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PUBLISHED: 19:16 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 July 2010

FIVE weeks ago I wrote to our MP and challenged him to visit some of our public houses, clubs and bingo halls, to get opinions from ordinary people as to the economic and social damage the draconian smoking ban is having on them.

FIVE weeks ago I wrote to our MP and challenged him to visit some of our public houses, clubs and bingo halls, to get opinions from ordinary people as to the economic and social damage the draconian smoking ban is having on them. I have yet to receive a reply.

This is the government that sanctioned 24-hour drinking and then complained about binge drinking and the anti-social behaviour associated with it. If smoking is such an evil act, then why not ban the sale of tobacco altogether? I wonder if it's because of the £10bn a year they take in taxes. Talk about hypocrisy! This government seems to stumble from one catastrophe to another.

To stop a collapse of our traditional leisure industry, a common sense solution would be:

1 Continue with the ban in libraries, public buildings, shops, restaurants, cafes and public transport, etc.

2 Give landlords and managers of our pubs and clubs the option to allow smoking or not.

3 Make the fitting of smoke extractors etc mandatory for those that allow smoking.

4 Let the people decide whether to use a smoking or non-smoking establishment.

5 Get rid of the anti-smoke Gestapo. Only then will common sense prevail and perhaps save one of the few traditions we have left.

P HUBBARD

St Mary's Court

Great Yarmouth

LAST weekend we had a drive around the harbour's mouth and discovered yet another of life's simple pleasures had been denied us: The parking spaces facing the sea have been cordoned off. Coupled with the Spending Beach (long since barricaded against marauding pensioners taking pleasure in watching the boats entering and leaving the harbour) the whole area looks like downtown Beirut!

Let's hope this is all going to be worth it and that the outer harbour will be more than an expensive yacht station. Just look, for instance, at the way we were sold the Scratby windfarm. Cheap electricity and no more nuclear power stations. We now know that it is an inefficient method of generating power and it's just been announced a third reactor is being planned at Sizewell!

PAULINE LYNCH,

Mill Lane,

Bradwell

I HAVE lived in Great Yarmouth all my life, I am 63 years old and I have seen a lot of changes in Great Yarmouth, a lot for the best. People in Great Yarmouth have enjoyed views from the car park at the end of the harbour of ships coming in and going out. But in the last weeks the car park has been closed down by East Port which is operating the new outer harbour. We know they had it closed for safety reasons but they have had months to build a new viewing area. No consideration has been given to the people who use this area.

RUSSELL CARTER

Exmouth Road

Great Yarmouth

I AGREE entirely with Mr Hughes' letter (January 18) about the state of the “beach huts” on Lower Marine Parade; Gorleston deserves better than this. They spoil the look of our lovely beach and promenade and must give visitors a disappointing view of the area as well as the lack of amenity.

Most seaside resorts have beach huts available for use. The range of huts should either be refurbished or demolished.

Moving to the High Street, another area in need of refurbishment is Feathers Plain, a focal point of Gorleston, with its seating area, nearby bus stop, and taxi rank. The seats need cleaning and repainting, and one needs replacing. The planted areas are well overdue for a new look. One tree was broken and has been removed - is this to be replaced?

The tree outside Martins has survived against all the odds, although not very robustly. Its cage is invariably leaning against the trunk which must be detrimental to the tree. An elaborate grid was provided at the base of the tree which is incapable of supporting the cage correctly; I cannot imagine why it is so difficult to rectify this problem. Cycles are sometimes attached to the cage around the tree; two securing frames for bicycles nearby could help to alleviate this problem.

DOREEN R FEUELL

Church Road

Gorleston

I AM writing to express my overwhelming astonishment at the disheartening news that Hillside First School was not chosen as one of the new specialist resource bases for children with special educational needs.

As a parent of a child currently attending the assessment and learning support centre, I would like to convey my deep concerns for the ever increasing numbers of children that are not going to benefit from this extraordinary establishment in the future.

My son Jack was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at the age of two. After the initial shock and at times despair a parent goes through at hearing such a diagnosis, you then take the responsibility of ensuring you do all you can to maximise their potential.

Several parents at a local support group recommended we take a look at the work achieved at Hillside. My son was one of the fortunate few to get a placement.

This was the best decision my husband and I have ever made. Jack has gone from a young boy who would lie on the floor in class having a tantrum or run around the playing field unable to communicate, interact, listen or pay attention. He is now in his final year at Hillside and in that time, he has steadily improved beyond even our greatest hopes. Jack is a different child now, he has reached national curriculum levels in both literacy and numeracy and is close to these levels, in all other areas that are monitored in key stage one.

