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At last: Mercury gets an answer

PUBLISHED: 14:32 26 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:07 03 July 2010

REGARDING the headstones in Magdalen Cemetery. First of all congratulations to The Mercury for giving the subject such full coverage, which at last elicited a 1,000 word reply from the borough council, only six words are used admitting, that at the end of the day, it was physical force which determined that so many headstones would be staked in the course of a few months.

REGARDING the headstones in Magdalen Cemetery. First of all congratulations to The Mercury for giving the subject such full coverage, which at last elicited a 1,000 word reply from the borough council, only six words are used admitting, that at the end of the day, it was physical force which determined that so many headstones would be staked in the course of a few months.

At a conservative estimate, the method used has “discovered” half a million pounds worth of damage - to say nothing of the distress caused to family and friends of the deceased commemorated by the stone, some of whom will be hard pressed to pay for repairs.

The council will be well aware that the main issue which brought about the correspondence on the staking of headstones referred to “full size” stones, yet in their reply they refer to (the nice round figure of) 8,500 memorials, including those only a few inches high, this of course means that the percentage figure used is, to put it mildly, unreliable.

Having read the Mercury Opinion (Page 10, February 20), I can only reply that the council's answers may not satisfy or bring closure to the many people affected by this matter.

N HOWELL

Nuffield Close

Gorleston

SO now we know! Nobody has been killed or injured during the last 30 years by gravestones randomly toppling over in local cemeteries. Well done Mercury, at least you got an answer, when I asked a similar question in a letter some weeks ago no one from the council bothered to respond.

One question that you might also have asked is exactly how much is this “service” costing the council tax payers of Great Yarmouth? And how about this organisation that calls itself “The Institute of Cemeteries And Crematorium Management on Memorial Management and Inspection?” Their business cards alone must be A4 size!

Sounds like something from Monty Python to me. My guess is that it's probably a trade sponsored body that has a vested interest in ensuring that this debacle carries on providing income for their industry or sponsors.

The aim of providing a risk-free environment for all is well intentioned enough but unfortunately flawed, insomuch that merely identifying a potential risk, however ridiculously small that risk might be, then requires universal (and what often is rightly judged as disproportionate) action to be taken to eliminate it. Hence council agents trying to shake headstones loose, hanging baskets being banned, schools being closed because of icy puddles in the playgrounds etc.

Equally, insurance companies can then sit back and load the premiums of public organisations and businesses that might be tempted to take a more commonsense and balanced approach to such risks.

I'm afraid there are probably too many vested interests embedded in the “elf-n-safety” culture that we have all seen grow over the past decade to believe there is any hope of a reversal. So smile, pay up and watch how you go next time you take a short cut through the cemetery.

DENNIS J BEAN

Burgh St Peter

Beccles

I FEEL I must respond to the Mercury's front page story last week regarding Mrs Valerie Rose' family headstone (February 20) together with your story the previous week regarding headstone inspections generally.

We fully appreciate there were difficulties in getting you a response to the initial front page story published on Friday, January 13. However, due to the complex nature of your enquiry and the short timescale given we were unable to fully answer all your questions before your deadline. The way you presented this was I feel somewhat unfair on the staff involved.

In addition, the council was not contacted about the story relating to Mrs Rose. Had you done so we would have responded and clarified why we took the course of action we did.

We are sorry when anyone feels they have been caused distress, as Mrs Rose clearly does in this case. But we had no other option than to write to the registered owner - something we are required to do by law. It is the grave owner's responsibility to advise us of any change of address, and this is clearly stated on our application forms for the erection and maintenance of a memorial.

We liaise directly with the applicant (next of kin) following the interment of the owner and provide them with a transfer of Burial Rights Questionnaire and a full covering letter explaining the law regarding ownership and transference of the same.

