Letters, February 25

Frankly, it’s not fit for purpose

I SAILED as chief engineer for Norfolk Line between 1983 and 1991 and Mannin Line between 1993 and 1995.

I considered myself fortunate to have been involved with these Yarmouth passenger-cargo ferry services because I was part of the expansion with Norfolk Line/The Maersk Co Ltd and then part of a new ferry service by Mannin Line.

It is sadly poignant to note on the occasions Maersk and Mannin pulled out of Yarmouth, each ferry operation was making healthy profits. Maersk Co closed the Yarmouth operation mainly because the Port and Haven Commissioners would not grant sole rights to the control of a ro-ro terminal in the proposed outer harbour – despite the fact The Maersk Co Ltd were prepared to finance the majority of the project! You may note this reason is different to that reported in the papers at the time, the dualling of the A11-A47 roads was not the final deciding factor.

Unfortunately for Mannin Line, they were caught in a political problem between the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and Sea Containers Ltd. Somewhere in the legal arrangements, business interests on the UK East Coast clashed and Mannin Line had to be shut down.


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I gained considerable experience sailing in and out of Yarmouth alongside local captains: Peter Clarke, Tasburgh; Colin Robinson, Poringland; Alan Lawson, Burgh Castle; and Peter Robinson, Cawston. I am not a navigator but as a seafarer working with these gentlemen I gained a certain familiarity with the navigational hazards at the ports we frequented.

It was their navigational experience that The Maersk Co called upon to influence the conceptual arrangements for the outer harbour. They advised (as would any professional mariner) that the Scroby, Corton and South Cross sands provided little shelter to the shoreline from any Easterly weather. The sand banks off Yarmouth serve mainly as moving underwater hazards to the approaches for the port entrance. In fact the shortest passage to the port entrance from an Easterly direction is via the Holm Channel. This is the channel between the Corton sands and the Holm sands and constrains a vessel to approach the port from a south-east direction.

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I do not have access to the outer harbour concept drawings from 1990-1991 but I’m sure they were published in the EDP and Yarmouth Mercury. There were also hydrographic studies to examine the potential effects on the shoreline and the harbour mouth by the movement of the sea bed. I can assure the proposed 1991 outer harbour was designed to provide a safe haven from the North Sea with an entrance that would require the least maintenance from moving sands. The present Outer Harbour design has deviated completely from these ideals and has therefore ignored the basic prerequisites to create a working harbour. It is plainly obvious that a harbour entrance 210m wide and open directly to the east will never provide a safe haven from the North Sea. It is not even necessary to invoke modern technology and scientific study to achieve a construction that would meet the definition of a harbour. A simple review of the existing harbours along the East Anglian coast will reveal the structural features needed to create protection from easterly weather.

It is blatantly clear the construction of the present “outer harbour” is not a harbour by any stretch of the meaning. It is incredible to contemplate what kind of people and processes decided to ignore local maritime knowledge and historical studies.

Whoever or whatever was involved in the approval process for the outer harbour plans have demonstrated that they are totally unqualified by creating a structure that does not function as a harbour. What is more shocking to contemplate is that if the bodies involved are qualified in harbour design and construction, then they must have known the plans would not result in a successful harbour. Whichever way this situation is approached the harsh reality is that public money has paid for a project that in contractural terms is not fit for purpose.

I hope this information has not covered old ground for you but gives at least some new directions to find evidence and help establish how this scandal has been allowed to develop.

JOHN PAGE

Consultant Marine Engineer

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Whitewash from start to finish

A FORTNIGHT ago I attended a Norfolk Scrutiny Committee meeting at County Hall to which the public had been invited.

Committee members questioned personnel involved in the outer harbour scheme; but, the chief executive and a senior member of the harbour board did not attend.

Questions were ably answered by a lady and a county representative. Mr John Cooper, who has, over the last two years, repeatedly asked for answers to some very pertinent questions concerning the changes in direction and the abandonment of the original reasons for having an outer harbour, said he was not against the principle of having an outer harbour, but some very important financial questions need to be answered.

No real answers were forthcoming.

The almost insulting remarks made by a member of the scrutiny committee, who tried to be clever and denigrated John Cooper’s very clear and reasoned questioning, I felt contributed to an executive whitewash. This made the meeting a waste of time for all the interested members of the public who attended.