The main reason for this transformation in my son can only be attributed to the first rate work done by the teachers and support staff of the unit along with the uncompromising support of the school as a whole. My son has benefited from their experience, flexibility and a much needed sense of humour, which is vital to his education.

On reflection, I cannot understand why the priority has been given to the junior and high schools, whilst deciding to ignore the problems our children face from the ages of four to eight-years-old. Surely it is imperative we give all our children, whatever their age, the best education and if all we worry about are travel costs, then shame on us!

Mrs A WITHERIDGE,

St Andrew Road

Gorleston

THIRTY-one years ago I was approached by County Hall officialdom and the school psychologist department to ask if I would be willing to have a unit for children with special needs within my school. At the time we were fighting to get a teacher for a nursery as we had the room and the equipment, but the money was not available for a member of staff, and therefore I decided it would be a wonderful thing to help these children and agreed to do so.

The children put into this unit are not suitable for the type of provision the county are going to supply as they need constant one-to-one teaching, and social care. I believe the idea at the moment is that children would spend a few weeks in this sort of situation and then move into full-time primary education - this is impossible for the children we are talking about and I am disgusted that the closure of this unit is even contemplated. This is a retrograde step for education within this area and the people devising this scheme obviously have no idea of the capabilities and needs of these children.

I know the parents when I was there always commented on the wonderful progress made under the very devoted teachers and welfare staff connected within the unit. Time may have passed since I began this work but the need is even greater now than it was then and I for one will be absolutely devastated to see it removed. Also, what happens to this wonderful staff?

Well, I can't answer that but I hope someone is listening and I hope some-one cares - as I do.

BARBARA TILDESLEY

Buxton Avenue

Gorleston

Great Yarmouth

I AM writing about the Vauxhall Bridge being an eyesore. It is dreadful. Wake up people of Great Yarmouth, this is part of your heritage. I am disgusted.

CAROL WOODCOCK

Lawson Road

Norwich

THE Vauxhall Bridge is one of Yarmouth's heritage pieces and it is a shame they don't really make it a showpiece, as it used to be the main route into our town from Norwich for road traffic and the steam railway. It looks a shameful relic now and the first thing our visitors see when the come to our town, especially as many park in Asda for supplies, walk into town before going to their camps. Not a good advert. When I came home by bus from Norwich on Friday, apart from the tatty bridge, the biggest thing I saw was the banner for the Palace Casino opening soon! Are they really going to let this be the focal point of arriving in our lovely town? Please put the Great into Yarmouth, renovate the bridge with “Welcome to Great Yarmouth” on it. Our town should be proud of its heritage.

LYNDA BYFORD

Exmouth Road

Great Yarmouth

I CAN tell why so many people have disabled badges who don't need them. When my sister was waiting to go into hospital for a hip replacement we applied for a disabled parking badge. When it was refused enquired why and we were told it was because we had applied for a temporary badge and we were advised to apply for a permanent one. Needless to say we did not.

Mrs L Pearce

Cherry Road

Gorleston

I AM in agreement with the letter concerning the abuse of disabled badges and I have long thought that it would be a good idea to put the expiry date and the photo of the disabled person on the same side of the badge, this may shame some people in their misuse.

I am disabled and personally I would prefer to pay for my parking space just to get enough room to open my door to get in and out of my car, even though I am a pensioner, but I do understand that not everybody thinks this way. While on holiday in Cornwall I noticed that some small towns charged disabled badge holders the same and there always seemed to be enough spaces.

Name and address withheld

I AM writing in response to Ann Dunning's letter regarding the exciting landmark agreement announced in December between First Eastern Counties, Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council. As part of this agreement First Eastern Counties will undertake a £9.6m investment programme which will see major benefits to bus passengers.

The investment will see a major reduction in the age of our fleet which will also result in lower exhaust emissions as these vehicles will have more modern engines, benefiting everyone and not just bus users. Other significant benefits of the new vehicles will include an increase in reliability and frequency, making the option of bus travel even more attractive.

Interestingly, the recently released BusNet report shows that more and more people in Norfolk are choosing to use the bus, with an increase in daily use of five per cent which compares favourably with a general national decline in bus use. The same report also shows a marked increase in customer satisfaction with bus services. Providing safe, comfortable and reliable bus services is the priority of First and this landmark agreement is a great step forward for the people of Norfolk and will hopefully encourage more people to consider the bus as their preferred travel option.

