PLEASE keep your letters to 250 words maximum giving your name, address and daytime telephone number - even on emails. Email: Write: Gazette and Herald, 1 Newmarket Avenue, White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge, BA14 0XQ. Phone: 01225 773600.

Anonymity is granted only at the discretion of the editor, who also reserves the right to edit letters.

Vital volunteers

I WROTE a few weeks ago about how brilliant the Devizes Leg Clinic is every Thursday.

I am so sorry I forgot some of the other people there, without them the clinic could not exist. The ladies on the reception table keep the records and do just about everything regarding the running of the Club.

And the gentlemen who wait on and carry for the nurses, the ladies who run an excellent bring and buy stall with money they raise going towards an ‘everyone win’ prize raffle at Christmas.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that everyone, clinical and volunteers, achieves so much in helping people improve their quality of life. Thank you.

Pauline Hawkins, Devizes

Come see our school

FOLLOWING on from Colin Hulley’s letter (January 16) I’m delighted to respond. School Performance Tables (commonly referred to as league tables) are published annually and freely available on

The results for Kingsbury Green Academy for summer 2018 show an impressive increase in the Progress 8 score which measures the progress a pupil makes from entering the school in year 7 to their GCSE results. This increase was the largest across Wiltshire and as the main measure of a school’s performance supports the fact that we were the most improved school in our county. It is for this reason we were asked to share our best practice in the Parliamentary Review.

We are very proud of our school, not just the educational improvements we have made but also across the wider spectrum - for example we have a comprehensive extra curricular offering and our sporting teams have an impressive trophy cabinet.

We welcome visitors (not just on set open days) and invite your readers from near and far to contact the school if they wish to see the school in action.

Nicky Brennan, Chair of Governors, Kingsbury Green Academy, Calne

Streets not fit to use

HAVING read the letter which included the well known fact that Wiltshire Council are incompetent just about says it all. In the last week a road near where I live was closed for three days for resurfacing, some was done the rest wasn’t and there are still potholes in that area.

Maybe only small, when taking the amount of money it must have cost to get the equipment on site into consideration surely it would have been more cost-effective to have resurfaced the whole road.

Also we have seen new street lights, total cost for the county in the region of £12 million to the taxpayer and despite claims by the County Hall establishment nothing will be saved, and these lights now leave us with darkened areas at night which leave people feeling vulnerable and unsafe.

With our footpaths in such a bad state of repair it is possible that more people will be tripping over or getting knocked over as it is safer to walk in the road.

Tony Fellenor, Farleigh Close, Chippenham

Get priorities right

DESPITE concerns about parking, which one suspects will be resolved in favour of the developer, you report that councillors applauded the scheme for the redevelopment of the St Peter’s School site in Marlborough.

This will bring to the town a boutique hotel, a high end restaurant, and eight luxury homes which are likely to be marketed between £600-£800,000. It is said that this “will revitalise an important area of the town”, but in whose interests? - not, one suspects, in the interests of many local young people who would like to be able to remain in the town of their birth, but who can no longer afford to live here.

That same edition of your newspaper also reported that villagers in Seend were being invited to have their say about plans “which will see new affordable homes built there, allowing people who were born and raised locally to have a chance of getting on the housing ladder”. It sounds as if the good people of Seend have got their priorities right.

David Du Croz, The Green, Marlborough

More cash for roads

I WAS interested in the item in last week’s edition about the experience of Des Burnett with pothole repairs. Whilst potholes are given much publicity, the overall state of our secondary road network is generally not fit for purpose.

There are numerous other issues - as Mr Burnett says the repair of potholes often leaves much to be desired, manholes are often located in the wheel tracks of vehicles with consequent subsidence/potholes along with drains, splitting of the Tarmac in the centre of the road, subsidence and lifting of the Tarmac surface creating patches which are not regarded as deep enough to be treated as potholes.

All these issues are well illustrated by the condition of the A342 between Devizes and Rushall and by many other roads in Wiltshire, for example, the A360 through Tilshead and roads in the Hilcot and Honey Street areas.