PETER HOWKINS

Back Lane

Upton

Voters will have the last word

OH how I agree with Dave Gahan’s letter last week on the outer harbour. According to David Cameron, he wants a system of open government which probably means that it is only open to those who need to know.

Joe Public is not part of this system and never will be as far as this government and many councils are concerned. You can ask until you are blue in the face for a lot of information on certain things, but you will always get the confidentiality clause brought into play.

The outer harbour scheme has been a white elephant from start to finish, but no-one will admit it and now it has been whitewashed over for another 18 months when the same thing will happen all over again.

Mr Gahan is quite right to say that John Cooper has received no support on this issue even when it is blatantly obvious that the port owners have gone their own way when the harbour was built. It seems strange to me as well, that the port owners suddenly did a U-turn over the Gorleston Pier surface a few days before the so-called scrutiny.

It is about time some of the councillors stopped sitting on the fence and started asking questions of their own. After all, they work on our behalf and should be asking the revelant questions that everyone else is asking.

It is also up to us as voters to make sure these people do what we ask them to do instead of bowing down to the hierachy and towing the party line.

So as Mr Gahan said, it is up to us to make sure in May that these people realise they need to listen to, as he puts it, the great unwashed, as they can easily be replaced. I agree, beware, Egypt and other places could be mirrored here.

JOHN DONOVAN

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Problem is the lack of openness

I HAVE read, with interest the reports of the Great Yarmouth outer harbour in Monday and Tuesday’s editions of your sister paper the EDP. I seemed to receive two messages from the reports and let’s deal with the first message which I perceived.

Eastport forced a decision from Yarmouth Borough Council along with Norfolk County Council by saying if they didn’t agree the terms demanded, they would walk away from the project.

The other glaring issue is the fact that Eastport promised first ferries, then ro-ros, container ships by the score and the latest plan is to attract windfarm support vessels. Let’s not forget the promise of hundreds of jobs, just to tug on the heart strings. It is all very well blaming the non-existence of these services on changing economic trends – changing economic trends haven’t affected the expansion of Harwich, Felixstowe and Thames port.

Message two: the voice of local businesses stated, in a nutshell, the outer harbour was the best thing since sliced bread, and the critics should pipe down and laud the existence of the facility.

I would say to those people, I don’t think there are many people who actually criticise the fact the facility is there, the issue has been the way the participating authorities have dealt with the project as a whole. In its current form, most ships cannot berth alongside because of the swell. Who was responsible for that?

Great news that there is a drilling rig in there at the moment, but it is standing on the bottom therefore swell is not an issue for it. Eastport now charges fees for the use of the whole harbour complexes, but they off-loaded responsibility for the west bank and the bridges onto the local population.

My biggest issue is they have denied public access to the harbour mouth road, and Gorleston pier. What is so secret about the harbour? Why is there a huge pile of aggregates blocking the view? Eastport promised openness, so where is it?

PAUL CARTER

Lowestoft Haven Marina,

Lowestoft

Pavement is no place for cyclists

I WAS prompted to write this letter in reply to Heather Norris’s letter in last week’s Yarmouth Mercury in which she made the undermentioned suggestion that on safety grounds cyclists should ride on the pavement.

Has Heather Norris considered the ramifications of her suggestion that cyclists without lights should ride on pavements? This would, for a start, be unlawful and not cure the problem and also alienate even further the pedestrians who complain about this practice already. Cyclists are the same as other road users. They should have lights that are in good working order and an audible warning system such as a bell.

Maybe the time has come to have compulsory cycling testing, at the end of which they are given a licence to prove it. Bikes are to be sold with a logbook to prove ownership and fitted with a tracking system in case of theft or a chip to aid the police in tracing the owner.

It would be a good idea if a cyclist had to have insurance as means of recouping the cost of a stolen or damaged bike, and for them to have an MOT the same as other road users. Until I had problems with my left knee in 2009 I was a member of the cycling fraternity.

I took up cycling when I was in my twenties and stopped when I was 64. In all that time I always made sure that my cycles had good brakes, lights and a working bell and a padlock and chain. On the rare occasions that I have walked around Grear Yarmouth I have quite often seen cyclists breaking the law by cycling in the pedestrianised areas with no regard for other people, to the point of moaning that they have to slow down or stop.

Since September 2009, I have been riding around on a 1,000cc Moto Guzzi with a bright red double adult sidecar which is only driven on the road.

