Blooming shame of city council demise

AT the recent garden festival in High Town with the judging of the “National in Bloom competition, Hereford in Bloom was so grateful for all the financial support and positive comments.

But it did give rise to many comments about grass-cutting and other matters and an obvious misunderstanding of the duties of our councils.

Therefore as a fifth generation Herefordian, who has always worked and lived here, may I enlighten, maybe newcomers, on what has happened over the years?

Briefly, Hereford is one of the oldest cities in Europe, having been granted a Charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1597, with its Mayor and council, responsible for all city matters. The county was merged with Worcestershire in 1974. but this not totally compatible move ended in a de-merger in 1998.

It is thought those responsible failed to re- register the charter, resulting in the once powerful council becoming no more than a parish council with its powers and assets transferred to the county.

A new charter was granted in 2000, re establishing the correct position of the Mayor but all powers and assets remained with the county. This has meant that all major decisions and funding are made by mainly those in the county but not as previously by those who worked and lived within the city.

It is appreciated that being a councillor can be a thankless task but these changes have not helped.

Setting aside the national cutbacks, the county provided the planting through Balfour Beatty while the city council with their now limited budget, are not responsible for many things – like grass-cutting – but have done their best to support Hereford in Bloom, to enhance our fine city for locals and visitors alike by providing the watering to the plants purchased by HIB.

But it is such a “blooming shame” that they are still not the unitary authority under the original charter and in total charge of the city’s destiny.

Next year it is the 300th anniversary of the Three Choirs Festival and it imperative we all play our part to make sure the city is extra special.


Step too far reduces vital police contact

I REALLY cannot believe that we’ve reached the state where, in order to save money, we have to close police station front counters.

There are few enough police officers and police stations available as it is, but to suggest that future contact should be made only via an intercom is a step too far.

In the 1960s I was a police officer in Surrey and I was often deployed to man the front office to deal with members of the public.

Their enquiries covered absolutely everything and could vary from the most mundane through to the most serious, but – in every case – they had been comforted by the sight of the familiar blue lamp outside the police station and knew there would be someone there to help them.

We need readily accessible police officers in as many areas as possible. We need places that we can go in times of trouble when we want a place of safety or sanctuary or when we need urgent advice.

We need the personal touch – the physical interaction between police officers and members of the public.

You need to see facial expressions, physical behaviour, and to have contact.

Since the 60s, when we seemed to have police stations open 24 hours a day, and police officers constantly on patrol, we now seem to have reached the stage where we have little or nothing left.

It’s wrong, wrong, wrong!


Don’t forget ‘backbone’

THERE was little doubt in my mind that Hereford’s new market development would be a success – and sure enough it has had every resource thrown at it by a string of multi-national developers, retailers and restaurants.

However it’s about 10 years behind the times and Herefordshire Council deserves no applause for its part in a consultation and negotiation process which was ham-fisted and weak.

Ongoing concern has always been about the consideration, or lack of it, for long-standing businesses in the rest of the city which provide the backbone of Herefordshire and livelihoods for many individuals.

Where Cllr Mark Hubbard ( Hereford Times, July 24) is clearly striving for much- needed development, equal support and improved resources to be directed towards the businesses and opportunities in High Town, council leader, Cllr Tony Johnson is happy to sit back, gloat on yesterday’s work and wants a feather in his cap for the recently finished development!

While developing and expanding my business on the other side of the road I have experienced nil support from the council.

Indeed I have found all my effort has been met with negativity, objection, unnecessary cost and a planning department that has little vision and was hopelessly under-resourced.

MARTIN PEARSON Widemarsh Street, Hereford

For walking not cycling

I HAVE been very concerned about cycling on pavements for a few years. My teenage daughter was knocked down by a cyclist on the pavement outside our house on Bargates in Leominster, a couple of years ago, suffering cuts and bruises as well as being very shaken.

Twice recently I have almost been knocked down in the same spot by cyclists moving at speed down Bargates. Once I had my toddling grandson with me.

The cyclist then shouted abuse at me and carried on.

The other problem is skateboarders who whizz down Bargates behind people who don’t hear them. I was told as a child that pavements were for walking, and cycling was for cycling lanes or on the road.

Cyclists do not seem to have bells any more to warn people they are there.


Wrong kind of houses

I READ with vague interest the leader of Herefordshire Council’s letter to the Hereford Times bemoaning the fact people weren’t more appreciative of the £43 million, mostly for road building, that central government awarded the county via the Marches Local Partnership Enterprise quango.

Although we know that the money for the city link road and the Southern Link Road,is not primarily to alleviate the current congestion we all battle through daily, we really should be more grateful.