Whilst some additional monies have been allocated for pothole repairs, this does not rectify years of underinvestment and inadequate priority being accorded to our secondary road network and the urgent need to improve the overall standard of our roads.

For far too long secondary road maintenance and improvement has been viewed as a relatively low priority and in periods of budget cuts an easy option for reductions but over many years there is now an accumulation of problems which need major investment.

Peter Newell, Peppercombe Close, Urchfont

What now for NHS?

LAST week you reported that Salisbury Hospital had ‘its worst performance on casualty delays for five years’. We also learned the Government plans to scrap the four-hour waiting target for A & E units.

The PM told MPs that delays for NHS care were unacceptable and vowed that “we will get those waiting lists down.”

But how will he, or your readers, or anybody know if those waiting lists are coming down if the target is scrapped, and the figures no longer collected and published?

Given that A & E waiting list target for 95% of patients to be seen within 4 hours has not been met for the last 3 years, the abolition of that target seems to me a wholly cynical move by the Government to escape accountability and to try and avoid critical headlines

John Boaler, Calne Town Councillor, Central Ward (Labour), Woodland Park, Calne

Save Stonehenge

THE Stonehenge Alliance has written to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps asking him to axe the A303 Stonehenge Scheme.

Government Departments tasked to look at proposed spending must decide which expensive projects could be scrapped. The Treasury’s chief concerns about the Stonehenge Scheme will be its poor value for money and potential for cost overrun.

The Alliance warns that the unreliable nature of the soft phosphatic chalk ground rock, along with unknown problems with groundwater, risks major delays in tunnelling and cost overruns: presumably to be borne by the public purse. Independent experts acting for the Stonehenge Alliance have scrutinised the economic case and geological borehole data, some of which were not made available to last year’s planning Examination of the Scheme.

Weak chalk ground rock was the reason for abandonment of a previous tunnel scheme and the Alliance notes that no major UK contractors are bidding for the job this time around.

Further drawbacks must be UNESCO’s condemnation of the Scheme and the massive carbon footprint of the Expressway at a time of recognised climate emergency.

These and other significant concerns were raised by the Stonehenge Alliance at the 2019 Examination into the A303 Expressway Scheme on which Grant Shapps is due to decide by April 2.

The letter says: “On behalf of the Stonehenge Alliance, a group of non-governmental environmental and archaeological organisations, we oppose the highly damaging A303 Stonehenge Expressway Scheme which is heavily criticised by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

“The Scheme offers very poor value for money, would cause significant harm to the World Heritage Site, and poses a high risk in proposing to tunnel through weak Phosphatic Chalk.

“Our specialists gave evidence to the 2019 Examination into the Scheme. Their more detailed evidence is held in the Examination Library. We hope you might be minded to consider the following particular concerns in reaching your decision on the Scheme.

Value for money: The Scheme is considered by Highways England to be low value for money, each £1 of expenditure being expected to generate £1.08 of benefits. Most of the total claimed benefits derive from a seriously flawed cultural heritage valuation without which the Scheme would be poor value for money indeed at a mere 21 pence return for each pound it would cost to construct. These matters, along with rising costs and only partial corridor upgrade, are highlighted in the Reports of the National Audit Office (20 May 2019) and the Public Accounts Committee (3 July 2019).

Cost overruns: Information released to us by Highways England, via FoI (December 2019), confirms our consultant hydrogeologist and geotechnical specialist’s advice that unpredictable and extensive vertical and horizontal zones of very poor quality and weak Phosphatic Chalk in the western area of the proposed tunnel and cutting route clearly demonstrate the extreme difficulty of tunnelling through the highly variable Rock Strength of the Chalk bedrock. Much information is still lacking on the expected highly adverse ground and groundwater conditions that would be encountered during tunnelling. All of these major geological, hydrogeological and geotechnical “unknowns” could lead to very significant amounts of downtime and cost overruns if the project goes ahead. Presumably such costs would have to be borne by the public purse.

