Readers' Letters - September 17 2009

Readers' letters from the September 17 issue of the Observer.

Revival night was big success

The staff in South Street, Chichester, would like to thank everyone who helped to make St Wilfrid's Hospice shop revival evening such fun and a great success.

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Our thanks to those who so generously donated items before the event, all our volunteers who cheerfully gave their time, before and during the evening, staff from other areas who rallied in support and, of course, all the customers who came and bought outfits and accessories for the Goodwood weekend.

We have replenished our stocks, so pop in if you are still looking for something.

The next event at the shop will be on November 13 to celebrate our first year in South Street. For more details or to enquire about becoming a volunteer, please call into the shop or ring 01243 778966.

Thank you all.

Jane Reader, Sheila Raven and Lyn Rowe, St Wilfrid's Hospice

We're right to battle on to save our water voles

Having recently read the article on the water voles in Chichester canal, I thought I should offer a reply to some of the comments by Mr Travis.

The water vole is indeed fully protected legally, and for a good reason. Its populations have suffered some of the fastest declines of any native mammal and we have lost more than 90 per cent of our water voles in 20 years, UK and Sussex-wide. Ratty of Wind in the Willows was very nearly no more!

Chichester and its surrounding area is one of only three remaining

areas where water voles survive in good numbers in Sussex, and as such it is an incredibly valuable wildlife resource.

Not only this but water voles are an indicator of the wider health of the environment '“ and where they are in trouble, very often it means many other species (including humans) may also be suffering because so much of our wetlands have been destroyed.

The Chichester canal is a fine example of the restoration of a historic navigation resource. However, there are examples in the rest of the country where the historic and navigation features of a canal have been restored to the benefit of wildlife, not to the detriment as is proposed here.

The canal is also a local recreational resource and many people walk there and enjoy it for its wildlife. This should not be forgotten in

the name of progressing the restoration of a canal which only limited people will use for its boating alone.

Not least what Mr Travis suggests is illegal under current law. He is suggesting that although the banks of the canal are currently mostly earth (and therefore suitable for water voles) the county council should allow the towpath to be reinforced with man-made materials, which exclude the water vole from its existing habitat.

The alternative is an expensive trapping and translocation programme of the remaining water voles, and the likely stress-related deaths of some animals caused by this action.

When millions is being spent on the restoration of the canal, it is not unreasonable to ask a few thousand be spent on ensuring canal banks are restored with natural materials which can accommodate wildlife while also protecting banks from erosion, etc?

Water voles really need only an earth bank, and some good tall plant cover (such as water plantain or rushes) so they can survive and eat.

Not only is this alternative much better for water voles and other wildlife, it is also much more aesthetically pleasing and makes the entire canal a much more pleasant place to be for people.

I have no doubts West Sussex County Council is being incredibly reasonable in its demands to ensure this regionally-important water vole population is not exterminated and is dealing with the situation to the best of its ability and within the law, and I therefore cannot support Mr Travis in his opinions.

I am the water vole officer for Sussex and as such I am happy to answer any questions. You may also wish to visit my website where there is lots of information (

Fran Southgate, Sussex Otters and Rivers Partnership, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Henfield

There's nowt wrong with Huddersfield

I wonder whether Duncan Barkes has ever visited Huddersfield, 'this dreary Yorkshire town'. It is the town where I was born and brought up and still have many relatives living there.

I admit it is not such an attractive place as Chichester but it has many good points. It is on the edge of beautiful moorland and within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales.

The university has a very good reputation, especially in its music and also textile departments '“ not surprising as it was the home of the Huddersfield Choral Society, famous especially for its recording of Handel's Messiah.

For the railway enthusiast, the station is a must-see with its very grand and imposing architecture.

I guess the most important thing is there are thousands of people who live, work and enjoy life there.

Norma Walford, Grove Road, Chichester

For once I read Mr Barkes' column, this time about rowdy drunks. From his knowledge of their behaviour, one might presume he frequented the same places as they do. He sneers at government attempts to deal with what everyone knows has been a problem through the centuries. Where are his solutions? He offers none. If this is his standard of 'informed' comment, I shall avoid reading him in future.

Stan Jonas, Bognor Regis

Get used to it? I have my doubts...

Years ago, permission was granted to build blocks of flats with wardens for elderly people in Stockbridge Road opposite the Girls' High School. It seemed a suitable site. True, it was next to a busy road, but on the whole it afforded the peace and quiet people need in the evening of their years.

Then came a bolt from the blue.The Girls' High School moved and a large leisure centre appeared. Goodbye peace and quiet.