We also carry out “Living Transfers”. This allows living owners to add additional names to their title deeds, ie a son/daughter and perhaps a grandchild. This ensures that ownership is maintained through several generations. Therefore, when the original owner dies there still remains living owners. This is very helpful to owners as it eliminates the need to transfer at a time when family are grieving and quite often unable to deal with additional paperwork.

It is simply an unfortunate fact that this is not something everybody thinks to do, and we can only work with the information we have

Contacting the last registered owner is not therefore a “blunder”, as stated in the photo caption, and the methodology we employ was in fact made clear in our response to your original story.

Since the inspection and notification in August of last year no contact has been made by Mrs Rose to initiate a transfer, even though I understand she was aware that the memorial had failed the inspection two weeks afterwards and was made aware of the transfer procedure.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has a policy of openness with regard to media enquiries. We have previously extended an invitation to meet with a member of your editorial staff to show them how Bereavement Services operates and the rules we must adhere to, and that invitation remains open. I very much hope you will take it up.

Cllr JIM SHRIMPLIN

Cabinet Member for Environment

Great Yarmouth Borough council

DEAR Gorleston and Yarmouth councillors, please make Gorleston front nice and simple. You have at least demolished those awful, so-called beach huts. All we need now is tasteful paving with seats facing the sea, so we locals, and visitors who want a nice quiet sit, have a view of the luxury cruise ships, ferries and container vessels entering and leaving our new outer harbour.

We already have some nice, clean and well run cafes, and don't need any more. Don't allow any more parking on the promenade, but please repair and resurface the pier car park.

Demolish that old shelter, and put some new seats facing out to sea, with a notice: “Not to be used by fishermen.” Make all parking free.

LEN FLEETWOOD

Victoria Road

Gorleston

WHY is it that when there is an open space, it is always suggested that it should be “developed?” The space left by the demolition of the beach huts at Gorleston (which were never intended to be there in the first place), needs only to be paved over and seats provided, purely so that visitors can just sit and look at the sea.

The seats below the cliffs opposite have been removed and there are few left on this part of the parade where people congregate.

If I am correct, there were at least two long wrought-iron seats between these beach huts. Surely these could be used without further expense. The whole matter could be completed before Easter at little expense to the council.

CECILIA EBBAGE

Lovewell Road

Gorleston

LIVING in Great Yarmouth, it is like being in fantasy land, every day. We have wheelie bin checkers, environmental rangers, street wardens, fly tip watch, dog poo parade, street guardians, Community Police Support Officers, Safer Neighbourhood Teams, Special Constables and police officers.

All these people, patrolling and guarding our streets, to keep it safe from anti-social behaviour.

I want to introduce a new breed of do-gooders, to deal with the menace on four wheels. Drivers who believe it is correct to drive over the kerb, and park on the footpath/pavement and cause pedestrians to walk in the road. Let's have vehicle watchers.

Why do drivers use the pavement and not the road? Because they are never caught and never fined.

The footpath/pavement is for legs, and the road is for wheels. How simple is that? Step forward the “vehicle watchers.”

R A ALLEY

Townshend Close

Great Yarmouth

“BIN-BLOCKERS face a £1,000 fine” Absolutely unbelievable!

“Bins must be removed from the highway no later than 9am the day of collection.” I realise there is high unemployment in Yarmouth, but there are (thankfully) still some people with jobs. How on earth are these people to be expected to take in bins when they are at work?

Also, has the council not considered the fact that there are a large number of Homes of Multiple Occupancy (HOMOs) in the Great Yarmouth area? Many of these dwellings do not have anywhere to put wheelie bins. When I say this I mean they literally do not have the space to store bins. This leaves them with no choice but to leave them on the pavement.

The council is obviously aware of this problem because, for example, Middlegate Estate (council housing) does not have wheelie bins. They still use black sacks!

The system of wheelie bins may work fine out in the country where there is space aplenty. It certainly does not work in a town such as Yarmouth. Of course I understand the council will never admit this, as every scheme that is ever introduced is, of course “A great success.”

