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Carnival will go on

As trustees of DOCA (Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts) we feel there’s a need for some urgent reassurance regarding the 2019 Devizes Carnival, following a somewhat alarming report in the Gazette & Herald (January 31).

Like all the big events that DOCA now delivers each year in Devizes, including the street festival, confetti battle and lantern parade, the carnival depends on DOCA’s success in obtaining the considerable funding now needed from grants. The largest of these is from Arts Council England.

This year is no different from all previous years: we plan a programme for the year, apply for the grants to put it into practice and keep our fingers crossed waiting for the outcome.

The Arts Council has been consistently supportive of our innovative programming and has championed our events for many years and, thankfully, we have been consistently successful in achieving funding, even in these very difficult times.

We live with the risk that one year we will not be so successful but not all our eggs are in one basket. Even in a poorly funded year we would try to run a programme of sorts, albeit a reduced one. Most arts organisations around the country, delivering festivals and events, work in the same way. It can be stressful but it’s how it works.

You will be aware that this year we are conducting an experiment by moving the carnival date forward to Saturday, July 13 – a bit of a revolutionary thought for some! All other summer events remain in August.

Schools have always been major participants in the past but our traditional date sits awkwardly at the end of the summer holidays and from time to time we lose schools from carnival. This new date should help them a lot.

We will be supporting the date change with some practical arts support for schools who want to participate. We have done this before and it was welcomed and very successful. We hope it will work again. Also, needless to say, it’s not just schools we want taking part – get involved yourselves too!

DOCA is a much supported and appreciated organisation in the town and we thank everyone who helps to make it so successful. Long may it continue to be so!

BOARD OF TRUSTEES ANDARTISTIC DIRECTOR, Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts, Devizes

People over cars

A FORTNIGHT ago we went away for a week; Prince Philip’s accident was in the news and also reported was the subsequent lowering of the speed limit on the that road. I joked that we should get Prince Philip to pull out on our road to get the limit lowered.

We came back from holiday to the news that another two serious accidents had occurred on Dunkirk Hill, one involving our neighbour.

The Highway Code defines a built-up area as a settled area with street lighting, saying: “The 30mph limit usually applies to all traffic on all roads with street lighting unless signs show otherwise.”

We are a settled area with street lighting. We live on a hill with blind bends and concealed drives and yet the speed limit is 40mph, which everyone who lives on the hill will attest, drivers often exceed.

On more than one occasion when coming up from Rowde, indicating, slowing down and turning into our tight right-angled drive, we have been hooted at from behind.

You take your life in your hands, crossing this road. When did cars and lorries take precedence over people?

The speed limit on Dunkirk Hill needs to be lowered.

JENNY YEARSLEY, Dunkirk Hill, Devizes

Accuracy is vital

I READ with interest in the paper (January 31) the article reporting on the meeting that was held to discuss the plaque to mark the home of Pelham Puppets in Marlborough.

As a child I lived in the Five Alls public house along London Road which was run by my grandmother. On several occasions, Mr Bob Pelham, Gill Leeper and other gentlemen used to come in for lunch. My sister and I were often lucky enough to be asked to try out any new puppets to test their suitability.

Gill Leeper was the designer and painter for the puppet faces and so on. We were taken to see his workshop and work in progress and it was definitely situated in No 3 Kingsbury Street, accessed by a door next to Slopers Outfitters, this led to a staircase up to the workshop.

If my memory serves me correctly Nos 1 and 2 were taken on soon after as additional workspace and offices, but No 3 was on its own for a while. As the blue plaques make historical statements, although the chosen words sound fine, should it be more closely looked into before being finalised, as surely it has to be accurate?

WENDY NASH, Marlborough

Leave cars at home

CAR parking is not a problem confined to Marlborough. For as long as populations rise there is likely to be an ever-increasing number of cars on the road and all having to find parking space.

There are places in the world that have addressed the problem, that is encouraging cycling, pedestrian areas and public transport.

Marlborough people have not taken these solutions into account. I am in my late seventies and cycle three miles to and from Marlborough each day.

It is inconceivable that all local people have to use their cars and are unable to adapt their lifestyle to an alternative mode of transport.

As a bonus they would notice a marked improvement in their general health and fitness.

JEM COOK, Manton

Great focal point

I AM delighted to hear that the Mayor and a member of the Pelham family will be unveiling the blue plaque, at 1-3 Kingsbury Street, where Mr Bob Pelham started making his puppets.

The plaque is a fitting tribute to the man and the hundreds of townsfolk, whose wonderful puppets have given so much pleasure to children all over the world.

It will become a great focal point for many Pelham puppet collectors who visit the town to see the place ‘where it all began’.

LARS PETER BEAVEN, Reading

20mph is a boost

20MPH speed limits are a feminist issue – and one where the gender and pay gap could narrow.

Both genders gain from 20mph, but women gain most. Yet men are often the decision makers on local speed limits.

Calmer speeds lead to greater street confidence, freedom from some child escort duties, a greater ability to exercise safely and more time. Freeing up the time of parents is economically valuable.