If you were to attend the meetings of the Southern Gateway Residents' Association, you would hear a litany of complaints chiefly concerning noise in the very early hours (people shouting, car doors slamming, engines revving, tyres screaming, etc), but also litter (and worse) on pavements and in front gardens; and light pollution.

As if this were not enough, it is now proposed to build student accommodation on the site of the Girls' High School. Talk about Pelion on Ossa.

Voices have been raised citing the right of students to behave in an anti-social manner and, of course, they are right.

Canute's problem was a piece of cake compared with trying to curb

such behaviour.

Equally, the elderly '“ and other residents come to that '“ have a right

to peace and quiet. Obviously the two have to be kept apart.

Someone has been reported as saying local residents would just have to get used to having students as neighbours. Well, we haven't got used to the leisure centre yet, and I doubt if we ever will!

KRJ Arnold, South Bank, Chichester

It does seem absurd so much energy is going into the arrangements for building new student accommodation in what seems to be an inappropriate location in Stockbridge Road, when at the site of the barracks, almost adjacent to the university, there is what appears to be good-quality, purpose-built accommodation that could easily be adapted to student use.

Surely not only a cheaper option to convert well-built 1930s (?) buildings, but also a better location than crowded into a busy corner of Chichester already over-burdened with traffic.

Richard Woods, The Rectory, Singleton, Chichester

Wind turbines: for and against

In as much as it appears to leave the door open on the wind energy debate, John Songhurst's letter (August 13) is welcome.

What is less clear is how we trade the need for more renewables energy sourcing against Betjeman-like visions of English landscapes past.

No doubt the original wind and water mills that once filled our landscapes would have horrified the likes of the South Downs Society had it been around at the time. More recently the National Grid pylons that criss-cross some of the most beautiful parts of the country would have been completely condemned.

To coin a phrase, we can't have our energy cake and eat it too.

It's one thing giving up plastic bags, putting bricks in the loo and using low-energy bulbs. After that come the really difficult bits like reducing car use, less flying and making fewer trips to Tesco and, yes, wind turbines, and then only where the wind blows.

Of course none of this is important to people who won't be around to witness the fall-out from climate change or think it's all a nasty socialist conspiracy.

Mr Songhurst rightly urges us to guard against doing irreparable damage to our precious landscapes. Unlike some other forms of energy generation, wind farms can be completely dismantled without a trace when less invasive solutions become available to replace them.

If wind and other forms of sustainable energy turn out to be the difference between a changed landscape and a warmed-up world with a fundamentally-different landscape, then there's no contest.

Ray Cobbett, Hampshire Friends of the Earth Network, Beach Road, Emsworth

I just cannot understand why we even consider generating electricity by wind turbines, when the wind may not blow for weeks at a time. Wind generation is unreliable, expensive, noisy, dangerous, and will

do irreparable damage to our countryside.

Why, oh why don't we take advantage of our geographical position and harness the enormous weight of the water in the tides which flow constantly, and predictably, around our coast?

Water is 842 times as dense as air. If the tide was, for example, flowing along the west coast, then perhaps 'on stand' along the east coast, so join the two together and the country would have a permanent supply of electricity.

The barriers containing the generators would be under the sea and we

could even join islands or disused oil rigs together.

John Hinton, Stumps End, Bosham

Join the beach clean-up

The annual BeachWatch clean-up of the beaches of Pagham Harbour on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society takes place this weekend. It would be lovely to see volunteers at 2pm at Church Norton car park on the Saturday and at 2pm at Pagham Spit car park on the Sunday. Bags are provided but bring gloves and wear suitable clothing. We finish with refreshments.

Francis Parfrement, volunteer beach warden

Return of the Birdman is great '“ but only if it's safe

When the reporter informed me Birdman was coming back to Bognor, I replied the news was absolutely marvellous and I was very pleased.

When Arun District Council forced John Ayres, the owner of the pier, to make a quick decision to remove a large section of the pier, rather than repair it, the Birdman committee had to assess if it was still safe and viable to continue with the Birdman event on a shortened pier.

I checked the pier at high tide where the waves were lapping around the middle crossbar of the structure. At low tide I measured this crossbar at 10ft 6in.

After researching the internet, I found an article relating to diving accidents in swimming pools, which estimates the point where downward motion ceases is between 12ft and 15ft, although there will never be an absolutely safe depth for all divers.

I then contacted the Amateur Swimming Association, Waltham Forest Diving Academy and Southampton Diving Academy who, although would not put it in writing, recommended 15ft of water was an acceptable risk.

Other organisations I contacted said 20ft of water was acceptable but I felt these organisations were just over-cautious and playing safe.