International Commitments: UNESCO’s 2019 World Heritage Committee condemned the A303 upgrade in its current form. Should the Scheme go ahead as proposed, not only would the UK Government be in breach of its International World Heritage Convention obligations but there is also a strong possibility that Stonehenge’s World Heritage status would be withdrawn. Cultural vandalism on such a scale at this iconic heritage site would inevitably bring international disgrace.

Climate change: In their 2019 Progress Report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change stated that “Transport is now the highest-emitting sector and must be a key contributor towards the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed over the period to 2030.”

Parliament has declared a Climate Emergency and set a legal target for net zero emissions by 2050. The decision on the Stonehenge Scheme sits squarely within this frame. If built, the extra speed and volume of traffic created would have a high carbon impact, assigned a negative value of £86 million by Highways England. This is likely to be an underestimate and if properly costed would further undermine the economic case for the Scheme.

Conclusion: The scheme is very expensive, carries a high risk of unforeseen problems and cost overruns, would cost far more than it could ever realise in benefits and would cause significant damage to the World Heritage Site, possibly placing its UNESCO designation in jeopardy.

Failure to provide a Strategic Environmental Assessment of upgrading the Stonehenge section along with other intended A303 upgrades has denied the public true understanding of the full impact of these schemes and, indeed, of more sustainable possible alternatives.

Government Departments are being asked to look again at value for money. We therefore urge you to reject the present A303 Stonehenge Scheme which represents a significant waste of public resources and would result in lasting harm and few economic benefits.

Tom Holland, Stonehenge Alliance President, says: “How can a Conservative government even contemplate the desecration of our most precious prehistoric landscape? The Stonehenge tunnel, if it goes ahead, will shame our country.”

Dr Kate Fielden, The Old Smithy, Alton Priors, Marlborough, Hon Sec, Stonehenge Alliance

George McDonic, Chairman, Stonehenge Alliance

PS The Stonehenge Alliance supporter organisations are: Ancient Sacred Landscape Network; Campaign to Protect Rural England; Friends of the Earth; Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust; and Transport Action Network.

Let’s Stand Together

HOLOCAUST Memorial Day on Monday, January 29 is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

Between 1941 and 1945, six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Their attempt to murder all the Jews in Europe shook the foundations of civilisation.

The Nazis targeted anyone they believed threatened their ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’, including Roma and Sinti people, disabled people, gay people, political opponents and others.

From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, imposed an extremist programme to reconstruct Cambodia. Millions of people died through starvation, disease and exhaustion, and thousands were executed.

In a violent outpouring in 1994, approximately one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in just 100 days in the Genocide in Rwanda.

In July 1995, against the backdrop of an ongoing civil war, Bosnian Serb forces led by Ratko Mladić murdered around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

In 2003 a civil war began in the region of Darfur. Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, attacked black African people, destroying entire villages, murdering civilians and displacing many more.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

This year is also 25 years since the horrors of Bosnia

This year’s theme, Stand Together, reflects on the complex roles of Christians during the Holocaust.

A public gathering is arranged in Chippenham on Monday evening at St Paul’s Church, Greenway Lane, from 7.30-8.30pm for any one who would like to stand together to reflect upon the past and seek to be a positive influence for the future in stopping genocide.

Stephen Cozens, Wessex Close, Chippenham

This beggars belief

GLAD to read that Mr Stuart Eels is recovered and I wish him well. However, I wonder where he has been since the days of the Brexit bus in 2016.

Surely he realises that, once the UK leaves the EU, the NHS will be awash with money? Well, that is what was said – and believed by many who voted to leave. To now blame the cost of leaving, increasing as the economy shrinks, is pure fantasy, surely, according to Johnson, Gove, Aaron Banks and Farage.

All those deals world wide…? A blame game cowardly directed in an attempt to escape reality. The absence of a Labour Party in the debate has, naturally, not helped, but, hopefully, this will improve. Perhaps it is now too late for facts to sink in but those responsible history will judge accordingly.

At present, we are not well served in Westminster, where Farage is to hold a party on January 31, presumably to reunite the nation. Beggars belief - but true!

James Saxton, Zander Road, Calne