The primary purpose of the new roads is to allow surrounding agricultural land to be “unlocked” for development (the council’s words, not mine). And by development, despite the undefined promises of new business, they really mean more houses.

And by new houses they do not mean the houses we really need for first-time buyers but instead the executive and retirement estates that housebuilders are clamouring to build in our beautiful county.

The award of the £43 million may help the bloated execs and shareholders of housebuilding firms and national retailers, who will fall with glee on the land and our county pound, but it does not help us, the average county man and woman, to achieve decent affordable houses and decent jobs that pay a fair wage.


Bring back ‘point duty’

I REFER to the traffic chaos in Hereford. Even with traffic lights installed in the city years ago, a policeman did point duty, directing traffic.

This tried and tested system worked like a dream. In the old Highway Code, there were pictures of hand signals from a policeman.

At rush hour, let’s switch off these useless traffic lights and reinstate point duty, or is it too much to ask to get modern-day police officers out of their cars?

At a push, can’t police community support officers be trained and used for this?

In the USA they still use police on point duty and 90% are very entertaining to watch with their whistles – and they dance!

Do something constructive, try it again. You might be surprised when it works.

N PREECE Charles Witts Avenue, Hereford.

Sidelining our ward councillors

WE have just left an extraordinary meeting of Leominster Town Council called to discuss the unbelievably arrogant way Herefordshire Council had approached the elimination of the school bus service serving Ivington School from September.

The acting head of the school found out about this cut from a rumour one week before the end of the term via one of the parents, which caused her to phone the county council.

The council promised a letter of explanation the following week, which still has not arrived!

The issues raised by this breathtaking display of arrogance, concern and lack of accountability by the council cabinet member involved, Cllr Paul Rone, are many and serious. We will restrict ourselves to just two.


How can a decision with such far-reaching consequences for safety, accessibility and even the viability of the school, be taken without any discussion with the stakeholders or even the ward councillors who were as surprised at the decision as the parents?


What is wrong with the democratic deficit of the cabinet system is that not only were the ward councillors bypassed in the process but even more telling, they seemed to accept this treatment as a matter of course?

They should have been incensed over being treated in this fashion by the cabinet member. It seems that even the paid officials treat the councillors as second class citizens, refusing to answer questions or provide information.

Are there any checks and balances left on the unfettered ability of the cabinet to ride roughshod even over their own council members?

CLLRS ROGER AND ANGELA PENDLETON Independent town councillors, Upper Hill Leominster

Green ideas not all great

I CONTINUE to wonder what methods of justification Herefordshire Council are using to convince themselves that the installation of wind turbines across the county is the best idea for energy generation here.

If it is in the mistaken belief that anything labelled ‘green energy’ must be a good idea, I would urge members of the council to stop to consider that not all ‘green’ ideas are great ones.

The defacing of Herefordshire’s beautiful countryside by monstrous turbines is the worst way of supplementing energy needs for the county. What will be in the next tranche of applications from these energy providers – massive wind farms that spread like a disease across our beautiful hills and dales?

The council might convince itself that it would never allow that to happen, but it surely must be obvious that if these providers get their foot in the door with one turbine, they will prise it open by hammering away with repeated applications until they get their way to unimagined numbers.

What will the council do once the county has been completely blighted with their ill-thought-through plans? Too late then...

ELIZABETH PORTMAN- LEWIS Etnam Street, Leominster

Co-operation, co-existence

THERE seems to be a movement in Herefordshire saying no to all farming development. The latest example is the protests against chicken plants described in the Hereford Times about planning disputes in Lyonshall (Farmer gets the green light for chicken houses, August 14) .

We are neighbours of farmer Richard Williams, mentioned in the article, with his fields bordering our garden and house.

Here is an example of good co-operation. Richard called us last Monday explaining that he was to spread chicken muck in adjacent fields but assured us he would do it quickly, and plough and harrow the fields immediately to make sure there would be just a short inconvenience.

He and his farm team worked for two days from 6am-10pm and there was a mild smell for just half a day.

We are ex-city people but strongly believe that such a co-operation to minimise the inconvenience of farming and industry is the key to a good co-existence. We will see more farm development over the coming years as farming goes for sustainable production with anaer obic digesters, wood chip heating and solar. That is a positive projection to give us all food and energy. And save us against climate change.

We hope that Richard Williams will get his planning permission for some additional chicken plants because he is one of the best examples of good farming practices. We need to take such behaviour into the planning picture because that will show that good performance will better your opportunity of securing planning consent.


Timebomb over refuse

I COULDN’T agree more with Graham Spencer’s letter (Good for gulls and rats, Letters, August 7) .