So after coming to the conclusion descending from a platform 30ft above

into 15ft of water was an acceptable risk required to carry out the Birdman event, I informed the committee of my findings and that it would therefore be unsafe to continue with the competition on Bognor pier.

Some members disagreed and thought it was still safe to continue as there had never been a major accident at the event '“ and anyway, youngsters regularly jump off the roof of the shed on the western side.

My thoughts immediately went back a few years when a young man jumped off the pier for fun. I was on the beach when his lifeless body was washed ashore and that's something I never want to see again.

As anyone who knows me will know, I hate all of this silly elf 'n' safety nonsense where Boy Scouts are not allowed camp fires, etc.

I will take a risk now and again, but I could not allow anyone to jump off the flight deck of the Birdman competition knowing there is insufficient water below which could result in them being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their life.

This is why I resigned from the Bognor Birdman committee.

In Worthing they have a town centre manager (something Bognor Regis should have had years ago), Sharon Clarke, who, on hearing the 2008 Bognor Birdman event was to be cancelled, contacted me to put the event on in Worthing.

Within eight weeks she had obtained the money, completed the management plan with all of the risk assessments, contacted all the flyers and between us we staged the event.

In Worthing there is a determination and a will to put the town on the map.

The council spends 160,000 maintaining the pier and can see the value the publicity of the International Birdman event can bring.

This year Worthing International Birdman was very successful with one of the flyers, Steve Elkins, flying extremely close to the 100 metre mark.

I said at the beginning I would be very pleased if the International Birdman competition is returned to Bognor Regis. But only if it is safe to do so.

Derek Trotman, Ellasdale Road, Bognor Regis

Like many others I was amazed at the furore over the claim to the Bognor Birdman prize.

The organisers seem to have completely forgotten that the competition concept was a prize for a man powered flight over a measured distance.

Over the years many ingenious contraptions have been launched from the pier. None have won the prize but they had one thing in common, they were man powered flying machines. None developed enough power but they all tried.

The present claimant can say no such thing. He has merely flown a hang glider.

Far from being man-powered it would fly with only a weight attached

if conditions were right, and can only achieve level flight if thermal conditions allow.

The organisers should reject this claim and restore this competition to what it was at the outset, a plane powered by man muscle harnessed to whatever ingenious device to make it practical. Hang gliders and kites should be disqualified.

PJ Bateman, Alexander Close, Aldwick

Space hopper marathon was great '“ and now it's your turn

I am writing on behalf of everybody at the Sue Ryder Care shop in Bognor Regis to say a heartfelt thank you to all the readers who supported our recent Ride for Ryder challenge.

On September 30 and 31, two shop staff and volunteers staged a space hopper marathon ride. Thanks to the generosity of the local community we raised 337.74 which will go directly to help Sue Ryder Care provide quality care for people living with end-of-life and long-term conditions including; cancer, stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, dementia, Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Motor Neurone Disease.

I'd also like to encourage local people to take on a Ride for Ryder challenge themselves. Ride for Ryder challenges can be as unique and as personal as people wish.

People can choose to learn a skill, like riding a horse, try something new like hot-air ballooning or change a habit by walking to work instead of driving. You choose what you would like to be sponsored to ride; bike, balloon, space hopper or horse!

For more details contact Sue Ryder Care's national events team on 0845 050 1953 or email [email protected] Alternatively visit the website

Thanks again.

Susan Qureshi, shop manager, Bognor Regis

Volunteers making a huge difference

Hotham Park Heritage Trust would like to say thank you to J Farmer for his/her letter which congratulated the trust on the success of our annual country fair at Hotham Park.

The comments are much appreciated because this popular event would not happen without the help of the many volunteers who give so generously of their time, particularly Vicky Hennessy and the Scouts for controlling the car parks, Bob May for acting as master of ceremonies, many local businesses who acted as sponsors '“ Dave Challis and family for much fetching and carrying, Tim Bell and Barry Chadwick for vehicle control within the park, James Hockley for rubbish collection, Michael Rowland, Hotham Park manager, for all-round assistance, ADC, BRTC and Town Force.

In addition, a team of volunteers of all ages were on hand to help us keep the event going, resulting in a very successful weekend with more funds raised for the park. Many thanks to everyone for being there for us.

J Farmer has expressed concern over the future maintenance of the park,

which needs clarification, now the restoration has taken place. The refusal by ADC to give the trust an annual grant will have no effect on the upkeep of the park, it being ADC's responsibility to budget for these costs.