When my daughter felt old enough to walk herself to school (aged nine), I gained at least an extra 3.5 hours a school week from no longer having to escort her. See http://www.20splenty.org/women_20

ANNA SEMLYEN, 20’s Plenty for Us campaign manager

Check your benefits

BETWEEN £10 and £15 billion in welfare benefits lies unclaimed, according to official figures published by the DWP. Benefitanswers are offering a free check which will tell you if you could be entitled to a share of the billions in unclaimed benefits. For your free check telephone 0330 223 4773.

JUNE BENNETT, Benefitanswers, Preston

Cutting is neglected

I FEEL I must comment on the massive spend by British Rail on re-grading the north side of the cutting between Thingley and Corsham.

It must be running into millions of pounds just to prevent what was ever a minor problem that had been controlled for over 100 years by regular maintenance of the drainage ditches at the top of the cuttings.

For the first 70 years of my life I lived at Thingley Court Farm and during that time we as a family farmed much of the land bordering this stretch of the railway, so I am well aware of what has taken place over these years.

During the time of the old GWR steam locomotives they always burnt the dry grass on the slopes once every year, usually late February-March when conditions were right, to encourage them to green up again during the summer to help prevent fires when the weather was dry, which was always a risk with steam engines.

As soon as diesel goods engines took over the Environment Agency stopped this practice, in order, it said, to protect ground nesting birds, but it did nothing to control alien vegetation from gradually taking over the site, which led to the ditches becoming overgrown and blocked so excess water was forced to seep down the side of the cutting instead of being carried away by the drainage ditches. No maintenance has been carried out on them for at least 50 years.

Over the years the sides of the cuttings have gradually been colonised by bushes, thorn and briars so most of it is covered by a dense mass of scrub 10-20 foot high.

This is what happens when the Agency interferes in the management of what was a closely organised eco-system. They have literally destroyed the very environment they were supposed to protect due to complete neglect.

T H WHITE, Corsham

Not for privilege

YOU published a very fair report (Gazette, February 7) of the row at Calne Town Council, after the Mayor proposed making the wearing of ceremonial robes obligatory, rather than optional for councillors. When I got home from that meeting I went first to my calendar to check the year really is 2019.

You report our Mayor, Lib Dem councillor Glenis Ansell as saying: “It’s the garb of the town council, and it’s a privilege.” That last word is key. Neither I, nor my two Labour colleagues, became councillors seeking ‘privilege’ in any form.

The wearing of robes is one of many traditions originating in Victorian times. It’s aim was to distinguish councillors as ‘the great and the good’ at a time when relatively few people had a vote. I do not think 21st-century councillors should be forced to dress in a way that sets them apart from ordinary people. Luckily no powers exist to enforce this, but I find it depressing that some councillors wish they did.

CLLR JOHN BOALER, Calne Central (Labour), Woodland Park, Calne

Facts are wrong

A NUMBER of your readers including myself have written in the past complaining about Dr Mathew using the letters column for political campaigning and here he is again this week on about the EU.

Unfortunately, between his writing the letter and your publication, he is shown up as getting his facts wrong. Both Nissan and Honda, for example, have stated that their decision on cutting to make diesel cars and the effect on employment have nothing to do with Brexit but to the substantial reduction in the sale of new diesel cars due to the emission regulations introduced by the EU!

Not much of a recommendation for a prospective MP.

DAVID L LAMB, London Road, Devizes

Best of a bad job

AS the disaster of Brexit approaches, I wondered why we hear very little about the hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on preparing for the deal or no deal. Money that would be much better spent on many new hospitals/schools etc.

I assume these large sums of money are being ignored by the few hard-line Brexiteers who still think our leaving will actually benefit our people. Even Mr Farage now admits that we’ll be no better off.

Also, of course, the choice of words by Mr Tusk was poor. However, he was not criticising the people who voted to leave, but the clever, devious hard-line Brexiteers who quite simply lied to the people with false promises of better times. Most Brexiteers admit the NHS will not get an extra £350m per week. Where are the fantasy trade deals we’ll need when we lose the many benefits of the EU? Do we really think that Mr Trump will ride to our rescue? I don’t think so.

Finally, Mrs May’s deal is the best she can make of a terrible situation because, of course, the hard-liners just want to leave regardless of the cost to our people and country.

GARY HUNT, Chippenham

Will shops survive?

WHY won’t councillors listen to the views of local people and traders?

On Friday I was an exhibitor at a big event at the Corn Exchange in Devizes. Having parked outside at 8.30am, unloaded my display, then parked down in the long stay car park in Station Road, I was on my feet for six hours before retrieving the car and reloading my display resources.

I had paid for all-day parking, but didn’t have the energy to drive back down the hill to park again, return to the high street and then back to the car in the wind and rain. However, I could see the opportunity to park in the Market Place and decided to stop for just a half hour longer – free. This enabled me to visit the chemist, a card shop, book shop and the great kitchen shop. I purchased seven items. If I had not had that opportunity to park for just 30 minutes, then I would have driven straight home without buying anything.

I feel very sorry for the traders! How are our shops, particularly independent shops, going to survive?