On several occasions recently I have walked into Hereford town centre via St Owen Street when the refuse collectors have obviously been round. However, some of the contents of the rubbish bags had been left strewn over the pavement and road and the food waste stink was unbelievable Presumably, someone later cleared it up but I don’t see why they should have to when we pay council tax for this.

I’ve noticed generally that the paths and roads are getting dirtier and unhealthy.

Either the refuse needs to be put into something which the gulls, magpies and rats cannot get open to cause all this mess, or the refuse collectors should start picking up all the bits of rubbish which fall out of the bags when they are collected.

The way it is, this problem is a ticking timebomb.

JUDITH BROWN Lower Bullingham, Hereford.

We will scrap cabinet system

I REFER to Cllr Bob Matthews’ letter (Power in the hands of the few comes at high cost, Letters, August 7) .

In 2009 the Hereford Times published a letter of mine under the headline “You get the leadership you deserve.”

For me, it began a chain of events that brought me into local politics, and changed my life.

In 2011 I was elected in Hereford’s Three Elms ward, for the then new It’s Our County (IOC) group which had been formed in 2010 as a political party just for Herefordshire, out of frustration with the way local politics was done.

From inside council it became abundantly clear the cabinet system is totally wrong for Herefordshire.

There are 58 county councillors (to be reduced to 53 next May), yet far too many decisions are made by just seven – the administration’s Cabinet.

This undemocratic system has led to the mismanagement to which Cllr Matthews refers. But he and his Independents were previously in coalition administration – and in a cabinet with the Conservatives!

Real democratic power lies in the hands neither of the few in the cabinet, nor even of the council, but of the electorate.

Since 2011 IOC has won all four county council by- elections where we’ve stood, against Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Independents and UKIP.

It’s clear how the electorate is thinking.

In May 2015 voters will decide what sort of governance will prevail in council for the next four years.

It’s Our County is committed to replacing the cabinet system, giving many more decisions to full council and a real, democratically representative voice to all councillors.

CLLR CHARLES NICHOLLS It’s Our County Fayre Oaks Home Park, Hereford.

‘Aliens’ threatening our greatest treasure

THE planning inspector’s decision to allow a highly visible large-scale polytunnels development right in the centre of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) at Kings Caple is extraordinary and creates a dangerous precedent which will encourage further applications for development elsewhere across the AONB.

Eric Pickles stated in the Daily Telegraph on March 27 last year: “Our reforms safeguard our glorious green spaces and countryside...And they defend AONBs.”

The government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that great weight should be given to “conserving landscape and scenic beauty in...AONBs, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.”

But residents who live within the AONB find that the very positive statements made by those in government promising AONBs are safe in their hands and the claimed protective measures in its NPPF, when put to the test, simply count for nothing.

The inspector herself in her decision writes: “There is no doubt in my mind that covered polytunnels represent alien features in the natural landscape and, even when the plastic is removed, the standing hoops can still create an impression of large scale industrial-type development in the important AONB designation.”

The decision is thus incomprehensible and based on errors of law.

The majority of Kings Caple residents urge Herefordshire Council to appeal in the High Court to redress these errors.

Every year thousands of visitors are drawn to enjoy the AONB which is the focal point of Herefordshire’s beautiful landscape. This is of great economic benefit to the county.

Polytunnels are not beautiful and the council needs to undertake this final action to safeguard the AONB against developments which threaten our greatest treasure.


Ludicrous change to bus schedule

I READ about the plight of the Weobley bus users in last week’s Hereford Times.

While I sympathise with them I am appalled to read how my old home village of Garway has been treated in the recent rescheduling that has taken place.

The service used to start from Broad Oak going via Garway, Garway Hill, Orcop, Wormelow, Much Dewchurch and onward in to Hereford via the Callow.

The new schedule follows the same route but excludes Much Dewchurch and the Callow and terminates at Much Birch!

There, these mostly elderly passengers are expected to await a connecting bus from Ross-on- Wye for an indeterminate period of time in all weathers.

What happens to the bus that brings them there is anyone’s guess – it probably heads back into Hereford empty.

I wonder how the people who come to such a ludicrous arrangement would feel if it were their elderly parents, or even themselves in their dotage, subjected to such ill-considered abuse.

Please bear in mind the people I know who use this service are elderly, unable to drive and have worked hard throughout their entire lives.

What an uncivilised and selfish group of people we seem to have in the corridors of power these days.

The other thing that occurs to me is the apathy being shown by our local parish councils who are allowing this to happen without some effort on their part.

It is surely what representatives of the people are supposed to do, is it not?

Currently there are buses running Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on this route, which are all suitable for these elderly people.

Surely cutting the Monday service completely would be a more sensible and compassionate option and would give the saving that is required?