biproduct of ever-expanding public budgets has been the tendency for upper level salaries (and their attendant pension costs) to balloon.

A choice for CFT (and arts/sports in general) could be to balance the level of pay for senior managers and performers with the cost of its community activities.

As a nation we seem to have become very adept at complaining and saying ‘something must be done’ and our politicians, from parish to Brussels, pandering to this by using other peoples’ (ie taxpayers’) money to look good.

The public could easily do its bit in helping public bodies concentrate money on core matters by not dropping litter, exercising, better eating and getting involved in their communities.

If we, as a nation, continue to look to government in all its guises to do everything then we can’t moan about how much we pay it in taxes and complain when it fails to fully provide the services that really matter.

Happy pothole dodging.

Simon Oakley, Tangmere

I STRONGLY support the county council’s proposal to reduce the grant to the Festival Theatre.

Many of the patrons who attend the theatre are extremely well off and could afford to pay a ticket price which reflects the cost of putting on the shows.

The founder of the theatre, Leslie Evershed-Martin’s concept was a theatre built without state or local government subsidy.

This idea was successful for many years, then when Mr Evershed-Martin passed on, the begging bowl applications to the Arts Council and local councils commenced.

The building of the Minerva Theatre was a further drain on the main house as it’s not large enough to cover the costs of a professional production.

Enough is enough, stop this subsidy now.

Peter Brown, Manor Road, Selsey

JOHN HUTCHINGS, in his letter of December 30, points out the realities of present behaviour on the roads.

Yes, we don’t have the funds to keep drivers and cyclists in line by stationing a police officer on every street corner.

That far, we can agree.

Where we part company is the assumption that nothing can be done.

I believe that the attitude shift represented by the ideals of the 20’s Plenty movement shines a headlight, so to speak, on the way forward; on the way to mend what Mr. Hutchins describes as our ‘broken’ system.

Yes, attitudes and habits are ingrained and take time to shift. But shift they do.

Just think how drunk drivers have changed from cheeky rogues to social pariahs.

And more than signs and enforcement, 20’s Plenty is about attitudes and awareness.

Awareness about pollution, obesity and asthma levels – which are all high in Chichester.

And awareness about accident statistics.

It’s a compelling figure when you learn that ‘the chance of a pedestrian being seriously injured or killed if struck by a car is 45 per cent at 30mph and five per cent at 20mph’ (Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Road safety strategy: current problems and future solutions. London: DETR, 1997).

Obviously there is the problem of acting on that knowledge when you are on a residential street in a hurry to get somewhere, but, if everyone around is driving at 20, the pressure on you to do the same increases.

And you are even more likely to drive considerately, if you remain aware that at best you are going to shave off only a few seconds from your journey, most likely you are going to save no time at all, as you end up in a queue in the same place you would have been in a moment later anyway, and at worst you have upped your chances of causing an accident.

Yes, there will always be the rat runners, just like there are still drunk drivers, but enforcement problems don’t seem to make a compelling case for inaction.

Sarah Sharp, Whyke Lane, Chichester

I AM writing on behalf of the NSPCC in Chichester to thank your readers for their support over the past 12 months.

The NSPCC relies heavily on the support of local people in order to provide its services for children and their families and we really do appreciate the efforts that people go to.

I would also like to ask readers to consider helping the NSPCC to make a fundamental difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people in this area in 2011.

Whatever skills, talent or time people have available the NSPCC could put them to good use to help support vital services such as ChildLine and the NSPCC’s Helpline for adults to call if they are concerned about a child.

This year we are making a special appeal to anyone in Chichester who has secured a place in the 2011 London Marathon, to consider running it in aid of the NSPCC – we can supply running vests, sponsor forms and training hints and tips to anyone able to help us in this way.

Anyone wishing to find out more about supporting the NSPCC should call the local fundraising team on 01293 651840 or log on to www.nspcc.org.uk

Best wishes for 2011

Rupa-Dey Amin, Head of local fundraising, NSPCC

WHILE IT is very good to learn that the dew pond in the centre of Kingley Vale is being restored, I feel it should be pointed out that this dew pond has no ancient history whatsoever, and was dug out by hand (well, spade!) from scratch in the summer of 1976 by Richard Williamson (reserve warden 1963-1995), helped by a team from the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).

One hundred tons of clay from nearby Pendean pits was brought in by lorries (one of which managed to get stuck and had to be pulled out by several vehicles).

Straw was laid underneath to make an insulating layer so that the finished pond would collect dew as well as rain.

The clay was puddled by many conservation feet, and finally a butyl lining was added for extra protection.

It was all considered quite an achievement and Richard guarded it well until he retired, making sure that dogs were kept out and no-one made holes in it.