ROGER UPTON

Hanover Gardens

Gorleston

Make prisoners repay their debt

I THINK it’s about time we used criminals in prison to help rebuild our roads, as they do in America. It seems to be great being a criminal in prison, playing games, using the computer, watching TV, exercise, and giving nothing back to society.

In the USA they have chain-gangs helping to rebuild roads. To the warden in charge of these men, it’s his way of giving the prisoners something to do, instead of looking at four walls, and give something back to the society they have wronged.

I know many people will say it is too dangerous, they will escape and be a danger to people, but not if the men are chained together, as they are in the USA.

We complain about our roads, especially the country ones, well this might be the answer, what do you think?

DAVID BROWN

Yallop Avenue,

Gorleston

Keeping fit right down to our toes

WHAT an uplifting breath of fresh air it was last week to read about Caroline Bailey who at the age of 90 keeps herself fit and active with a weekly exercise class, healthy diet and a regular walks.

I would like to see more features like that one celebrating ordinary people’s achievements instead of focusing on the doom and gloom.

I have experienced the beneficial effects of regular exercise both in myself and others as for the past two years I’ve run Extend exercise classes for the over 60s.

I have also witnessed excellent results with frail elderly people in residential care homes and day care centres.

We use various pieces of equipment, including stretch bands, hoops, balls and scarves and exercise to all kinds of music, including The Beatles and Abba.

Extend Exercise Training Ltd is a registered charity, and has its roots in exercise, health, movement and dance.

The aim is to exercise every part of the body – arms, legs and waist as well as neck, fingers, wrists and ankles. Even the toes get some attention!

PAM REDWOOD

Back Lane

Rollesby

We can’t force a patient to eat

HAVING read the article in the Mercury (February 18) about the husband hitting out at hospital care not given to him and his ill wife, I feel this case should be investigated and dealt with as necessary.

However, I must point out that no one seems to appreciate there are a group of volunteers who attend the James Paget Hospital every lunchtime to feed elderly and vulnerable patients. And most of the time are successful.

But, on the odd occasion, they will have a patient who adamantly refuses food; and at times will have a patient tell them to xxxx off, will be spat at and even have the mealtray knocked out of their hands. No doubt this is due to the patient’s health problem.

Nevertheless it can be very difficult for the volunteer as they are not allowed to “cajole” or try to “force” the patient to eat as this will infringe their human rights. Oh my, anyone got an answer?

D BULLARD

Gorleston

We foot bill for separate vote

AT a full Great Yarmouth Borough Council vote on the draft Elected Mayor Constitution, the cabinet abstained on its legal obligations, thwarting the process to hold a Yes/No referendum on May 5, alongside the local elections, and the National Alternative Voting referendum.

So, despite public opinion, (often reported on these pages), being keen to hold the mayor yes/no vote on May 5, borough council tax payers will have to shoulder the cost of a separate vote, later this year. The vote will go ahead, as the required number of signatures in support of the referendum was received and presented to the council many months ago.

With regard to expenses, the Yes to a Great Yarmouth Elected Mayor Campaign has found all of its operating costs through public donations. Those opposed to our aims, including both main political parties, should form a No campaign, and source their own funding to remain open and transparent. Let’s hope that the council doesn’t spent any public monies opposing the Yes vote, and that the political parties don’t use their election material promoting a No vote.

Is this delaying tactic to try to derail the referendum? Democracy will have its day. It is up to the 70,000 electors to decide this issue, not the political few.

PETER KIRKPATRICK

Vice-chairman

Yes to a Great Yarmouth Elected Mayor Campaign

Pointless delay in drawing up draft

GREAT Yarmouth Borough Council is “in a pickle”. Prejudice has pushed “backbench” councillors on both the Tory and Labour benches to oppose the draft Elected Mayor Constitution, that by law the council has to draw up in case the public vote yes in a referendum.

Cabinet members abstained because they know by law they have to do it! The council has delayed work on this draft constitution for months, hoping against hope that minister Eric Pickles might change the rules to prevent a referendum.

Now they are hoping by vetoing a draft constitution they will still be able to stop the referendum altogether. It doesn’t work like that. It’s potentially embarrassing for them – especially as they are so adamant that Yarmouth voters don’t want to choose who runs the borough. I think they may yet get their comeuppance!

MICK CASTLE

Town Wall Road

Great Yarmouth

Councillors not value for money

THE whole of politics still needs a good hard look. Local politics need investigating. How well do they administer the community? Are they sufficiently open and transparent? Are we getting the right people? Are we getting value for money? Is democracy being eroded?

