Dream in peril
I WRITE from No 10, a small teashop in Church Street, Hereford. 
We have been here just over four and a half years. 
During this time we have experienced the ups and downs of trade, with a huge drop when the Old Market opened. 
However, far from sitting back and allowing this to swamp us we joined together and created the Independent Quarter.
We all spent time and not an inconsiderable amount of money trying to keep our beautiful area of Hereford relevant and as clean and attractive to shoppers as we could. This was done with no support from the council. 
We in the IQ are all, as the name suggests, independent traders, and in this climate survival has not been easy. In recent weeks it has become more and more difficult. The number of road closures/road works have made our September-October trade unpredictable and lower than we would normally expect, but these new parking restrictions are a disaster!
Our area of Hereford has no car parks. We rely on the footfall from Broad Street, St John and most significantly Castle Street.
A half-hour time restriction in Castle Street has proved catastrophic, and to charge people for an hour’s parking and no longer in other streets is hugely detrimental. 
The street is empty the shops are empty, and to be clear if this carries on most traders in Church Street will be gone by February.
Many of the people who I speak to about Hereford question why is the council so hell-bent on destroying the “nicest part of Hereford”.
It’s a question that I think we would all like answered. 
I don’t believe tourists come to Hereford for a mini Waitrose and chain restaurants.

Parking woe
I WOULD like to express my distress regarding the vastly reduced footfall up Church Street, Hereford, since the new parking restrictions have been brought into place.  
I’ve had customers coming in saying that they can no longer bring their elderly relatives into the shop as they can’t park for long enough, or near enough, others saying they haven’t been down this end for weeks as they can’t park nearby.  
The hair salon are having appointments cancelled because you can’t get to and from an appointment within an hour.  The cafes are all on their knees, as the lovely people who used to pop into town to pick something up and have a coffee have gone.  
I realise that the intention was to get people to park in the longer stay car parks but they are just too far away from our section of town for us to get any trade from them.  Our passing trade has been completely decimated!
I had 19 customers today! I realise it’s a fairly chilly Monday but that is horrendous; two an hour! I’ve had better Mondays in January!   
I pay £339 a month for my rates, at the moment, the value I receive for that is absolutely zero. 
It feels like the council is only intent on bringing branded chain stores into this town and being no help whatsoever to the independent businesses that make Hereford the unique, quaint and wonderful place that it is. 
I’ve spoken to many of my colleagues down Church Street and if they have a bad December they won’t be here by March and if half of them are empty, the rest of us won’t be far behind.  
I’m aware that the figures supplied by the free wifi do not match our own eyes as far as this problem is concerned but I would like it noted that not everyone (by far) joins onto the free wifi (I know my phone doesn’t!).
It is very hard to be a shopkeeper in this difficult economic climate, and decisions like this can (and will) have a severe and final impact on businesses like ours here in the Independent Quarter.  
Mousetrap Cheese

Trade threat
WITH regard to the concerns expressed by many readers may I quote the following from the Daily Telegraph on Monday, November 20, from an article by Sir John Timpson: “People like shopping but you’re more likely to find them at out of town centres that provide free parking.
“Sadly, it’s town and city centres that are suffering, and in many cases they only have themselves to blame by all but banning motorists. 
“As I travel round the country visiting our branches, I’m watching the gradual decline of those towns that, by putting up rates and parking charges, fail to cater for customers.
“I would love to see some councils make their centres motorist-friendly and put a buzz back into their community.”
Perhaps these wise observations might be relevant to our beloved city.
Ocle Pychard

Clerk’s retort
I AM writing to correct some of the statements made by Belinda Attwater “How much?” in the Hereford Times of November 23.  
I am grateful for her appreciation of the work the city council does to support voluntary groups all across the city to try to make a great place even better. 
Yes, we are aware of the homeless, but housing and social services are statutory functions of Herefordshire Council and we have no power to intervene in them. 
Sadly, she has been taken in by the mis-information provided to your newspaper by one city councillor which you chose to print without checking the accuracy first.  
The city council is not spending £75,000 on a single cabinet. As stated elsewhere in the same edition it is fitting out a  whole new museum. 
Ms Attwater’s statement that only the planning committee is open to the public is nonsense.  
All of our meetings are open to the public, they have to be by law.  
Occasionally, we have to take a particular item in confidential session but the vast majority of our business is done in public.  
Once a year we have to have a parish meeting where any elector can ask about anything we have done, or not done.
I would be delighted if people took up her challenge and came to meetings. Perhaps she might come herself one day and so become better informed about what we are doing.  
Anyone can make a general claim that every political body is corrupt. If they have any real evidence to support that it should be shown to the police. 
Otherwise, the way to do something about your local council if you don’t agree with what they are doing is to stand for election, get involved and make things better. 
The next elections for the city council are in 2019.
Town Clerk for the City of Hereford