G ALAMEIN,

Marketing and Communications Manager,

First Eastern Counties Buses

IN reply to G Alamein's letter last week, I feel the No 4 bus service should be increased to provide more buses throughout the day, one hour from 10am to 2pm is not enough when the 8A used to provide us with three an hour from early morning till tea time and go to James Paget Hospital. So please First buses give us more buses or we'll have to catch an Anglian bus when they are up and running.

MISS H CONLON & J BROWN

Eastern Avenue

Caister

I WROTE last week what I thought was a fairly lighthearted letter in respect of the police not removing tape following the incident on the old A12 at Hopton on Sea. I sent the same note to the police. The tape was removed within two hours of my messages. Great.

The reaction from my wife was laughter and the comment "I seem to have too much time on my hands."

I had earlier been informed by the parish council the tape remained as long as it did due to operational reasons.

At 7.45pm on Thursday there was a knock at the door. My wife answered to be greeted by what she described to me as two PCSOs.

The two officers introduced themselves and I was then “confronted” by these two uniformed, stab vest-clad people. One stood in front of me and one to my right so I could not see both at the same time.

I assumed they were PCSOs but became unsure. I was then subjected to what I can only describe as a brow beating about how the tape had been left there for operational reasons. At one point I had to express concern at the way I was being spoken to. It was very aggressive. I felt so intimidated. When they left I found my self shaking and my children, especially my eight year old, was really upset by the fact Dad had been told off by the police.

He holds the police in very high regard especially as I am a retired police officer having been severely injured whilst on duty in a southern force when I was run down by a drink driver.

Name and Address withheld

MY colleagues at Great Yarmouth and District Archaeological Society have recently been exercised over the correct date for the issue of King John's Charter to our town.

The great authority on the history is Charles J Palmer's “The Perlustation of Great Yarmouth (with Gorleston and Southtown)” published by George Nall in 1872. On page nine of volume one, Palmer quotes 1209 as the year of the Charter as does J F Crisp and Aldred Hedges. Whereas J H Dreury, A W Ecclestone and John McBride quote 1208.

On going back to the charter we read it was “Dated by the hand of Hugh de Wells archdeacon of Wells at Marlburgh, the 18th of March in ninth year of our reign.” The reign of course refers to King John 1199-1216.

According to “The Life and Times of King John” by Maurice Ashley (George Widened and Nicholson) 1972 we learn that on “the Feast of the Ascension John was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.” The year referred to is 1199. Ascension Day is “a movable feast” but is 40 days from Easter and was probably in May that year.

Prior to 1752 in England the year began on the seemingly arbitrary date of March 25. I set out a below a table of years for King John's reign in an attempt to clarify this.

Year and (year number): 1199-1200 (1); 1200-01 (2); 01-02 (3); 02-03 (4); 03-04 (5); 04-05 (6); 05-06 (7); 06-07 (8); 07-08 (9); 08-09 (10). It could be argued that on March 18, 1208 John had not been on the throne for nine complete years so I am still not sure if this is the correct conclusion.

I personally feel the Charter was most likely to date from 1208 but I am not absolutely certain. I would be interested in the views of other Mercury readers. Even if I am wrong in the year, I do not consider it will invalidate any celebrations but we historians really enjoy “splitting hairs.”

ANDREW J FAKES

Chairman, Great Yarmouth and District Archaeological Society

REGARDING the wonderful story of the sale of the severed waxwork heads which no one can recognise, might it not have made a lot more sense to keep the collection together and sell it as the “world's worst wax museum - we challenge you to guess who is who?”

MIKE SPRAGG,

Collingwood Road,

Great Yarmouth

WHEN I heard the report about a Martham family's health problems on my Grapevine tape I was interested immediately as I have heard of similar things happening before. I think the water, albeit high in chlorine, could not be at fault as why are there not people in properties nearby having the same problem?

I believe (and again it is only a possibility) it is a very nasty little virus called a trichophyton. A trichophyton can lay dormant for anything up to 150 years and if the family were all at a low ebb when they moved in could be the possible cause of how they are all affected.

Of course I may be wrong but with the way they depicted how their hair falls out when washing and it breaking off due the brittleness does tell me that this may well be the cause. Anyway it may be worth investigating if only just to rule it out. I won't mind being wrong as on the other hand I may also just be correct in this. Whatever way it turns out I do hope my input has been helpful and this poor family can get to the bottom of this distressing thing and get their lives back to normal.

ROBIN C EVANS

Trinity Avenue

Gorleston

EAST Norfolk Scout District (formally the Great Yarmouth District) will be holding a reunion at the Norfolk Scout Archive Centre on Saturday, February 2, starting at 7pm. If you would like to attend contact Gillian Mays on 01493 722360.

GILLIAN MAYS

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