CAROLINE FOWKE, Tudor Close, Chippenham

Brexit not relevant

WITH regard to Brian Mathew’s letter of February 7, in which he boldly states that Nissan cancelling the construction of the X-Trail should be a wake-up call to the government. Why does he believe that? Is it because it makes good propaganda for the Remain cause?

Nissan’s X-Trail is a purely diesel driven model and as everyone knows diesel engines are subject to European Union directives calling for ever lower emissions from both diesel and to a lesser extent petrol and Michael Gove’s and President Macron’s target of banning both diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in the UK and France.

Not one job has been lost at Sunderland and the X-Trail will now be made where its market is, which is Asia.

The car industry in Europe has been complacent in its attitude towards emissions and now has received a shock with people like James Dyson throwing their weight behind electric cars.

Jaguar Land Rover had decided to move its Land Rover Defender production line to Slovakia five years ago, again nothing to do with Brexit, worth noting as well is that 90 per cent of all JLR vehicles made are diesel!

The car industry across the globe has seen startling drops in its sales. I suppose Brian Mathew is now going to blame that on Brexit!

Honda has publicly stated that the jobs lost at Swindon are because of the industry-wide decline in the sale of diesel cars and for no other reason. They also denied the move was as a result of Brexit.

These letters from Brian Mathew are nothing more than blatant electioneering before an election has even been called.

Nor has the cheating on emission tests by German manufacturers helped in any way. To try to pretend that Brexit has anything to do with this situation is scandalous.

He then offers up to the people of this country a ‘people’s’ vote, another referendum. What he doesn’t say is that Vince Cable, his party leader and Dominic Grieve, leader of the Conservative rebels, have both stated that the question they want on any ballot paper is to accept Mrs May’s deal or to remain in the EU. The contempt shown there shows exactly how they view the people of this country.

I have a far better question to put to the people on any further ballot 1. Leave. 2. Remain.

STUART EELS, John Aubrey Close, Yatton Keynell

Tax on the sick

FOR many years Chippenham Hospital has been a valued part of our community. It is with much regret, however, that I find it absolutely disgusting that hospital management condone the use of scare tactics (and the threat of debt collectors and bailiffs) towards patients who are either too ill, or confused to understand the draconian car parking system the hospital now employs.

My daughter attended the maternity unit of the hospital for a routine anti-natal appointment on January 28. Having been off work for some weeks due to sickness, she noted that the hospital offered two hours free parking for patients and visitors. She therefore attended her appointment and was well looked after by the brilliant maternity staff.

Imagine her surprise therefore, on receiving a fixed penalty fine for £85. The reason given for this fine was that she was not an authorised vehicle (even though she had a pre-booked appointment at the hospital).

On contacting the parking company she received no assistance and was faced with recorded messages about ‘bailiffs being at her door’.

My daughter then followed the formal appeal process, stating she was attending the hospital as a patient, and that there was two hours’ free parking at the hospital. She received a letter in reply stating that her appeal had been refused and not to bother appealing because the parking company was not a signatory of the parking ombudsman scheme.

The attitude of the parking company (representing the hospital) was disgusting. It failed to have any sympathy for a pregnant woman, attending the hospital who was also unwell. There was no acknowledgement that the internet states that Chippenham Hospital offers two hours’ free parking.

How many more sick and vulnerable people will be subject to this extortion? Do the hospital management care that people are being dealt with with such disdain? Why is it that hospitals these days are so ready to tax the sick?

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

More cops on beat

THROUGH your columns I would like to thank the Police and Crime Commissioner, for listening to my concerns at both the Police and Crime Panel, where I am a member, and in the local press and radio. I asked him to revisit his plan to spend the additional precept he is asking for on extra firearms and traffic officers.

He responded at the Police and Crime Panel last week by agreeing to a further ten officers on the beat as well as giving me a personal assurance that firearms officers would be engaged in community policing.

These extra feet on the beat are a victory for the people of Wiltshire and Swindon who are crying out for more visible policing.

COUNCILLOR JONATHON SEED, Wiltshire Council

The battle goes on

THE battle continues for the overwhelming majority of Wiltshire special needs parents to ensure their children are educated in their local communities and we are hugely grateful for the amazing support from our friends and neighbours. I’m sure there are some local residents who feel that this is not their battle, that disability has not touched their lives, and I understand that.

But I would say to them - this is everyone’s battle - for three reasons: Firstly, disability can strike anyone, it does not respect of gender, ethnicity or social status. Secondly, it can occur at any time through illness or injury, you don’t have to be born with a disability to become disabled. Some of our children, my own included, were born healthy and neurotypical but complications from a childhood illness left lifelong difficulties. And thirdly, along with the frail and elderly, children with special needs are the most vulnerable members of our community. If we can’t be seen to embrace and support them, what does that say about our society?

This could be a wonderful opportunity for Wiltshire Council. With a solid investment, some flair and imagination and the collaboration of parents they could be devising a vibrant and exciting 21st-century model of inclusive education other counties would strive to emulate. Sadly, they have chosen to look backwards into history for their inspiration, to the institutions of the 19th century where our children will be bussed back and forth Monday to Friday out of sight, and very shortly out of mind.

JANE SCRIVENER, Parent of a Larkrise School student

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