There are a further six old dew ponds hidden under the trees behind the field museum, and another on the track south of the main reserve entrance, which are ancient – but they have not been restored.

I think Richard will be writing further on this subject in Nature Trails in the near future.

Anne Williamson, West Dean Woods

AFTER Chichester has been made a laughing stock over the Christmas lights, I have a simple solution.

If every business in Chichester had a pole fixed at an agreed angle and height – one, two or three poles according to the size of each frontage.

From there a simple multi-coloured lantern could be hung.

Each shop would own their own lantern, and supply their own electricity each year.

Hence, no cost to our taxes.

Added interest – what about flying the St George flag on St George’s Day, Union Jacks for the royal wedding, jubilees, etc?

How splendid the town would look.

B Bell, Spitalfield Lane, Chichester

THIS IS to extend a big thank-you to all those who contributed to the collections made by the carol singers outside of the Festival Theatre, in the week leading up to Christmas.

In total an amount of £1,160 was made.

This will be divided equally between St Paul’s Church Building on Success appeal and Stonepillow; the latter being to help homeless people.

Chris Merrien, Chatsworth Road, Chichester

AS A resident of Arundel Park can I ask through your columns why Messrs Bartholomews deem it necessary to give us all a view of the inner workings of the rather tatty back of their factory and their lorries being loaded/unloaded and washed usually accompanied by drivers’ shouted ‘conversations’?

This has been achieved by cutting to the ground the conifers that formed a screen to the eastern and southern perimeters of their land.

While we can but agree that the trees had grown too high we note that on the other sides they have merely topped and tidied them, a perfectly adequate solution.

Presumably the screening was put there for a purpose in the beginning – perhaps a planning requirement – but it certainly looks dreadful now and needs replacing with some cover.

Peter J Agar, Caernarvon Road, Chichester

I FELT I must comment on last week’s front page story about the Central School playing field.

While I can understand local residents’ disappointment about the lack of access to the field it is important to get this in perspective.

Though council-owned, the field is not a public recreation ground and I am surprised that residents would seem to have been unaware of this.

It is a school playing field.

I worked at Central School in the 80s when the playing field was considerably larger and have vivid memories of children coming in after playing on the field, covered in excrement which had stained their clothes and left them very distressed.

It was an unpleasant task to clean them up and hard to explain to parents when they came to collect their children.

I can also recall picking up after dog owners on many occasions.

Of course, most of them are responsible, but, as in all aspects of life, we often suffer for the behaviour of other less-responsible people and where children’s health and wellbeing are concerned there cannot be compromise.

We also regularly had to check out items left lying around – glass bottles, general rubbish and, on one occasion, the entire belongings of what we presumed to have been a homeless person – including the remnants of a bottle of whisky.

Schools are governed by strict regulations and maintaining the safety of the children on site is a major factor.

It is a shame that additional plans appear to have been submitted too late, but I would heartily congratulate the headteacher and governors on putting the children first and delaying no further.

Mary Ninness, Broyle Close, Chichester

OUR CHILDREN are at risk, all of them – but you can help.

Fair Play for Children is asking you to contribute £25 from your business or personally to help children near you do something we took for granted as kids but which so many now miss out on.

What is missing? Why, GOING OUT TO PLAY. Sounds daft doesn’t it? But the facts are there, we all know it and yet it’s getting worse.

Children’s outdoor play is about the healthiest exercise a child can get, coupled with walking to school .

What’s stopping them? Well, we are – adults.

Fair Play for Children (registered charity 292134) was founded in 1985 and our partner, Fair Play for Children Association in 1972,.

Rather than a long piece about us, here’s the link to our website: www.fairplayforchildren.org – you can find out what we do and who we are.

In donating to Play Wise you will be assured of good use of your donation. And if you want to talk to me before donating, please call 0843 289 2578. You can send a cheque made out to ‘Fair Play for Children Trust’ to the address below or make an online donation using the following account details: Fair Play for Children. Bank: Lloyds TSB. Sort Code: 30-90-99 Account no: 16995768 Reference: your business name.

If you send an email to administration@fairplayforchildren.net when you do this we can acknowledge safe receipt of your donation.

Jan Cosgrove, National secretary, Fair Play for Children, 32 Longford Road, Bognor Regis, PO21 1AG

IN YOUR January 6 edition Mrs Carol Godsmark mentions that Edward Fox is one of the actors in The King’s Speech. I saw the film and could not find Edward Fox. I did however notice that Sir Derek Jacobi played a major role.

The film is absolutely brilliant; Colin Firth is pure joy to behold.

I work at the New Park Cinema.

They are a very delightful group of staff and volunteers.

The King’s Speech will be a sell-out.

Sally H Thom, Chichester

* ED: Checked with the Internet Movie Database and you’re spot-on Sally, the great Edward Fox does not feature in The King’s Speech.