The trust, which is a voluntary organisation and a registered charity,

was set up to raise additional funding to provide, for example, the adventure playground, which was a trust initiative. The money raised from the 2009 country fair will be used to buy additional picnic tables and seating throughout the park.

The annual grant enabled us to seek additional resources from charitable and other bodies, and for partnership funding. Its loss will regrettably affect our ability to raise large sums of money for the good of the park and we shall be solely dependent on fundraising events.

Finally, we were blessed with good weather for this year's event and it was a very pleasant experience to see the lovely park enjoying the attention of so many people. If anyone wants to volunteer their help for the future, I am contactable on 07854 681402. All age groups very welcome.

Rosemary Warren, chairman, Hotham Park Heritage Trust, Bognor Regis

Solution is just a licence to pollute the sea

I write in response to the letter by Southern Water's John Challoner

('It's a partnership') about the sewage flooding problems at Elmer Sands.

Southern Water is trying to mislead people as to the nature of the problem by blaming inadequate surface water drainage.

A partnership? They didn't talk to us in August 2008; we would have liked the opportunity to respond to their draft business plans.

At that time Southern Water had just reported the sewers round the pumping station leaked like a sieve but unfortunately failed to carry on with any further investigations or repairs.

The problem is the leaking sewerage pipes and the overburdened, ailing

70-year-old pumping station, which fails regularly. The estate floods with sewage because on occasions when the pumps fail, the excess sewage cannot escape to the sea via the Elmer Rife because it is tide-locked.

And as for John Challoner's temporary solution, I believe it's a licence to pollute the sea while doing nothing to solve the problem.

They propose to make the houses that flood more resilient to flooding

and to request permission from the Environment Agency to release excess untreated sewage into the rife. In times of flooding it would protect bricks and mortar but leave adults, children and animals wading about in sewage while polluting the rife and the sea.

What do they think happens now?

If Southern Water's tankers don't turn up, the sewage-holding tank already overflows into the surface water system.

He also states the scheme of pumping sewage to Ford would be an unsustainable solution from an environmental perspective. Polluting the sea is okay but a new pump to Ford would generate too much carbon. Isn't carbon generated already by pumping our sewage first to Bognor

and then back to Ford?

One last thing, Southern Water. How do you propose we exclude surface water from your leaking sewage system? I'm afraid you're the only ones who can do that!

Linda Smith, Arundel Way, Elmer Sands

I read with interest the letter from John Challoner, Southern Water county sewerage engineer, particularly since I was under the illusion we Elmer Sands residents had already enjoyed such a working partnership, at least that is, up until March 2008.

Where did it all go wrong, I ask?

The chief executive officer wrote to us on March 12, 2008, and, I quote: 'The scheme will be included in our business plan for 2010-2015'.

The scheme does not include the construction of an overflow into the rife. No mention was made of the need to attend the public consultation scheduled for August 2008, but you can bet we would have been represented at such an important meeting if our partners had only had the courtesy to invite us.

Referring to 'the complex business plan', was this the very same plan Southern Water subsequently forwarded to OFWAT presenting data taken from the 2001 report that included the survey of my own property and the neighbouring properties, which must have been carried out by Southern Water's resident clairvoyant since none of the properties was actually visited?

One must assume small communities such as ours can never qualify for capital funding since we are unable to meet the cost-benefit criteria, so it's okay to dump our sewage on to the local beach. I wonder how this reconciles with the current EC clean beach directives.

Geoffrey Matcham, The Hard, Elmer Sands

To the point...

I read in the Observer how Chichester District Council will be providing the biggest ever zero-carbon development.

I do find this a bit unbelievable when the council's policy on transferring tenants hits a brick wall because of 'current legislation'.

The transfer I require would be to an empty property in Chichester, enabling me and my family to be 'carbon friendly' as we will be closer to work and family.

A very simple step in my eyes. Yet the council, after several meetings and letters, flatly turns us down as we have been banded a 'D'.

How can it boast of such a development in one hand but not take simple steps in the other?

Lynne Martin, Churchwood Drive, Chichester

There's an urgent buzz about our endangered honey bees (and therefore endangered food supplies). Are there any initiatives, such as promotion of professionally-run beehives on local allotments, that we can share and possibly act on?

Terry Timblick, Woodlands Lane, Chichester

The Residents' Association entered The South and South East in Bloom competition this year, having rested on our laurels from our 2007 award of outstanding.

Well done and thanks to everyone who helps to keep the front garden, trees and open spaces in such pristine condition, enabling me to enjoy showing

the judge around the area with confidence. I was pleased to accept the merit award on behalf of you all at a recent ceremony.