Have your say
I AM astonished just how misinformed the public are! 
I refer to Belinda Atwater’s letter in the Hereford Times (November 23) in which she says the only meeting open to the public is the planning meeting.  
In fact, every meeting of the council is open to the public. 
On the agenda of every meeting of the council is an item for questions from the public. 
Significantly, a member of the public can ask any question of the council at any meeting, whereas councillors are required to only ask questions relating to the current agenda. 
Yet not one of our city residents ever attend any of our meetings, let alone ask questions.
I wonder if Mss Atwater will practise what she preaches, and attend the next meeting of the council? 
All council meetings are published on the council website.
There is a terrible apathy when it comes to public participation. I have urged the public to attend through your letters pages on several occasions, and very few people ever attend the surgeries of their elected representatives on council.  
Councillors are elected, so naturally must be answerable to the electorate. 
Paradoxically, I hear when seeking election a common complaint: “I don’t bother to vote because they always
do what they want to do”.
‘They’ being the councillors.
But should those who do not vote have any cause to complain about council business?

Hall mix-up
THERE appears to have been confusion about the future ownership of the 200-year-old Hereford Shire Hall.
On the front of the Hereford Times (November 2) Janusz Kozinski, chief executive of the  new engineering university due to open in the next couple of years, indicated it could be taken over by  students. 
When  I asked  Herefordshire Council to confirm there were plans to hand over their headquarters to the university,  the council told me: “The Shire Hall is not being transferred to the new university.  
“This has never been discussed. The university team has expressed an interest in partial use of the building and has been offered limited office space. 
“We have discussed with them the potential use of the main hall for specific events as it is for other groups.
“The council is working with the university team to identify potential sites across the city.”
If the council had responded immediately to Mr Kozinski’s  claim in the Hereford Times some weeks ago of a take-over bid for the Shire Hall, a much valued community asset, the confusion and concern amongst the public would have quickly been allayed. 
Choirs and orchestras who use the main hall regularly were especially dismayed. 
Everyone backs the university project, a real game changer for Hereford, but few would agree to relinquish  county hall.
When ESG was planning the city regeneration project a decade ago it earmarked the former boys grammar  school building in Blackfriars Street as a potential university location.  
Later it would become the Robert Owen Academy, a school majoring on vocational training with a new block of classrooms and engineering workshops.  
Sadly, it has not been a success and Government has recently announced it is withdrawing funding and it is unlikely to source alternative finance.  
This tailor-made education complex must surely be a better bet than the Shire Hall if it becomes available.

Offa’s palace
I AM a Herefordian and lived in Holmer Parish for 20 years and in Marden area for nearly 60 years and have taken a great interest in local archaeology. 
My work brought me into contact with archaeologists, and I worked with them on a number of projects.
During the dig looking for Offa’s Palace I visited the dig numerous times and talked to the archaeologists.
Offa was King of Mercia, a kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, from 757 until his death in July 796. It is interesting to note that Garath Lawson seems convinced that the site of Offa’s Palace is known, which I believe is based on very limited in archaeological evidence. 
The conclusion of the report on the excavations in 1999 and 2000 found what was believed to be a “great enclosure” which could suggest an association with Offa. 
The bone fragments, however, found in a trench carbon date to a much later date. 
It would be interesting to hear from the archaeologist who carried out the excavation what evidence there is to suggest that the site excavated is conclusively the site of Offa’s Palace.

Awful paper
WHY did the Hereford Times have to dedicate two pages to Quentin Letts and the hate-peddling rag he writes for? 
I can think of at least 50 things more interesting happening in Herefordshire, 50 people more interesting to interview, come to think of it. 
Thanks for the sycophantic warbling but here’s a suggestion: How about Daily Mail readers take their papers and set fire to them in the centre of Hereford, then look around and see what they can do to make their society better, rather than indoctrinating themselves in hate and division. 
I won’t be reading this book.

Passing place
ANYONE travelling along the Pentre Lane/Dorstone Road will be well acquainted with the very narrow stretches.
I understand the farmer adjoining the worst of these has offered to give the council a piece of land for a passing place. 
It would be long enough for two lorries to pass and he would also supply the hardcore to surface the area. A local plant hire firm has estimated £5,000 to £6,000 for preparing the area and local volunteers have offered to arrange earth removal and traffic control.
There has been a string of minor accidents on this short stretch of road over recent years and on the gradient the very real risk of a serious one.
The locals have put their offer forward to Herefordshire Council and Dorstone Community Council with little or no response.
I would ask anyone familiar with this road to lobby the council and urge them to take action.

Farm lost
I WONDER how many people heard the Radio 4 farming programme on November 19.
It was a really heart-rending account of the auction of all the farm equipment on a smallholding near Hereford. 
The livestock had already gone to Hereford market.
The farmer, Steve, said he was “gutted” and he had no idea what to do as he had put so much into his farm, and being 55 was not sure what else he could do.  
He would like to have stayed on as a tenant, but the new owner wanted to farm it himself.  
It seemed he and his wife had nowhere to go, having lost their house.  
I really felt for them, as well, of course, for the valuable assets of the county that have been lost to future generations.