Although all you home owners out there with jobs needn't worry about the risk of a £1,000 fine. This is Yarmouth… nothing is ever enforced.

SHAUN LAYTON

Trafalgar Court

Great Yarmouth

I READ with some amusement, and not a little disbelief, your article about fining people over left out bins.

I do believe that a lot of this is a problem of the council's own making. There are a lot of premises in the borough who have not got any space either at front or back of their property where they can store their bins. The only place is to put them on the pavement outside their property. Are they going to be penalised because the council did not take any of this into account?

It is my belief that the council should practice what they preach. They say the reason they are doing this is to stop obstruction of the pavements. I call this double standards on their part. What are they going to do about their vehicles and their contractors vehicles that park on the pavement day in and day out.

The other day my family and I had to walk out into the middle of the road with our two dogs because a GYBS truck was parked across the pavement outside the flats opposite the library in Tolhouse Street. This is not a random incident by far as it happens on a daily basis all across the borough and is dangerous for mothers and babies and the disabled especially.

Can the residents get together and fine the council for obstruction when this happens? I doubt it. Once again it is one law for the council and another for the residents. A case of “don't do as I do, do as I say, or else”.

It is about time the councillors of this town got together and sorted out the problems without scaring people with threats of fines and goodness knows what else. After all a lot of these problems have been created by them.

JOHN DONOVAN

Clarendon Close

Great Yarmouth

I AM delighted that Great Yarmouth Borough Councillors have voted to fine tenants and residents who fail to leave their wheelie bin in the correct place, at the correct time, £80 to start, and £1,000 if we fail to pay.

But the council should stop throwing stones until they have got their own house in order, and inform and train certain binmen to stop playing games as to where they leave the emptied bins.

It might be funny, to them, to leave a bin in the middle of an empty driveway, knowing that the owner will have to get out of their car to move it, so that they can park their car.

Hilarious, possibly, to leave a bin just inside a gate or on the pathway in a sheltered housing property requiring the elderly and infirm to struggle to gain access to their property.

I bet that the few who partake in these activities must be able to share many more side-splitting moments with us.

But what is good for the goose, is even greater for the gander. If any of the above has happened to you, why not fine the council - £80 to start - and £1,000 if they carry on playing games, or being unthoughtful.

Remember, wheelie bins were introduced without public consultation, and followed by threats if we failed to comply with council rules. They refuse to empty the bin if the lid is up, they whinge if it's too heavy, we have to sort our rubbish, in our own time, and rinse tins, at our expense. Long live democracy.

PETER KIRKPATRICK

Rural North Tenants and Residents' Association

Ormesby

LAST week I read your report on the speed of traffic on Caister Road. Having lived on Caister Road for over 40 years, I have seen an increase in traffic together with the amount of speeding traffic.

During this time I have written to the highway authorities asking for 30mph signs to be painted on the road, only to be told that as this road has dual lanes it is not possible.

Yearly, when the local elections are due, I ask the parties' representatives who come knocking on my door for my vote, if they intend to do something to make road safer and the reply is always the same: “Of course it will be one of our priorities” Ha Ha!

People have been killed on this road and there have been many serious accidents.

Before Christmas, I was pleased to see electronic speed signs installed, but then they disappeared. This seemed to be an effective way of showing motorists when they were exciding the speed limit.

I can understand that visitors do not realise the speed limit as there is only one 30mph sign at Jellicoe Road. Okay, we do get an occasional police officer with a radar gun on the road, but I can always tell when they are about as the cars reduce speed, once they see two offices in florescent jackets.

You take your life in your hands every time you cross the road. Let's hope there are no more fatalities before the highway authorities take action.