Councillors’ pay, sorry allowances, have increased by 78pc in the last five years according to a national newspaper. Cabinet members have, in recent months cut their special allowance by 5pc, �273 each. Each cabinet member now gets �5,475 plus �3,579 councillors’ basic; add to this �3,579 if they chair a committee plus any emuluments if nominated to an outside board. Three of them also get paid by the county council as well.

If this is correct, Yarmouth’s councillors cost us �208,000 last year and you can put a chief executive officer’s salary on top of this. In this period of money-saving, do we need nearly 39 councillors? I think it is now possible to put the cost of an elected mayor in perspective.

Cut out some deadwood and the need for a CEO and at �100,000, if he is the right man, he would be a bargain. We need change and in a big way, not the same old faces year after year regardless of how they perform or the election of a council leader by a handful of people.

Councillors are also eligible for a council pension, so surely this must now be paid employment. If this is so I believe potential councillors should provide a CV so they can be voted for on their suitability not the colour of a rosette.

We can’t continue to allow political parties to decide who our representatives are. Councillors have told me their reason for wanting to be a councillor is “to put something back into the community.” This was the Victorian view before they were paid but things are now very different.

The so-called big society, strongly backed by GYBC, calls for volunteers to help the community because of cutbacks in services. Councillors’ pay increase in the last five years equates to 15pc average increase per year. If this was changed to 3pc pa, and backdated, it would mean the 2009/10 bill would only be �140,000 not �208,000.

Now that would really be making a difference to help ease the deficit. GYBC is near the top end of rocketed allowances and if this was replicated all over the country how many services and jobs could be saved? Makes you think doesn’t it?

DENNIS DURRANT

Brett Avenue,

Gorleston

Why is our town in such a state?

I HAVE lived in Gorleston for 10 years now, quite happily walking my dogs, meeting other people who like to have a chat and pass the time of day, and the one thing that crops up time after time is the state of decay the powers that be have left Gorleston in.

Pavements in most areas are, at best, in a state of disrepair, the roads get a dressing every now again but the tar that spills and splatters onto the pavements gets trodden into our homes.

Dog bins are not replaced, the promenade and car parks are left abandoned due to what we can only call an inefficient use of public money, and now, with severe parking problems, people are forced to park on grass areas near “Pops Meadow”. The beach area has not been touched in many years, apart from some new railings which, I suspect, have only been replaced due to health and safety reasons. Amenities are wholly inadequate for visitors to enjoy, because there are none. There are no signs I can see directing holidaymakers to the beach.

I’m told by the older generations that Gorleston once thrived! But in order to thrive now, Gorleston needs money spent on it.

How many millions have been spent on Great Yarmouth and its Golden Mile? Why is Gorleston the poor relation? What are we paying our council tax for if not for this town? Answers on a postcard please while you can still buy one!

PHILIP CALDER

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Help make our festival great

IT is encouraging to see that English Heritage appreciate the architecture and value to the town of St Nicholas Church as it has donated a grant of �184,000 towards the repair of the four disintegrating pinnacles on its tower. However, fundraising will have to continue as the anticipated cost of the repair to the pinnacles is �400,000. Also the large and historic organ in the church requires �300,000 for its complete restoration.

To this end a festival has been organised by the St. Nicholas Church Preservation Trust to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church’s re-consecration after being gutted in the second world war. The festival will extend from the 6th to 16th May and includes a 1940’s evening with live music, a buffet lunch, a treasure hunt and quiz, a herring evening with Ernie Childs, trad jazz from Redbeans ‘n’ Rice and a classical concert. Details will be announced in the press in the near future.

Looking further ahead, the Trust is organising a Tree and Crib Festival in early December. We hope to see some original ideas and “tree” and “crib” would be interpreted loosely to allow exhibitors to use their imagination and produce something out of the ordinary. We would particularly encourage home-made exhibits. There will be a charge of �10 (�5 for schools, colleges and children’s organisations) for exhibiting. At this stage the Trust is looking for expressions of interest and would welcome contact being made at paulpearce@yarmouth8143.freeserve.co.uk if your business, organisation or charity would like to take part and be kept informed.