Eileen Crossley, treasurer, Parklands Residents' Association, Chichester

I read the letters from Barrie Hillet and Anne Johnson with interest concerning my views on stores such as Primark coming to the city.

Mr Hillet suggests I am a newcomer to the area. I have lived in the area for more than 20 years, and talking to my neighbours and friends,

stores such as Primark would only spoil the city.

People who work in these sweatshops abroad are not paid a decent wage for their work Mr Hillet, and no, Anne Johnson, I am not a toffee-nosed person and regularly shopped at Woolworths.

Dawn Smith, Churchwood Drive, Tangmere

It is ridiculous to compare the referendum in 1975, to stay

in the-then Common Market, to what a monster the European Union has become today. If we'd known then what we know today the British people of this country would vote, overwhelmingly, to leave the EU and that's why this craven, despicable government will not let us have a vote today. What their agenda is we can only guess at.

Mr C Hatch, Chichester

Peter Edgington was under the impression we have had a referendum on EU membership.

The referendum to which he refers related to our membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) which was vastly different from the European Union which today governs us to a large degree.

Mr Edgington may have been misled by the lies fed to us in this country by a series of politicians, but I am not aware Nato or the UN or the Commonwealth are imposing on us laws and regulations that govern our daily lives.

A Wallace, Bosham

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who helped look for my engagement ring which I lost in the sand at West Wittering beach. The lifeguards were fantastic, as were a lovely family who loaned us some junior metal detectors.

Sadly, we couldn't find it and I went home very sad.

There is, however, a happy ending. A gentleman found my ring when walking on the beach and handed it in to the estate staff, who kindly called me. Since the gentleman didn't leave his name, I am hoping he reads the Observer. If he does, may I just say a big thank you.

Mrs S Truss, Steep, nr Petersfield

CancerWise, the local cancer support centre, would like to thank all those people who gave so generously to their collection outside Sainsbury's Chichester on Saturday, September 5 which raised 486.56.

Sainsbury's is supporting us as their charity of the year and their support and the money donated will help us extend the support we offer to local cancer patients and their carers.

Diane Townson, centre manager, CancerWise

We have seen no comment in the press regarding the wonderful work carried out on the new illumination of the pier. Perhaps the cold weather is preventing us all from venturing out after dark in the evening.

We first saw these on September 2, and I would like to record my family's appreciation of the work and expense Mr Ayers has put into this very fine lighting display, which is a credit to Bognor Regis.

It is sad Mr Ayers had done this work quietly and efficiently with little support or thanks from those who have severely criticised him in the past.

Well done John!

Barry Jones, Victoria Drive, Bognor Regis

On the subject of the on-going issue of the new Tesco traffic lights, I would like to know when all the alleged chaos and queues occur?

On each occasion my wife and I have been to Tesco since the lights were switched on, we have not encountered any undue delays at all, entering or leaving the site.

In support of Mrs DA Sumpter, whose letter appeared in Observer on August 27, I totally agree the A29 at Shripney, which has always been a racetrack, has now been traffic calmed, and if the local speed merchants have had their fun spoiled then that is a positive result for us considerate motorists.

We all need to be much more patient on the roads, and it may

be Tesco's calming lights will help speeding motorists not being caught in the future by the camera on the southbound carriageway. Well done Tesco.

Tony Busson, Nyetimber

Top marks to the editor, who, whether by accident or design,

set up the two headlines for last week's Bognor Observer.

They show the complete indifference and the self-seeking attitude of Arun Council towards the people of Bognor. Perhaps it is they who should be disbanded.

DB Hay, Beaconsfield Close, Middleton-on-Sea

Animal Aid would like to thank the people of Arundel for their generosity in raising 99.19 at a street collection on August 22.

The money will help fund our peaceful campaigns and our important educational work on all aspects of animal cruelty. For more information on how to prevent animal cruelty, please call Animal Aid on 01732 364546.

Vince Cooper, Animal Aid collection co-ordinator, Walberton

On Saturday, August 1, we held a flag day collection In Bognor Regis town centre in aid of St John Ambulance.

Although the weather was poor, the public were very generous towards our charity and we were able to collect 555.95.

May I thank the kind people who donated to enable us to continue our work within the community, both in carrying out first aid at local events and running our Cadet and Badger youth groups.

AE Barker, event co-ordinator, Bognor Regis

The collection for Alder Hey Children's Charitable Trust took place outside the Iceland store on Wednesday, August 26. The amount collected was 32. No expenses were incurred.

Mrs J Hocken, Ormesby Crescent, Felpham

What do you think? Send a letter to [email protected] or leave a comment below.

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