BRENDA HAMMOND

Caister Road

Great Yarmouth

I HAVE just spent the last 18 days recuperating after a major operation in the James Paget University Hospital, and I feel I cannot let the time that I spent in their care go by without passing my most sincere thanks to all the staff of the High Dependancy Unit, for 10 days I spent in their care, and the remainder in Ward Four, for all their dedication and efficiency in looking after me and helping me on the way to my recovery.

Whatever task they had to perform was never any trouble to them, and they always had a word to explain what it was they were doing and why it had to be done, and if I requested anything doing it wasn't any trouble - and done with a pleasant word and a smile.

Once again a big thank you.

MRS B DAWKINS

Oriel Avenue

Gorleston

I WRITE in response to “name and address withheld” in the Mercury (February 6, “Bad Behaviour on the buses). I notice that under “From our Files” in the Mercury of February 13 - 25 years ago - Yarmouth High School pupils were banned for a week from the blue buses unless they were accompanied by a parent. The ban was announced after a meeting between the headmaster and his deputy, an education official and the busmen failed to solve the problem of an unruly element of the school causing problems. Headmaster Michael Leigh said he was “hurt” by the blanket ban on all pupils brought about by the minority. A high school association member felt the ban would aggravate rather than solve the problem.

If the bus authority banned the unruly element - of which there is quite a large number in Great Yarmouth - they would see how it is to walk and not have the pleasure of joining other social, law abiding passengers on the buses. It seems common courtesies and politeness are not taught to pupils.

They represent their school and their behaviour does matter outside the school. I concur with the person who wrote the letter but it is only when the masses rise up and speak that something will be done - it is no use suffering in silence. The pen is mightier than the sword!

ELIZABETH ALWAY

email

FURTHER to the letter “Carers thrown on scrapheap,” Mercury, February 13.

We have been treated harshly by Norfolk County Council Social Services; my wife has multiple sclerosis and dementia and was admitted to the James Paget University Hospital in December. Norfolk County Council, in their infinite wisdom, decided, after four weeks she would lose her care plan from them and when she is discharged would get agency carers.

I have complained and they have re-instated some of her old carers but not the care plan she had before. Carers should complain to Norfolk County Council Social Services and Tony Wright MP to ask if we could be treated fairly. This has affected me greatly, a carer for 15 years.

M BEALES

Ormesby St Margaret

TALKING to young people, I have been amazed they are so unaware of the recession. They, I feel, have lived in an affluent society with having everything they want.

I would not want them to suffer as we did in the 1930s, but I still feel they should understand how it is to go without, even food, when most have no work to supply some.

We used to go to school between 9am and 4pm, often with no food or maybe two slices of bread and jam to last all day, living in rundown housing and sometimes, no food at all.

One thing we did have was great community feelings and helped each other with respect and care, unlike present society who only want to abuse each other and sit at their computers while their children are on the streets with knives and making others lives a misery. Of course these folk do all the complaining while others clean up their mess and watch out for their children with little reward and no recognition, but just to see folk showing some respect would be reward enough.

In spite of what we went through we were very proud of our country and quickly fought to protect it and when folk say this is not my country now I am quick to object. My whole family fought, myself having served five years during the second world war in spite of this country giving us little in our early years.

My wife and I have worked hard to get a home together and cannot understand the attitude that other people will supply you with your wants.

I suggest we lose attitude and get backsides off chairs and earn a living instead on living on benefits.

Of course, not all children are the same; we know and meet great kids, it is the example adults are showing that disgusts me. When they feel it's their right to abuse and interfere in other people's lives to the extent they complain about migrants, and pass stupid remarks when seeing an exserviceman wearing medals and interfering in his and his wife's comfort when trying to enjoy an evening out in their remaining years.

These people are bringing up children with the attitude I find disgusting and unacceptable. I say enough is enough and although we do not want this recession to get worse it's what is deserved where people have everything on credit and live the high life with flash cars and lack of care - and arrogance. The children have grown up with the same attitude. The good book says that which goes around will surely come around.

R FIRMIN

Address withheld

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