PAUL DAVIES

Chairman of the St. Nicholas Church Preservation Trust

Hope cameras catch driver

THIS open letter is for the person who smashed into our car which was parked in Howard Street on Saturday afternoon between 2.15pm and 3.15pm.

I would just like you to know how much upset and stress you caused me and my husband that afternoon. My husband, who is elderly and disabled, went back to the car to find it so badly damaged that he couldn’t even get the driver’s door open. When we reported it to the police they said this sort of thing happens in Yarmouth two to three times a day! Well, I have to say I’m so glad we don’t live here. There was a pile of broken car and light pieces on the road beside our car. You know who you are, driver of a silver car. We now have to pay �150 excess, a lot of money when you are on a pension. We hope the CCTV camera operating in Palmer’s car park will have caught you!

ELIZABETH HUGHES

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Let’s honour a local legend

MAYBE not quite a National Treasure but certainly a Local Legend, Percy Trett is undoubtedly one of Great Yarmouth and Norfolk’s finest sons.

A man whose encyclopaedic knowledge of nature and a lifetime of devotion to our town and county makes him the definitive living reference point for all things relating to local history and the natural world. If you Google his name the many thousands of entries will reinforce his credentials as one of Norfolk’s greatest naturalists‘ and historians.

This is only part of the legend: at 84 he is still an MoT tester and vehicle engineer, one of the last of his kind, a tradesman who has the ability to fabricate and repair, not just a replacer of parts. He is a man who has devoted much of his life to the local community both as a magistrate and by helping others. A man of outstanding character and integrity who must surely be honoured in his own lifetime.

ROLY STAGG

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Percy deserves a fitting tribute

ON the same day that your announcement of Percy Trett’s retirement appeared in the Mercury, the EDP printed a letter from Andrew Fakes calling for some honour to be conferred on him to recognise his many years of service to the community.

I am sure all who know him will join me in endorsing this sentiment. As a very long-standing friend I have many happy personal memories which underline Percy’s charitable acts and his kindness and unfailing patience to young people. I shall always recall with gratitude how he encouraged my son Andrew in his love of wildlife and awakened in him an abiding interest in animals and birds of prey. Together with our three children we would visit Scroby where he would show them how terns hatched and teach them about the seal population; lessons that remain with them 40 years later.

We pioneered scuba diving here in our own small way and explored the undersea terrain and life on the north Norfolk coast and even the mysterious wreck of a seagoing motor cruiser lying just off the coast near Sheringham. His many customers and friends (the same thing really) will miss him at the garage and all of us wish him a long and happy retirement. It would be wonderful if a fitting tribute to Percy, a true Yarmouthian and a truly good man could be made and soon.

NICK POWNALL

Great Yarmouth

What did this film do for us?

AT last! I have just received an e-mail from Phillip Watkins announcing that 1st East is to cease trading.

In it he refers to “testimonials from commercial and political leaders” and appends a lengthy “Legacy Document.” We are entitled to ask everyone connected with this so-called urban regeneration company exactly what they have achieved for Great Yarmouth that would not have materialised without their interference and cost the public almost seven million pounds altogether. I am sure the Mercury would be pleased to publish a response but I am not holding my breath

Name and Address withheld

Not that much to be proud of

COUNCILLOR Brenda Taylor proudly states the York Road Drill Hall in Great Yarmouth is in the middle of a multi-cultural community!

As a resident of York Road could I remind her of the fact that we live in a depressed area with falling house prices, higher than average crime (563 alone in NR30 2NA during December, figures from police.uk) and no job prospects.

I fail to see what she seems to be proud of. While I watch the next looming disaster- St George’s Theatre and the amount of money lavished on something that will be our next outer harbour, could some of the money and councillors’ efforts not gone to the concerned locals who have asked for CCTV (incidentally outside York Road Drill Hall), traffic calming, more policing and urban regeneration projects.

TONY LINCOLN

York Road

Great Yarmouth

Bus service let down

ONCE again the Number 2 buses are still not running on time. I waited one hour in the week for it to come to go into town. This was on Trinity Avenue, Gorleston. Many times we have waited and it doesn’t show up at all.

Knowing there are a lot of older people waiting in the cold is very unfair. They always seem to miss a bus out. If you say anything to the driver they just say it’s not their fault. Now I hear they might even take the 2 off all together. How are the older people going to walk up to the bus on Middleton Road in the winter. Is this another so-called cut of this goverment?

Mrs THEREA WHITMORE

Trinity Avenue

Gorleston

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